Every planner has their own pricing structure for various reasons. I can only speak for my own business, but I thought it might be helpful for couples to understand some of the reasons why planners charge the prices that they do. If you are not in the wedding business, it can feel like pricing is all over the place. Why does this Planner X charge $1000 less than Planner Y? Or why does Planner Y charge a percentage and Planner Z charge a flat fee? I am hoping this post will answer some of those questions!
When I first started my business, I was juggling some other consultancy work and had multiple marketing clients in addition to a wedding business. I know there are a LOT of planners that have full-time or part-time jobs and working their wedding business around those things. This is so common, especially in the beginning. Because I was new, I only felt comfortable offering day-of coordination. It gave me a couple years to just “learn by doing” and also build my portfolio of work. For this reason, I charged a very reasonable fee (almost too reasonable!).
After some time, I realized that even with a day-of package there were certain services that I was going to have to roll into each package that I had not been doing. For example, in the beginning I asked my couples to provide me with their day-of timelines and their wedding vendor list. I was finding that there were really pertinent pieces that were missing from the timelines and vendor lists I was being provided. I finally created my own templates and even for a day-of only client, I work with them to help complete it thoroughly. It takes up more of my time to do this, but is crucial to a successful event so totally worth it in my book. More importantly my clients have the opportunity to use my experience and expertise by utilizing this timeline template that I have been curating for years, so that they don’t miss anything on their wedding day.
Wedding planners just starting out will almost always undercharge themselves. Partly because they don’t feel confident yet to charge more and partly because they just don’t realize how much work it actually takes on wedding day. In our case, we arrive at the venue at 10:00 a.m. to start setup assistance and oversee production. We typically leave around 10:00-11:00 p.m. This is a LONG day on your feet with often quite a bit of manual labor and mental acuity involved. Once a planner realizes this fact after some experience and gains some portfolio work, their pricing will increase. Thus, when you see a wedding planner offering day-of coordination for $500-$600, this is probably what you are witnessing.
Every Client is Different
Once a planner starts offering more than day-of and gets into the actual nitty gritty of planning a wedding for a client, this is where the real struggle is finding the right way to balance your work vs. pay scale. Here is the tricky part wedding vendors don’t mention…every client is different. I have some clients that are so laid back and go with the flow that the planning process goes pretty smooth. Of course, I have other clients that take up more of my time than others and I am totally OKAY with that because for me, I feel like it all evens out in the end with the way I have structured my pricing. I think a lot of service-based businesses struggle with this and many end up charging quite a bit more than average because of this fact. I can’t really blame them for feeling this way. Time is precious and we all have different perceptions regarding how our time is spent and what it is worth. Hence, keep this in mind when you may see several thousands of dollars difference in pricing structures or even limits on the number of consultations you may receive.
We have talked about time quite a bit in this article and rightly so because most of us in America get paid per hour or based on a certain amount of time worked. For entrepreneurs or someone in a very specialized field, this is only part of the picture. Learning any niche skill takes a great deal of effort and persistence. When someone puts in the work to learn and perfect a special talent or skill, you have to pay for that knowledge.
Let me give you an example. I was just talking to my sister last night who has been a teacher librarian for nearly thirty years. She has a Master’s Degree in library science and is National Board Certified. She started a new position this year and has noticed her library has not sent her any volunteers to help shelve books and what not. She said she was going to address this because, “…I am a pretty expensive book shelver.” Of course, her new school is not paying for her to stack books all day. They hired her for her experience and education in her field, so that she will improve their students’ learning experience…which was her point.
I bring this up because if all a client wants is some “muscle” to set up decor for their wedding or move tables and chairs or clean the venue, you don’t need a wedding planner. There are companies that offer staffing or housekeeper services for events and you are much more likely to find what you are needing in that regard at the price you have in mind. However, if you are looking for expertise, advice, counsel, organization, communication and dedication in the highly specialized field of weddings then you absolutely should hire a wedding planner.
