Aribella Events | SYPhotography

Tonia Adleta, Owner and Creative Director of Aribella Events

This isn’t the first time this has happened. First it was the reception venues, “And you’ll work with our wedding planner to handle all of your details.” And the little church lady, “Schedule your rehearsal with our wedding coordinator.” Barnes and Noble offers dozens of wedding planners... in paper form. So how do you even know when a "wedding planner" is a "wedding planner"?

To be fair, each of the aforementioned components has a place in the market, but none serve the same purpose. It’s unfair to you, our couples, for titles to be thrown about without explanation, so here’s a quick and dirty guide:

An independent wedding planner is the only one who incorporates the entire wedding – and the wedding planning process – into his or her range of services. The ceremony coordinator focuses on things for the ceremony, if you’re even lucky enough to have such a person. The reception coordinator only focuses on the details of the reception. The independent planner, however, runs from soup to nuts, start to finish, the full planning process and the wedding day itself. And when you’re able to work with someone (like me) who is both a planner and a designer, you’re able to have both the brains and the beauty under the same roof.

And now? Rumor has it that a popular wedding site wants to offer you a FREE “consultant” to help you plan your wedding.

Kudos to this website for at least not calling their Consultants “Wedding Planners,” but a closer look at their deliverables muddy the water of expectations:

“Let us narrow down your search... help you find the best vendors to make it all possible.”

My questions are these: Would this be from a database of advertisers? (Of which I am one.) Have these consultants ever worked with these vendors? Do they know which ones arrive 15 minutes early and which ones text the planner (or worse, the couple!) to ask for directions en route? Do they know how a space feels when you enter and how to move people throughout a specific venue for the best possible guest experience? What about that one photographer who has fair reviews, but a professional planner who has been doing this for years just has a gut feeling about… and then fails to deliver on a contracted 2nd shooter AND blows the delivery for their photos and still has yet to issue a refund? (True story. EVERY time I warn a client about something that doesn’t sit just right they ALWAYS come back after the wedding and say, “I wish I would have listened to you…”)

All of these questions to state the point that a list of advertisers doesn’t provide a gut feeling or a track record of “boots on the ground” experience- of which a wedding planner would have.

“Help with your planning tools; Not sure how to put together your guest list?”

The beauty of an independent planner is that we are beholden to no one and make recommendations with the best fit for our clients in mind; even when it comes to something as simple as a wedding website. (And please, don’t get me started about referral fees and kick backs – I am so transparent about this that it’s in my contract. You hire me, I work for you – period.)

Let’s be honest, there are dozens of great articles and resources on the web about how to determine who makes the “A” list cut, who goes on the “B” list, how to address your envelopes, etc. This wedding website has always been a great resource for the average couple getting married. But even then, you can easily find conflicting “expert opinions” on any topic in any industry; you have to have a much more nuanced understanding of the myriad moving pieces.

“Help you make decisions; We get it. Sometimes you just need a neutral person to help you decide. Not sure if we can help? Just ask.

And here’s where I really lose my cool. How, exactly, can someone who has no vested interest in your wedding, your life as a couple, or your planning experience, help you decide? Based on what? That running list of advertisers? Or the dozens of articles providing a range of “expert advice,” half of which contradict the other? There is no “one size fits all” in wedding planning. My clients come to me because they fall into one of three buckets: 1) They’re overwhelmed in the planning process and recognize they’re in over their heads, 2) They know what they want but don’t know how to bring it to life, or 3) They’re already engrossed in their daily lives as young professionals and don’t have the time or energy to manage the massive undertaking that is planning a wedding on their own. NONE of these scenarios can be solved with a cookie-cutter approach or a generic “I love all things wedding, I can help you decide!” tagline.

And here’s the big thing in all of this… let’s not forget that none of the “question answering service” providers are going to be there, physically with you, for your wedding. They won’t be making last-minute changes to your seating chart, making sure that the best man has a copy of his toast, or discreetly slipping him a glass of champagne at just the right moment, before he realizes he forgot his glass at the table. They’re not going to be lining up your wedding party, adjusting bowties or boutonnieres, or giving your train one more fluff before you walk down the aisle. They don’t have an emergency kit that contains everything from an extra pair of black socks to smelling salts (or the stories as to why every single item has made its way to that emergency kit). They’re not the first ones to greet you as you come back down the aisle with tears in their eyes and a huge hug, to whisk you away into a private room for your first few moments as a married couple. And that last embrace of the night? When you whisper, “Everything was absolutely perfect; I can never thank you enough!” to someone? Well, we can all assume it won’t just be to a voice on the other end of the phone.

Funny thing about all of this… at the end of the day, this new offering isn’t going to change my business at all. (Though it might free up some advertising dollars when it’s all said and done.) My clients come to me because they need me. I do what I do because I love it, and I’m damn good at it. I love getting to know my clients well, to weave together details that create magical moments for them to share with their friends and family. I invest so much of myself into these relationships, both with my clients and my colleagues, that honestly, I don’t work with just anyone who calls; it has to be the right fit. It’s all about relationships, and I think that’s why this new offering from this particular wedding website has so many of us in the industry upset.

We thought they were going to be different; when they told us they wanted to make a difference in the wedding world, we believed them. Aside from the fact that they told us they were all about empowering the small businesses their model is built upon, it just seems a bit of “bad form” to present this service as being on par with that of an independent wedding planner – not to mention, confusing engaged couples at the same time. And isn’t that who we’re all here to serve to begin with?

But in the end, will any of this change the relationships I have with my clients? Nope. Will it make me love my job any less? Not a chance.


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