how do we wedding.
February 2, 2016 7:25 AM   Subscribe

We just got engaged. We want a simple, simple, simple NYC wedding (but not a city hall/bar party thing). We do not want to plan it ourselves: we do not know how and do not have interest or talent at this sort of thing. We want a wedding planner. Advise.

We need a wedding planner! We need advice about how this works!

The crux of my question is this: When planning a simple, simple, simple wedding (which is simple less because of cost restrictions and more because we have a hard time with floof and pomp and circumstance), are there wedding planners who don't charge the full giant-huge-wedding-with-all-the-things rate? So far I've spoken to three, and they were all very nice, and they all gave me quotes within 500 dollars of each other, to do a full planning and event design. All the proposals included things that we explicitly do not want or need, but the fees are flat. They are all in the 8k range, which seems really high to me (but if I'm wrong, it's doable... it just seems high and I feel skeptical)

We're not interested in partial wedding planning or only day-of coordination. We need a person to do all of the planning and design for us because if we did it ourselves it would be 50 people wearing barrels in an empty room listening to a lone oboe.

Can anyone recommend a specific planner, or a type of planner to search for, for our needs? Our needs = doing pretty much everything for a smallish simple simple simple wedding that doesn't have that many bells and whistles.
posted by millipede to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You almost certainly don't need a wedding planner for what you want. For example my wife and I had a 72 person wedding at Blue Hill @ Stone Barns and the private dining people handled everything - including providing an approved list of vendors for services they didn't provide (Florist, Music). Other than the food our wedding was very simple.

So find the venue you want and see what assistance they can give. We decided to do the BHSB thing after my wife found the big wedding/wedding planner route something she didn't want to do.
posted by JPD at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just to nip the "you don't need a planner" thing in the bud: we do. We don't know how to pick a venue. We have no idea what we want. We absolutely need a planner. This is the thing that has been decided. So please move forward with that given.
posted by millipede at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

Working for clients who have no idea what their preferences are, but who actually do plan to have preferences is pretty much a professional nightmare. You may want to revisit your theory that your wedding will be simpler to plan than something more elaborate for someone who already knows what they would like.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2016 [29 favorites]

Do you have a friend who likes to host parties or do you know anyone who planned their own wedding? If you ask someone who knows you both who has experience hosting big parties, you could tell them your budget and they'd probably set it all up as a wedding gift to you. Since it's such a simple wedding, I wouldn't think that you'd need much wedding expertise per se, just event-hosting experience and an organized and efficient nature.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:42 AM on February 2, 2016

Try contacting event planners who are not explicitly listed as wedding coordinators. The difference between "wedding" and "event" is exactly the pomp and circumstance that you're trying to avoid.

Every expense will be inflated because it has the word "wedding" attached and I've seen this more in NYC than other towns. You shouldn't mislead anyone that it's not a wedding, of course, but seeking out coordinators who aren't wedding-exclusive might help you find resources that can more successfully execute your vision.
posted by juliplease at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you have any friends who are into organizing/figuring things out, you may be able to pay them to do the preliminary searching of venues for you. I recommend paying at the rate of 1 bottle of wine/1 sixpack/12-15$ an hour.

Otherwise, you're going to need to pay up. Weddings in NYC are a special class of nightmare. (I've helped friends plan 2 of them and both started "simple" and were... not by the end.)
posted by larthegreat at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My colleague's daughter in law plans weddings in NYC. She lives in LA now, but still does NYC weddings. No idea how much she costs, but she planned her own wedding and the photos were gorgeous.
posted by sulaine at 7:45 AM on February 2, 2016

To me, it sounds as if you are exactly the type of person who should pay a lot of money to a wedding planner. You say you want your wedding "simple, simple, simple" but you don't know how to execute that (or, really, exactly what that means) and you're too busy to spend the time to figure it out. This is precisely what a wedding planner is for. Since you don't plan to (or want to) spend a ton on other stuff with the ceremony/reception, spend the money on the wedding planner to get what you actually want/need.

