Hiring a Party Planner

Planning a large celebration takes work. The bigger the party, the more details tend to be involved. A party planner is a professional who can organize every detail, offer great ideas and reduce the stress of the planning. With a little research, you can find a party planner who will be the right fit for an unforgettable occasion.

Where to Start
Start by deciding how much help you need. A party planner can handle a range of tasks. Some go from start to finish: budgeting, hiring and overseeing food, décor and entertainment staff, dealing with the venue managers and being on-site before and during the party. Obviously, the full-service party planner is the most expensive option. If you want to manage some or all of the party details but need ideas and advice, or if you started planning and ran out of time, a consultant may be the right choice for you. Once you know the amount of help you need, start thinking about the party planner's specialty.

As with any profession, party planners have various specialties, strengths, experience and areas of expertise. Don't assume that the most popular party planner is the right planner for you. Ask party planners if they have handled events similar to yours. As you interview planners, try to give them as many details about the event as possible so they fully understand what you need. Some individuals specialize in corporate event planning, some have private party experience and some do both. Other planners might specialize in events either much larger or much smaller than yours.

A good party planner has a book full of contacts and should be full of ideas. Get references, call all the numbers and ask about their experiences. When you've narrowed down your list of party planners, get quoted prices on the services that each party planner provides, and get those prices in writing. Interview several party planners to get a basis for comparison.

With your short list of planners, find out how each party planner learned the business and acquired contacts. Also, be aware of any professional affiliations each party planner has with local businesses. A party planner might have good connections, or the planner might just go with whichever vendor is cheapest. The vendors a party planner works with are critical to the success of your event, and you can also suggest certain vendors you trust. If you know that a party planner regularly uses a vendor, and you aren't entirely thrilled with the vendor's product, then you should go with another planner.

Be aware that the party planner may need to coordinate meetings with various professionals who will be part of the event. The party planner may also negotiate the best rates for the services of various providers, ranging from food to flowers, from décor to entertainment. Be sure you trust the party planner to handle these details, and know what kind of involvement will be expected from you. You may or may not need to be present at these meetings, but you should be able to have some input. It is no small task for someone to find and secure the right food, décor, activities and venues, all available on the date selected and within the budget allotted.

A party planner should also be a great listener and easy to work with. Ask questions, and expect clear, detailed and patient answers. Avoid pushy or abrasive personalities, or anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Remember that the party planner you ultimately hire could be speaking with everyone who will affect the details of the party. You want things to go well, and you don't want anyone to quit because the party planner is too difficult to work with. Also, be sure to choose a party planner who you feel will represent your interests at all times. You are hiring a party planner whom you trust to keep within your budget, yet the planner should still have a strong eye for quality. In addition, the party planner must be able to quickly handle problems that inevitably will arise in any area, from food mishaps to seating mixups.

There may be a wide range of costs involved with event planning services. Some planners have a scale of fees related to the amount of work the party planner will assume. Others have a flat rate. Get a list of exactly what the party planner will offer for the fee. When you have settled on a fee, sit down with the planner and go over the details of the contract, which protects you and the party planner.

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