Why Does A Wedding Planner Charge What They Do?

When we here at Yellow Umbrella Events were young and starting out we would often be asked “Why do you charge what you do?” or “How do you come up with what you’re charging?” and we would set out to explain our fee structure and why we charge what we do. It’s been quite a while since those early days and we rarely get this question anymore – mainly because we get so many referrals from people that know what we can do and it’s no longer a question of price, but of who can deliver the wedding that will knock their socks off.  And they know that’s us!

Last night during a client visit, one of our sweet new couples had some initial hesitation and asked us to share our pricing reasoning with them. We then took out the client notebook and time sheet from one of our recent weddings that we felt most represented the time that their wedding was going to take and began to review it with them. They hired us on the spot! But something that our new couple said really stuck with me and I couldn’t shake it all night. They said that the only thing they knew about a wedding planner was what they saw when they watched the movie,  ”The Wedding Planner” with Jennifer Lopez. I laughed at the time but it quickly occurred to me that they were not alone and that there were probably more than a few couples that could share their sentiment.

So, today I’m going to set about to explain one really big part of what wedding planners charge for  –  the real time it takes them to plan and execute your  wedding. We’re going to use Sarah, one of our past brides, as an example. Sarah is a real bride and these are actual details from Sarah’s wedding planning.  (Just so you know, I have changed her name only to protect her privacy. I sent her a copy of this article to review and have been given her permission to use her stats.)

Prior to Sarah’s wedding day the Yellow Umbrella Events staff had:

2 meetings/pick ups with the stationer

3 meetings with the caterer

4 meetings at the venue site (that was 1 ½ hours away)

2 floral meetings

1 band meeting

4 different rental location meetings

2 cake tastings (and 2 complete custom cake redesigns)

1 meeting with the ice sculpturist

1 DJ meeting

2 Videographer meetings

2 Lighting meetings

3 Photographer meetings

So far, I’ve only mentioned actual appointments to vendors. We haven’t even covered the venue selections tours, the 3 trips to the paper goods shop,  the last minute trip to Spec’s, welcome bag drop off to the 3 hotels, the 3 office visits we personally had with Sarah to update her on wedding details, and more. Before accounting for anything else we’re already at 37 hours of meetings and over 30 hours of drive time going to and from these meetings – 67+ hours!

Our team spent 147 hours (yes, that’s the real number!) on the phone with the bride and wedding vendors, answering emails, tracking down supplies for the various wedding projects, booking hotel rooms, arranging transportation, assembling welcome bags, and overall wedding planning activities leading up to the wedding day.

I and 2 staff members spent 1 hour assisting at the rehearsal, 3 hours setting up the décor at the rehearsal dinner location, and 4 hours managing the rehearsal dinner and packing up afterward, for a total of 24 hours.

On the wedding day we had a staff of 5 that arrived at 8am to begin decorating the venue. We arranged tables, linens and centerpieces, set china, installed draping, decorated the dessert bar, coffee bar, stage and more, until the entire venue site was completely prepared for guests to arrive. We managed all of the vendor activities, from load in to load out. I was at the venue well before Sarah arrived to the moment of the grand departure. My staff took care of every guest’s question and needs – including that last minute run to Spec’s for that certain brand of flavored vodka that they had to have right then and there. (My wedding day emergency kit is pretty stocked but it’s not that stocked!) And then we did it all in reverse – we packaged it all back up as well! Basically, we were the first ones to arrive that day and the last ones to leave at 1:30am. Our staff made it all happen in a little under 90 labor hours that day.

And then it was all over! Just kidding – we still have the day after. The day after the wedding we returned the cake stand to the cake bakery, ran by one of the hotels to drop off the shoes one of the guests had left behind, picked up the wedding dress and tuxes from the bride and grooms hotel to take to the cleaner while they are on honeymoon, and returned the specialty rentals we’d picked up for the head table. This was the final 6 hours of wedding activities.

So let’s see, we had 67 hours for meetings and travel, 147 hours for pre wedding activities, 24 hours of rehearsal activities, 90 hours of wedding day activities, and 6 hours of post wedding day activities, for a grand total of 334 hours. Thank goodness we don’t charge by the hour, right?

Beyond the hours worked there are hard fees involved – the 9 tanks of gas that went into my car for the driving to meetings and completing tasks, the cost of our staff time (I haven’t been able to convince them to work for free yet), various materials needed to complete various wedding related projects, and more. It all adds up.

This blog post was not intended to overwhelm you with the all the boring details of the business side of wedding planning, but to inform you of how long it really takes to make a wedding happen and why we planners charge what we do. Your wedding may be larger or smaller than Sarah’s wedding and take more or less time. It’s okay. Every wedding is different. But hopefully you won’t be shocked now when you have your first visit with your wedding planner and they explain their fees to you. Trust me, when you walk into your own wedding and your jaw drops because of how amazing it all is, and you never had to lift a finger, you’ll thank us!

If you are interested in the wedding planning and design services offered by Yellow Umbrella Events please contact us.

Cheryl Bailey
Owner, Yellow Umbrella Events
Austin’s Wedding Planner