By the way, even if you just want the "basic" stuff (good food, nice venue, good music), be prepared for things to be expensive because that's just the way weddings are - particularly in NYC.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2016 [10 favorites]

Note that there is an opportunity cost for the wedding planner, and that a simple wedding may not even take much less time to coordinate. Even if you only want a wedding in a dive bar with an iPod playlist, bottomless nachos, decorations from Party City, and fifty disposable cameras instead of a photographer, the planner still has to determine your preferences, arrange all the dates and contracts, source all the incidentals, etc. And "determining your preferences" is the part that's going to take the longest amount of time and effort, because the planner will already know and probably have relationships with tons of venues, caterers, photographers, etc. AND if your "simple preferences" are way out of line with typical weddings for the area, finding the right venue is going to take a lot more time and legwork for the planner because the ones they already work with all the time are already ruled out.
posted by Andrhia at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

First of all, 8K doesn't seem at all high to me. We paid someone to basically stage manage the day (so day-of coordination and some prep leading up to it), and it came to $1000. 8K seems perfectly reasonable for planning an Event. Because the thing is, even simple weddings are complicated. We planned everything ourselves, and it was a ton of work.

If you really don't want a full-on planner, maybe look for an all-inclusive venue. They probably have someone on staff to help plan your event.
posted by the_blizz at 8:02 AM on February 2, 2016

(You guys! Let me clarify! 8k is fine! This is not a budget issue! I'm just checking to see if it's sane, and if there were other terms I should be searching for, seeing that all the proposals are full of line items we don't want. I was wondering if there were planners who instead of charging a flat fee, charged based on line items or a percentage! That's all!)
posted by millipede at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

May I just ask a clarifying question - how much hand-holding are you looking to get?

what I mean is - I noticed that you said that you "don't know how to pick a venue". Are you looking for someone who will tell you how to make that choice ("hmm, it sounds like A kind of venue would work better for you rather than B kind, because here's why, and so here's a couple options, tell me which one you want"), or are you looking for someone to make all those choices for you ("okay, lemme get to know you guys for a couple hours, and then I'll come back in a week and give you my concept, and don't worry I will not include unity candles or doves or any of that other crap")?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would take a look at some of the posts and the vendor directories on A Practical Wedding. I can't remember the exact posts, but I'm almost 100% sure I've seen them do reviews of wedding planners who sound more like what you want -- where you can ala carte different options if there are aspects of the wedding planning you do/don't want, and also planners who may be more into a simple vision rather than everything being really fancy/formal. Perusing some of the posts there also might help you narrow down your vision a bit just so you have some ideas about what you want your simple wedding to look like when you consult with a planner -- they do overviews of a wide variety of weddings that don't fit your typical "wedding magazine" style, and you could get a sense of what might appeal to you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Look, I'm biased. I liked planning my wedding. I also did it from a different city and it wasn't an ordeal. Some people make it sound like a part-time job. That really wasn't my experience. So I apologize if this isn't helpful but I don't think you need a wedding planner. It sounds like you need help picking a venue. Which I get - picking a venue was one of the harder parts of wedding planning. But it's not that hard and once it's done, it's done. It's like picking a venue for any other kind of party or event. Have you attempted to draw a guest list yet? Thought about a time frame? Both of those things will narrow down your potential venues significantly. When I was planning my wedding, I wanted something Labor Day weekend for about 120 people - that eliminated several venues right off the bat.

You said that you don't know what you want but I think you have a better idea than you realize. You said yourself that the planners have brought up things that you explicitly do not want or need. I'm sure that you've been to weddings that have had elements that you have liked and disliked. You clearly have an idea of what you don't want, which is not terribly far from knowing what you want. What are your favorite places to go in your area? Can you potentially get hitched there?

That said, I think you can look for an event planner or party planner instead of a wedding planner. You can also try calling some venues that do package deals - you'll probably have to strike some things out that don't appeal to you but then you're dealing with the venue directly and not a middleman. You can also call caterers. My caterer helped arrange for our baker and a string quartet - he just knew people because that was his scene. I think if I had called him and said, dude, I like your food, I want to get hitched but I don't want to plan it, can I give you money and you can help make it happen, he would have been down with that.

