The Real Cost of a Wedding Day Co-ordinator

By Jessie Thomson

As a wedding planner one of the most frequent enquiries I receive is for “on the day” co-ordination, for those couples that want last minute support and someone to oversee the wedding day that they have planned themselves. They realise there is way too much to handle on their own, and they’ve also sensibly realised that their “free” in house wedding planner is not going to cover everything an independent planner will.

It’s no secret that I pride myself on providing bespoke wedding planning services to meet individual requirements (as opposed to set packages) – but I truly believe that you can’t just turn up on the wedding day and make sure everything runs smoothly without prior involvement. At the moment, I do offer “on the day” support like this – but I insist that it actually starts about 4 weeks before the wedding date, and it involves a lot of work on my part to make sure that I fully understand your vision, confirming every single supplier, sense checking timings, compiling a detailed itinerary, liaising with the venue, making a plan for set up and clear down… and much more!

BMC Wedding PhotographyImage via BMC Weddings

There is still a problem even with this level of support though… I haven’t built up personal relationships with all of your suppliers over the full planning process earning their respect and trust, I can’t guarantee that they will do a great job as I haven’t necessarily worked with them before, I haven’t reviewed all of the contracts for you, and no doubt some of them aren’t used to working with wedding planners - in short, I haven’t personally covered the myriad of tiny details I make sure are taken care of in my full planning service.

Luckily I have great attention to detail, am confident enough to step in last minute, and can remain calm in an emergency too… but honestly? “On the day” wedding co-ordination is a HUGE amount of work for me to get up to speed in such a short time frame. Almost always there are forgotten suppliers and parts of the process that haven’t been thought through.

Wedding TimelineImage via Debs Ivelja

Which brings me to price. Because there are a lot of co-ordinators and planners out there offering this service for next to nothing. So I thought it would be useful to give a breakdown of time taken in order to complete this job effectively (and I have been conservative):

  • 1.5 hours – initial phone or email enquiry and in-person consultation
  • 1 hour – creating and sending a contract and invoices for deposit + final payments
  • 1.5 hours – full handover with bride and groom before the wedding to go through details and checklists (including travel time)
  • 2 hours – creating a full itinerary and finalising wedding timeline, with all details of the main wedding party and each supplier also listed.
  • 2 hours – communicating with and confirming all the wedding details and timings with venue(s) and every single supplier involved
  • 2 hours – general phone and email support with bride & groom in the run up to the wedding
  • 2 hours – final meeting at the venue with bride and groom to review styling, set up and logistics (including travel time)
  • 1.5 hours – attending and overseeing the wedding rehearsal (including travel time)
  • 12 hours – actual time on-site during the wedding day (including travel time)
  • 1 hour – follow up after the wedding with bride and groom, as well as suppliers, and occasionally having to clear down + return any hire items etc

= 26.5 hours of your wedding planner’s time.

In the UK an experienced planner will sometimes charge about £700 for this service, that’s about £26 per hour BEFORE tax and other general business expenses. This can account for up to 50% (or more) of your income, so really you are only making about £13 per hour.

I know many who charge as little as £350, which means they make about £6.50 per hour after taxes and expenses. That’s pretty close to the minimum wage in the UK.

It might also be worth noting that these prices do not include the cost of paying for an assistant on the wedding day, nor do they account for weddings that aren’t local to your area. You do also get some brides who need a LOT more phone and email support than others.

I actually once had a bride choose another wedding planning company over me who were charging under £350 for THREE on the day co-ordinators. How do they even make a profit?

Bespoke Wedding Planner UK

Image via Millie Benbow

I know that there will always be new people entering the industry (which I absolutely encourage!), and not everyone can charge high prices… we all have different experience and target markets. But surely our collective minimum hourly rate needs to be a little more? And surely it’s better to price at a reasonable rate and then offer generous discounts and competitions for free support when you start out… rather than create lower expectations in the market?

So I guess this is my call to all UK wedding planners, can we please start to pice our work a little more realistically? There are only so many weekends in the year, and we all need to make a living! I know that wedding planners are still a relatively new concept here, but surely we have to see the value of our own worth if others are going to as well?

I must say that this year I’ve thought long and hard about whether I continue to offer “on the day” services at all. I’ve worked on some fabulous weddings with some absolutely cracking couples in the past, but I know that I have in many ways been underselling how much I am actually worth to them. I can’t count how many times brides have been back in touch with me post-wedding and told me I should put my prices up. Hindsight is a beautiful thing I guess!

So for now, I will continue to offer bespoke and partial planning to brides and grooms needing last minute support, but I’m going to price accordingly. I am still going to be earning less per hour than I did in my previous day job, and I may well end up with less clients per year. However as a wise planner friend of mine said to me recently, “work smarter, not harder”. Indeed!

