You can plan a wedding without a wedding planner. You can even do it without a designer or day of coordinator. As someone who does this for a living, I will tell you that you don’t have to hire someone like myself to have an amazing wedding experience. But until your wedding day actually approaches, I think it’s hard to understand the difference between the various levels of planning services and how much value they really do add to your day.
I am married to a chef. I also have many years of experience working in various restaurant environments prior to starting my career in the wedding industry. And I like to eat. So food analogies come pretty natural to me and there are some excellent parallels between hiring a professional chef and hiring a wedding planner. Though the scale of events is much different, my hope is to help you compare and grasp a greater understanding the services you’re hiring out or deciding to do on your own for your wedding through the following illustration.
In this scenario, instead of a wedding, we’re going to pretend you’re planning a dinner party. There will be an elaborate 5 courses to the meal and we want them all to be special and delicious. Think magazine worthy spread. Our end goal is for you to serve a fabulous feast that’s timely and perfectly presented, all while still acting as host and enjoying the pleasure of your guests’ company. The only problem is, you’re never planned a menu like this before and while you love food, you consider yourself an amateur gourmand, at best. The idea of writing or finding recipes and sourcing the right ingredients is daunting, not to mention having to prepare your home and set the table, while also getting yourself ready. In order to make all of these things happen, there are a couple different routes you can take to make this a vibrant, fun and delicious party.
Let’s start with the easiest route, you can hire a professional chef who has done this before. Based on your preferences, this chef will create recipes, go shopping, source ingredients, prepare said ingredients, know the appropriate cook times, place all the food on plates and make the presentation picture perfect for your guests. He and his team will do the dishes and clean up at the end of the night and probably take care of about 20 other tasks pertaining to the meal that you’ll never know about. As host, you’re able to focus on pampering yourself pre-party, and on your guests during the evening. Just like that, you’ve hosted a fabulous party which you were actually able to enjoy. This is similar to hiring a full service wedding planner. We’ll help you take care of it all, eliminating stress and allowing you to focus on the most important detail of the day, the person you’re marrying.
Secondly, you can hire someone to assist with part of the meal planning. Perhaps you have some great ideas and know you want to serve Nana’s famous banana cream pie. The chef may provide you with some of his professional recipes and offer menu suggestions, but it’s up to you to do much of the prep work. Sourcing the ingredients falls under your jurisdiction and if you can’t find a specific item, you may have to make a substitution and hope everything will turn out okay. Prior to the party, you’ll be the one shopping, chopping vegetables, marinating the meat and baking Nana’s pie. The chef will come in and prepare the evening’s meal using the ingredients you’ve prepped. Chef has guided you through the process and you’ve used mainly his recipes, but outcomes might not be exactly as either of you had intended since things could have been interpreted slightly different. These “different” results aren’t necessarily better or worse, just not exactly how the chef would have envisioned, but it’s your party and your happiness if the most important final result. In the same way, if you hire a wedding planner for only partial planning services, they’ll assist you in creating an action plan and recipe, but it’s up to the bride or groom to actually source those ingredients (or vendors). Guidance is available but clients are tackling and problem solving more details on their own. On wedding day, the planner is there to make sure everything comes together as smoothly as possible and there’s a happily married couple at the end of the night.
Or maybe you have some great recipes and consider yourself a pretty darn good cook. You even have a couple of friends who have offered to lend a hand with some of the party preparations. But there’s still the realization that you could use some professional help the day of because you do want to enjoy the party and be present with your guests. So hiring a chef to come and cook the food on event day seems like the best option. The chef is working strictly from your recipes and instructions, mixed with a little of his own intuition. As with the other scenarios, problems surely will arise. Perhaps you forgot to buy salt or way over bought fixings and now have enough asparagus to eat for the next 2 weeks straight. My husband can pull 5 random ingredients from the fridge and put together an awesome meal. However, not all chefs are that creative and able to make impromptu substitutions to make that meal a success. When you hire a day of coordinator, this is the role you’re asking the planner to assume. The coordinator is responsible for carrying out someone else’s planning, organization and vision with very little beforehand knowledge. This is often a risky approach but it can work great when all the right pieces are put into place.
Finally, you could choose not to hire help. If you’ve hosted a large dinner party recently, then you can appreciate how much time and planning it takes to make everything just right. You also might have felt like you spent more time in the kitchen than with your guests. When you act as host and guest of honor, it adds an extra level of busy to the event. You’ll be the go-to person in case of any problems that might arise, you’ll feel very intimately involved in the party and all you’ve accomplished and you (or your family) will also find yourself as part of the cleanup crew upon the evening’s conclusion. It’s a balancing act that may or may not be the right choice for you. This holds true for wedding planning as well. On the wedding day, things may go really smoothly, or you may feel like you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions, barely able to enjoy the celebration – much less mingle and spend time with your guests and the love of your life.
Much like there are so many amazing foods in the world, there are so many extremely talent wedding vendors to choose from to make up your recipe. Having a little inside knowledge about who pairs well together or will best compliment your style is priceless. However, if you’re someone who loves to be in the kitchen, maybe hiring full service help isn’t for you. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding and you know your guests and yourself best. Have fun and remember you’re marrying the love of your life and that’s the most important outcome of any wedding celebration.1