Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seeking a Planner: Experience Required

Bad planning?

In the wedding industry, experience is key. Here are a few indications that the planner you’re interviewing might not know their stuff:

Spells stationery: “stationary”
Doesn’t know the difference between an escort card and a place card
Calls votives: “candles”
Has never heard the word “bengaline”
Doesn’t understand “pipe and drape”
Advises on menus for each person when you’re having a buffet
Doesn’t ask a venue about the need for a dance floor
Has never heard the word “chiavari”
Thinks a ‘parcan’ is a bird
Doesn’t factor tax or gratuity into your budget conversation

So how do you know if you’re dealing with an experienced professional? After all, it is quite easy to exaggerate about work accomplished at prior weddings (and to just downright lie, for that matter). A handy-dandy little device for determining whether a planner is truly experienced (and a mnemonic device in homage to the start of the school year) is HJ PLANNERS:

Honest: HJ promises to be fair, honest and open with all its clients. We are willing to meet with clients beforehand to discuss costs, options and any other aspects of working together. A planner who isn’t willing to explain how they work and why they charge what they do before signing a contract should raise suspicions.

Judgmental: a good planner only recommends vendors with whom they have previously worked and been happy with the outcome. This means that planners must be judgmental about who they work with. Ask if there are any vendors the planner refuses to work with; you don’t need names, but rather an explanation of why they choose not to recommend the vendor.

Professional: wedding planning is a job. Any experienced planner recognizes that and treats it and the industry with the respect it deserves. This means being on time and organized, as well as acting courteously to you and other wedding planning industry members.

Logical: a large part of planning a wedding is logistics. A planner should recognize if something won’t work – for example a venue fee that exceeds your budget – and inform you of it ASAP. To test a planner’s logic, ask them whether your basic plans make sense for your budget. Be worried if the planner stays mum about something you’re worried about being able to afford.

Active: wedding planners never stop working, and can usually be found online or at their desks most nights and weekends (ahem…I was up at 3:15 today). Moreover, many engage in work-related activities, like seminars and industry meetings, after work hours. If your planner is always available, it’s a sign that they don’t have much work on their plate. This doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve instant responses, but hounding you night and day to for an initial meeting may mean you are the only potential client on their books – and it’s not a far step back from only to first client.

Negotiator: a good planner knows that everything is negotiable. If a planner has negotiated special deals with vendors, it’s a good sign that they’re established and experienced.

Nearby: this doesn’t refer to the proximity of you and the planner, but rather their accessibility. Throughout the wedding planning process, it should feel like you always have your planner (near)by your side. You can tell early on how accessible a planner is by how fast they respond to your calls or emails, even if they’re just to tell you that they’ll call you later.

Educated: HJ’s planners possess graduate degrees and are certified. While not necessary to work in the field, knowledge about contracts, negotiations and business operations is essential to interacting with vendors. At the very least, you should be impressed by the planner’s verbiage and inside information they demonstrate when first meeting you. For a tried-and-true test, ask any planner you interview to define “bengaline”.

Record: planning one wedding does not a wedding planner make. Compare the number of weddings to other events that the planner has finished. If corporate events, birthdays or other large social events vastly outnumber the amount of weddings on the planner’s record book, it’s quite likely that they’re new to the field.

Stress-free: (at least to your eyes) It’s impossible for a person to never be stressed, but a planner should never show transfer or show that stress to you. A planner that appears overwhelmed or nervous when meeting you might just mean that they’re uncertain of what they’re doing and stressed out because of that. And, as any couple knows, it’s really easy to transfer stress from one person to the next.