7 Things to Know Before Hiring a Chicago Wedding Planner

Monday, January 1, 2024

Thinking of hiring a Wedding Planner in Chicago but don’t know where to begin? While engagement, for some couples, is a time of blissful rapture and minimal added stress, for most of us, it’s marked with overwhelming compromise, myriad pressures from family and friends, and uncountable checklists. If you’re among the majority of couples that feel dismayed at the thought of finding vendors, choosing flowers, shopping for wedding wear, scheduling cake and caterer tastings - the to-do list goes on and on! - then perhaps you and your fiancé might want to think about hiring a professional wedding planner.

Chicago Wedding Couple
From Liz & Mike's wedding at @thedrakechicago - photo by @conniemarinaphotography

If you haven’t yet considered working with a wedding planner in Chicago, this article is a great place to start. You’ll learn about what a planner does and how a planner ensures your wedding is a success, and we’ll even discuss the differences between Chicago wedding coordinators, planners, and designers. We’ll also cover 7 of the best tips for hiring one of the top wedding planners in Chicago so you can be sure that your wedding is destined for success from the get-go. After all, it’s one of the biggest days of your life - why not make sure it’s a good one?!?!? 

What Does a Chicago Wedding Planner Do?

Wedding planners are event professionals who know the ins and outs of the wedding industry and work with couples to ensure their wedding day - and the weeks and months leading up to it - is as smooth and stress-free as possible. 

Although the tasks can vary somewhat from planner to planner, in general, they; assist with wedding vendor selection and contracting; create timelines, schedules, and floor plans; work with couples to establish and stick to a budget; assist with logistics, coordination, design, and other details; and work behind the scenes on the day-of so that any wrinkles in the plans are attended to and you and your guests can enjoy yourselves. 

Sound like a lot of work? It is! It takes a certain kind of person who is organized, friendly, and trustworthy to do this job. You see, there’s an immense amount of behind-the-scenes work for a top wedding planner in Chicago

Chicago wedding planners rely heavily on strong vendor networks who excel at their trades and upon whom they can trust to turn each couple’s dreams to reality. Whether it’s knowing the right florist with a team that can execute a lush greenery ceiling on a short timeline, being able to negotiate a contract that includes an onsite rain location (just in case!), or having the cell phone number to that busy baker who can accommodate any food allergy, the vendor network of a wedding planner is one of their strongest assets. 

Your wedding planner in Chicago will serve as your advocate when working with vendors as well. They will attend all vendor meetings, negotiate contracts to ensure you’ve received the best prices and values, and, on the big day, will be the point-of-contact as vendors arrive and begin to set up, so that if any questions arise, you can stay relaxed and unfazed. 

How Would a Wedding Planner Help You Plan Your Chicago Wedding?

From Maureen & Peter's wedding - photo by @emmamullinsphotogram

It is easy for couples, when they get engaged, to get caught up in the excitement of brainstorming about Chicago wedding venues, colors, and the glitz and glamor of a wedding. Letting your mind wander and imagine all the “what-if’s” for your wedding can be one of the best parts! But once the process starts really gaining momentum and it’s time for decision-making, budget creation, and more, it can take a turn straight to overwhelm very quickly. 

It’s important to note that having a wedding planner is not an absolute necessity. There are weddings that happen successfully everywhere and go off without a hitch that don’t have a planner involved. Having a wedding planner in Chicago or wedding planner in Naperville involved is, however, among the most dependable ways to reduce stress throughout the whole process, ensure success (especially if you’re new to Chicago or planning a destination wedding in Chicago), planning for a large or more complex event, or busy with work, kids, staying organized, or just want a hand to help guide you through the process. 

Besides the tasks listed in the section above that the wedding planner will help you complete or complete for you, the wedding planner is also instrumental in averting potential issues that could become disastrous on the big day. They will know about critical details such as liquor licenses, event permits, applicable taxes, and more, and will be able to handle these if they are required. They’ll make sure that if any plans change, the wedding vendors are kept in communication. 

