How Much Should You Charge As A Planner? by @HGivner

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at a wide range of industry conferences, on an equally wide range of topics. But without question the one topic that generates the most interest (fervor is really more like it), is pricing. Regardless of their experience level, independent wedding planners generally feel pretty confident in their planning skills; however, most have little confidence they are charging the right amount of money.

So, here are my top tips to keep in mind when coming up with your prices:

1. Figure out your price.

*Figure out how many hours it takes you to work on a given wedding. And the only way to do this, unfortunately, is to track your time. In the 20 years I spent running my event company, nobody who worked for me liked doing time sheets. They hated it. But that was the only way we knew how much time we spent on a given client. There are lots of free or inexpensive programs out there, or you can use Excel or Google Spreadsheets and have a line for every 15 minute interval. The key thing is to code every minute based on the client you’re working on.

*Figure out how many non-client hours it takes to run your business. In the same program you use to track client time, add a section for non-client time. This includes marketing, bookkeeping, working on your website, networking, ordering supplies, etc. Let’s assume it’s 1/3 of your time. One of the key mistakes people make is not allocating for time spent running their businesses.

*Calculate how many weddings you can do a year. First figure out how many hours you’re willing to work. Let’s be conservative here, and assume 2,000 hours (50 weeks a year, allowing for time off, holidays, etc. x 40 hours a week). Now subtract the non-client total above; so 2,000 less 1/3 is 1,333 hours. Now divide that number by the amount of time it takes you to plan a wedding. Let’s say it’s 100 hours. So 1,333 / 100 hours = 13 weddings a year, give or take.

*Calculate your price. Figure out how much money you want/need to make in a year, which has to cover your business expenses. Let’s say that number is $100,000. When you divide it by 13, you get a price of $7,692, which is what you need to charge, or net, for every wedding you plan.

2. Account for seasonality. Perhaps the biggest challenge wedding planners face is that clients simply won’t spread their weddings out evenly during the year. (Those pesky brides and grooms!) So you’re likely faced with having to either add staff to take on multiple events at a time, which comes with its own challenges, or raise the price for a peak season event.

3. Be willing to say no. Going through all this to come up with a price doesn’t help if you can’t stick to your time estimate for working with the client. If you estimate 100 hours, and a client takes 130 hours, you can’t produce the number of weddings you need to hit your goals. Most planners compensate for this by simply working longer hours, which is not a scalable approach. Tell clients your fees are based on time estimates from your previous wedding experience, and when they ask for a fourth tasting, say it’s not in the time budget.

4. Be willing to say yes. Or, tell them you can accommodate their needs, but will have to charge them more money. And you’ll be surprised how often your clients will agree to this. The fact is some of them realize they want more support, and are willing to pay for it, if you’re up front with them on how you charge.

Sticking to all this is not easy. But it’s a lot better than finishing a busy year only to look at your numbers and say, “That’s all I made?”

HOWARD GIVNER is a widely recognized speaker, thought leader and business consultant in the field of special events and small business. He is the founder and executive director of the Event Leadership Institute, which provides best-in-class training and education for event professionals. Prior to that he was the founder of award-winning event company Paint The Town Red, Inc., which he sold to the Global Events Group in 2008. He has been profiled in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, ABC News, the USA Today and numerous trade media. Howard is also the creator of the award-winning mobile app Super Planner, and the Event Innovation Forum. He is also the instructor of The Launching Pad: Starting Your Own Event Company, which begins on January 20th. You can learn more at

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