Again, I apologize if this isn't helpful. It just seems like the main thing that you want a wedding planner to do is pick a venue for you and I don't think you should spend $500 on something that you can do yourself. I'm also cheap. Seriously, a wedding is like a fancy dinner party. It's as big of a deal as you make it. You can have 10 courses of small plates or you can have a pizza party. It doesn't have to be an ordeal. Anyone who disagrees doesn't have to come. Good luck and congratulations!
posted by kat518 at 8:19 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you can find someone for less than $8000, depending (even in New York), but it will definitely cost in the thousands of dollars. We paid about $800 for a pretty low-key day-of coordinator. Like, we handed her a binder and a box of candles and she ran interference the day of, and we only spoke to her twice before the wedding for a few minutes at a shot. If you're looking for someone to do soup to nuts, select vendors and run the whole show, with minimal input from you, I would say a few thousand dollars at least is about right.

I found my coordinator (who also provided full planning service) via a listing on WeddingWire, which seemed vaguely saner and less chichi than The Knot. For whatever that's worth.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:26 AM on February 2, 2016

May I just ask a clarifying question - how much hand-holding are you looking to get?

Sure. A lot. The main reason we want a planner is we are easily overcome with decision fatigue. I'm the kind of person who gets weary with a big menu at a restaurant. I want to be shown a few options for things and choose from them. I hate phone calls; I want to not make phone calls to vendors. Basically, I feel a lot of the 'emotional labor' of wedding planning gets defaulted to the woman, and as the woman, I want to be a groom too. I do not enjoy planning parties. I want to have a nice party (and if I knew what a nice party entailed, I wouldn't need a wedding planner--but no, I actually haven't been to very many weddings and my opinions of the ones I've been to were "oh i guess that's nice" but I truly don't know what's nice about them--really, would anyone be asking a man these questions?) but I don't need things like shuttle buses from hotels. I want a planner to choose things, design things, and organize them--I asked the question because the proposals I've gotten have had more things on them that require choosing than I need. And if that's the way it is, that's ok. I have a budget that can take this. I merely wanted to know. This is new to me.
posted by millipede at 8:26 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

We need a person to do all of the planning and design for us

$8K is extremely reasonable and sane in NYC for what you want, yes. Extremely sane.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

(And I would add that I totally understand, I HAAAAAATED wedding planning even though I just discovered that our coordinator described our wedding as "one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weddings I’ve had the privilege of coordinating." It was super organized and methodical and I would never, ever, ever want to throw a party for 50 people again unless I was being paid to do it.)
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2016

I would also recommend looking at corporate event planners and personal assistants, rather than starting with "wedding planners". This is how we out-sourced all the stuff which needed outsourcing for our wedding reception (which was a catered cocktail party at a gorgeous venue--no ceremony, no speeches, no pomp). We'd contact the person with as much detail as possible (150 guests, 3.5 hours, weekend in November, no live music, catering, specialty bartenders, central city location) and then at the end mention that it was to celebrate a marriage but would have no ceremony and no wedding party. This put us on the same page, immediately and helped us make decisions quickly.

Caveat, we did not use an event planner--because we knew which venue we wanted and everything flows from there--but it was very handy approach to avoid a lot of the pomp and princess which would have turned us both off. Getting a planner who sees this as an event other than wedding will make sure you get a photographer who does not expect to spend two hours trotting you around landmarks and taking close-ups of your hands and shoes; will make sure you get a caterer who spends more time on the food than the fondant; will make sure you get a venue that facilitates a party, rather than a ceremony.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:29 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Simple weddings and complicated weddings still have most things in common, and you will have to think about and make decisions about them whichever one you do. Things like: how many people (because that will be a factor in driving the choice of venue; what kind of catering (passed hors d'oeuvres? buffet? full sit-down?); open or cash bar (or: open for soft drinks, cash for alcohol; open for wine/beer/soft drinks but cash for hard liquor? like that.); what time of day; how far apart will the ceremony and reception places be, if they are different places.