Jessie

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11 Comments on The Real Cost of a Wedding Day Co-ordinator

  1. Bow Occasions
    February 7, 2014 at 11:53 am (9 months ago)

    Fantastic post Jessie and one that I was thinking of writing myself soon after an experience with a couple recently. They got in touch looking for a wedding day coordinator to help with their wedding but only had a total budget including expenses of less than £400.00. My wedding day coordination service starts from £550.00 and this is based on the minimum amount of service I think it is possible to provide to do the job properly. This figure also varies depending on the type of wedding and the number of guests.

    Needless to say this particular couple didn’t proceed and have since informed me that they have found a planner to provide this service within their budget. Fantastic post for all couples out there who wonder why we charge so much for an ‘on the day’ service.

    Louise x

    Reply
    • Jessie Thomson
      February 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm (9 months ago)

      Hey Louise, sounds familiar! I think we are all guilty of charging too little for our services at times – it’s so difficult in the UK where wedding planners aren’t used as much as in the US etc. BUT we have to set precedent right? And like you, my price final reflects requirements… how much styling required, hotel vs marquee, number of guests etc. As it should be! xx

      Reply
  2. Jessie Thomson
    February 7, 2014 at 6:33 pm (9 months ago)

    As an extra bit of food for thought, for a full planning and design service it usually takes between 150-250 hours of a planners time (sometimes more… if you are like me and treat your clients like friends!). Most of us charge a fee of between 10-20% of the total budget with a minimum fee applying… but if you use the same calculations as above then the hourly rate is still pretty low! Some charge as little as £1.5k for full planning… that’s as little as £3 per hour after tax and expenses.

    Reply
  3. tricia prince
    February 8, 2014 at 8:47 am (9 months ago)

    Like the blog…it is the same for us at CotswoldsVintagePartyHire… 1.20 for a vintage tea cup and saucer, which is washed before use, put into colour themes. After the event, it is sometimes soaked with sterident when stained,handwashed ,dried, sorted into colours /designs again and reboxed ,waiting to be chosen for the next event.

    I pride myself on the style, colour of my, sometimes expensive period pieces, which I rent out. Calling it “Vintage” doesnt mean it is beautiful or quality- it could have been bought in Harrods or Woolworths… but I have had to lower my prices to compete in a swollen vintage hire market. Undercutting by vintage supplies joining the market after buying for their own weddings has forced a downward price wars. (They must love washing up! )

    Not all Vintage crockery suppliers spend the hours sorting through 1200 cups and saucers into colours for each event. Not all will balance the designs and colours across the tables. It is hard work for little return …maybe this is why some vintage hire companies have now “dropped” their vintage china.
    Sadly I am now only holding onto the china because I have enjoyed collecting it and have some truly gorgeous teasets dating back to the 1830′s…am I brave enough to price the crockery at what it is really worth ?.. maybe not, but I have developed the decorative side of the hire market instead with candelabras and chandeliers etc …would I be sad not renting out teawares again….NO!

    Reply
    • Jessie Thomson
      February 8, 2014 at 9:31 am (9 months ago)

      Interesting, very interesting! I think there is a huge misconception that all wedding suppliers are trying to rip couples off, and very little understanding of the work going on behind the scenes. If you’re providing a top level service and have plenty of bookings (on top of your other services) then I think it is absolutely reasonable to increase your prices accordingly. Maybe you need to also think about stepping away from the word “vintage”? Since you do much more than that and the term is so overused at the moment. Redefine your market a bit? Have a look at some of the amazing US rental companies, their wording and branding. Such a niche for that kind of supplier in the UK. xxx

      Reply
      • tricia prince
        February 8, 2014 at 11:16 am (9 months ago)

        Yesterday I spent 2 hours with a brides mother talking through hire items for her daughters wedding explaining how to use the items creatively etc- this time is not charged for..I think we do under value ourselves ,I love the “getting creative”, as it is back to my design background and I cant help but come up with ideas of how to use my hire products…I am giving so much away for free and then they ask for a discount , What !
        I agree with you “vintage” is over used and abused…and yes I am looking at ways of redefining what I offer.
        I do have some wierd and wonderful ideas but just need to find the bride wanting to be different!… thanks for the “free” advice too!

        Reply
  4. Selinna
    February 8, 2014 at 11:27 am (9 months ago)

    Great post and this crosses over to many types of businesses.
    I keep meaning to write a simular blog post on “the real price of a Bespoke dress” I spend min 100 hours per dress not including, consultations, fabric sourcing, ordering materials, design research etc…….. doesnt help that “dressmakers” charge way less (one shop has popped up that starts from £500 for a bespoke dress!!) and people get this confused with designers & Designer makers like myself.
    There is a massive difference!! Designers / Designer makers actually make and hand draft a sewing pattern to the customers exact measurements with at least 6 fittings. (this can take anything up to and over 40 hours depending on design) Dressmakers use commercial patterns and adapt the pattern nearest to the customers size.
    Since starting my business in 2009 I have seen a lot of bridal shops and dress makers pop up, prices are too low, the quality bad so people assume I’m over charging when in reality I get probably £6 – £8 per hour for my time.
    2013 I raised my prices which is still too low compared to designer dresses you can buy off the rail…I now get less cusomers but they pay my price which means I enjoy my job more. 2014 is the year I get more strict with myself, no explanations on why I charge what I charge, no more discounts!!
    I need to get what I’m worth and there are people & Brides who appreciate that what I do is a skill worth paying for.