Although they’ll deal with any mishaps that arise and will work in your best interest, you’ll still have autonomy to voice your opinions and preferences. A good wedding planner in Chicago (or your city) will know when to check in with you and will know what is most important to you about your wedding so that no matter what, the event is a reflection of you. 

Chicago Weddings Gone Wrong (without a Chicago wedding planner)

From Emily & Parker's wedding at @ovationchicago - photo by @the.fladebos

As we’ve already mentioned, not having a wedding planner does not mean that your wedding planning process is destined for disaster. However, having a wedding planner in Chicago does likely minimize the chance of something going wrong, and, even moreso, it allows for there to be support and guidance if something does come up. 

What are some examples of this? Read on! 

Wedding Vendor Issues (without a wedding planner #1)

Having a Chicago wedding planner who can vouch for each vendor can be extremely useful. 

For this bride, the wedding photographer who was hired for the wedding didn’t capture the day well. 

"Every single image was overexposed so that everyone looks shiny against a nearly black background. Images taken by guests' phones were 1,000 times better. It's an awful feeling to not want to look at your own wedding photos because of how bad they turned out."

We aren’t sure if the bride had hired a Chicago wedding planner to assist with the photographer selection, but it’s always advised to check each vendor’s portfolio to be sure that you like their work, even if it comes highly recommended by your event planner in Chicago

Sweet Salvation (without a wedding planner example #2)

From Abby & Eric's wedding - photo by @cristinagphoto

Whether your cake baker drops your wedding cake or the church accidentally double-booked itself for a funeral during your wedding time slot, having a stellar wedding planner in Chicago can smooth over potential disasters on your big day.

In the case of the dropped cake, “The baker was almost two hours late. When the cake finally arrived, it was mysteriously missing two layers and was bulging over. I went to the church, and the mother of the bride must have read my face like a book. She asked what happened, and when I told her, she laughed hysterically and said not to tell the bride. I didn’t. We had a beautiful ceremony.” In order to still display the cake, the wedding planner and the vendor team adjusted the lighting, added extra florals, and provided extra bite-sized desserts that were already prepared. 

In the double-booking of the church, the planner said, “Guests were going to be arriving any minute, and I knew I needed to find something to keep them outside of the church.” She spotted an ice cream truck parked nearby and, “explained the situation and the driver happily agreed to serve ice cream to all of the waiting guests (the bill was later dealt with by one of the bride’s relatives). Since it was a beautiful summer day, guests thought this was part of the wedding, and they all seemed to love it.” Thank goodness for quick-thinking and clear-headed planners! 

Family Drama (without a Chicago wedding planner example #3)

From Hilary &Michael's wedding at @chezweddingvenue - photo by @noelleadamsphoto

There’s drama in every family, and weddings and other big events sometimes need an outside force (such as a wedding planner) to mitigate potential issues and awkwardness that can arise. 

In this instance, "a mother of the groom threatened to leave the reception because her table was too close to the father of the groom’s table. She also did not want her ex-husband’s new wife to be seated on the front row with herself and other family members.”

Another common source of discomfort during weddings - family photos. Having an upfront meeting with your planner and the photographer to create lists of the photos you want streamlines the process day-of and mitigates potential drama. 

Bad weather backup (without a Chicago wedding planner example #4)

From Megan & Jim's wedding at @thegraychi - photo by @lisahuffordphotography

Another benefit of hiring an experienced Chicago wedding planner is that they are likely to plan for unforeseen road bumps - like a chance of rain or other challenges. 

This wedding planner “planned a wedding a few years ago at a ranch in California wine country. Since it rarely rains there during the summer, the ceremony and reception were to be held outside. The day before the wedding, the weather report showed a 50 percent chance of rain. I found a rental company that was willing to install a tent, but no matter what I said, the bride and groom refused. They were adamant that it would not rain on their big day.” It rained cats and dogs and mud covered the reception area, but a complete disaster was averted when the ranch owner provided the horse barn for the event.