I'm certain in a place like NYC you can find a party/event planner who can take a lot of this weight off you, but you are still going to have to make a shitload of decisions, even if it's just by flipping a coin.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need A Practical Wedding Planner. Regardless of whether you wind up going with a planner or not, it's a great way to wrap your head around what exactly a wedding involves before you jump into the crazy that is planning one.
posted by Tamanna at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I totally feel you on outsourcing this but some of this will fall into your lap. I'd suggest that you and your fiance start with first discussing how many people you want and THEN make a list. It seems like often the number one wants and then the list of people doesn't work. Decisions like - are cousins invited? Are parents' close friends invited? Are single people allowed to bring a date? Make a world of difference in number of people. Also it is possible that your parents will have some notion of invitations... Maybe his parents have gone to a dozen niece and nephew weddings recently and feel that it will be impossible to not extend the same invitation to those people. Don't give your parents a say just yet, but if you can do an informal check in with them to see if they seem rock solid on a particular tier of people being invited.

Once you have a few numbers to play with, THEN you can take the next step and as others have suggested it may be easier to do an all inclusive venue. They basically have wedding planners on staff, more or less. I know selecting a venue is a lot of work but I'm certain you can do a lot of that from a computer. Also a quick shout to your friends is bound to bring up a list of possibilities. People love judging weddings it seems and multiple friends are likely to have some suggestions for you. But this seems far simpler than hiring an independent wedding planner.

Good luck!
posted by k8t at 8:48 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm you. I couldn't have cared less about planning the wedding. Did not want to be bothered. I also thought it was immoral the amount of money people were spending on weddings and wanted to keep expenses down. My mom is still giving me shit about buying our wedding cake at the supermarket. My response: it's fucking cake! So the honest question you need to ask yourself is: Do I care about cake? Because if you do, you want a planner and you want to spend the going rate.

Our UU Church was a goldmine for all of what I needed. Minister, Rabbi, Flowers, Photography, DJ, piano player for music in the church. All came from our congregation and they all did their services for $100 plus cost of materials. All I had to do was pick the restaurant for the reception and they all took care of it. Our Flower lady was a gem! She got the cake, decorated tables, and provided not only flowers but the Chuppa. OMG. So if you're affiliated with a house of worship, that's a place to check.

Las Vegas is the best place for ready-made weddings. The big hotels each have a chapel and a wedding person who will Field Marshall the whole shebang for you, you tell them how many people, what your budget is and all you have to do is show up.

Most large NYC hotels/venues have someone on staff who can arrange everything. Once you fix the venue, there's someone there who will arrange the rest.

Yes, this is one of those things where all you have to do is throw money at it, and it will resolve itself, but do you want to spend tens of thousands on this? If so, then $8,000 seems reasonable, but remember, you'll easily pay five times that for the rest of it, maybe even ten times. Wedding planners get kickbacks from the vendors. That's the deal. They're not looking for bargains for you.

Simple isn't always cheaper. Simple is a style. Is there no one among your friends who would want to sort this out for you? I'd do it happily for a friend of mine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've done a bunch of work with a number of wedding/event planners/designers in NYC. There is a base amount of work that any 40ish+ person event entails, that doesn't really increase substantially when you increase the guest count. Event designers already have their vendors set up (linens, tables, lighting, etc.), so it's just a matter of ordering the right number of things. The hard work is managing the client -- what do they want, what do they think they don't want but actually need, can they afford what they want, etc. I don't think you'll get much cheaper on the planner's price by cutting out certain services - also there are some things they include because they have to (e.g., if you're not staying in the city, shuttle buses may be required for liability reasons; some venues in NYC require union labor). Be careful with cutting out services. For example, people often want to rent their own tables so they don't have to pay the designer's markup fee (i.e., staff to set up and take them down). This means that the designer's staff will. not. touch. the. tables., and you'd have to stay after the wedding to break everything down. And, yes, echoing the sentiment that people who don't know what they want are much harder to work for than those who have a clear idea. The planner is not going to just make choices for you; that's not how it works - they can help narrow it down based on your budget and preferences, but you're going to have to be involved every step of the way (and this is if the planner is good; if you get a bad one, you're going to have to manage them much more closely and make sure they're actually doing their job).

I recommend you first sit down with your fiance and go through the following:
-wedding date (or time of year)
-rough guest list -- remember people's spouses/SOs, decide if you want kids there
-religious or nonreligious ceremony
-cuisine preference (or things you definitely don't want to eat); dietary restrictions?
-budget for the whole thing

These are the big picture preferences that you can't really outsource to someone else.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:12 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you really want no frills but nice and really don't want to make many decisions (and have a guest list of 40 or less), make a phone call to Hartness House.

