How my wedding planner saved me so much money that she paid for herself, and then some

February 12 | Guest post by rosesinister
Photo of wedding planner Kelli Bielema from Shindig Events by Barbie Hull.
Photo of wedding planner Kelli Bielema from Shindig Events by Barbie Hull.

I am a very hands-on, creative, DIY, do my own research, make my own decisions kind of gal. I know what I want, I know what I'm looking for, and I know better than anybody else, dammit!

…Right?

Okay, so maybe not. See, we hired a wedding planner. It was one of the first things we did, because I know that I can get distracted, and I tend not to follow up on things. So I knew that if the wedding was to run at all smoothly, we'd be better off paying someone to take care of things like calling vendors, asking the questions I'd forget about, and wrangling me — keeping me to a schedule, etc.

My family lives out of state and isn't up for the task of helping me plan, and while I do have two amazing, type-A friends, I've seen them absolutely WRECK themselves at other friends' weddings, and I couldn't do that to them again. I also had a good idea of the value of a wedding planner. So hiring one was something I felt comfortable with.

Mind you, I thought that I would just be directing all my preferred vendors to my planner, and that they would then just coordinate meetings and stuff. I didn't expect my planner to actually make suggestions. In my mind, I wasn't paying her for her opinion — I just needed someone to keep me on track, not cramp my style. Are ya' feeling me? I'm a girl who knows what I want!

So I was a little peeved at first when my planner started suggesting alternate vendors…

  • "That caterer's cost is a little too high… how about these guys?"
  • "Have you looked into ______ photographer yet? They're really wonderful people to work with."
  • "Have you thought about doing _________?"
  • "We have a resource for getting ___________."

And on and on… I was getting irritated.

One day I had plans to meet with a caterer and a photographer and my planner tagged along, and brought with her a second photographer for us to meet with. The moment the amazing, wedding planner-picked husband and wife photography team commented on my TARDIS-blue nail polish, I was sold — SOLD, I tell you — on a photographer that I would never known about if it wasn't for my planner.

The best part? The photographers are Eight. Hundred. Dollars. Less. than the not-too-pricy photographer I was dead-set on. $800 is no small amount of dough.

Holy cow, did my wedding coordinator just save me $2,550? Yes, yes she did.

Then my planner convinced me to talk to a different caterer. The first caterer I picked had a quote of $37.50 per person (alcohol not included, that was another $35 per person). I thought that was fair…

The second caterer? Can I tell you how much I love this woman? We had a tasting with her. She is SUPER AMAZING! And because she isn't as "established" as my first choice, guess what? She's totally cheaper. $1750 cheaper.

Holy cow, did my wedding coordinator just save me $2,550? Yes, yes she did.

We are not even paying our coordinator $2000. So, at this point, getting a coordinator has saved our budget $1500. Our coordinator has wholesale contacts that will save us money on decor. Our coordinator has a florist contact who is amazing and will save us money on flowers.

I am saving THOUSANDS of dollars by hiring planners — we were shooting for $20,000, now it looks like we will be spending something like $16,000. I know there are a lot of complaints about coordinators not even looking at couples with a budget of less than $40,000. Believe me, I dealt with my fair share of those people looking for our coordinators.

But, the wedding industry is constantly changing, and more and more people are realizing that there is a niche market for lower-budget brides who need coordination help. If you can find one of those kinds of vendors, JUMP on them — they will save you money.

You can find a great wedding planner in your area by checking the Offbeat Bride Vendor Guide!

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  1. Great article! Also, if you do really want to own the whole planning process on your own one of the best things a co-worker of mine said she ever did was to hire a "day of" coordinator to manage all the details on her wedding date so that she didn't have to worry the flower vases were there, that caterers had arrived, etc. Really decreased the stress of the day for a reasonable cost (I believe she paid about $400).

    13 agree
  2. This is exactly why planners are great! We use a non-wedding one for a work event and she's saved us loads of money through her connections (and yes, her friends get referred BUT we have final say in hiring them or not, based on their quality and price), and the sheer number of migraines I've avoided because of her is so worth the ticket price

    6 agree
  3. I'm so glad for this post! People mainly recommend coordinators for peace of mind, smoothness of events, etc., (all true) but I think they're burying the lead: the right coordinator/planner can score you some great deals!

