Common Mistakes: Commissioning the Wrong Planner

I think planning is probably one of the most complex and layered parts of the event industry. Years ago when I first started, I made the mistake of accepting a job as a planner in addition to doing the design, and I remember spending a whole afternoon making 20 phone calls just to set up one meeting. This was just one minuscule part of planning, but for me it was an eye opener.

I have had the pleasure (and pain) to work with many planners in my 30 years of business, and I can safely say that getting the wrong planner can be a huge pain in the ass. Not just for me, but also for the unsuspecting clients. Saying that you are a planner does not make you a good one. If you designed your own wedding or party and you enjoyed it, great, but that does not make you a planner.

Here, in my humble opinion, is what makes a great planner:

  • Experience, experience, experience. I think one can safely call him or herself a good planner after working on at least 20 events. (Even then, it depends on what kind of events.)
  • Knowledge. Knowledge can be acquired through practice or by taking a very informative course to give you a base. (The best course I know of is offered by the Wedding Planning Institute.)
  • Great attention to detail and the ability to improvise. I think a good planner is one that can turn a bad or tense situation good without the client ever knowing. (In every event, something always goes differently than we planned.)
  • Last but not least, leave the drama at home. Again, maybe it’s just me so forgive me, but I have encountered more than one planner who was a crazy maker.

I am completely in awe of the business of planning with all its layers and intricacies. I applaud everyone who wants to get into this exciting business, but please remember it takes time and effort. Yes, you can go ahead and call yourself a planner and start your journey, but it takes a bit longer to become a good one.

I’d love to know what you think determines a good versus bad planner. Please share in the comments.

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  • Applemackenzie

    A good planner vs. a bad planner… The ability to stay calm, cool & collected in crazy situations. And the ability to think on their feet, if an unexpected mishap occurs.

  • Krista

    A good (event/wedding) planner needs a teacher. A teacher who takes you to places you’ve never been. Who shows you how it needs to be done. Who let you make mistakes (once or twice) and intervenes before there it no turning back.

    A good (event/wedding) planner is someone who leaves his stress at home (someone who is immune to stress..) and someone who is always looking for solutions.

  • Maritza Rosado

    A bad planner is the one that always try to impose his her taste,idoesnt listen to the customer requirements and does not qualify his/her vendors.A planner that doesnt work wth a budget and that doesnt have the ablity to take the stress out of their customers.Doesnt have a written plan and its not results oriented.
    You have described the excellent planner; In addition: Works with Cstomer requirements,works with the best resources in the industry,present a writen plan to the customer,extremely organized and have the ability to solve last minute problems without been noticed.
    An excellent planner makes difficult things look easy and take whole responsibility of the event.I Is capable of delivering
    results without any unexpected surprises and most of the time exceed customer requirements.

  • Amy Frugoli

    It really all comes down to common sense. A good planner thinks things through and uses common sense for planning ahead of time, adjusting as the day goes on, and in all the decisions along the way. When you are doing something for the wrong reasons, it always shows ;)

  • Heather Clark

    My thoughts on a good planner is someone who can communicate well with others,bartend, serve food, decorate a table, sew a button,twist a curl, give a hug when needed, isnt afraid to jump in wherever needed to make the event happen all while having a smile on their face! Communication is the key to success!! And always remember it is not about you- You are only as goos as your vendors-

  • Aleah + Nick Valley

    Everything you’ve listed is so true. Experience, staying calm, and dealing with arising issues with grace + professionalism are all “musts.” You have one shot to make an amazing celebration for a couple. You’re right; something will always come up, either during the planning process or on the big day. Often times the behind-the-scenes aspect of planning isn’t pretty and it’s rarely glamorous. It’s how we deliver the event to our client that’s important.

    Keeping an open mind is also so pertinent – not putting your clients in a “box” and keeping their bests interests in mind is critical to the success of their event.

    We pride ourselves on always taking a more relaxed approach to planning and working with the “artists” we bring on board. This speaks volumes and in turn, the artists {or vendors} enjoy working with us and look forward to each event. This results in impeccable service to our clients. Planning events is certainly not for everyone!

    As always, great post!
    Cheers, Aleah + Nick Valley
    Valley & Co. + The Good Life Special Events

  • Becky Schneider

    A good planner is someone who can stay cool under pressure when event problems occur. There is always an issue with a event – no matter if it is a major or minor problem. A good planner can handle the pressure of the problem and can make a solution happen immediately. The abililty to stay cool under pressure with a problem comes from the planner’s knowledge and experience.