Standard Business Expenses
Every business owner has a stack of their own business expenses. I have chosen to run my business from home, so this saves me a ton of overhead. There are planners that feel like they work more efficiently from an office or storefront or they feel like it is more professional to have the ability to meet their clients at their place of business. For those planners, they will need to calculate their overhead into their planning packages.
When it comes to advertising, we all have different opinions and experiences that have led us to our own unique marketing strategies. Some planners find that print magazines are the way to go or re-targeting ads which are quite pricey, while others (like myself) stick with SEO, internet marketing and social media which take more time and curation than dollars….still, time is money as we talked about before. Depending on what strategy that planner has implemented, it makes a huge difference in their pricing structure. There are also website fees, continuing education, travel fees, business transportation, marketing materials, software and work attire.
You will see an itemized list of services on each wedding planner’s contract - I call this “the menu.” Some planners like to offer their clients little (not so little) extras like sending out their invitations. That is a HUGE undertaking. Personally, I have no desire and there are some ah-mazing stationers and paper supply companies that specialize in this service. So for me, this is not something I care to offer. Another planner may include this in her menu of services and for that reason, may charge more and rightly so! Some companies offer a service for clean-up called “walk-away” service. This means their crew is basically going to clean up and tear down everything from your wedding once it commences. I do not offer walk-away, but I do offer “assistance” with clean-up - meaning I will pack up your personal items back in boxes, pull linens or other rental products and stack them for pick-up, but I do not load vehicles or sweep, mop floors or that sort of thing. I do have wonderful connections to staffing services for anything “extra” in regards to clean-up that we don’t do and often friends and family do not mind loading a vehicle. Most venues will do the main clean-up in regards to sweeping, mopping so I have never seen this as an issue with any of my couples. You really have to read each planner’s menu and this will help you understand why some planners charge less or more.
I know this won’t be popular to say, but an element of branding yourself is also how you price yourself. Someone recently gave me some advice that I thought was interesting and I am actually taking it into consideration. I was told that my day-of package should be an even, round number of $1000 instead of $995 because $995 sounded like it was on blue light special 😂 It’s kind of funny, but there are all these details that go along with pricing that are very psychological by nature.
Let’s take the concept of a business consultant as an example. Say, you are having a hard time with your company. You’re not sure exactly what is wrong, but you know things are not working. You start to research business consultants to help you. Let’s say that you have it narrowed down to two great business consultants that came recommended to you. One charges $25 per hour and the other charges $500 per hour. The $500 per hour consultant gives you a grand explanation of why they charge that fee that seems to make sense. Which consultant do you think you would feel has the most value? Probably the $500 per hour consultant. Now, you never asked the $25 per hour consultant why they charge their rate, so they may be just as qualified as the next but psychologically, your mind wants to believe that obviously the one that charges more is better…right?
There is an old episode of Frasier where Frasier goes to see this matchmaker because, you know, his love life was rather lacking. He is speaking with his brother. Niles, and is telling him all about her. Niles is somewhat poo-poo’ing the fact that he is going to hire a matchmaker when Frasier boasts, “She charges $5000!” Niles gasps and says, “She sounds fantastic!”
See where I am going?
Supply and Demand
There are so many talented people in this industry. Like REALLY talented. Many of us in the wedding business consider what we do a form of art. Why do some paintings cost $4 million while others cost $400? The simple answer is supply and demand. You may really love and value Photographer X’s work. And you’ve always known you would one day want Photographer X to photograph your wedding ever since you saw her work in a magazine five years ago because she has a special style you love. Well, Photographer X only likes to do ten weddings per year and is in high demand. Therefore, Photographer X can charge $7,000 per client and maintain their happy place of ten weddings per year. This is true for literally any market of any thing you can think of. The more niche a certain service offering is, the more likely it will be in demand. And since we all can’t work 24 hours a day and take every client that wants our services, we narrow down the options through pricing. It sometimes is just that simple.