Determining if you need a consultant-and if one will fit your budget-is one of the tougher wedding-planning decisions. Local brides and industry experts weigh the pros and cons.
When Lori Gao started planning her April 2013 wedding, she was ready to do everything herself-it just wasn't in her budget to hire a full-service consultant. But the further into preparations Gao got, the more she started to feel she was in over her head. "It was just overwhelming with all the details," she says.
So Gao decided it was time to seek help. And after doing some research, she found that with consultants, it doesn't need to be "all or nothing."
"There are different levels of planning," says Gao, who ultimately chose The Finer Things Event Planning. "You can hire someone to do everything from the start, or you can hire someone for day-of planning. If you're on a tight budget but still want to work with a consultant, you should hire someone to help with the day of."
The biggest perk of hiring a consultant, of course, is that you're not planning your day solo.
"It's just so much less stress to have someone do it for you," says Bleu & Fig chef and co-owner Brooke Kinsey. "And we listen to our clients so that we thoroughlyunderstand their personal style and can craft a personal celebration for each couple."
Consultants also have experience working with vendors and planning the logistics of a large event.
"We offer full event planning and design for our brides," says Mike Redcay, general manager of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events. "We talk through vendor, accommodations and transportationneeds. We also coordinate the entire wedding weekend with the rehearsal and dinner, ceremony and reception and wedding brunch the next day. We listen to the bride and groom's dream for their wedding and then partner with them to bring their vision to life-while keeping the reality of the budget in mind."
If ease of mind is the biggest perk associated with hiring a consultant, cost is, naturally, the most obvious disadvantage. While many events companies offer day-of planning (the average cost for Cameron Mitchell Premier Events is $75 to $125 per plate), full-service consultants like Bliss Wedding & Event Design can cost up to $10,000.
But even the bride on a tight budget can find consulting services within her price range. "If you're on a budget, our No. 1 piece of advice is to keep your guest list intimate," Kinsey says. "Invite the people you really want to be with to celebrate your wedding day."
Like Gao, you too can choose the planning service that best fits your needs, your budget and the style of reception on which you've set your sights.
"If the bride wants someone by her side during the entire planning process and for all meetings, to coordinate her response cards and guest seating … then a dedicated wedding consultant might work best for [her]," Redcay says. "If they want more of a one-stop shop for the day-of needs, then working with an events company, such as Cameron Mitchell, should work wonderfully."
Sometimes, working with a consultant can even save you money because consultants know how to stick to a budget, says Kasey Skobel-Conyers, owner and principal designer of Bliss Wedding & Event Design.
"DIY always looks great on the outside," she says. "But when you get into it, it could cost you more-either time or money or both-when it's all said and done. We recommend to our clients that [they] take on one to two projects at the very most.Doing 10 of something is fun, but when you have 250 to make, glue, glitter, tie and deliver, it's not really that fun anymore."
In addition to being stressful for the bride, planning and executing a wedding can also be strenuous on her friends and family who volunteer their help.
"There can be a lot of work leading up to-and especially on-the wedding day, for the couple, their family and their friends," Redcay says. "We see many brides and their crew running around a little frantic as they bring in tub after tub of crafts and pieces that need assembled and detailed ... up to the last minute."
That's not to say that DIY weddings are impossible, though. With the help of her mom, Caitlin Gracely planned her February 2013 modern-meets-vintage wedding herself.
"I think it's an attainable feat," Gracely says. "You really don't have to spend that extra money on a consultant. Don't sweat the small stuff. You have to be open-minded and just be patient, and I think it's best to have a plan and stick with it."
Gao, however, says she's glad she enlisted the help of a consultant.
"I think it's definitely worth it, at least for the day of," she says. "If you have it in the budget, then I'd hire someone for the whole process."