This is it. The big one. But for a job this important to proceed with both glamor and ease, you’re going to need to call in a fixer. A professional. Someone with a very particular set of skills.
A wedding planner.
As a proper wedding vet (350+ weddings in over a decade of experience) I’m shouting this on a rooftop. I NEED you to hire a SKILLED wedding planner. When I work with you, my primary aim is to make sure you have the best possible wedding experience. I want your wedding to feel joyful, to be absolutely mesmerizing for you and your guests, and part in parcel with all of that: stress-free.
Seasoned, professional planners get you that. Because if you’re not using a planner, that stress falls on you. And from a photography perspective – if you don’t have a planner, a lot of that mental processing on the wedding day falls on me. Now don’t get me wrong. I ADORE my clients and I’m a big fan of getting muddy and getting in the weeds to help clients when they need me. However, my guess is that you probably prefer that I spent my time focused on capturing your dad (who never cries) weeping over his cake as he watches you dance for the first time and your grandma cracking a wry smirk as she flirts with the bartender rather than encouraging your bridesmaids to get dressed, making sure that everyone is on schedule, and oh wait — where did aunt sally go?? It’s photo time!
Here’s a quote from one of the best in the DC area:
From Sentimental Fools: “We always say that if you were having a surgery or having a house built you would want an experienced doctor or contractor. There is a time for DIY, but when you are spending more than $20,000 why would you not call in a professional? Because we have been told weddings are a frivolity or tricked by pinterest into thinking we can do or have it all at any price point. Weddings and celebrations have been a big part of our culture as humans for all of our collective history. This is a rite of passage you have chosen to invest time, money, energy and shared history into. Why would you want that process to be more stressful and free form than it already is?”
Weddings with Planners Feel Different
What your average search results for “do I need a wedding planner?” don’t convey is that weddings with planners FEEL different—for you and for your guests. Why? The ambiance vibrates with the right energy when the right planner is on the job. Because experienced planners know how to create cohesive teams, how to help each individual vendor feel “in their place” and working at their best, how to execute an elevated version of your vision with style and grace, and more. A planner will save you money with their insider hook-ups, but the biggest benefit is that you’re investing in someone who can reduce your stress, make the most of your investment, and have a wedding that feels like a meaningful celebration of you as a couple. You don’t want grandma sally who takes breaks every 30 minutes & undermines your vendors’ expertise to be coordinating one of the most meaningful days of your life.
Creating a Cohesive Ambiance
Cake, catering, bands, etc – When you’re planning a wedding, it’s easy to get bogged down by the many decisions that go into a wedding. The most interesting weddings are the ones where everything lines up to feel like a realization of a sleek vision that reflects YOUR tastes and style, and not just splashes of interesting décor. Your wedding day should feel like a celebration of the two of you. Wedding planners help by understanding the bigger picture in event planning. They work with you to streamline your Pinterest board ideas into a cohesive design and can spend effort on impactful design. Additionally, they can help you communicate your vision to vendors so you aren’t disappointed (and can step in if those vendors don’t live up to your expectations). I have seen this happen at many weddings, but I often find that if you’re not working with an experienced planner – that’s when things go wrong. A wedding planner is who you want when you want to create a meaningful, atmospheric event without having to worry about the color of your napkins.
Assembling a Team that Cares
You know how it feels when things fit just right? Here’s the big secret—vendors who don’t work well together kill your vibes and don’t create the best products. Planners help you select a team who care just as much as they do about your happiness. Access to their contacts also means you’ll have access to the best vendors and things that would otherwise have been out of your reach may be achievable—or even by just avoiding the pitfall of hiring the wrong vendor in the first place and either wasting your investment or creating a bad atmosphere at the wedding. As a vendor myself, I can tell you that when a planner has good relationships with all the members of your team, you’re less likely to experience miscommunications that can lead to hiccups on your wedding day. Teamwork DOES make the dream work.
The Flow of the Day
Speaking of hiccups, planners are a must-have for reducing stress on you and your guests. Stress is an inevitable part of planning a big event—the question is who it falls on. Does it fall on you and your close friends and family, or someone you have hired to be your advocate? I often find that when planners aren’t involved, or if they are just day-of planners – being as experienced as I am, some of those difficulties fall on me. Your experience is paramount to me and to beautiful photos. The day of is full of lots of moving parts: handling setup not covered by the venue, communicating with vendors, making adjustments to the timetable, and sometimes performing actual acts of magic (I once witnessed a wedding planner source TWO generators in the middle of a hurricane!). It’s having someone on hand that knows how to keep guests entertained so no one notices the sleight of hand that fixes things like when vendors run late, meals get cold, the bouquet falls apart, or important items go missing. It’s avoiding the cracks in a family dynamics where there’s nobody there to help to sort things. These are all stresses that you don’t want to or need to worry about on your big day, and with a seasoned wedding planner you don’t have to.
How to find a good planner:
There’s a difference between a planner and a GOOD planner.
Here are some questions you should ask as you’re looking from a photography perspective:
- What is our style and vision for the wedding, and does the planner have experience planning weddings that align with our aesthetic?
- Does the planner consider the aesthetic vision and ambiance of the wedding as much as the planning?
- Is the planner willing to take the photographer’s timeline under consideration as they are building the wedding schedule?
- Does the planner understand what is needed for lighting for beautiful ambiance of the party and photos?
- Does the planner also do styling, or will they style flat-lays, etc of my details?
- How do we want to communicate with the planner throughout the planning process, and are we comfortable with their communication style? What sort of management tools do they use?
- Do we want the planner to handle hiring a photographer, or do we want to handle this ourselves? (I typically prefer to communicate directly with my couples, but will CC your planner)
- Do we feel comfortable working with the planner and trust their judgment and expertise?
- What style of photography do we want for our wedding, and does the planner have experience working with photographers who specialize in that style?
- How will the planner coordinate with the photographer on the day of the wedding to ensure that all necessary shots are taken?
- Do we have any specific requests or must-have shots that we want to make sure the photographer captures?