Making sure your wedding day goes smoothly is no easy feat. There’s booking the venue, hiring vendors, selecting a catering menu and making sure every little detail is perfect.

One tried-and-true stress reliever: hiring a professional wedding planner.

If your budget allows for it, hiring a wedding planner can take a lot of the headache out of planning your big day. Costs and fee structures will vary based on the level of service you’re looking for, whether it’s someone who helps you plan from the start or someone who helps coordinate things the day of. Wedding planners can charge a flat fee, an hourly rate or a percentage of your wedding budget, but the cost for a wedding planner typically ranges between $1,500 to $3,000, according to wedding vendor site Fash.com.

Noelle Ahmad-Snedegar, the owner of Washington, D.C.–based wedding and event planning company Lily & Grayson Events, suggests that couples interview three planners before they decide on one. “Focus on questions that tell you whether this planner has the skills needed to handle your priorities,” she says.

So to make sure you’re getting what you pay for, here are 10 smart questions to ask a prospective wedding planner.

Questions to ask a wedding planner before you hire one

How much time, on average, do you spend with clients?

Don’t hire someone who dabbles in wedding planning part-time. “You want to be sure that this a profession and not just a hobby for your potential planner,” says Megan Hiltbrand, the owner of MLH Events, a wedding and event planning company in Syracuse, New York. You want someone who can spend a significant amount of time helping you plan your big day, because “wedding planners spend anywhere from 50 to 200 hours working with one couple,” Ahmad-Snedegar says. So find out how much time the planner can devote to you.

What are your working hours and methods of communication?

Your wedding planner's communication style should align with yours. For example, “Do you need a planner who will text you back in the late evening? Or does your work schedule require all appointments and meetings take place on the weekend?” Ahmad-Snedegar says.

Do you help run errands before the event?

Ahmad-Snedegar says this is especially important for couples who are planning a destination or out-of-town wedding. In those cases, you want to be able to “tap into your planner to help with those pre-wedding errands, like shuttling the table numbers from the calligrapher to the florist, or dropping off welcome bags at the hotel before guests start checking in for the weekend,” Ahmad-Snedegar says.

What makes you different?

Ahmad-Snedegar suggests asking this question for two reasons. “It will help you understand the areas of value or connection that you may not have considered yet. It can also help you get a glimpse into how this wedding planner sees themselves, their team’s strengths and what they are passionate about,” she explains.

What’s your approach to personalizing event designs?

Have a vision of what your dream wedding looks like? “There are so many methods to creating custom wedding ideas, from look books to storyboards to collages and palettes,” Ahmad-Snedegar says. “Make sure that the full-service planning team you hire covers every base with a well-rounded, comprehensive and distinct design of every area, including food, drinks, attire, and music.”

How do you decide which vendors to recommend?

“Your vendor team is by far the most important element to ensuring a design that you’re passionate about and an event that is carried out flawlessly,” Ahmad-Snedegar says. Make sure the planner you’re hiring has a strategic approach to selecting, negotiating and communicating with vendors. It’s also worth finding out if a planner takes a commission from any of the vendors that they refer.

How will you help us stay on budget?

You want a planner who can help you keep costs down while still organizing a beautiful affair. Unfortunately, couples typically underestimate their wedding ceremony and reception budget by nearly 45 percent, according to a WeddingWire survey. An experienced wedding planner can help you devise a realistic budget and nab discounted rates from vendors, Hiltbrand says.

What's your contingency plan if my wedding is postponed?

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that wedding plans can change. Therefore, you want a wedding planner who prepares for the unexpected with a Plan B in the event that your wedding is postponed or downsized.

Find out the planner’s policy, Hiltbrand says. “Do they allow you to select another date? Is there a rescheduling fee? Are retainers refundable?” Those details are crucial.

Describe a time when something went wrong and how you handled it.

A planner needs to work well under pressure and think quickly. “Weather, insect bites, allergies, delays in transportation and illness are all things that can pop up last minute,” Hiltbrand says. “How would the planner deal with them, and has it happened previously?”

Will you be our coordinator on our wedding day?

Some wedding planners handle the planning aspect but don’t attend the actual wedding; instead, they send day-of coordinators to oversee the event. Find out if a planner will be on-site at your wedding: “You want to be sure that the prospective planner that you’re interviewing and building a relationship with is in attendance on your wedding day,” Hiltbrand says.

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