What is the Difference Between a Wedding Planner vs. Wedding Coordinator vs. Designer

If you’ve begun to research the planning process for your wedding, you’ve likely come across a few terms, “wedding planner,” “wedding coordinator,” and “designer.” What do these mean? Do you need to hire one of each of them? Do their jobs overlap? Read on to learn more. 

A wedding planner is the overarching term for someone who assists with the planning and coordination of your event. There are several different types of planners - full-service planners, who work with you from the beginning and assist with the whole process, and partial planners, which includes wedding coordinators in Chicago IL, who are usually slightly less involved (Our Service: Wedding Management) in all of the details of the wedding and may begin working with you after some of the logistics and vendors have been established. Both wedding planners in Chicago and wedding coordinators will assist with day-of activities, logistics, organization, timelines, and vendor assistance onsite. 

Wedding designers in Chicago are professionals at working to achieve a certain ambiance, feel, and look for your event. They frequently work with furniture or event rental companies to provide very specific equipment, installations, furniture, color schemes, and more so that your wedding aesthetic is picture-perfect. Designers don’t just work with large, complex, or over-the-top events - you can work with them for an intimate elopement setting, a bachelorette gathering, or even a rehearsal dinner. They are highly skilled at creating unique and memorable events, but unlike planners and coordinators, typically only deal with the aesthetic aspects of your wedding. 

7 Tips Before Hiring Your Chicago Wedding Planner

Not sure about how to determine the best fit for your wedding planning assistance? We’ve put together 7 not-to-miss tips for hiring your Chicago wedding planner. Read on to discover how you can find your dream Chicagoland wedding planners.

From Katie & Patrick's wedding at @adlerplanet - photo by @edandaileenphotography

Have an Idea of Your Wedding Vision and Budget

Having a sense of the type of wedding you’re looking for - your vision for the wedding - will help you understand the type of wedding planning assistance you need and would most benefit from. Are you seeking assistance with planning a traditional Indian wedding planner in Chicago ceremony and reception? You may be seeking a different planner than if you are pursuing an intimate elopement or a micro wedding package in Illinois

Along these lines, it may be helpful to know some of the aspects of your event that are most important to you. Are you going for a formal ballroom affair that honors your family with ornate decorations and a seated multi-course dinner? Or are you aiming for a more modern/industrial event at a brewery or loft with views of Lake Michigan with just close friends and a few family members? 

Additionally, having a rough idea of your wedding budget is helpful to be able to provide from the get-go when hiring your full or day of wedding coordinator in Chicago. Prices vary widely for wedding planning companies in Chicago, and your budget may partly determine whether a full or partial coordinator is your best fit. 

Know Their Strengths

Once you have a basic understanding of your wedding vision and budget, consider the kind of skills that a good planner might bring for your event. Depending on how elaborate your plans are, you may wish for someone with extensive vendor networks who can call upon designers and industry leaders for inspiration, or you might realize that you mainly need help with the logistics of how to make sure Aunt Sally doesn’t sit next to Grandpa Vern at the reception and that someone outside the family coordinates the family pictures so your divorced parents don’t get into a row in public. 

Just like all industries, wedding planners in Chicago come in many varieties, and it’s important to know the desired strengths that would create a standout planner for you. Some planners place a heavy emphasis on cutting-edge designs, and others are naturally more in tune with guiding you and your partner toward a loving and lasting marriage through offering add-on counseling. Consider the type of guidance and support you anticipate needing through your wedding preparation process. 

Prepare your list of questions to ask your Chicago Wedding Planner

We think the most important thing to consider is how the wedding planner will work with you to make your dreams for the day come to life. Being sure that the fit between you, your partner, and the planner is comfortable and strong is a must. 

Do your personalities mesh? Does the Chicago wedding planner have a good understanding of what is important to you? Do you trust the person to follow through on what they say? Are they experienced and well-regarded in the industry? How do they cope under stress, and can you trust them to handle any issues that may arise? 

