The ring is on your finger, your family is thrilled, and now you have a wedding to plan! And one item you’ve probably noticed on every wedding planning timeline is “hire your wedding planner.”
A few decades ago, wedding planners were reserved for celebrities and royalty. But now, they’re a crucial part of every walk down the aisle. Still, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need a wedding planner?”
As one of St. Augustine’s premiere wedding venues, we’re familiar with everything that goes into planning a wedding. In this guide, we’ll explain what a wedding planner is, how they can help, and how to decide if hiring a wedding planner is right for you.
What Is a Wedding Planner?
A wedding planner is a professional who helps couples plan and organize the details of their big day. They’re the ultimate wedding superheroes, with a ton of experience and know-how when it comes to everything wedding-related.
There are many different options for what a wedding planner can do for you in the lead-up to the wedding and on the big day, depending on the coordinator and package you select. From making recommendations for vendors, to helping create your budget, to creating a detailed timeline and floor plan, they can help out a little or a lot, depending on your needs!
Wedding planners work closely with the couple to understand their dreams and preferences, and then they use their expertise to make those dreams come true. They take care of all the nitty-gritty details and make sure everything runs smoothly so that the couple can enjoy their special day stress-free. They’re like the behind-the-scenes magic-makers who ensure that the wedding is beautiful and memorable!
What Do Wedding Planners Do?
Before you can figure out if you really need a wedding planner, it helps to get an idea of what they do behind the scenes.
1. Helping Manage Your Budget
Wedding planners are literal experts in the wedding industry! They not only know the best vendors in the area, but how they differ in price and customer service.
Depending on the services you book with your wedding planner, they can help with general pricing breakdowns. Additionally, they sometimes offer pricing sheets with price ranges for vendors.
Your wedding planner can also help you prioritize your budget so you know where to save money without sacrificing your vision. For example, if you have a large guest list, they may suggest doing a seating chart, rather than individual place cards.
The right wedding planner may even provide access to certain wedding décor items. Planner Emma Betz from Coastal Celebrations says:
“Coastal’s Closet [our rental division] consists of 10-12 pages of items like votives, signage, card boxes, and budget-friendly centerpieces that you can use for your wedding day. Not having to buy a card box or make your own signage can save you hundreds of dollars! It’s stuff that we use every weekend as wedding planners. If you were to purchase it on your own, what are you going to do [with it] after your wedding day?”
2. Executing Your Vision
It’s one thing to create a Pinterest board full of inspiration photos. But making sure everything comes together is a different story.
One of the areas where a wedding planner shines is by helping to make your vision a reality!
See a beautiful bouquet that matches your dress perfectly? They can recommend a vendor that specializes in that style.
Sometimes, what you see on Instagram won’t logistically work with your chosen venue or vendors. Your wedding planner is the perfect person to make sure your vision aligns with your budget and is possible with the professionals you’ve hired.
3. Recommend Vendors
Finding reliable wedding vendors is a lot of work! First, you have to research which ones are in your area. Then, you need to narrow them down by their style and budget. Finally, you need to read all the reviews to make sure they’ll actually show up on your wedding day.
Then you have to do it all over again with the next one.
There’s a lot at stake when it comes to your wedding vendors, and most couples will hire around 14 of them. A wedding planner can really shine by helping you find reliable vendors who match your vision and budget.
Each and every vendor—from the officiant and the florist to the DJ and the caterer—have a huge impact on your big day. Finding the ones who match your style, energy, budget, and personality will make all the difference.
Remember, your wedding planner’s job is to make sure your big day goes as smoothly as possible. If they have years of experience, you can usually trust their suggestions!
Trust us—it’s very easy to lose track of all the details that go into making your wedding day magical. For your wedding planner, however, it’s all in a day’s work!
If you need minimal assistance, consider a day-of wedding coordinator. These professionals are here to make sure the big day goes off without a hitch. Some planners even have a 90-day checklist of last-minute details you might forget leading up to the wedding day.
Suppose you want to be more hands-off with the planning process. In that case, you can hire a wedding planner for additional services to help you execute even more of the planning details, such as coordinating invitations, keeping track of RSVPs, reserving a hotel block for out-of-town guests, and more.
5. Bringing Everything Together on the Big Day
Once your big day finally arrives, you can find your wedding planner right by your side, making sure all of those plans come to fruition.
Coming up with a detailed timeline (and sticking to it) can be a lot for most couples to manage—especially when you’re also visiting with family and basking in this magical time. But a wedding planner can handle all that and more.
While you’re greeting guests, getting your hair and makeup done, or hanging out with your groomsmen, your wedding planner can set up signage and décor, contact vendors, and make sure your overall vision comes together.
And if something unexpected happens, they can make on-site decisions and contingency plans. Hopefully, if anything goes wrong, you’ll never have to know about it!
What is a Venue Manager and What Do They Do?
If you’ve already started touring venues, you’ll know that many offer a venue manager to handle some of the logistics leading up to your wedding and on the big day. While the roles of a venue manager and wedding planner often overlap, they are not the same thing.
At some venues, a “venue manager” may only be responsible for turning on the lights and ensuring you can enter the building. But at the Lightner Museum, we do a lot more!
