What Should Wedding Planners Charge?

What Should Wedding Planners Charge?

Figuring out how to price your services is something that wedding planners new and established struggle with. From getting feedback from inquiring clients that "you're more expensive than the other planners we are talking to," to feeling like you are working for pennies, we have yet to meet a planner who hasn't stressed about what they're charging (us included!). A few days ago, we hosted a live Facebook event to answer the question, "How much should wedding planners charge?" Wedding planners from around the world joined us to dive deep into the topic, and today, we wanted to share a recap of what we talked about as a group! Read on to learn what influences how much you can charge, what price range you should fall in as well as the questions and answered shared during the live event!

Fact: Most Of Us Are Undercharging

The unfortunate truth is that most wedding planners undercharge for their services. We are 100% guilty of this. And, for whatever reason or circumstances led us all to do this, we kicked off the conversation by addressing it right out of the gate.

“We were undercharging because no one educated us. We didn’t know where to look or who to talk to.” – Heather

Undercharging scenario #1: If you have ever tracked your time and then divided your pricing by the number of hours you worked, you might be shocked to see what your actual hourly rate is. Think about how much time goes into month-of coordination alone. And, we sometimes see coordinators charge $500-800 dollars for a service like this but spend 30+ hours working with the couple. That comes out to $16 an hour. When you think about having to pay your own taxes and expenses out of that, you are working for free! Our recommendation? Month-of coordination services should start at $1500 (for someone just starting out) and increase as you gain experience.

Undercharging scenario #2: Another thing we see planners do is charge partial planning prices for full service planning. Sometimes this is the result of scope creep and not taking the time to charge for the additional services provided but, regardless, planners should never provide full service planning to coordination clients.

3 Things That Influence How Much You Can Charge

Do we have you thinking about revising your pricing yet? When you are ready to make a revision to your pricing, there are 3 things that influence what you can charge:

  • your experience
  • the services that you are offering
  • the market that you are in

When you are just starting out, it is ok to be on the lower end of the price range. You are still building your portfolio, may only be offering a few services, and might not have a lot of relationships with other vendors but that is fine! Everybody starts there! As you do gain experience and expand your services to include full service planning, just be sure to revisit who much you are charging and adjust accordingly.

“When we are talking to people who are just starting out, we often tell them that $50/hour is the starting point.” - Heather

The other factor that influences how much you can charge as a wedding planner is the market you are in. Our planning company, LVL Weddings & Events, is not only based in California but in an affluent market. So, naturally, what we charge is more, even when you compare it to the market just south of us.

Fun Fact: Southern California, San Francisco, and New York are some of the highest priced markets for wedding planners.

Ok, So How Much Should Wedding Planners Charge?

Even though there is always going to be a range in pricing based on the factors we just talked about, one of our main takeaways here is that we need to come to a consensus as an industry. It is only when we establish a professional range, that our potential couples will truly understand the value of what we do for them.

"Once you have a business license and an actual business, you should be charging $100-$250/hour.” – Lindsay

When you sit down to update your pricing, there are 3 ways you can structure it:

  • Hourly
  • Flat rate
  • Percentage

Your flat rate can be based on an hourly rate. And, this seems to be the most popular way wedding planners set their pricing. If you do things this way, we encourage you to still track your time and do the math at the end of the day - the last thing you want is to end up not being compensated for the actual hours you worked (in which case, you'd need to increase your flat rate).

If you are considering percentage based pricing, know that it is most common in luxury markets and that it should based on the scope of work (since the scope of what you need to manage increases as the budget does). Percentage pricing is what we do with clients who have budgets over $100,000.

But wait! We have more to share!

Here are the questions we were asked during the live event as well as our answers!

From Emma: I have one quick question that I was hoping you could answer: when a client requests additional services / add-ons a few weeks before, or even the day of, the wedding, how do you account for that when you've charged a flat rate fee? What's the best way to charge for something like that?

Always make sure that scenarios like this are covered in your contract! Make it clear that if, at any point, you are asked to work outside of your scope of services, that you will be billing at your hourly rate. But, you never want to surprise people with an invoice! So, make sure that you have had a verbal conversation with the client, have clarified what their needs are, and have gotten them to sign off on it if time allows.

From Mia: What do you recommend paying other planners that come on to assist or take on day of coordination’s for larger events or when you’re double booked?

This depends on the skillset and experience of the assistant. The pay range for our assistants is $15-40/hour. (The higher end is for very experienced ones.) But, there are also freelancers, like Academy graduate Alexa Kritis, who work with luxury planners and charge $500+ for the day.

From Angie: How do you deal with venues that try to underestimate your work? Like they don't need you because they offer the coordination in their packages.

The best thing you can always do is demonstrate your value. So, if it is a venue that you feel like is worth the energy, show them value by bringing them business. But, we hear you about what it feels like to have a venue say the client doesn't need you. For example, Hawaii venues usually have packages for destination weddings that include coordination. This totally works for more intimate affairs but when it comes to larger events, it becomes hard to sell a property and services at the same time.

From Monica: I agree on your philosophy on charging professional prices. I've increased my full planning up 5k in one year and are getting great professional couples. With that being said, how do you educate clients that you are worth it when others in your area charge thousands less. I feel like I am constantly educating clients and almost feel like Im wasting time. Do I have a standard letter explaining what my fees are and why we charge what we charge? I've been dealing with many MOB negotiating my prices. #annoying :-(((

As planners, our job is 60% education and 40% planning. And, it is crucial to paint your value! When you are selling potential couples, ask what overwhelms them, what excites them, what they want help the most. You need to understand what they really need in order to sell to them in an honest way. The other thing we recommend is making sure that your pricing and sales approach are customizable.

From Danielle:  I live in a very small area which is just starting to even realize that wedding planning/coordination is a thing. There is 95% DIY brides and they cant even begin to understand why someone would charge much for this kind of work. How do you suggest dealing with clients like this?

Being in an area that is DIY is tricky. So, you need to set up your services to help that type of client. For example, if they are doing all of the planning, you can still help them on the front end by helping to source everything they have on their Pinterest boards. More importantly, make sure that your coordination services are what they need – and be ok if it ends up looking more like a lead assistant than a lead planner.

From Mia:  What percentage do you recommend charging?

We recommend 10-20% (20% would be for a high end luxury client). That being said, landing on the right percentage for you depends on your business model.

From Tina: Any tips for finding out what other planners in a particular market charge? Not all are open to sharing!

Resist the urge to "secret shop" and focus on the pricing you need for yourself and your services. We've shared our recommendations above, so from there, it should be about what you need to make to pay the bills.

From Linda:  How do you overcome providing proposals only to have other planners under cut you! Big problem for me!

Unfortunately, undercutting is always going to happen. We wish it wouldn't but it will. So, what is really important is to stick to your pricing (and stand behind it!) if it reflects your expertise and services. Consider revisiting your sales process if you feel like you are losing business to lower price points. If you can make sure that you are clear about what you are worth, maybe it will be less about your pricing.