FAQs: If I don’t get commission from my vendors as a planner, how do I make money? What should I charge?

(Image via via Brandi Sims)

The industry is bombarded with a new generation of planners. I think this is great, however, most of them are under the assumption that you ONLY need great organizational skills to call yourself a planner.

In fact a lot of brides, after planning their own wedding, love the process so much that they consider or think of themselves as planners. I think it takes much more than that.

This is one of the reasons I am involved with the Wedding Planning Institute. They have a very comprehensive class on wedding planning. (Yes folks, I admit I am self-promoting, but I am also trying to make a point.)

How much a planner charges is greatly affected by their area and expertise. However, I’ll try to give you the different price structures I have encountered over the years:

1. A flat fee. This fee ranges and depends greatly on what people in your area are used to paying. However, you could also determine this fee by the amount of time you are putting into the event.

Big question: What is your hourly rate? If you do not have one, make one. For example: If you work four months on an event and work at least 50 hours a week on that event from start to finish, that is approximately 800 hours. If you charge $8,000, you are making $10 an hour–which is perfectly okay, if that is what you want.

2. Some planners charge a percentage of the total cost of the job. This could range from 10 to 20 percent, depending on your area. This means if a client spends $100,000 for everything (food, music, decor, etc) the planner could make anywhere from 10 to 20 thousand dollars, with the client’s knowledge of course.

3. Some planners charge on an hourly basis. This is always a bit complicated, because most planners’ minds are working 24 hours a day with ideas and concepts for their clients, so it can be tricky to also charge for that time.

4. Your clients are aware that you are charging your vendors 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of their bill for your payment. This is also a very tricky one. Lots of clients like this one because it does not cost them anything, or so they think. But in the long run, it does cost them by getting 10 to 20 percent less product. I have spoken to many beginners who use this model just to get started. However, I strongly recommend moving away from this practice quickly.

5. Charging a client a fee and also charging the vendors a commission without your client’s knowledge. On this one, you are on your own. If you can actually do this and sleep at night? Bravo to you.

Event planning is still one of the most exciting and profitable businesses in our industry. However, like in any industry, it takes time, experience, integrity and talent before you can start charging the big bucks.

Are you having a difficult time charging for your planning services? Why? Is one of the only ways you can get jobs by paying commission? How do you feel about this?

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  • http://www.jasonmoniz.com Jason

    Hi Preston! I’am also beginning my event planning company here in Portugal and I do follow your blod in a daily base. Must confess that this article was really helpful and clear. Thank you for helping us “the beginners” on this wonderful industry which is the event planning one.
    Bless you and your fantastic job

    Regards from sunny Portugal

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  • http://YOURWEBSITE Heidi Reeder

    I am a student from this wedding planing class, and I agree, it’s pretty awesome!

  • http://www.goldenchicevents.com Goldenchicgirl

    Thanks for listing this out. I’ve been in the biz for 5 years and always have charged a flat fee. Sometimes I get an hourly rate request, but as you state, it’s next to impossible to click my hours per job, and I feel hourly will either hurt my client or me & my staff.

    My issue is I live in a state that thinks a planner should cost like $2000 regardless of the work and people here would never dream of paying both a planner and a designer separately. Any thoughts how to explain payment for those who balk at a $6-7K price tag? Or just breaking down the hours?

    Thanks for a being an inspiration!!

  • http://www.bridalaffairs.blogspot.com Wendy

    First, I never pay, nor do I ever take a commission of any kind from any vendor. If I refer a client to a vendor, it is because I know and respect that vendor and their work. To take money from or give money to a vendor implies that the financial gain is the important thing. Further, and please know that I am not casting aspirtions on your teaching, planning one’s own wedding and taking a course on etiquette and the like does not prepare anyone for this business. It takes hands on experience and time- lots of it to get good at it. Sadly, too many brides think that wedding planning is “fun” and glamorous, so they put up a web site, take a class and charge ridiculously low rees to plan weddings. This, in turn, puts those of us with the years of experience and the background out of business. Why would anyone pay more money for a service if they found a fellow “knottie” charging a few hundred dollars to “do the same thing”. The market is saturated with these girls and people like me are losing our livlihoods, our homes and our integrity. In the meantime, those brides who opted for a bargain planner are having disaster weddings. Classes are fine. But, for me, these bargain planners have taken me down- and I am not the only one.

  • http://YOURWEBSITE GoIzzy

    It is one of the most difficult areas in the business, often underappreciated, full of work and headache. Flat fee or % are probably the easiest ways to go. If you charge your vendors, then you are probably missing out on good relationship and have profits drive your choices rather than the end result or a good match. Experience is the key and it takes years to really know and build good relationships with other vendors. Planning is “fun”, but my heat goes off to those who make really good money doing amazing job for their clients.

