8 Things You Need to Know If You Aren't Hiring a Wedding Planner

A veteran wedding planner shares her pointers for making your special day a success.

By: Lisa Frederick

With dozens of decisions (colors! cake! flowers!) and dozens more logistical details, planning nuptials can daunt even the most intrepid couple. It's no wonder that so many choose to hire a wedding planner to coordinate their big day so they can focus on the fun. But if you're up for handling it on your own, you can pull it off — as long as you approach it with a pro's mindset. Consider these tips:

TopTablePlanner Wedding Planning App

TopTablePlanner Wedding Planning App

Seating charts are complicated. Make them much easier with this drag-and-drop software, which lets you move guests and tables at a click. You can even include guests’ meal preferences and RSVPs.

Photo by: Top Table Planner

Top Table Planner

Hire a Pro on a Limited Basis

You may find that the investment pays for itself. "The money and time a planner can save is valuable," says wedding planner Lisa Milko, of Event Perfect in Atlanta. "I can negotiate discounts a couple cannot and make recommendations on DIY and budget-saving places that many people would not consider, or be able to do without a little direction." To save money, you could recruit a planner only at the beginning to help choose vendors or hire a coordinator for the day of the wedding.

If You Go DIY, Know Where to Start

Wedding Trend: Greenery Accents

Wedding Trend: Greenery Accents

For brides wishing to achieve the lush, organic look, a touch of greenery does just the trick. It’s an inexpensive addition that gives dimension and texture to tables, chair backs, arches, centerpieces and more.

Photo by: Style Me Pretty/ Simply Sarah Photography

Style Me Pretty/ Simply Sarah Photography

Bent on doing it all on your own? You'll need a place to jump in. Lisa recommends two key launching points: "A budget and a guest list," she says. "The two are related, and cutting the guest list is the single best way to save money." Once those details are in place, you'll have a better sense of the type of wedding that suits you best.

Think Twice Before Hiring Family & Friends

Someone who's emotionally invested in your wedding lacks the objective judgment that's necessary to handle the process smoothly. "I try to steer clear of the recommendation of using family or friends," Lisa says. "It never works out like you want, and you are strapped with the emotion of trying to express dislike or needs. It's hard enough expressing wants and needs using a professional for the work, let alone a family or friend."

Be Ready to Tackle the Basics

From the outset, couples need a firm timeline and some general ideas about the type of wedding they want, Lisa says. This helps take the stress out of making fast decisions when necessary. "So many couples get engaged at the same time, and they are up against each other for the same pool of vendors and venues," she says. "If the (bride and groom) can prioritize what they want, they will be able to make decisions faster and get the vendors they really want for their wedding." Have one or two backup dates in mind in case your first choice isn’t possible.

Choose Organizational Tools Wisely

Wedding Planning Book

Wedding Planning Book

Photo by: Viera Photographics

Viera Photographics

Brides and grooms who orchestrate their own wedding need to stay on top of invoices and receipts, keep copies of contracts, track costs and deal with countless other details. Lisa likes the Web-sharing tool Google Docs for keeping important information consolidated and accessible. "It’s a great way for couples, parents and anyone else who is involved to share documents," she says. However, if you'd rather go old school, wedding-plan journals are available in bookstores. A plain three-ring binder works too.

Be Diligent When Hiring Vendors

The last thing you want is a band whose lead singer cracks off-color jokes, or a caterer who puts out dry, cold food. "Get references and check them," Lisa says. "Taste food, sample product, ask questions. You are spending a lot of money on this day, even on a budget."

Anticipate Challenges

Things can and do go wrong, and you'll need to prepare as best you can. One of the biggest tasks a planner takes on, Lisa says, is day-of logistics. "Who is going to put out the place cards?" she says. "Who cues the band? Who loads the leftover favors and alcohol in the car at the end of the night? Who sews a bridesmaid into a dress with a broken zipper? Those are just a few of the many — many — things that cross my plate almost every weekend."

Keep the Process in Perspective

Lace Wedding Dress

Lace Wedding Dress

Groom hugging his bride

Photo by: iStock/Milan_Jovic

iStock/Milan_Jovic

No wedding, however well planned, is perfect. Yours won’t be, either, and that's OK. "It's important to remember that this is just one day and one party," Lisa says. "Try to enjoy the process of planning. It should be a fun time of decision-making and celebrating your engagement."

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