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10 Questions for Your Event Planner

Whether it’s a wedding, bar mitzvah or anniversary dinner, entrusting your event to a stranger can be difficult

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01. WHY DO I NEED AN EVENT PLANNER?

A planner can eliminate work and stress for you while facilitating the success of your event. “The planner will have relationships with all the best vendors, florists and everything in between,” says Emily Dull, events manager for IAC Events in New York. “You have access to the best of the best.”

02. HOW MUCH WILL HIRING AN EVENT PLANNER COST?

Though the range of services offered by a planner varies significantly, high-end planners usually charge a flat fee—say, $40,000 plus $10,000 per hour of event. That fee should be the only check you write, covering everything from the venue and catering, to florists, entertainment, invitations, security, rehearsal dinners, day-after brunch, and so on. New York planner David Stark says percentage fees give planners an incentive to spend more of your money. “Flat fees are transparent, and you never have to question if what they’re recommending is something they’re making money from,” he says.

03. HOW EARLY DO I NEED TO START PLANNING THE EVENT?

Anywhere from three months to two years before. “The most important thing is the venue,” says planner Marcy Blum of New York. “Anything is doable once you have the space.” Allow guests up to six months to plan their schedules, more if the event involves long-distance travel.

04. WHAT KINDS OF EVENTS HAVE YOU PREVIOUSLY PLANNED?

Scrutinize planners’ websites and portfolios to get a feel for the style and type of event they typically plan. “Ask them exactly what they did,” says Blum. You should know if it was the planner who picked the place settings or designed the flower arrangements and what his creative process was. Then, ask for references.

05. IS THERE A GOOD RAPPORT?

Your event planner is someone you should not only trust but also feel comfortable with—you’ll be spending a lot of time with him or her. Try getting together at least twice to discuss your event before making any commitment.

06. WILL YOU ATTEND MY EVENT?

For what you’ll be paying, you should not only expect your planner—as opposed to subordinates—to be present, but also to receive his or her undivided attention on your big day.

07. WHAT IS IT ABOUT EVENTS THAT YOU LIKE?

A good planner isn’t throwing a party based on her tastes, but on yours. So if your planner tells you that ever since she was a little girl, she dreamt about weddings, she might not be the world’s best listener. “Plan the client’s party, not what you want,” Manhattan planner Preston Bailey tells colleagues.

08. WILL I BE DEALING WITH YOU OR WITH YOUR ASSISTANTS?

Accessibility is key—within reason. Eight months before the event, don’t expect the planner to be calling you back within five minutes. But as the date approaches, you should be able to get your planner on the phone, or by email, faster and faster—until the moment when there’s no call more important than yours.

09. CAN YOU EXPLAIN EVERYTHING IN VENDORS’ CONTRACTS?

Venues and vendors hide added charges in the fine print. Your planner should be able to identify and eliminate these add-ons.

10. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, WHAT DO YOU DO TO SOLVE THEM?

Planners should always have backup plans for inclement weather, flower crises, seating arrangements snafus and other mini-crises.

For more information, contact Marcy Blum, marcy@marcyblum.com or 212.929.9814; David Stark, David Stark Design, info@davidstarkdesign.com or 718.534.6777; Preston Bailey, info@prestonbailey.com or 212.691.6777; or Emily Dull, IAC Events, emily.dull@iac.com or 212.314.7347.

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