Your Wedding Consultant: 13 Questions to Ask

Strongly consider handing the planning baton to a wedding consultant if a) neither you nor your families have time to plan your wedding; b) neither you nor your families have any desire to plan your wedding; c) you're planning a wedding out of town; or d) you simply prefer -- and can afford -- professional help. They'll do the legwork, hire vendors, negotiate contracts, and may even cut you some money-saving deals. Expect to pay them 10 to 15 percent of your total wedding budget. Need a referral? Call the Association of Bridal Consultants (860) 355-0464. Here are key questions to ask.

1. Will the consultant commit to your budget and not push you in the direction of things you simply can't afford? The consultant should have plenty of questions for you too, in an effort to determine your wishes, needs, level of maintenance, budget, scope of imagination, and more.
2. Will the consultant devise a master plan mapping out all the little details, from announcement to zebra-striped decor? (This will clue you in to organizational prowess and a willingness to keep you in the loop on every matter imaginable.)
3. Can the consultant name the best and most original locations in your area (that would be suitable to your wedding size, style, and budget)?
4. Is the consultant familiar with the best florists, photographers, caterers, bands, and DJs in your price range? Can he/she explain their strong points to you briefly? (Ask yourself: Does the consultant seem both knowledgeable and passionate?)
5. Can the consultant score you some discounts with any vendors? (Consultants bring volume to favored vendors; often they'll reciprocate by slashing prices or throwing in extras.)
6. Will the consultant read over the vendor contracts for you? What are some common traps to look out for?
7. Can the consultant create a timeline that tells everyone involved in the planning process -- vendors, members of the wedding party, bride/groom, and families -- what to do and when to do it? How will she/he make sure that everyone sticks to the schedule?
8. Will the consultant handle the invitations, from wording and ordering to the addressing and mailing?
9. Can the consultant counsel you on etiquette matters and alert you to hot trends on the wedding horizon?
10. Will the consultant coordinate delivery, arrival, and setup times with photographer, florist, musicians, caterer/banquet manager, et al?
11. For the day of the wedding, will the consultant be willing to oversee the entire event by supervising vendors, troubleshooting emergencies, and soothing nerves? Can she/he share any anecdotes that required performing above and beyond the call of duty?
12. Will the consultant be willing to step in as your advocate, conveying your visions and desires to vendors when you don't feel up to the task?
13. Will the consultant help plan and book your honeymoon?

Note: Remember that the consultant should have plenty of questions for you too, in an effort to determine your wishes, needs, level of maintenance, budget, scope of imagination, and more. You're both trying to assess each other and how well you'll work together. The consultant will probably initiate discussions -- take this time to consider manner, personality, confidence, warmth, whatever you're looking for. Whomever you enlist, do not hire a consultant who doesn't want to listen, is bossy, tries to convince you of what's best for you, critiques your ideas, has no references, and won't sign a written agreement.


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