The only decisions I had to make was the date (which we decided based on room availability, quite frankly), time of the ceremony (which was somewhat limited due to other ceremonies but we weren't choosy,) which JOP of the two they recommended (we went with the one who was already going to be there that day), and which photographer to use. They had some they could recommend, but I went with someone different that I found through another source because I liked his style better.

The room was elegant. We had no decorations, no music, no pomp and circumstance whatsoever. We had meals included with our stay, including a four course dinner the night of the wedding and breakfast in bed the day after.

Our wedding cost a total of $2,000 almost 10 years ago, excluding our rings and including the room our two friends stayed in that we paid for for them.

This may not be what you are looking for. It may not be the venue you want, but in all seriousness, they made everything really easy and with next to no decision making required.

I'm not convinced that a wedding planner will be helpful to you if you want no frills.
posted by zizzle at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

" I want a planner to choose things, design things, and organize them--I asked the question because the proposals I've gotten have had more things on them that require choosing than I need."

Yeah, this is pretty much a full-service wedding planner. In fact, it sounds like you may want MORE than most wedding-planning clients since you don't have a lot of specific direction to give the planner and you want the planner to do a lot of pre-curating of your options.

(Also, on venue-picking ... lo these many years ago my wedding planner knocked $1500 off my estimate because I already had a venue -- venue-picking is a PAIN IN THE ASS and very time-consuming.)

Another thing to consider -- if you don't have strong opinions and don't want to spend a lot of time making decisions about flowers and cakes and things (which you will still do with a wedding planner, just from a smaller universe of choices), do you have a family member, ideally nearby, who shares your taste and can take on some of those decisions? I did not give a single shit about napkin color or church flower arrangements or cake decorations or invitation paper, so I just had my mom (who has excellent taste) pick those sorts of things so I could worry about a much smaller universe of decisions. Unfortunately the wedding planner won't make those decisions FOR you.

"Wedding designer" might also be something to google, they tend to present more comprehensive wedding "visions" where you can pick like an overarching style/theme/idea and they make the specifics happen. That would cut down a lot of the decisions you have to make -- like you'd just decide "simple and elegant 1930s style" and they'd decide what that meant for flowers and table settings and stuff. (But I think they're more expensive than planners, or hired adjunct to planners.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2016

Hi, I was like you except that I had a mother who loved this stuff and a husband who for various reasons did not want her helping. What we did was basically Google Search for the city we wanted plus the phrase 'wedding package.' We emailed the first five hits and that was that.

A package comes with a base amount of stuff. Ours included the venue (including their own tables, linens and everything), the use of the officiant, the use of their partner photographer, who includes a photo package with the fee and the services of the hotel's event planner, all for about $1100. We paid on top of that only for food, alcohol, my hair (which the planner arranged for me) and the cost of the marriage license.

It was no more legwork than you'd do to find a planner. These are literally prix fixe packages. Might be an option for you?
posted by JoannaC at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

If 8k is fine then I would suggest that you pay it. You're unwilling to do it yourself and they have experience and knowledge, and will put a lot of time and effort into it.

I think that you are wrong that a simple wedding should be easier or cheaper. If anything, a "simple" wedding is harder than booking a generic hotel ballroom and doing a standard dinner-dancing-champagne event for 300. I could plan that, frankly, because there's a "fancy wedding" machine that runs like clockwork in a big city like New York.

You, on the other hand, have certain specific aesthetic preferences. When you say "simple" what you mean is "the simple aesthetic that I am thinking of." Not only does that require a lot of customization, to keep the wedding within your personal preferences about what is "simple" and what is "floofy," it means more work all around. "Simple" venues are typically smaller and more quirky. They can be harder to book, they can have idiosyncratic rules, etc. etc. "Simple" food might mean arguing with the caterer about how you're only having 2 courses instead of their typical 3. A "simple" photographer means getting a photographer who will actually get a decent photo of everyone in the wedding party while keeping everything "natural" and not doing the wrangle-people-for-pictures thing.

