It’s a story I’ve heard time and time again. Two lovebirds excitedly get engaged, with hopeful visions of a charming ceremony and an epic, Instagram-worthy reception. The only problem? They’re not exactly thinking about all of the work that goes into making their big day fulfill all of their dreams. But that’s where a wedding planner comes in: These heroic professionals swoop in to help with everything from booking the venue, caterers and photographer, to finding the perfect decor and handling all of the pesky paperwork. But how much does a wedding planner cost? Spoiler alert: Their services definitely aren’t cheap. Contrary to popular belief, however, you can likely find a viable wedding planner to help with at least a portion of the planning who won't make you go broke.
There are several different types of wedding planners with a range of pricing structures that depend on the level of services they offer. So ultimately, it comes down to your specific needs. Full-scale wedding planners are involved from start to finish — and since they take on the most responsibility, they obviously come with the highest cost. According to WeddingWire, the average rate for a full-scale wedding planner is about $2,950 in the U.S., with some high-end planners averaging upwards of $4,500. And that rate can reach $10,000 or more for a planner with ten plus years of experience who’s in demand, according to Costhelper.
Before you panic at the sight of that price tag, keep in mind that there are other tiers of planners that are less expensive. For example, a day-of wedding planner, who is hired to ensure that every event on the big day runs smoothly and right on schedule, costs an average of $800, according to WeddingWire. If you merely need assistance with specific wedding tasks, you can also hire a wedding coordinator by the hour. WeddingWire reports that the typical rate is $75 per hour, with top-tier pros charging $100 to $274 an hour.
Some wedding planners charge by a percentage of the couple’s wedding budget — typically 10 to 20 percent, according to Costhelper. However, the majority of wedding planners now offer their services by package rates (full-service, day-of, consulting) or hourly rates. Or, if you simply want some expert guidance, a wedding consultant can cost considerably less than other types of hands-on planners. While a consultant won’t do any of the actual coordinating or the other legwork, they can serve as someone to bounce ideas off of. These consultants typically charge by the hour, and according to Thumbtack, the average hourly rate is between $75 and $135.
Partial planning packages are another popular budget-friendly option. If you only need help with a very specific aspect of the planning, this may be the best route to go. Many wedding planners offer a la carte services to help with such elements as catering, decorations, invitations, entertainment, and guest transportation/lodging, for example.
The easiest way to figure out which wedding planner is right for you is to assess which aspects of the wedding you most need help with, and then also to take a look at your budget. The Knot recommends allotting 15 percent of your overall budget to hiring a wedding planner. Once you’ve done some calculations on what you can afford, you can then begin to research local wedding planners in whichever tier is most financially feasible for you. It’s worth noting that there are some factors that can drive up the price of hiring a wedding planner. According to The Spruce, prices tend to be steeper in large metropolitan areas than in suburban or rural ones. Also, planning a wedding in a shorter span of time may impact the cost, as the planner may be required to work longer hours or hire additional staff to accommodate your timeline.
It’s important to note that while a wedding planner may be a considerable expense, these professionals can offer tips and perks that may actually help you to save money, so it often ends up paying off in the long run. Most wedding planners will have established relationships with specific vendors, and you can often reap the benefits of that with discounts. Costhelper also notes that some planners will offer around a 10 percent discount for couples getting married during the off-peak season, such as January or February, which are both slow months for weddings. Additionally, wedding planners and consultants can obviously offer a wealth of expertise that may save you from making some expensive mistakes. In order to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth, it’s crucial that you spend plenty of time weighing your options and talking to different planners to find the right one for you. Fortunately, TheKnot offers a list of key interview questions to ask consultants before you sign a contract.
There’s no doubt that a wedding planner can be a total lifesaver. By dealing with a lot of the hassles and headaches that come with preparing for the big day, they can free you up to feel genuinely excited about your nuptials (rather than frazzled). That said, there's no rule that you have to use one — many couples opt to take charge of the planning themselves, and those I've spoken to say they were glad to have total control over the process. Wedding planning services are certainly not one-size-fits-all, so the important thing is finding a professional who is not only affordable for you based on your budget, but who also can customize their work to your specific needs. Most importantly, you want to find a wedding planner who is dedicated to bringing your vision to life while also reducing any potential stress around planning. And that, folks, is downright priceless.