In the months leading up to your big day, our venue managers will meet with you and your vendors (including your wedding planner) to answer any questions, assist with vendor selection, and create a custom floor plan based on your plans.
When the big day arrives, we work with your wedding planner to set up tables, chairs, and other amenities, manage security and other team members, oversee the bar service, make the transition from ceremony to reception, and keep the space looking beautiful the entire night.
Do I Need a Wedding Planner If I Have a Venue Manager?
You absolutely need a wedding planner!
Your venue manager is there to oversee any venue-related planning tasks before and on the wedding day, but there are many things that are beyond the scope of their role that a wedding planner will handle.
Your wedding planner is hired by you to be your advocate and make sure your wedding day is everything you want it to be. They’re responsible for anything not related to your venue amenities and are your voice when you can’t be there.
For example, while you’re enjoying your last dance, your planner can hand out sparklers for your big exit. While you’re driving off into the sunset, they can pack up your décor and make sure it gets to the right place.
Your wedding planner is the one who will coordinate releasing tables to the buffet or making sure certain tables are served first. They can make sure the photographer shows up on time and arrange transportation for your wedding party.
All of these things are beyond the scope of the venue manager.
What to Look for in a Wedding Planning Package
Like any other vendor, wedding planners differ from each other in terms of their services, personality, and more.
When looking for a wedding planner, here are some things to consider:
• Are you available for my wedding date? Good wedding planners book up extremely fast—sometimes a year and a half in advance! Make sure you start looking for wedding planners and venues as soon as you get engaged.
• How many team members will be dedicated to your wedding? At a minimum, you should have one main planner and two assistants.
• Do they offer deals and discounts with other vendors?
• What is included in each package? Most wedding planners offer a variety of package options, so take the time to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need.
• If you’re having a destination wedding, are they familiar with the area?
• Have they planned events at your chosen venue? Things are much easier when your planner is already familiar with the venue and venue managers.
• How is their communication? Your wedding planner should be easy to get in touch with, and respond within a reasonable time.
• Do you mesh with their personality? A lot of couples underestimate how important it is to have a good relationship with their wedding planner. You’ll be spending more time with them than any other vendor, so it’s vital that you get along.
What is Day-Of Coordination?
Most planners offer a variety of different packages based on client needs. For example, you can get “day-of” coordination, which focuses on communicating with vendors and making sure your wedding day timeline runs smoothly.
Many wedding planners also offer advisory services, where the focus is on vendor selection, budgeting, and refining your vision. If you need more assistance, planners also offer full planning services. With these packages, a planner is even more involved with bringing your vision to life!
But even a day-of coordinator should spend a lot of time discussing your big day in advance.
Emma from Coastal Celebrations says:
“In [our day-of] package, we start full-time about 90 days prior to your event. During this time, we help you communicate with all of your vendors and get your timeline together. With this package, you also get an initial meeting before we meet up again at that 90-day point.”
At What Point Do I Need Full-Service Planning?
Whether or not you need a full-service wedding planner depends on how involved you want to be in the wedding planning process.
If you have a very busy schedule with very little free time, hiring a full-service wedding planner can take a lot of stress off your shoulders. On the other hand, if you enjoy being more involved in the planning process, or if there is someone else in your life who is taking on a lot of the planning, you might find that a day-of coordinator is a better fit.
According to Lindsey Ohlin with Coastal Celebrations:
“Full planning is for a certain type of client. A doctor is a good example. This is someone who is a busy professional that wants to choose what they should and should not be a part of. They really entrust us with their vision and let us make a lot of those decisions from taking care of their stationery to escort boards and floral design. We do it all in this package!”
Before you hire a planner, it’s important to know what you want out of the experience. This will help ensure your expectations are met and you aren’t getting in each other’s way.
Why does the Lightner Museum require that coordinators be chosen from a preferred list?
Some venues, like The Treasury on the Plaza and Lightner Museum, require that you hire a planner from their list for a minimum of day-of coordination.
Brandy Boulette, the Vice President of Operations for The Treasury Venue Collection, shares why:
“Having a coordinator from a preferred list means that the coordinator and their team are trained in the venue and know the ins and outs like it was their own as well as familiar with the team. The coordinators on The Treasury Venue Collection’s list are also highly praised by past clients since that is just as important as the relationship with the team at the venue.”
Make sure to ask your venue about their requirements for wedding planners before hiring someone for your big day!
Why does the Lightner Museum require a minimum of Day-Of Coordination?
The last thing we want for any of our clients is to worry about whether the candles are lit, or their vow books are at the altar, or the tissues were placed on mom’s seat in the front row. The big day should be spent enjoying time with friends and families and celebrating your newest journey.
Coordinators make sure all the small details are taken care of, that your bridal party is lined up, that you eat, that the change of shoes you have for open dancing are ready to go, and much more!
Your Big Day Is Waiting
If you talk to any past couple who has hired a wedding planner, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who regretted it! Most couples find that it enables them to relax and enjoy their big day without stressing about the details.
Whether you choose a day-of coordinator or a full-service wedding planner, we can assure you that having experienced help makes all the difference on your wedding day.
At the Lightner Museum, our team is here to make your special day memorable and magical. From your first visit, we will do our best to make your wedding day vision come true, including recommending our favorite St. Augustine wedding planners.
Schedule a tour today to get started on planning your future wedding!