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by Emma Hla

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Images by Hannah Duffy Photography.

I’m feeling all kinds of emotional this morning and I’ll tell you why…

Today is the first post of the New Year from my dear friend Katrina Otter. Kat is our resident wedding planner here at Coco Wedding Venues and she provides us with a wealth of planning tips and advice on these very pages. But she also happens to be the Wedding Planner of the Year 2017 as of last week’s The Wedding Industry Awards and I was there to scream, clap and ugly cry at this brilliant announcement.

This award-winning planner has the most incredible vision but her skills are firmly rooted in the logistics, schedules and spreadsheets that are the backbone of your wedding day. Planning a wedding can be quite a daunting process and for some couples this might be the very first (and only!) time they try to organise such a big event. If you’re finding yourself a little lost right now then this feature is perfect for you as Kat will be taking you through the 5 w’s of hiring a Wedding Planner – who, what, why, when & where.

We hope this post offers some guidance about what Wedding Planners do and if their services are something you feel you require, we’ve also included links to some of our absolute faves for you to research. To kick things off we have a beautiful behind-the-scenes film by Roost Film Co. from a private garden wedding Kat planned last Summer. This couple are also quite special to us as we introduced Claire & Tom to Katrina and together they created a truly stunning day.

So press play and see the role of a Wedding Planner in action!

notes from katrina

A big hello, a belated Happy New Year from Katrina Otter Weddings and welcome to my first wedding planning feature for 2017!

If you’re recently engaged (congratulations BTW!), new to the world of wedding planning or a newbie to the beautifully stylish pages of inspirational pretty here on Coco then here’s a quick re-cap about me and my partnership with Coco Wedding Venues

And in 2017 we’ve got some more deliciously detailed and essential collaborative planning features in store for you, covering everything from roles and responsibilities to a three-part series with florist supremo Jay Archer.

Kicking off our 2017 series is today’s feature, the five W’s to hiring a Wedding Planner.

I have to be honest with you, today’s feature has been a rather long time in the making and one that I’ve postponed for at least a year now!

Why..?

Well, over the years that I’ve been working as a Wedding Planner I’ve met with, learnt from, collaborated with, supported, mentored, listened to, socialised with and formed friendships with some truly incredible and inspirational UK and destination Wedding Planners.

As a profession, we work incredibly long and unsociable hours, our job can often be stressful, tiring and frustrating, we’re on call 24/7, we go above and beyond for our clients and we do all of this with a constant and unwavering sense of calm and positivity.

It’s because of all of this that I’ve procrastinated – I desperately want to do justice to this feature, our profession, the role we play and the work we do and of course to my wedding planning colleagues, mentors and friends.

So, it’s finally time to stop procrastinating (one of my 2017 wedding planning resolutions) and breakdown the Who, What, Why, When and Where to hiring a Wedding Planner…

should-i-hire-a-wedding-planner-poster

What

In a nutshell, a Wedding Planner is a professional (note the word professional here!) who can assist and support you with the overall design, planning and management of your wedding.

However, I don’t think this nutshell really does the profession justice because a Wedding Planner is SO MUCH MORE…

A Wedding Planner is also…

  • An expert, confidant and mentor.
  • Someone who will listen to you, support you and take away some of the burden and stress of planning a wedding.
  • Someone who will work with you to understand your dreams and then deliver them.
  • Someone who will create one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
  • Someone who will work tirelessly throughout to ensure that every last detail is carefully considered and flawlessly executed..

A Wedding Planner can take on as little or as much of the organisation of your wedding as you want (for example, depending on how much you want to plan yourself, the areas where you require an extra helping hand or your budget for this service) and as such, most planners offer a range of tailored services to suit.

As a Wedding Planner, my most popular planning services are full wedding planning and wedding day management whereas for other planners their areas of expertise are slightly different to mine and so too are their services as a result i.e. Wedding Planners specialising in destination weddings (for example, Matthew Oliver Weddings, Louise Perry Weddings, Elisabetta White and Carmela Weddings) or planners with a particular emphasis on wedding design and styling (for example, Pocketful of Dreams, Knot & Pop, Always Andri, The Bijou Bride and Liz Linkleter Event Planning & Design).

Before I round up the WHAT I just wanted to touch upon the difference between a Wedding Planner and Wedding Coordinator because they’re often seen as the same role whereas in actual fact there’s a huge difference between the two which ultimately boils down to the level of service – A planner will usually be for full or partial wedding planning, helping you throughout the planning process from start to finish; sourcing your venue and suppliers, budget and RSVP management etc. A coordinator on the other hand will generally come in towards the end to help you in the final few weeks; pulling together the time-line for the day, confirming the suppliers, tying up loose ends and being there on the day itself.

Who

Thankfully, there are as many styles of Wedding Planner as there are styles of wedding! With planners coming from a whole range of backgrounds, you’ll be able to find just the right planner for you.

So, where do all these Wedding Planners come from..? Well, some of us have honed our planning skills in corporate events, worked as PAs or in other organisational roles. Others come from more creative and artistic backgrounds such as costume or stage design. Some have worked overseas and other have had high-flying city jobs.

Obviously, these respective backgrounds have influenced each Wedding Planner’s style so with my history as an event planner, it’s no surprise I’m a huge fan of lists, spreadsheets and timelines! Other planners, like those I’ve mentioned above, are more passionate about the creative aspects of the day. So, the right WHO for you will be the planner whose skills compliment your own and your overall vision.

