Why do you charge a percentage of the budget when planning a wedding is the same thing regardless of what I spend?

In all honesty none of my clients have ever asked me that, but I’ve seen this question countless times in Facebook groups for couples looking for advice for their wedding.

And I get it. It is confusing. There are planners who charge a percentage of budget, planners who charge a fixed fee, and those that charge on an hourly basis. I sometimes try to put myself into couples’ shoes and I realise that picking a planner when there is so little consistency in the way we charge can’t be easy.

So if you’ve been wondering why some of us charge a percentage of the budget, this post will hopefully clarify.

Percentage Vs Flat Fee

If I were to charge my clients a flat fee, I would have to estimate the number of hours I work on a wedding and then multiply by 1.5 to ensure I am covered for contingency, i.e. the times a couple changes their mind about something (like needing revisions to a concept design that had already been agreed), for suppliers letting us down and therefore requiring us to spend more time searching alternatives or chasing them countless times, or for a venue search not going smoothly, maybe because my couple’s requirements turned out to be a lot stricter than initially discussed…

I am a seasoned international planner so I’m not a new planner who, understandably, might need to put more hours into planning a wedding… So that buffer isn’t to cover my time due to inexperience.

The buffer would be necessary because wedding planning is coordinating a million moving parts –it isn’t a straight trajectory… Yet, with my dedication, attention to detail and experience, I can still easily spend 300+ hours planning a destination wedding.

Percentage Vs Hourly Rate

Yes you read that right. They used to say that planning a wedding takes around 150. I don’t believe that’s true for international weddings that in 9 out of 10 cases require multiple planning trips abroad, and that are based on welcome dinner, wedding day and farewell brunch.

So keep that figure in mind: 300 hours.

Now, an hourly rate for a fully trained, professional wedding consultant who runs a business, not a hobby, and therefore has considerable business expenses, and pays taxes, can’t possibly be minimum wage or £/€/$20 per hour.

If that’s what some planners charge, either:

??‍♀️ they live in a country where they pay very little taxes and the cost of living is very low (if anyone knows of one, please let me know coz I’m moving! ? );

??‍♀️ they’re barely covering the costs of running a business (and if that’s the case, that’s a worry);

??‍♀️ they favour quantity over quality;

??‍♀️ they earn commissions from suppliers unbeknown to you (their prerogative to do so, but just check that commission isn’t coming out of your pockets without you realising it… and bear in mind that most planners wouldn’t shout about it from the rooftops) and so they can’t offer you a bespoke service.

With that in mind, even if I were to charge a lower hourly rate for the 300 hours I might be working on a wedding, my fee would still end up being more than what clients with average budget pay me by charging 12-15% of their budget.

Having spoken to clients who told me that other professional planners quoted them a fixed fee, I know that my percentage-based fee of their budget generally turns out to be considerably lower [the one time it’s gone above has been when a couple increase their budget throughout the planning].

“So why should your fee be higher just because I’m spending more?”

What you spend does have a bearing on the amount of time we spend planning your wedding.

When a couple decides to go for top of the range suppliers, it means they expect a caliber of service superior to the norm.

When the caliber is much higher, your expectations increase and those expectations are always projected onto us planners, often requiring a much more hands on approach, more one-to-one calls, extra trips abroad, more staff to support with the coordination of their wedding day, more time on location to help with ad hoc services that we generally don’t need to carry out with the average wedding, and so on…

I hope this clarify why a % of budget is a fair way to charge.

If after having read this, you still feel that working with a planner that charges a percentage of the budget doesn’t work for you, then working with a planner that charges a flat fee instead is acceptable.

But please ensure you are clear on what that flat rate does and doesn’t include, ensure they’re fully insured, they provide legally-sound business contracts and if they operate on a commission structure with their suppliers, that you’re not actually paying for that commission yourself because the supplier is passing that cost on to you.

Transparency is one of the most important aspects of a couple-planner relationship. So whatever approach you feel works best for you, ensure it revolves around transparency and clarity.

If you have any questions, hit my contact form, drop me a message and I’d be delighted to assist.


CREDITS: featured and bottom images by Lifestories Wedding