  • Ebony Coston

    A good planner is a person who is organized, attentive to detail, resourceful and/ or have staff that is. Although you can’t predict the unknown you have the insights or staff you can run what if scenarios and have the answer before the event! You have to think quickly on your feet, swirtch gears at a moments notice, handle multiple task simultaneusly with perfect execution, know that sometimes the job duties for a wedding planner includes “other duties as assigned”. Not only cool and collected, but graceful, have class , a great personality and for goodess sakes stay DIVA!
    All this comes from experience, experience,experience!

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  • Bayu Weddings

    I started as a PR person first, then added “Event Planner” into my resume, and finally stay comfortably at “Wedding Consultant”. From experience, in order to be a good event planner, one has to know how to read people, foresee what may happen, be on one’s toes and abreast with the industry news, beside cool head and ability to multi-task.

    And I say, a little black-book filled with trust-worthy event supports is a must. And oh, one has to be a good leader as she/he has to lead a team. Teamwork = success.

  • reinaldo

    suppllier is very important too.

  • Gloria Brown

    A great event planner ends the event with a smile on the bride’s pretty face.
    Of course, all of the above (comments) make this happen!

  • Crystal Adair-Benning

    What makes great Wedding Planners is the ability to facilitate not just the needs of our clients but the needs of our vendors as well. We must be the conductor of the orchestra without stepping on toes, or worse, feelings. We must have an ego but be prepared to drop it at a moments notice for the good of the whole and not always ourselves. We are therapist, friend, step in family, director. We give voice to a clients dream and ensure that everyone working, attending or taking part is also part of that shared vision.

  • Erik H.

    A good planner is one who starves to learn more and more which could help further his/her business and wow the clients.
    A bad planner is one who seems content with they’re average experience and knowlege, and calls him/herself
    a good planner!

  • Lisa Schneider

    Very well said. I think very few people realize what the job of a great event planner entails. In DC I am seeing so many hotels, caterers and floral designers telling prospective clients that they will take on the tasks of a planner so that they can book the job. This is a complaint that I am hearing from so many event planners. First, the client thinks that they can forgo the cost of a planner but does not realize that the said caterer, hotel coordinator, floral designer etc does not have the experience of a real planner. Just because you are in the event industry does not mean you are an expert in all aspects of it. Personally I think that event professionals should do what they do best and not compromise their quality. Think about it this way, would you hire a photographer to do your floral design because they have photographed so many beautiful floral designs? Absolutely not! On the other end I hear complaints from the said caterers, floral designers, etc that their clients are difficult and require too much hand holding. They do not realize that this is generally because at some point they had told the client that they could handle everything.

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  • http://YOURWEBSITE Irene Bezenyan

    Hi Preston!! This is Irene Bezenyan , you worked on my daughter’s wedding about 5 years ago. I very much agree with you on your views regarding planners. Our planner was a very pleasant person, but due to lack of my experience planing a Wedding, I found that he influenced me inappropriately towards the venders that I had worked with. Since the wedding I have gained experience working with and coordinating many events. I would like to thank you and your wonderful staff for magnificent wedding event you helped us plan. Hope to work with you in the future. Please let me know if you plan to conduct any training seminars in New York area, I would like to attend. Thank you again. Irene Bezenyan (wedding of 2005).

  • Jennifer Milam

    Thank you thank you for once again defining the role of planner vs. event designer! I am an advocate of specializing and becoming an expert in my field and knowing my strengths as well as my weaknesses. I have experience on the planning side via my time with Colin Cowie Lifestyle. But my passion and talents are in event design. Knowing what is involved with being a planner first hand, helps me to pair with GREAT planners. I believe you need to be knowledgeable in all aspects of a chosen career so that you appreciate the people you bring together and their professional function to produce an event. I too have taken on the planning and event design and neither is given the proper amount of attention in my opinion when I have placed myself in that position. When we have expert professionals at the helm the sailing is smoother! Collaborating with a no-drama team is key- thank you for bringing up this point as well- it’s like poison!

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    A good planner exceeds the expectation of all stakeholders while staying within budget

  • Dianne Davis

    A good planner is someone with experience, who envision what their client needs and makes it a reality! going above and beyond their expectations. Someone who is key at managing time and being the best team player. Remember, a wedding planner has to interact with the bride, the groom, the vendors and the guests, everyone takes on a different personality, therefore, a great wedding planner must be prepared to adapt to different personality types without being stressed. So even during the storms he/she remains calm, and know how to respond under stress. Some of my quickest and best decisions are made when I am extremely stressed.

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  • Kellene Fleischmann

    Loved this article! Love the distinction between a planner and designer. Both necessary but rarely the same thing. I thrive on timelines, budgets, and details but leave design for the experts.