As every planner comes into the industry with a totally different skill set, everyone will have different experiences and even different levels of training. You’ll find that some planners have taken one or more training courses before they launched their business and others won’t have. There’s no ‘right’ option here though, so qualifications or training courses should probably reinforce your feelings that someone’s right for you rather than being the only thing you look for.

And what should you be looking for..? How will you know WHO the right planner is for you..? Well, here’s my take on things:

  • Does their website and social media speak your language..? Can you imagine yourself having a conversation with them..?
  • Do the images on their website correspond with the style or quality of wedding that you’re hoping for..?
  • Are you excited by their portfolio..?
  • Do you get a sense, from your first contact with them, that they’re on your wavelength..?
  • Are their communications with you timely and appropriate,,? Everyone has different expectations here so only you know what’s right for you.
  • Do you like them?!

I know that last point might sound a bit OTT but it’s crucial that you like your Wedding Planner. You’re going to be trusting them and relying on them to plan and execute one of the most important events in your life AND you’ll probably get to a point where you’re communicating with them more than your friends and family. Hence why the like part is so vitally important!

Rounding off the WHO is pricing!

Of course, your WHO will be, in some ways, governed by your budget but let me just say two things here…

Firstly, when you’re comparing proposals and quotations from planners, don’t simply look at the bottom line figure, go through the quote to see exactly how much of your Wedding Planner’s time you’ll have before, during and even after the wedding day itself. Meetings, site visits, travel, calls and all that admin add up so consider the level of support that you’re getting for your money to work out whether your quote is good value for you.

Secondly, I’m well aware that Wedding Planners are sometimes accused of being expensive but if you can, imagine us as a time-saving safety net. We’ve got the know-how, the contacts, the time and the experience to make sure that your wedding is everything you want it to be. We’ve got your back throughout the planning process and on the day, we’re totally on your side. We’ll save you time, stress and organisational headaches and we’ll rustle up ideas and suppliers that you’ll love. You’ll still get all the best bits of wedding planning without any of the worry and we’ll give you a day that you’ll remember forever. If only we could put a price on that! 

Why

Every couple is different and so too are their reasons for hiring a Wedding Planner; whether it’s because they’ve got demanding jobs, a young family, live overseas, want to marry in an area they don’t necessarily know, lack the creative confidence to deliver their vision or simply have no interest in weddings or wedding planning! The commonality amongst them all is that each and every couple will benefit from hiring a Wedding Planner as a result of the following WHY’s:

  • A Wedding Planner will save you a considerable amount of time.
  • They’ll take away some of the stress and shoulder the burden of planning your wedding.
  • They know the who’s who in the industry so will be able to recommend the suppliers that are the right fit for you, your wedding and budget.
  • They may (with particular emphasis on the word may) be able to save you money as a result of existing supplier relationships, by thoroughly checking contracts or booking the right suppliers for the correct timings and service.
  • They’ll help you bring your vision to life and if you don’t have one, they’ll be able to create one for you!
  • They’re there to set-up and pack-up on the day, oversee suppliers, manage your timeline etc. if you’ve hired them for this service (if you’re having a marquee wedding then they’ll also be there to oversee the set-up and de-rig)
  • They’ll work tirelessly to ensure that every last detail is carefully planned and considered.
  • They’re expert behind-the-scenes firefighters!
  • They’ll allow you to let go, relax and enjoy your engagement
  • They’re dedicated to YOUR needs and are on YOUR team!

When

So, WHEN should you hire a Wedding Planner?…

The honest and simple answer is as soon as you know you need one!!!

If you know from the outset that you don’t have the time to plan your wedding and you’d like to hire a planner for a full planning service, then the WHEN is NOW, especially as Wedding Planners on average only take on 8 – 10 weddings a year and can, as a result, get booked up quite quickly, especially during peak summer months.

Likewise, if you’re looking for someone to provide on-the-day support, then it’s best to get them booked in ASAP as it’s another item you can cross off your to-do list and once again, ensure availability.

If you’re managing most of the wedmin yourself but need a little expert guidance, venue research or supplier advice on an ad-hoc basis, then the WHEN is much more flexible and can be tailored around you and your requirements.

Where

And Finally, WHERE do you start when it comes to researching and finding the planner that’s right for you..?

The directory on the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners website is a great resource and although the planners are listed by area, I’d urge you to look across the entire membership for the right planner (FYI we travel!).

You can also look around online – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great places to start and you can also get a really good feel for a planner’s personality through their social media feeds. If someone makes you smile and regularly posts content that interests you then you’re off to a good start already!

Wedding blogs like Coco Wedding Venues are also invaluable. When you see a real wedding feature that fills you with wedmin excitement and you end up on a Pinterest pinning frenzy, check out the credits to see if a Wedding Planner was involved and then take a look at their website. The same goes for wedding magazines and even regional lifestyle publications if you think you’d prefer someone based near you or your venue.

You might also find a Wedding Planner as a recommendation from a friend or even your venue or another supplier. Recommendations from suppliers you’ve already chosen can be really helpful as suppliers tend to build up networks of like-minded contacts who share a similar style or aesthetic and friends will hopefully have as much insight about you and what makes you tick to be able to give you a good steer too.

Actually, when it comes to it, WHERE you find your Wedding Planner doesn’t really matter as long as they’re the right planner for you and you’ve checked that you’re happy with all of the following:

  • Their response times to enquiries and correspondence.
  • Their portfolio.
  • Their references.
  • Their quotation.
  • Their contracts, terms and conditions and payment terms.
  • Them as a person… their personality and your personality fit!

So, there we have it, my guide to the five W’s to hiring a Wedding Planner. Useful…? I hope so.

If you fancy a chat, you can find me at www.katrinaotterweddings.co.uk.

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