You work closely with this big-day vendor—so be sure to cover every inch of ground.
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Your wedding is on the horizon and you've decided to bring a planner on board to help lessen your load. Great idea. (You can check out our list of the top wedding planners and event designers here if you're looking to tap one of our favorite professionals for your big day.) Before you sign a contract, however, there's a lot to consider. And even when you decide on an expert to coordinate your big day, event planners say there are some non-negotiable questions you absolutely must ask in the aftermath.

Ahead, we broke down several essential questions to ask when you're deciding who to hire—plus a few important inquiries to make after you select this vendor.

1. If I work with your company, will the planning and design process be collaborative?

Before you hire a wedding planner, learning about their style of work, and whether or not it complements your preferences, is important. "Knowing the type of relationship you want throughout the planning process is important in finding the right event planning and design team. If you want to be hands-off, but your planner expects to collaborate, the process could be frustrating," says Beth Helmstetter, who runs an event design and production studio in Los Angeles, Calif.

On the other hand, if you want to work closely with a producer, but they typically own the project without a lot of input, they would be the wrong fit overall. 

2. Can you show me a wedding you've produced at a similar price point?

Here's another helpful question to help guide the process before you make a hiring decision. "While not an exact science, having an idea of what you can expect for your financial commitment before hiring a planning team can be important," says Helmstetter. "Just because a planner can work within your budget doesn't mean they can create a day that meets your expectations for the budget. Being on the same page about the vision and the investment you hope to make will alleviate a lot of frustration down the road."

3. How big is your team? 

The third question Helmstetter recommends asking before onboarding a wedding coordinator involves the number of colleagues they work with throughout the planning process. "Understanding the size of the team working on your event can prepare you for what to expect. Are there multiple people you'll be interacting with? What are their roles? Or will you be working directly with the principal planner on everything from the guest list to the timeline to the lighting design and more," she says.

"Having a team who can support the size of the event you're hosting is important," she adds. "Sometimes, this means you have a team of four taking on different pieces of the puzzle and sometimes it's just you and one planner working through every detail together."

4. What services are included?

Fallon Carter, founder and creative director of Fallon Carter Events based in New York City, says that this is one of the first questions you should ask a prospective planner. "Get clarity on the services they offer and what services will be additional," says Carter. "When you're receiving a proposal, make sure that you're getting everything that you're looking for—specifically outside the wedding day. Will they help manage the rehearsal dinner, the welcome dinner, [or any] stationery? Are they going to help you build a website?"

Asking directly about the services this professional offers, says Carter, will keep things clear from the outset. (This information is often included in a proposal memo, too.)

wedding reception tablescape with colorful flowers

5. What is your communication style?

Don't overlook diving into this query before signing a contract with a wedding planner. "Every team has their own way of doing things. I would ask for clarity on the planning process itself and how they organize details," says Carter. "How do they present details to you and what's expected from you as a couple throughout the planning process? That might be reviewing things, giving feedback, and submitting payments."

Whatever it is, know what falls on you and what falls on them—as well as the format in which the planner will relay that information. Related questions to ask on this front include finding out if they're more of a visual communicator, if they use spreadsheets frequently, or if they are all about "long emails with homework." Regardless of a wedding planner's go-to communication style, "it's important to understand how they operate," says Fallon.

6. What is your availability?

Carter says to ask about office hours and availability before deciding to move forward with a wedding planner. "This is something I always ask my clients so that we're more effective as a team," she says, noting that potential clients should understand that wedding professionals often have events on weekends. While you might have the most free time to catch up on wedding planning on Saturdays and Sundays, don't expect your planner to respond to your emails or texts when they're busy making another couple's day delightful.

Once you learn about their typical schedule, make sure there's alignment with your and your partner's routine and establish the best times to schedule calls and general response time expectations for emails.

7. What exactly are we planning?

As Lauryn Prattes, owner of Lauryn Prattes Events in Washington, D.C., puts it, planners aren't mind readers. So, touching base with this vendor in the beginning, middle, and end stages of the process—to find out which items they will handle—is imperative so misunderstandings don't arise.

"Although we have many conversations and discussions with our clients and hope that we know everything they might wish to plan, don't assume we have something planned if it hasn't been discussed," says Prattes. "Specialty signage and end-of-night exits aren't as popular as they once were, so your planner might not bring that up to you. If there is something you were dreaming of or hoped to do, be sure to vocalize that to your planner ahead of time—don't just wait for them to ask about it."

8. What is our rain plan, when do you make that decision, and who makes the final call? 

Nobody wants to think about big-day precipitation, but it's worth having a rain plan you're actually comfortable with (and having one helps alleviate some pre-wedding meteorologist jitters). "If you are having an outdoor wedding, you want to be sure your planner has a solid rain plan in place. Rain plans may have several layers, ranging from a 'just in case' ceremony tent to a worst case scenario re-arranging of plans," says Prattes, adding that tent companies or venues may require a certain deadline for making these types of decisions. "

"In addition, extra tenting may require permitting, so even if you are unsure if you will need it, you will have to be sure it is permitted. If the rain call is a game-time decision, you may want to designate someone—your planner—to make that final decision so that you aren't stressed about weather on your wedding day," she says.

9. Do you have a vendor gratuity tipping guide?

Just in case you haven't studied your complete guide to tipping every wedding vendor, from your photographer to your catering staff (spoiler: you should!), it's helpful to review this with your wedding planner. He or she likely knows the preferences of your individual vendors best, from whether Venmo is okay for gratuities to the set-up and break-down production team' schedules.

"You don't want to be surprised two days before the wedding with having to take thousands of dollars of cash out of the bank for vendor tips. Although tipping is never required, it is often customary, and planners usually have a tipping guide that breaks down industry standards for thanking your vendors," says Prattes. "This will allow you to plan ahead and pass any gratuity you would like to share to your planner to distribute on your behalf."

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