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8 Tips to Getting the Most Out of Your Wedding Planner's Time

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WEDDING PLANNER
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So you and your fiancé decided you would benefit from the expertise and assistance of a wedding planner -- and now you've hired a wedding planner and you're ready to get going. But before you start, no matter where you're getting married, there are some things you should consider about how you go about using your wedding planner's time. Remember, nothing in life is free.

Some planners charge consultation time by the hour. Others charge you a retainer up front and give you a specified amount of time for phone and in-person consultations before they charge you extra by the hour. The planners who make their money off marking up your services (taking a percentage of what you're paying the vendors) will limit you to a certain number of consultations and have a rate for additional time after that.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things for you? It means, as brides and grooms, you need to get organized BEFORE you get on the phone or walk into the office to start your planning. This is your money you're burning, after all.

I tell all of my potential clients that the average full-size wedding takes six to eight conference calls to plan, and countless email exchanges. I don't limit them to any number (my bad business move), but in my experience, that's all it takes. There have been a few special exceptions that made me wish I charged by the hour, but for the most, part clients are respectful of my time, as I am with theirs.

Here are eight things you can do to make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck out of every moment you spend in wedding planning consultations:

- Be prepared for your meeting or conference call. Go through all your notes from the last call, and even if you haven't done your homework, know that you were supposed to do it and don't play dumb when the planner asks you the same question again. Just a waste of time. Tell her you didn't get to it and move on.

- Make an effort to do your homework between conference calls. A lot of your "homework" is talking with your fiancé to make major decisions about what kind of music, venue, etc. that you want. The process is on hold for many things until you make these other decisions.

- If you haven't done any of your homework and you're not really ready to meet again, CANCEL the meeting or conference call and reschedule it for a time when you can have some of the things on your "to do" list accomplished.

- Discuss the things you're struggling with ahead of the call. Whether you're planning with your mom or your fiancé, wasting the wedding planner's time debating the same things she explained to you the last time you met is just rude and annoying. This is YOUR wedding. Figure out your cake flavors while you're watching TV one night. Not on the phone while your planner files her nails on the other end, shaking her head.

- Don't argue with your fiancé or your mom on the phone or in a meeting with the planner. If something comes up that is a bone of contention, table it and tell your planner you'll email her the decision later. Don't waste your money and the planner's time arguing over bar levels or shapes of tables on the phone.

- Plan to be in your office or someplace quiet for conference calls with your wedding planner. Have computer access and your notes with you. Do not attempt to do a conference call from the car while sitting in traffic. Planners would prefer a late cancellation than trying to talk to you when you have half your brain committed to the conversation and cannot take notes. We are not your personal assistants and we will not send you a "to do" list personalized for you right after each call. Taking notes is critical.

- Keep the number of people participating in calls or meetings to a minimum. If your fiancé is helping you plan, great! But if he has literally no interest in flowers and décor, don't make him sit in on the call or attend a meeting he's going to ignore anyway. Just slows down the process. Same with involving friends -- don't. Your mother is the exception to the rule and if she's helping you plan, she's helping YOU. She's not the point person or the decision-maker. Bride and groom have final call on all things. Extra voices in any meeting suck up time that you could be spending on other things you need to discuss. Nobody needs the Maid of Honor's opinion on her dress on a planning call.

- Finally, keep the personal chit-chat to a minimum in meetings or on conference calls, especially if you are paying for the planner's time by the hour. Just like an attorney, that clock started ticking the minute you sat down and began. So sharing all the gory details of a disastrous bridal shower might be funny, but it's costing you by the minute. Save those little gems for the free emails you can shower the planner with so that she's aware of the major character flaws in some of the guests she'll be wrangling. Keep the social conversation out of it and focus on your wedding.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy