01 Oct Five Great Questions To Ask A Wedding or Event Planner Before You Hire Them
Event season is here! When the leaves begin to turn and the days get shorter planners become inundated with requests for consultations/interviews & quotes for upcoming holiday celebrations & weddings. I’ve spent the better part of the last week speaking with a variety of potential new clients and am very excited about a number of projects I’ve added to the event development line up within the next few months and all the way into the summer of next year – I can’t wait to share them with you! But one bride I spoke with in particular really impressed me.
Normally when I do a consult with a client, it’s not uncommon for it to be the first time they have ever spoken with an event planner. I usually ask them a variety of questions to determine if they are a good fit for me & how I can best assist them with their event. This bride was a very different conversation – I did get to ask her about a lot of things that pertained to the event but when we sat down to speak SHE asked a number of very excellent questions that allowed me to educate her on how I do what I do. I finished the call thinking, “Gosh I wish every client would ask me some of those questions”. So….I made a list, to the best of my memory, of the things we covered. If you’re speaking to a wedding or event planner for the first time, their answers to these five questions should tell you a little about them personally, as well as how they run their business, and what you can expect from them should you choose to hire them.
- If I choose to hire you to plan my <insert event name>, what would we most likely be doing at our first meeting & how would we proceed from that point? -This question is great because it gives you some idea of how you will approach the planning process together. Any event you are willing to go to the time & expense to hire a planner for is likely to be multifaceted and complex. Their answer will offer you a blueprint to the way they approach the planning process.
- What sort of things do you typical do for a client on the day of their event? – You know you need help to pull this event off but aren’t sure which responsibilities/duties, exactly, the planner will take on during the day of your event. This gives them an opportunity to better explain their role in the event execution to you.
- What form of relationship does your role with the vendors take leading up to the event & on the event day? Are you their boss, their collaborator, or do you only step in with direction when they have an obvious issue that they can’t resolve themselves? – Your potential planner’s answer to this question will tell you about their management style. Are they Autocratic? Collaborative? Passive? Generally speaking, collaboration or a blend of the three styles is what you should be looking for in a planner. If they manage their vendor relationships from a purely autocratic or passive point of view they are more likely to have difficulty with vendors during contract, event set up, & execution.
- What is your policy on friends and family filling the roles of some of the vendors for an event like this? – Often clients look to trusted friends and family members to provide a good or service that would normally be contracted out to a professional vendor for their event in an effort to save a little bit of money. This can be a huge benefit, if your friends or family members are event professionals, or truly have the ability to deliver a professional level product. However, more often than not, Uncle Lou’s camera skills or Great Aunt Thelma’s cake may not live up to your expectations. Worse than that, after promising to assist you …they may not even show up. Because planners have seen these things happen time and again some of them have clauses in their contracts that prohibit clients from using these “Friend-dors” instead of professional vendors. In other cases contract clauses may stipulate that you are welcome to use “Friend-dors” for your event only if they personally present a portfolio of their work to the planner and complete an interview with them so the planner is assured that they can meet your expectations as well as theirs & deliver a quality product or service for your event. The planners stance on this issue may very well determine whether or not they are a good fit for your event at all.
- How are your fees structured? – Asking about fee structure in addition to establishing the cost of your planner’s services is a great way to prepare yourself to absorb the cost of your planner as part of the event budget. Knowing how many payments the fee will be broken into and how they can or will be spaced offers you the ability to get a feel for your cash flow during the event planning process. I like to advise clients to take a calendar and use highlighters to mark dates payments are due throughout the months leading up to the event. For example, knowing at a glance that you have a payment scheduled due to your planner in February as well as your photographer, you might choose to contract a payment to your linen rental company either in late January or early March to avoid having too many vendors scheduled to be paid at the same time and depleting your cash flow.
These are not the only things you can, or should, ask a planner when you interview them but I really believe that they are an excellent start to a dialog that should leave you feeling comfortable and well educated about whom you are working with and what their services actually involve when you move to contract. The goal of the interview process, as well as reviewing your planner’s contract, is to leave you feeling knowledgeable about their responsibilities and their role in your event. Never feel bad about asking a question! Professional planners will always prefer to be transparent with you & want to work with a client who has a clear vision of our roles and responsibilities.