FULL SERVICE VS ON THE DAY CO-ORDINATION
A couple of years ago I decided to limit the number of weddings I do each year and only offer full service and bespoke support to couples looking for a coherent and high end approach to design, styling, planning and co-ordination of their celebrations.
Through my regular enquiries each week, and when mentoring and running workshops with other wedding planners, I know however that there is still huge demand in the UK for “on the day” co-ordination - a service designed for those couples that want last minute support and someone to oversee the wedding day that they have almost entirely planned themselves.
These couples often realise that there is way too much work to handle on their own in the final weeks or on the day itself (especially with DIY or marquee weddings), or perhaps have realised that their in house wedding planner is not going to cover everything an independent planner will.
Of course, a planner can’t just turn up on the wedding day and make sure everything runs smoothly without prior involvement. I have always insisted that I start working on a project at least 4-6 weeks before a wedding date, and it involves a lot of work on my part to make sure that I fully understand the overall vision, confirming every single vendor, sense checking timings, compiling a detailed itinerary, liaising with the venue, making a plan for set up and clear down… and so much more!
There is still a problem even with this detailed level of last minute support though… your planner will not have built up personal relationships with all of your vendors over the full planning process earning their respect and trust, they can’t possibly guarantee that those vendors will do a great job as they haven’t necessarily worked with them before, it is likely that they have not reviewed all of the contracts for you, and no doubt there are elements of the day which have been overlooked and difficult to rectify with short notice – they haven’t personally covered the myriad of tiny details we would make sure are taken care of within a full planning service.
A successful and experienced wedding planner will of course have great attention to detail, are confident enough to step in last minute, and can remain calm in an emergency too… but honestly? “On the day” wedding co-ordination is a HUGE amount of work for anyone to get up to speed with in such a short time frame. Almost always there are forgotten suppliers and parts of the process that haven’t been thought through.
Which brings me to pricing. Because there are a lot of new and inexperienced co-ordinators and planners out there offering this service for next to nothing. So I thought it would be useful to give a breakdown of time taken in order to complete this job effectively (and I have been conservative here):
1.5 hours – initial phone or email enquiry and in-person consultation
1 hour – creating and sending a contract and invoices for deposit + final payments
1.5 hours – full handover with bride and groom before the wedding to go through details and checklists (including travel time)
2 hours – creating a full itinerary and finalising wedding timeline, with all details of the main wedding party and each supplier also listed.
2 hours – communicating with and confirming all the wedding details and timings with venue(s) and every single supplier involved
2 hours – general phone and email support with bride & groom in the run up to the wedding
2 hours – final meeting at the venue with bride and groom to review styling, set up and logistics (including travel time)
1.5 hours – attending and overseeing the wedding rehearsal (including travel time)
12 hours – actual time on-site during the wedding day (including travel time)
1 hour – follow up after the wedding with bride and groom, as well as suppliers, and occasionally having to clear down + return any hire items etc
= 26.5 hours of your wedding planner’s time.
It is also worth noting that this break down does not include time for advance styling and decoration of an event space, it doesn't include the time undertaken by extra assistants, nor does it represent weddings that aren’t local to the area. You do also get some brides who need a lot more phone and email support than others (which isn't a problem when you charge appropriately and limit your client numbers each season).
In the UK a reasonably experienced planner will sometimes charge about £700 for this "on the day" co-ordination service I've outlined above, that’s about £26 per hour BEFORE tax and other general business expenses. This can account for up to 50% (or more) of your income, so really you are only making about £13 per hour.
I have known some newer planners who have charged as little as £350, which means they make about £6.50 per hour after taxes and expenses. That’s pretty close to the minimum wage in the UK - for a highly skilled and difficult job role.
Thanks to a growing industry there are many new planners entering the industry (which I absolutely encourage - let's please create an even bigger pool of talent here in England), and of course not everyone can charge top level prices when just starting out… we all have different training, experience and target markets.
However when I coach and mentor new creative entrepreneurs I always discuss value and the importance of ensuring our collective minimum hourly rate needs to be at an appropriate level within the market. Be completely honest about your level of experience and know-how, and don't forget your personal worth.
If you are a bride reading this and considering your options - my advice is to expect to spend 10-15% of your overall budget on wedding planning services in order to realise the best return on your investment. Wedding planners are a luxury, and not everyone can afford to hire in the expertise, but they absolutely will offer value for money if you pick the right one.