There are many other resources out there to help you know what questions to ask potential wedding planners. Some of our favorites are: 

Get to know your Chicago wedding planner’s network and how it can help you

Often underused resources for finding highly-regarded Chicago wedding planners are professional associations for wedding-industry professionals. Like other professional associations, these networks provide continued education opportunities, certifications, training, conferences, and more for planners who take their roles and their clients seriously. Planners who are proud to belong to professional associations likely offer quality experiences for their clients and their vendor networks alike. 

Another route to determine the caliber of a wedding planner’s work is to inquire if they have worked with decorators and designers who have done weddings similar to your vision in the past. They may be able to provide access to photographs from the event, or put you in touch with the clients or other vendors who may be able to offer beneficial feedback. 

Look at past reviews and ask for a phone call with a few past brides

From Sarah & Andrew's wedding at @thegroveredfieldestate - photo by @claudiajophotography

Keep in mind that you are hiring the planner to assist you through the process of planning one of the most meaningful days of your life. It may be helpful to request feedback from a bride who has worked with the planner in the past. You can do this by reading reviews, speaking with vendors, and even messaging or calling a few past brides. 

Does the event planner in Chicago work well with their network? Were they trustworthy and helpful when listening and providing feedback? Would you work with them again in the future for an event?  

Wedding Planning Specialties and Experiences

If you’ve already considered the vision of your event as we suggested in our first tip, you’ve likely already determined if you need a planner who is skilled in a particular area. Some additional aspects to think about are whether they have specific experiences or perspectives that are in line with your desires for the day. 

Some things to consider - have they planned or attended cross-cultural weddings? Are they receptive to your heritage and any desires you have for traditions that may be outside the norm? Will they put in the effort to learn about what is important to you? 

Additionally, if you plan to travel to Chicago for your event, are they experienced in planning destination weddings? Chicago style weddings range from glitz and glam to streamlined and chic. Whether it’s assisting with travel plans for yourself and/or guests, offering feedback for out-of-towners regarding lodging for a more extended stay, or guiding visitors with topics like clothing for an outdoor ceremony in August, experience with destination weddings can be extremely valuable in a Chicago wedding planner

How far in advance do you need to hire a Wedding Planner in Chicago?

From Stephanie & Brian's wedding at @michiganshoresclub - photo by @abbotslane

We recommend reaching out to potential Chicago wedding planner services providers and consultants soon after determining that you are interested in those services. The best wedding planners in Chicago frequently book up a year or more in advance of popular wedding dates, so getting the hiring process started sooner than later is in your benefit. 

Do you already know if you will be seeking a full planner, partial planner, or the help of a wedding planner assistant in Chicago? Ideally, talk to a Chicago wedding planner to get an idea of the type of wedding planning service you need, as this depends heavily on your wedding and the level and amount of service you will need. 


From Katrina & Henry's wedding at @hyattregencyschaumburg - photo by @mishamedia

We’ve covered a lot here - what Chicago wedding planners, coordinators, and designers do, disasters that can be avoided with the right kind of support, and how to hire a planner. And while it might feel a bit overwhelming, we believe these tips and processes to contract a planner are not nearly as stressful as doing the work yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a destination wedding or vow renewal in Chicago, an elopement, or an intricate ballroom affair - doing the work of a party planner in Chicago can be overwhelming! 

If you’re among the many couples that feel discouraged at the thought of everything that planning your wedding entails, you may want to do yourself a favor and consider hiring a professional wedding planner or wedding consultant in Chicago

Having assistance with the process keeps the process moving forward on an appropriate timeline, can help keep your budget in check, and limits stress so you can focus on enjoying yourselves when you say “I do.”

If you are engaged and would like some direction or recommendation, please reach out to us on our contact page!
Our consultations are complimentary so there’s nothing to lose. 

Additional Reading:

5 Types of Weddings in Chicago You Need To Know About >>

5 Tips by Top Chicago Wedding Planners and Vendors >>

How to Hire a Wedding Planner in Chicago >>

Wedding Planner Chicago >>