Once you find the right planner for your event, you’ll probably be breathing a huge sigh of relief. After all, someone (besides your family!) will finally have your back to guide you in this unknown territory, and the planner will be there to help you navigate the ins and outs of your event and calm you down when the unexpected happens. So after you get matched to the perfect planner, you’ll probably be ready to dive in head-first and start working together ASAP. Chances are, your planner will begin by asking you a series of questions. Event planners specialize in asking lots of questions (you know you’ve met a great one when your first meeting is spent talking more about yourself than asking questions!). But there are certain questions you should be asking at the outset as well.
Since you’ll likely be spending hours with this person on the phone and over email in coming months, it’s important to lay a good foundation for working styles. Remember, at times, you might be a little stressed, given the amount of money being spent and the significance of the event, so establishing certain communication, style, and vision preferences before getting too deep into the weeds can reduce everyone’s stress down the road. Here are a few helpful questions that we at Revelr recommend starting with:
1) How do you best communicate (phone, telephone, etc.)?
Think of the planner/client relationship as a mini-relationship. If someone is really into texting and someone else is really into hour-long phone calls, differences in communication preferences can cause issues later on. If you expect lots of weekend calls for an hour or two, you should say it up-front and also gauge the planner’s preferred communication method. If your planner’s preferred method doesn’t align with yours, speak up! It’s important that you find a method that’s amendable to both sides.
2) How often will we communicate? What is your expectation about this?
Again, referencing the mini-relationship analogy, if someone likes to check-in daily with updates while someone else prefers just sending actionable timelines a few times a month, this could create some tension. Nip this issue in the bud by describing your preferred frequency of communication before you get ticked off that your last two emails have gone without responses. Again, even if your preferred frequencies are inherently different, you can find a middle ground that hopefully satisfies both parties.
3) What kind of feedback on design and decor will you give?
Some event hosts have a very specific idea of what they want to execute, while others may be totally lost design-wise. Discussing how much you expect your planner to weigh in with suggestions and ideas is critical for the relationship to proceed smoothly. If you want or don’t want feedback is an important aspect. When I was planning my own wedding, I remember wanting lavender seeds to hold down our escort cards and was gently advised by my planner to use coffee beans since lavender blows away easily in the wind. Knowing whether the planner is comfortable giving this type of input (and whether you want it) can save both sides stress later on.
4) Where do you envision us cutting costs? Where do you think it’s worth splurging?
Are you a gourmand who wants to spare no expense for hors d’oeuvres? Or are you someone who wants the most rocking band in town? The tradeoffs here are different for everyone (indifference curves are real!), so gauge the planner in terms of how she responds to questions like these. Better to establish your views on spending and saving early on than after the the funds begin to get dispersed.
5) What are my responsibilities as the event host?
Some planners may take joy in negotiations, and others will prefer that you yourself handle most of the back-and-forth with service providers. For example, you might expect for the planner to handle all of your stationery and RSVPs, while other event hosts will want to manage these things themselves. No matter what your initial expectations may be, you should make sure to discuss the division of responsibilities with your planner. The issue isn’t that you won’t bear any of the responsibility (since, in the end, you’ll of course want to at least sign off on any major decisions); rather, it’s that you should know upfront exactly what you’ll be fully responsible for and what the planner will oversee entirely.