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How Much a Wedding Planner Costs and How to Pay for It

Congrats, you got engaged! After the initial elation, shock might have settled in when you started planning your wedding and were faced with potentially staggering costs. A common question when the planning begins is whether or not to hire a wedding planner. Couples might be wondering whether it will save them money in the long run, or if they could simply do it all themselves to save money on their wedding.

The main perk of a wedding planner is that they can facilitate this seemingly huge undertaking and make the event as seamless as possible. But be aware that not all planners provide the same services, and of course, not for the same fee. Here’s a breakdown of how much a wedding planner costs, and how you can pay for it if you and your partner decide it’s essential for your big day.

What to expect with a wedding planner

A wedding planner’s typical tasks include organizing, coordinating and negotiating with each vendor on matters such as décor, music, food and beverages. Other services offered by a wedding planning business could include:

  • Providing a contingency plan if the wedding is set outdoors
  • Creating a timeline for the wedding as well as floor plans for the space
  • Organizing the rehearsal dinner
  • Helping you create your vision
  • Making sure that no detail is being overlooked
  • Offering creative visions of their own for the wedding

Depending on which type of planner you choose — whether a full-on wedding planner or a day-of coordinator — and how much of your overall wedding budget you will allocate to this service, the time spent with the planner beyond the initial meeting will vary.

How much a wedding planner costs

As mentioned above, the cost of a wedding planner can vary widely. There are a variety of  types of planners that provide a range of services, and they don’t charge the same way. Some also offer add-on services at an additional cost.

In 2018, the national average spent for a wedding or event planner was $2,002, according to The Knot’s 2018 Real Weddings Survey. Keep in mind that you also will need to include a gratuity for all your vendors, including the planner.

A wedding planner typically charges in one of three ways: a flat fee, an hourly rate or a percentage of your overall wedding bill. The most common type of fee that wedding planners charge is flat fees.

No matter which type of fee your wedding planner charges, you should budget for a full-service wedding planner to cost an estimated 15% of your budget. Your costs will be lower if you opt for a day-of coordinator.

While this might seem a huge amount, hiring a wedding planner might help you alleviate costs down the line, as they can negotiate with vendors, look for cheaper alternatives or rebalance various budgets to help you avoid exceeding your initial budget.

Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of the New York City-based events planning company, Color Pop Events, said that the cost of a wedding planner will almost always make up for itself.

“Personally, I never promise my couples that I can save them money by securing discounts with vendors,” Weinberg said. “ But what I do tell my couples is that I can save them money by making sure that they are spending their money wisely — on things they actually need for the wedding and not a $2,000 barista — and by having an arsenal of preferred vendors at all different price points.”

Choosing a wedding planner

There a number of things to consider when choosing a wedding planner for your special day.

“The wedding planner shows you where to spend your money, and on which vendors to spend money on based on your event priorities,” said  Lauren Grech, CEO of event management and design firm LLG Agency & LLG Events. “While hiring a wedding planner can indeed save couples money in the end, the expectation should shift from planners being able to save you money on your wedding, to planners being able to show you where you should invest your money.”

So while keeping this in mind, here are some important questions to ask a wedding planner when you are interviewing them:

  • Are you available on my wedding day?
  • What services do you provide, and what is your specialty?
  • What is not included in your fee?
  • What is your fee structure? And if it’s hourly, how many hours do you think the overall wedding planning will entail?
  • How many weddings have you planned? Which one was the most successful or challenging and why?
  • What’s the average cost of the weddings you have planned?
  • Are you familiar with the venue?
  • Do you handle vendor contracts?
  • Do you negotiate with vendors?
  • If you recommend your own vendors, do you make a commission?
  • How many meetings will we have?
  • Do you prefer to meet in person, talk on the phone or communicate via email?
  • How many weddings will you be planning at the same time?
  • Will you do the cleanup of the wedding?
  • How long will you stay at the wedding?
  • Will you have a team? Do we need to provide a meal for them?

Paying for wedding planner costs

The Knot’s study, which surveyed more than 14,000 couples married in 2018, noted that the new national average cost of a wedding (excluding honeymoon expenses) is $33,931. It’s also important to note that, according to a LendingTree survey, 45% of Americans between the ages 18 and 53 who were married within the last two years went into debt for their wedding.

With the steep costs associated with weddings, maybe your personal savings or your family’s contributions won’t cover the cost of hiring a wedding planner. In that case, you might consider one of the following financing options.

A wedding loan

Wedding loans are regular personal loans that you can use to cover your wedding costs. These unsecured loans might offer lower rates than credit cards, though your rate will largely depend on your credit score. Note that those with lower credit scores tend to pay much higher rates than those with excellent credit.

If you’re considering a wedding loan, be sure to shop around and compare loans to find one that’s best-suited for you. Think hard about whether it’s really necessary to go into debt for your wedding or if there are areas in which you can cut costs.

A low-interest credit card

According to the 2019 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, 20% of couples incur credit card debt to cover wedding costs. Those with excellent credit could look into credit cards with 0% APR offers to avoid paying interest for a certain period of time, typically 12 to 18 months. If using a credit card is the route you opt for, plan on paying it off as soon as possible — or, if you get a card with a zero-interest promotional rate, before the promotional period ends and interest kicks in.

One of the advantages of a credit card is that you can pay off your expenses in monthly chunks. In addition, several credit cards have travel rewards, which you could use for your honeymoon.

Your savings

If you don’t want to start your married life in debt, consider using your savings to cover the cost of your wedding. While this might mean foregoing party favors, choosing simpler drink options or having a smaller guest list, it can also translate into financial freedom and a “cleaner” financial slate to start your new life.

However, for some couples it can be challenging to save up enough money to cover all of the costs of a wedding upfront. Some couples might also want to avoid completely depleting their savings.

Cheaper alternatives to a wedding planner

Hiring a wedding consultant

If your budget is already stretched, you might want to hire a day-of-coordinator, also called wedding consultant. That person will also be logistically involved, but on a shorter timeline, perhaps starting in earnest a few weeks before the wedding.

Again, services and fees may vary depending on the provider, but you may be able to get help for less with reviewing the vendors’ contracts, helping organize and direct the vendors the day of the wedding, creating a timeline of the wedding and floorplans, greeting guests and providing the breakdown at the end of the evening.

Weinberg explained that while wedding coordinators are also focused on logistics as they typically come on board later in the process, “when they get started, they’ll get a sense of what you’ve planned thus far so and they’ll address any overlooked details.”

They will also confirm logistics for the day of your event. “That covers load-in times, needs on site, vendor meals and more. On the day of the wedding, they will oversee everything,” she said.

Planning the wedding yourself

Of course, you can also decide to plan the wedding yourself. This might be a great option if you have a smaller guest list or a more intimate setting, for example. You will end up working harder to make everything happen on your own, but you’ll also potentially save thousands of dollars.

Whether you choose to plan it on your own, hire a wedding planner or get a day-of coordinator, in the end, your wedding day is something special and full of happiness. But being realistic about your current financial situation, having a budget and trying to stick to it as much as possible will help you start your married life on a better financial track.


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