    We all need to set a min price for what we do so its fair competition.

    Reply
  5. Melissa, Melissa Woodland Cakes
    February 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm (9 months ago)

    Such a good blog post! I think this is an issue across the industry. Sadly magazine after magazine has perpetuated the myth the all wedding suppliers add a couple of zeros to their price when they hear the W word!

    I think most people in this industry do their jobs because they love it, not because it’s a money spinner. My bespoke wedding cakes can’t be compared with M and S cakes or the cake that the myriad of new set up bakers are offering. Like you, I take pride in delivering a high standard of service, with quality ingredients and a flawless finish. That takes time!! It’s not unusual for me to spend 40 hours on a wedding cake from initial enquiry to finishing set up. Wouldn’t want to work out my real hourly rate!!

    There really are times when you get what you pay for xx

    Reply
  6. Jude Freeman
    February 10, 2014 at 11:26 am (8 months ago)

    Hi Jessie, such a brilliant post. It’s true that customers (in general) just don’t realise how much time and effort goes into this kind of co-ordination. Pricing is so difficult, I also have clients who come back afterwards and say I should charge more – but would they have hired me in the first place if I had? Like you, I treat my clients as friends and as such, they call me anytime, change plans and feel that they are my only client at the time. I plan and host children’s parties which is nowhere near the same level of detail as in a wedding, however the expectation is always that I should be doing more for the money. I’m always amused by clients who need me to break down how I can justify this cost vs that cost, this table cover cost over that one etc – would they walk into Costa and haggle pricing if this coffee bean was used instead of that one?

    I think this kind of behaviour is across the board, especially from the other replies you’ve received. We are let down by those prepared to work ‘cheaply’ but this shows in stock and attitude, and inevitably these people don’t last.

    On the plus side, you talked about the relationships formed with your clients, how do you manage this after the event? I’ve just finished styling and hosting a 1st birthday party and I feel a little bereft, a bit like losing a friend, even though they are not. Do you know what I mean? Ah well, Star Wars party this weekend – onwards and upwards!

    Thanks again for this post, I’d really like to do a party version too. Gosh, there’s so much more I want to add – now getting down from the soap box…

    Jude http://www.letspartycheltenham.co.uk

    Reply
  7. Bernadette
    February 14, 2014 at 9:07 pm (8 months ago)

    I’ve written a few similar posts over the years both on my blog and for the UKAWP. I’m always astounded how low some planners charge. They are immediately saying “I’m not good enough” they don’t have the knowledge perhaps to work out their profit?

    I was training students over the weekend and really worked with them on calculating their dream salary, working out what they need to achieve for each wedding to make that dream salary. I gave them estimations on how many hours some popular packages take.

    In short if you’re not charging smartly, it’s not a business you have, it’s a hobby.

    And Jessie, I no longer offer OTD, my shortest package is 8 weeks before as I found there was always something poorly organised with OTD, invariably I’d be running around fighting fires, whereas I prefer to stop them happening in the first place!

    Reply
    • Jessie Thomson
      February 15, 2014 at 11:18 am (8 months ago)

      Hi Bernadette, thanks for commenting! Sadly I think plenty of new wedding planners (trained by UKAWP or otherwise) are left with no choice but to price low in order to compete with other existing planners prices. They do market research and realise that other local and well established planners are charging £x for services and feel compelled to either undercut to win the business, or lack confidence in their skills to price at the same level. Which isn’t helping but is understandable! Perhaps the onus is on those existing planners to increase prices across the board and make our collective value worth more? I guess there is also the problem of hundreds of new planners entering the market and still not that many brides in the UK looking for a planner (with on the day co-ordination being by far the most popular service)… that’s changing, but demand will force prices up/down over time I think.

      I agree, it’s tempting to just drop OTD all together as it’s so time intensive… however part of me also thinks if there is demand for last minute services like this it’s silly to disregard just because it’s extra hard work… maybe we just need to price that service properly and take all that potential fire fighting into consideration within the fee?! As a result, maybe more couples would then see the bigger value in full planning services.

      Having had lots of emails and private messages from other suppliers it seems pricing is a problem across the wedding industry, with some people charging ridiculously low prices, undercutting competitors and occasionally driving them out of business as a result. I do think it would help if magazines gave more realistic breakdowns of supplier costs in their budget breakdowns etc.

      It’s a two part process – educating the industry suppliers and educating the potential clients!

      Reply

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