It all adds up. If you have the 8k, pay it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also I should note that everything I wrote above is assuming you're having the wedding in NYC proper, like, one of the 5 boroughs. Wedding planning in NYC for a "simple" wedding is insanely difficult because everyone wants a simple, but classy, but unique wedding. So the competition for locations and vendors is fierce.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:40 AM on February 2, 2016

nthing that 8k for a planner in NYC is fine - when I got quotes for my wedding it was more in the ballpark of 10k, so I decided to do it myself. If you guys don't want to handle any major decision stuff, having a planner handle it all for you will take a lot of stress off your plate. Me, I love a spreadsheet so I ended up having a good time doing it myself.

That said, the easiest thing is to pick a cool hotel near your apartment that has event space and let their event planner people handle everything. You basically sit down with them and they have a checklist and you go "nope, don't want that" or "yep, chocolate cake is the best" and then it's done. It's basically like having a wedding planner except you pick the venue and the planning fee is baked into the wedding cost. (Also: congrats!)
posted by bedhead at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2016

I think that price sounds reasonable. Make sure the planners knows how much hand-holding you want at the outset, and that there won't be any additional charges for what you need. Read reviews and ask for references.

Regarding "But I didn't need a planner!" I'll just link me.
posted by zennie at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Picking the venue will probably solve the rest of your dilemmas. I'm planning my wedding right now, and also get intense decision fatigue and have the bonus of having a mother that gives way more of a hoot about this whole business than I do. (Unfortunately/Fortunately, she's 6 hours away, otherwise I'd make her do it.)

So we looked at a few venues, and picked the pretty state park that required us to use their caterer, officiant, reception hall, tables, chairs, day of coordinator, etc. etc. All I have to do is look show up and look happy.

So if you can manage to have someone (friend, mother, sibling, paid wedding or event planner, etc.) vet a few venues for you--look for hotels, state parks/museums, etc. that will either have suggested vendors that they either prefer you use or require you use.

Also, the Mr. cares way more about this whole wedding business than I do, so I made him do all the phone calls and actually TALK to the managers. If a venue didn't want to deal with him because he's just the groom, then it was quickly crossed off the list.

Also Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding are my go-tos for when I need to actually DECIDE something that my venue, planner, beau, etc. can't choose for me and I don't want to get too overwhelmed or "convinced" I need more than I'm really after.
posted by PearlRose at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2016

FWIW I refused to take on all of the emotional labor associated with wedding planning. There's some stuff you can't hand off, mostly related to your idiosyncratic family stuff, but your future husband probably have some of that too. I definitely asked him what he liked about weddings we had been to. I figured that this thing was going to cost us money and it was his wedding too so he should be involved. I also asked him what he liked about large parties we had been to. The party that was a model for our wedding wasn't a wedding but an anniversary party my aunt and uncle had. It was a nice picnic with a band and speeches - perfect! We even had the same band play our wedding.

In general, when we were dealing with something I cared about, I'd try to work on it with my husband and if I really didn't care, I just asked him to deal with it. For example, I didn't care what hotel people coming from out of town stayed at so I asked my husband to deal with that. That was actually a thing I liked about wedding planning - it forced me to prioritize. I liked shopping for dresses so I spent time on that. I didn't care about who actually performed our wedding so I just asked my husband to find someone.

It sounds like in some ways, you're trying to thread the needle between two competing things: you don't want to have to make decisions but when people presented you with plans where you didn't have to make decisions, you didn't like them. That's understandable but that's also why this thing is hard and expensive.

I think bedhead has a great idea with hotels. I think most of my cousins got married at hotels. They had the ceremony and reception in one place plus guests didn't have to travel. Maybe that's the answer.
posted by kat518 at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look into event spaces that have their own planners. My friend had a very nice 100ish-people wedding (ceremony and reception) at India House downtown, and their in-house planner pretty much took care of everything. I am unsure of what they paid, but my friend said it was incredibly reasonable and took a load off of her mind (because she, too, had no interest in planning).
posted by greta simone at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2016

I hate to tell you but you've got a lot of deciding ahead of you, even if you use a planner or get a package. And as has been pointed out, "simple" is a customization. Every item you strike off a standard list is an item somebody has to plan around, which goes against your goal of making as few decisions as possible even if you're abstracting around the problem by hiring somebody to do that for you.

