Know Your Worth:
Wedding Planners Aren’t Charging Enough...And We Need to Fix That
If someone were to ask me for the one piece of advice I’d share with wedding planners above all else, I would say three words: know your worth.
As a service-based profession, our value can often get overlooked and it can be difficult to sell to budget-conscious couples. But, the reality is that wedding planners are the glue that holds every event together. From budget woes to family relationships, we manage even the trickiest of wedding dynamics—all while making sense of and managing the countless moving parts a wedding calls for. Yet, somehow, we’ve ended up at a place where we are constantly undervalued and seen as an “added bonus” rather than the necessity we are. Today, then, I wanted to break down everything there is to know about charging for your time in a way that makes financial sense and properly compensates you for all that you offer your couples.
But first, a story...
This weekend, a wedding planner from the LVL team got married (woo hoo!), and our crew was right alongside her to help plan and execute the perfect celebratory soirée. You may be wondering why a wedding planner would need to, well, hire a wedding planner. But, as any pro planner knows, you can’t be wedding planner at your own wedding especially when you’re faced with making emotion-based decisions.
Our planner chose to marry in Palm Springs, which is an area that is known for being dry most of the year. Well, at the last minute, storm clouds descended, and the LVL team quickly went from being guests in attendance to kicking it into high gear. There was no way to secure a tent at the eleventh hour, so we purchased $700 worth of umbrellas and towels (and kept the receipts, of course) in case we ended up needing them. We quickly came up with a “rain plan” and rearranged the ceremony layout for a better flow in case of rain. In our wedding-guest dresses (hello, fancy), we worked tirelessly to get everything into place, ensuring both guests and the couple themselves were happy and comfortable.
Right as the ceremony began, things started to look up. The rain had died down a bit and our team was hopeful that was the last of it. And then, about mid-way through the ceremony, the rain started pouring down again. Our team was strategically seated in the back row and, without so much as glancing at one another, we all got up calmly and sprung into stealthy action, gathering umbrellas and passing them out to guests, without interrupting the flow of the ceremony at all. (I can’t lie—it was somewhere between a ninja-stealth move and an act of pure animal instinct, all orchestrated by intuition and professionalism.) No one had to speak or coordinate or ask each other what to do—we all inherently knew what to do...and we did it seamlessly.
Knowing your worth...
You may be wondering what a story about a rainy wedding day has to do with knowing your worth. Well, our answer is everything. That one anecdote is simply a small story in a larger narrative—and that narrative goes something like this: wedding planners, time and time again, save the day. We are educated, trained, experienced pros who can literally change the course of a wedding.
From holding down structures in hurricane-force winds to ensuring your vendors show up on time to having your florist cover that dent in the cake with garden roses, we take care of both the biggest details and the smallest, most forgotten ones. We ensure large-scale and intimate events alike go off without a single hitch, even at the expense of our own personal lives, sanity and—let’s be real—feet (can you say blisters, much?). We are the glue that holds a wedding together, and we’re the difference between an incredible wedding and one full of awkward, mismanaged moments.
The “insurance” factor...
It’s concerning, but not surprising to anyone who’s been in the industry for a while, that wedding planners tend to be the most undervalued part of the planning process. One thing that’s important to communicate to clients, then, is how (and why) a wedding planner acts as insurance on their investment. We have clients who will pay double for a photographer, or three-fold for flowers...but won’t increase their planning budget. What clients and the industry need to understand is that, without paying for a planner, there’s no guarantee your photographer will show up on time or that your florist won’t screw up your flowers. It’s like running an office with no manager, no rules, no deadlines—there has to be a high level of planning, coordination and accountability, or things are bound to fall apart.
What to charge…
We aren’t here to tell you exactly what dollar-amount to charge—every planner is at a different point in his/her career and has a different target bride or groom—but we are here to tell you you’re likely charging too little. And the worst part is, it isn’t the clients who’ve set this bar—it’s us, as an industry. We constantly question whether a certain hourly rate is too high or whether we’ll lose that client if we charge them for all of our time...so we start eating hours, rounding down, and doing our best to get to a dollar amount that we think will make our clients comfortable, without giving as much weight as to the dollar amount that properly compensates us. This Aisle Planner article that breaks down what planners made in 2017 proves our point—we’re not going to lie, the numbers are a little alarming.
Think about how many of your hours you’re not actually charging for (that late-night vendor-contract edit, those daily text messages from the bride, the time you waited 30 minutes for a client who was late to that important meeting—the list goes on). When clients sign your contract, they aren’t just securing a logistics coordinator or event designer or vendor manager...they are securing a seasoned pro who acts as everything from a budget manager to a timeline wizard to a vendor communicator to a friggin’ therapist at times. Plus, on top of all of that, they’re securing the guarantee that every single thing will fall into perfect place on their Big Day. And we happen to think that guarantee is worth its weight in gold!
Raise your pricing by 10% each year
Don’t operate by fear when selling. Instead have an arsenal of value propositions to explain your worth to your leads.
Track your hours for each client. This way you can track your real ROI. If you use Honeybook they now have a time tracking tool but Quickbooks is also a great option as well.
Charge for travel expenses and miscellaneous overhead associated with your client.
Compare yourself to other service based professions such as an attorney or interior designer to help you and your couples understand the value of your expertise.