  • http://www.rsvppremier.com Occasions 2 Remember

    What is the difference between Margin and Markup on vendor services?

  • http://www.FeliciaEvents.com Felicia Gantar

    It’s funny I just seen this posted today! I was was just talking to another planner about prices in this (Northern Nevada) area that range from $500.00 for “day-of” and up. I charge a flat rate because I feel I work directly for the client in their best interest. Especially, if a client is trying to stay within a budget. I can not say it enough…
    “You have one chance to have the wedding to be successful don’t skimp on experience.” Experience & Education makes all the difference.
    I will share this on my facebook for sure!!! Look forward to seeing you in Vegas this month @ Catersource. Thank you Thank you for all that you share. Felicia

  • http://www.makeyourmark-events.blogspot.com Mark Moore

    I love this topic and glad you mentioned it…I usually ask my various vendors or suppliers if they won’t mind giving me a 10% discount on items hired to which I charge the full rate to the client, which would have been the case if the client went thought them directly, this not only builds a trusting relationship with me and my vendors, whom I also trust and love working with but also gives the vendors their income, and I don’t feel quilty beacuse I recon the % discount I get from my vendors covers all my admin costs I incur while planning an event, what I also do is charge a Set -Up fee, based on a flat rate with a certain % to once again cover all admin, time, energy related costs.

    NB: Preston, I want to ask you about a rate which I usually don’t charge but would love to when it come to BRIDEZILLAS, I call it the FAF rate, you know when brides always faf about the small things, change things at the last minute, irritate you to no extent, etc, etc…that’s when I want to pull out the FAF rate, which stands for FCUK AROUND FEE, beacuse really, that what they are doing!

    Your comments on this would be appriciated!!!




  • http://YOURWEBSITE Angela

    Preston- would like to see a sample of a valentine dinner table setting…. Thanks

  • http://YOURWEBSITE Melonie Karl

    Firstly, thank you for having this discussion. This is the type of information that is extremely helpful to anyone in the industry.
    Secondly, I only suggest vendors whom I have vetted personally. I have a professional relationship with my vendors based on mutual respect and nothing else. Whenever I contact a vendor for an event even if it’s at the last minute they are always eager to please.
    It’s easy for anyone to think that this business is glamorous, because the professionals make it seem so simple especially if the execution is seamless. As a professional I have years of experience, dedication, a fantastic vendor list and supreme customer services.

  • http://www.eventswithexcellence.com Nishaka

    Very good blog. For weddings, I only provide Full Service Wedding Planning and Destination Wedding Services. I have found that I am at my best for the Bride when I work with her from the beginning to the end. I have a starting fee that goes up based on the budget of the wedding. It’s normally about 18% of the budget. Per wedding, it’s usually one or two additional event managers working with me on the wedding. This is clearly explained when we meet and included in the wedding packet. I have learned that I work best with wedding budgets around $15,000 and up. I can help better deliver what she is looking for in this area when she can start at that budget.

    I do have preferred vendors that I work with and recommend very often. They do NOTE pay me anything. I trust them and believe in their work, therefore I highly refer them. I do try to help Brides understand the number of hours involved in planning a wedding, though I do not charge by the hour for Weddings.

    It has taken me 3 years to get to that comfortable and profitable place for my fees for weddings. I haven’t done the Platinum Wedding yet, but looking forward to it when it comes!

  • Christine

    This blog is such a godsend! I’m wondering if other planners who charge their fee based on the total event budget can share some information about what kind of expenses they exclude from the total event budget calculation? I work with many event hosts/bridal couples who want to use a friend who is a DJ or caterer or florist, etc. They want me to work with this vendor, negotiate the contract, manage the logistical aspects of interacting with the vendor, but they don’t want their fees to be considered part of the total event budget because I didn’t “find” the vendor. Or, in some cases, this vendor is donating their services because they are a friend. How do others deal with this?

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  • http://www.ebay.com/itm/170751613919?ssPageName=STRK:MESCX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1554.l2649 debra

    I always seem to charge too little. I work my butt off for every client. Put my heart soul and sweat in to each job. But the clients I have a not ones that I can charge NYC rates for their events. But I have most all of the training that the big planners have and I want to do business so I am stuck.

  • Katy Lee Girres

    I have a problem with #4 & 5: Why does taking a commission mean less product for the individual? I work with several vendors so frequently that they give me deals that they would not give to people off the streets. With regards to things like bounce houses, DJs, etc. how on earth would the client be getting less product as a result of the commission? For #5, we make what we can get, and sometimes it’s decent profit, and sometimes it’s minimal. But we’d rather have the job in hopes that we could keep the client for future events. Could someone explain to me why it would NOT be ok to do both?

  • Katy Lee Girres

    Ok, well maybe I was confused on the term “commission.” Would that be the same as vendors giving us a 10-20% discount?