The Ultimate Guide to Hiring the Right Wedding Planner

We spoke with three experts about this crucial part of planning your wedding day.

couple kidding at wedding reception


Deciding to hire a wedding planner is one of the first (and biggest) decisions you’ll make in the exciting process of planning your wedding. For many couples, it’s definitely worth the expense; wedding planning pros know the ins and outs of the wedding industry better than anyone, so naturally, they can help you coordinate, get you access to exclusive vendors, help manage your budget, and maybe even save you money in the long run.

Because a wedding planner will ultimately be playing a key role in one of the most important days of your life, selecting somehow who is knowledgeable, experienced, and really just gets exactly what you and your partner want is crucial. So, where do you start? We spoke to three industry experts to help you decide what kind of wedding planner is right for you and your partner.

Meet the Expert

  • GiGi McDowell is the founder of Fêtefully, a digital wedding planning platform connecting couples to event planners around the world.
  • Shauna Karver is the owner and creative director behind J29 Events, a full-service wedding planning and event design company based in the Northwest.
  • Lara Mahler is the founder and chief planner of The Privilege is Mine, a wedding planning collective based in New York.

Know Your Vision

While this may develop throughout the wedding planning process with the right guidance, it’s helpful to know your vision before deciding on a planner.

"The biggest tip I can offer to couples is knowing who you are and know what you want from your wedding,” says McDowell. “I am recently engaged and am enjoying being on the other side of the table now. I love creating the vision, décor, and how the reception looks, but I want my planner to be a great organizer and scheduler, someone to send out emails to vendors and schedule meetings. Pick a wedding planner whose strengths are the opposite of your weaknesses, so they plug in the gaps."

Ask Your Social Network

One of the first steps to finding the perfect wedding planner is to use your network. Check with friends and family members to see if they have any recommendations, and begin making a list. “Ask around. If you went to a wedding that you absolutely loved, ask the couple about their planner,” suggests Karver. They’ll be able to give you first-hand knowledge of what it was like to work with their planner.

Scour Social Media

We use social media to plan trips and to find hotels and restaurants. Why not use it to find a wedding planner too? “We recommend looking on Instagram to make sure [the planner] has done real events that map to your overall wedding style. Then follow up with a deep dive to critique their real wedding experience,” says Karver. “Read their reviews on Google and The Knot. Check out their website, and see if their voice is a good fit.”

Mahler also suggests doing a quick Google search to get the ball rolling. “I have been finding that just googling ‘NYC wedding planner’ or ‘Brooklyn wedding planner’ is how folks find wedding planning in their area or city,” she says.  

Check Magazines, Websites, and Events

Aside from searching social media and asking your social network, you may also find the perfect planner by looking at other resources. “There are local resources that couples can look into, like open houses for different venues and bridal shows," says McDowell. "Those two are great ways to see how planners engage with prospective couples." In addition, be sure to check out wedding planning magazines or websites. If you see a real wedding you're obsessed with, look at the credits to find the planner who worked on it.

Ask Your Venue

As you’re searching for the perfect planner, you may have already selected your venue. If so, ask the coordinator or director of sales there if they have a shortlist of excellent wedding planners who already know your dream venue like the back of their hand.

Match Your Aesthetic

If you have a clear idea of your wedding theme and exactly how you want it to look, be sure to consider that in your choice. Double-check that the prospective planner has executed weddings that fit the same look and feel you’re going for. “Once you have an initial call with your planner, they should be adding to your ideas and your vision in a way that makes you feel confident that they understand what you are trying to portray on your wedding day,” says Mahler.

Discuss Budget and Fees

Of course, you’ll need to make sure the perfect wedding planner fits your budget as well. Before committing, double-check that you’re on the same page with the services that you need for your big day. “Figure out how much help you'll need (day of event management, partial planning, or full service), and look at a planner's pricing model,” says Karver. “If you feel that you want one type of package with the option to add on later, make sure you find a planner with customizable pricing.”

Mahler adds: “What you are investing in is the experience of planning weddings that a wedding planner has, the ability to foresee any issue or problem ahead of time, a roster of amazing vendors they are able to refer to you, and the list goes on."

Identify Shared Values

“You are going to be spending a lot of time with your planner. They are going to be involved in a very personal time in your and your partner’s life,” says Mahler. “In the end, you need to like your planner as a human being first, and the work that the company or planner puts out there needs to mesh with your vibe and the aesthetic of your wedding.”

Karver notes that you should take the time to find someone you feel comfortable and completely in sync with. “For us, it's a lot like a first date. If we have an amazing call with a couple, we're giddy and can't wait to follow up,” says Karver. And you and your partner should feel the exact same way as well as you’re making your decision.

Double-Check Services

While a planner may match your dream aesthetic, it’s important to be sure they can provide the services you need as well. “You want to know that you have access to your planner through phone and email communication so that you can feel confident knowing that you can ask questions and feel taken care of pre-wedding,” says Mahler. “You would want to know that they will maintain communication and coordination with your vendors leading up to your wedding day so that you can rest assured that everything is going to show up on time and have all the run-of-show details.”

Other key services you may want to double-check that they will provide include drafting your timeline for the day and reviewing contracts.

Prepare for the First Meeting

Once you’ve done your research and it’s time to meet your top choice planner, ask them what they’d like for you to bring to the meeting. It will depend on where you are in your planning stage, as well as the services you’re hoping they will provide.

"When we meet with a couple for the first time, we want the chance to get to know you. We believe that the main ingredient to successful wedding planning is finding the right fit,” says Karver. “We spend so much time talking, texting, and emailing with each client, that if we don't vibe, it all feels forced, and the end result will suffer because of it. Bring yourself, a little bit about what you imagine your wedding day to be, and basic info about what you have booked.”

Find an Advocate

As you’re making a final decision, it's important to reflect on whether or not your planner will be your best advocate. “When looking for a wedding planner, you should not feel judged or made to feel like your ideas or vision are silly in any way,” says Mahler. “When you are looking for a planner, you should feel like you are being advocated for; you should trust your planner, like them as a person, and most importantly you should feel a sense of ease after meeting or getting off the phone with them.”

If a phone call or a meeting makes you feel more stressed, then chances are, the planner isn’t the right fit for you.

Trust Your Gut

No matter where your research leads you, finding a wedding planner that feels good is hands-down the most important piece of the puzzle. Trust your gut to be sure you’re making the right decision. “Your wedding planner is your teammate," says Mahler. "It should feel like you have someone on your side who is working along with you to bring your vision to life."

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