Also: the masters of "package" weddings are destinations. If you want the least involvement possible in the planning, go to Vegas or pick an island, and then all you have to do is show up. I'm sure if you look you can find packages in New York, but you will still have to know how many people you're inviting (and how many of those you expect to attend) in order to know whether the boutique hotel with room for 40 will do or if you need the place with the 300 person ballroom. (Also: getting down to 40 guests for a local wedding is hard. We gave up on one venue we loved because we just couldn't do it. We couldn't even get down to the 80 that would have maxed out another place we liked. We invited about 120, had 108 yes RSVPs, and 106 showed up, FWIW). To that end, the benefit of a destination wedding is that it will cull your guest list for you. Maybe only your parents and best friends will be willing to travel to Barbados on your behalf!

[cynical]Note that destination weddings can come off as super selfish, and they kind of are, but less for the obvious expense ("what, you expect me to travel all that way AND buy you a gift?") and more for the secret "I'm doing this so I don't have to choose" aspect.[/cynical]

So, as somebody who has planned a wedding: start with a guest list, which will give you an idea of how big a venue you need, look for packages that will work with that size guest list, and only seek out an independent planner if you can't find a package.
posted by fedward at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2016

I'd like to echo the comments above that it's far, far easier to plan and execute a "standard fancy wedding" in a hotel (and often cheaper!) than a "sweet & simple wedding." This is because the standard fancy wedding scales, so there's typically someone at the Standard Fancy Wedding venue of your choice whose entire job it is to source your various other vendors and help you make decisions. If you want something that "feels" simple and matches your aesthetic tastes, and you want to minimize your decisions, your will be paying up the wazoo to your wedding planner and likely still making more choices than you ever imagined. If you don't really care about having that simple feeling, just book your wedding at a hotel, choose the meal and the cake from the hotel's small list of options, and ask the in-house wedding coordinator to select literally all of your other vendors based on their experience.
posted by samthemander at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2016

ALSO - I totally feel you. As a lady planning my own wedding, I was dreading the process before we got engaged. Remarkably, it hasn't been as painful as I thought it would be. I think I had set my expectations of wedding planning so low that it's actually been kind of fun. A year ago, I was excited to that my soon-to-be-fiance wanted to ask me to marry him, but I cried in terror on my soon-to-be-bridesmaid's shoulder at the thought of planning this shitty expensive party. Eight months ago we got engaged, and then two months ago we chose our venue. Now that we're four months from our wedding and we've made about 60% of our planning decisions, I feel pretty damn excited.

SO: Yes, wedding planning is time-intensive. But no, it's not as god-awful as it sometimes seems like from the outside. I had thought it would feel like signing up for slave labor; instead, it turns out I'm just planning a party and that ultimately, I get to decide what I want to happen. Although parts have been work, parts of planning has even been fun!
posted by samthemander at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2016

You may also want to do a google search on "NYC package weddings."

We eloped with a Maui wedding package, and it was awesome. One fee got us an officiant, photographer, license, etc. There were plenty of packages available that would accommodate guests, and there have got to be great services like that in NYC.

Of course, you still have to select a package, but it doesn't seem that much more difficult than selecting a planner.
posted by Kriesa at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2016

Ohhh! My friend

She hosts a wedding fair called toasted but she does a lot of planning too. Email her!
posted by [tk] at 11:54 AM on February 2, 2016

So far, you've got three quotes, so you know 8k is about the going rate for the typical wedding these folks plan. That was a good step. But you say the proposals are full of line items you don't want. So it seems like another good step would be to indicate those items, and put it back in their courts, asking if what you eliminated brings down their price. If all three say no, then you're calibrated that ~8k is still the going rate for the parts you do want.

Sure, there might then be another step of seeing if there's a different category of planner with a different method of quoting. But I don't think there would be any harm in politely asking the question of the folks who already provided proposals. You're in NY, the haggling capital of the US, and I (originally a New Yorker) wouldn't even consider this true haggling.
posted by daisyace at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you clarify if it was $8K for just planning services, or for the whole wedding? Because I paid way less than that, but that was for a turnkey venue that didn't require decorating. If you're looking for just logistics planning, then you can do better price wise.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:55 AM on February 3, 2016

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