    We're just beginning planning (November wedding) and it already looks like our SoCal coordinator will be saving us $1700 on the photographer alone. Our budget was similar to yours, rosesinister, so if all goes as planned, we will also come in under budget. We can't wait to stash away that savings.

    Super recommended to find a day-of coordinator in your price range and ask them for their list of preferred vendors. Remember that while you (hopefully) only get married once, this is their job; they have experience, wisdom, and working relationships for almost anything. You should totally consider a coordinator/planner's advice even when you *know* what you want.

    9 agree
  4. Thank you Rosesinister! If I, as a planner, say the same thing it sounds like a sales pitch. I will definitely be showing this to future prospective clients. Why should each bride re-invent the wheel? Hire someone with a PhD in wheels!

    17 agree
    • "Why should each bride re-invent the wheel? Hire someone with a PhD in wheels!"

      This made me chortle at work. Totally using this one!

      9 agree
  5. Hiring a wedding planner was by far the best decision I made in my wedding planning process. She was awesome, helpful, knoweldgeable, had dozens of contacts/ideas/suggestions. I fully believe my wedding wouldn't have been anywhere near as awesome without her.

    4 agree
  6. I considered hiring a wedding planner. I planned my entire first wedding myself and I did not want to do that again. Especially since this time I'm planning a wedding that will take place about 2 hours away from where I live. Little bit more difficult to check things out. However when the CHEAPEST wedding planner I could find STARTED at $1500 for her most basic package (and she was specifically marketing herself toward "budget brides") I gave up. A wedding planner is great if you have a decent sized budget. But for those of us with a minuscule one? I still fail to see the value.

    2 agree
    • Well, budgets are relative things, and one person's "modest" is another person's "minuscule," etc.

      To be perfectly frank, our budget for our wedding was "Under $20,000" and this is arguably a considerable chunk of change, but it is also considerably below average wedding prices in our area- more than one-third less. To this end my wedding is absolutely a smaller-budget affair. But I recognize that there are many people out there with even smaller budgets, and it's up to you to decide just how valuable these words are to you.

      However, thanks to my coordinator's help, our target budget is now $17,000, and that *includes* her fee. Now, we got our coordinator for $1,000, which I still think is quite a steal. However, my coordinators services would still have been worth springing for if she had cost twice as much, or even, frankly, three times as much- in that instance, I wouldn't have been *saving* money, per se, but the benefit of having someone experienced at my side remembering to ask vendors important questions I might forget, keep track of contracts and paperwork and contact info and schedules, and develop and adhere to a day-of timeline is absolutely *invaluable.*

      Again, I cannot express that enough.

      Now, my coordinator isn't a big advertiser. She gets clients mostly through word-of-mouth. I found out about her through a friend of mine who is getting married before I am. I never would have found my coordinator if I had stuck to "traditional" wedding resources- sites like The Knot or Wedding Wire, etc, tend to feature higher-end coordinators. Absolutely.

      But for anyone interested is acquiring the assistance of a coordinator who may be off the radar a bit but might cost less than "traditional" planners, resources like Thumbtack and online message boards, other married friends and friends-of-friends are the resources you want to tap and explore.

      Since starting to plan my wedding, I have encountered not one, but TWO other coordinators in my area in the same price range as mine. So these people *are* out there. As I said, the wedding industry is constantly evolving and in our current economy more people are realizing there is a niche market for smaller-budget brides in need of services. It may take a bit of digging to unearth these people, but they are worth finding.

      6 agree
  7. Despite having the option of spending a decent amount on a wedding, we want to spend about $15k (or if possible, less). My brother's $30k wedding freaked my parents out. My friend's wedding is now going upwards of $40k! Nowadays, the average on a wedding in my area is $50k.

    Thankfully, I found a place within our budget that also has a wedding coordinator.

    Our argument: we'd rather have that money collecting interest for our retirement than spend it all on one day. Or a Hawaiian honeymoon.

  8. AHHHmazing article! We love our brides and tell them the same thing at their first meeting- we will save you money, AND get you some amazing vendors. I was so happy to find this article. Thank you so much for sharing!!!! 🙂

  9. Love love love all of this information in this article! I am so passionate about wedding and event planning that I do it for free for my family, friends, and co-workers! 🙂 Go gettem girls!

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