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The Legal Paige Blog Post - Wedding Planners: Here’s What To Charge + How To Get Paid 

Wedding Planners: Here’s What To Charge + How To Get Paid 

Hey Wedding Planners! Are you new to the business and wondering what to charge clients and what kind of fee structure is best?

Look no further! Here are the industry standards in the wedding planning industry for packages, retainers, and fee structures.

Where to Start

One of the most crucial steps to becoming a wedding planner is knowing what services you are going to offer your clients and how you are going to compensate yourself.

Even if you enjoy your job you still need to make a living and that requires you to have a fee structure in place. First and foremost, you need to have a contract that lays out the package price or your hourly rate, the retainer, and a payment plan if you offer one. If you don't have a contract in place don't worry TLP has you covered! TLP’s Wedding Planner Contract offers you the ability to customize your package and fee structure the way you want for your business! Now that you're prepared with a contract let's get into some of the most common packages and fee structures we see in wedding planning contracts.

There are three pretty universal packages that wedding planners offer when covering an event or wedding:

  1. All-inclusive service planning;

  2. Partial planning; and

  3. Day-of coordination.

There are several ways you can set up your fee structure for each package type, so let's get into the details of each package!

All-Inclusive Service Planning

An all-inclusive service package (or commonly referred to as “full-service planning”) is best if your clients do not want to plan their own wedding. This package is for the clients that want to give you a vision and a budget and you will 100% execute their plan and dream. This kind of package requires the most work from you as the planner and your fee should reflect the amount of work you will need to do.

For all-inclusive planning, we most commonly see a flat project fee or a commission-based fee.

Flat Rate Fees

A flat project fee works well with an all-inclusive service planning package because it will not require you to track your hours and will give you the flexibility to work some extra hours if there is an event emergency. The flat fee should be high enough to compensate you for the entire planning process including client communication, pre-wedding planning, day-of management, and after the event wrap-up, plus a little extra to compensate for unexpected hours.

Commission-Based Fees

A commission-based fee is when a planner charges a smaller flat rate and then an additional 15-20% of the total cost of the event as part of their fee. This allows you as a planner to oftentimes make more income depending on the complexity and scale of the event. Sometimes planners will contract with venues and preferred vendors to secure their commission payments, and sometimes planners will gather up the total cost of the event once it is completed and invoice the clients for their percentage. Either way is fine, just be sure you are incredibly clear in your contract about how you plan to invoice your client after the event and when the final payment is due.

Understanding Retainer Fees

With any package you offer, you should always charge a nonrefundable retainer fee. With packages like this one, it is industry standard to make the retainer around 50% of the total price. We here at TLP always suggest making that a flat amount instead of a percentage for legal purposes. And then, explain what the retainer is for in your contract: pre-event planning, communication, mood boards, contacting vendors and reviewing contracts, etc. Also, be sure to list out what happens if your clients cancel. Usually, you will want to say that the retainer amounts for liquidated damages for the work you will inevitably do.

All-Inclusive Elopement Planning

If your company also plans elopements you may want to structure your fees similar to your all-inclusive service planning package. If clients are looking for elopement planning services they usually are wanting help planning the event from start to finish. But, beware here that clients often ask for a ‘discounted rate’ because it's an elopement. However, all-inclusively planning an elopement day is oftentimes just as extensive as planning a traditional venue wedding. So, you can absolutely charge the same or similar amount, just be sure to explain to your clients why you don’t offer discounted packages for elopements.


Partial Planning

Another common package we see in the wedding planning industry is partial planning services. With this package, you as the wedding planner would come in a few months before the event and will offer guidance to couples by working with their vendors to confirm that everything is coming together. You might also plan a few select things from their wedding like the ceremony or reception only.

If you are partial planning you have a lot of freedom on how you want your fee structure to be set up. You could do a flat fee like you would for an all-inclusive service planning which again allows that flexibility and does not require you to track your hours. In the alternative, you could offer an hourly rate.

If you decide to do an hourly rate it is a good idea to set a minimum amount of hours you offer in your package with the option of an hourly add-on. For instance, you could offer 40 hours of work minimum for a partial planning package which would include your time for client communication, pre-wedding partial planning, and day-of coordination. Then if your clients want to hire you for an extra meeting or additional services, you can charge them your additional hourly rate. We always recommend that clients have the option to upgrade their package, but they cannot downgrade; this way you are always guaranteed the original packaged price.


Day-of Coordination

A day-of coordination package (sometimes referred to as “event management”) is usually for those clients that have the majority of the planning handled but just need someone to be their go-to person on the day of the wedding.

With this kind of package, you can easily pay a flat fee for day-of coordination. This would allow you to receive the same rate for your services whether you are working 5 hours or 10. Of course, if you are charging a flat fee you would want to charge all clients for your standard amount of anticipated work and would want to put an hourly limit on the event. Clients should not be able to make you work a 17-hour day even if they are paying a flat fee.

The other option here is to simply charge an hourly fee. Thus, if your client is only wanting to hire you for the setup and ceremony you will only be charging them for those hours. Make sure you calculate a buffer in your hourly rate in case you end up working a bit longer than anticipated. Of course, if you end up working more hours than anticipated your clients should be billed for those hours and that should be outlined in your contract.


Planning Consulting

The final type of package we sometimes see offered is wedding planning consulting. This is used when clients want to plan their own event and don’t need day-of services, but want assistance with working out kinks in their plan, advice on major decisions, color schemes, designs, etc.

It's best here to charge an hourly rate without any minimum number of hours. That way you can just invoice your clients for any consulting work you perform.

** IMPORTANT Information Regarding Payment Plans & Retainers **

Now that we have touched on some of the most common packages that I see offered by wedding planners I want to now touch on payment plans and retainers.

As mentioned above, non-refundable booking retainers are A MUST for all service-based contracts. If your clients cancel on you, your business should be compensated for holding that date and the work you have already performed for them.

For wedding planners especially, around a 50% non-refundable retainer is fairly standard because a wedding planner’s work starts right away and a large majority of your total work is completed BEFORE the actual event… even if your clients think that the day-of work is the most important If you decide to do a smaller retainer fee, TLP suggests you include a-payment plan structure that allows you to be paid at least 3-4 times before the event occurs.

Just like retainers, it is standard that payments paid are usually non-refundable for work performed, and you will want to clearly explain that in your contract.

Also, we’ve learned that presenting your client with the option of a payment plan is a good way to get clients in the door without a large barrier to entry (such as a $5000+ retainer fee upfront). But, when you offer payment plans it is *very* important that you impose late fees. If your client does not pay on time for future payments due, then IMMEDIATELY stop all work until your client is current with their bill. If your clients are not paying then you should not be working!

Finally, if you do offer a flat fee or payment plan fee structure, your entire fee should be paid in full at least 30 days before the event. The last 30 days before an event is crunch time and you will be working intense hours. You should be working hard knowing that your clients have fully paid for your services!


TLP’s Take

There are three things you always need to have in place before you accept any payment from your wedding planning clients:

  1. Your planning package,

  2. Your rates and payment structure,

  3. Your non-refundable retainer fee.

Most importantly you need a contract in place where these three things are clearly spelled out to the client. TLP’s Wedding Planner Template Contract offers you the ability to customize your package and fee structure the way you want for your business! 
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