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Is a Wedding Planner Worth It?

That all depends on what you hope to gain from the experience. Two women reßect on their decision to use a pro or go the DIY route.

When I got engaged four years ago, I knew two things would happen. One, I would have a fight with my mother, and two, I'd have a wedding planner. I was right on both counts. Two weeks after my betrothal, my mom and I had a huge argument over the tone of the event. I wanted it to be elegant but neither stuffy nor excessively grand - my husband, after all, is a down-to-earth guy from the Midwest. So ballrooms with oak-paneled walls and vaulted ceilings were definitely out. My mom, a tightly wound, Emily Post type, who's very used to getting her way, wanted the ballroom. My quiet, passive dad was stuck in the middle. "You know, this wedding reflects on your mother, too," he'd tell me. "It's also a party for her friends." As an only child, I was used to living up to the expectations of a demanding mother, but hey, this was my wedding.

We quickly realized that we needed a mediator - someone who would hear both sides and come up with a compromise. Enter the wedding planner. My mom heard about Diane through a friend of a friend. (For the record, Diane isn't her real name. But because she loathes publicity, and since I might want her to plan my not-yet-conceived child's bar or bat mitzvah, I can't reveal her true identity.) In her twenty-year career, Diane has organized parties for a host of prominent New Yorkers and A-list celebrities.

At our first meeting, though, I had to wonder. Every inch of her small office on the Upper East Side was covered with piles of books, papers, and boxes. As my mom and I sat down on her small couch, a box of invitations came cascading down my back. "So tell me," Diane said in a voice made gravelly after years of cigarette smoking, "what kind of party do you want?" At this point, having seen a number of nondescript or downright dungeony locations that would accommodate the 180 guests we'd planned to invite, my mom had become less attached to her original idea. Still, we both wanted a location that was uniquely New York. As soon as the words were out of our mouths, Diane's face lit up. "I have the perfect place." The minute I saw the Pegasus Room on the 64th floor of Rockefeller Center, I knew my reception had to be there. My mother took one look at the wraparound views of the city's skyline and forgot about the crystal chandeliers. Even my fiancé, who originally wanted a bare-bones loft, was impressed. "You could find those simple spaces in any city," he conceded.

From there, things just fell into place. Diane took care of all the details that can make wedding planning unadulterated drudgery. She spent hours on the phone negotiating with florists, bands, and photographers. Then, after narrowing the choices to one or two, she left it to my fiancé and me to make all the final decisions. That's not to say that my mother didn't weigh in on everything. But Diane had wisely decided to run her choices by my mom before presenting them to me; this arrangement suited me fine since instead of clashing with me about the details, my mother argued with Diane - a much tougher adversary.

Thanks to Diane and her ability to shield me from my mother's stress, I can honestly say that my wedding was happy and harmonious. I wasn't worried about a thing, and, just as important, neither was my mother. When the seven-piece band we'd chosen was inadvertently booked for another event on the same day, Diane not only remedied the situation, she also convinced the managers to throw in three more musicians for the same price. As prominent a role as Diane played in my wedding, I didn't notice her much at the actual event; dressed in a plain black silk top and pants, she blended right in. But she was omnipresent, producing, directing, making sure the timing of everything - from how quickly the bridesmaids walked down the aisle to when we cut the cake - was right. Just before my husband and I made our entrance into the dining room as Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Brightfield, no one was on the dance floor. So Diane frantically ran around to all the bridesmaids and demanded, "Girls, get out there! You don't want the bride and groom coming out to an empty dance floor!"

Even my new brothers-in-law got Diane's okay before going forward with their scheme to lip-synch to Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious" while wearing tight black dresses, high heels, and pink boas (a family tradition - don't ask). When the brothers made their entrance, we all looked over at my mother, expecting her to be horrified. It wasn't in the plan! This was a black-tie event! But she was smiling, clapping along with everyone else. That's when I knew for sure that Diane had been worth every penny.


From the Spring 2005 New York Wedding Guide


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