Should you hire a party planner?

Oct 11, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Whether you're celebrating an anniversary, birthday, wedding or family reunion, you'll enjoy the party more and stress less if you hire a professional planner to manage the gory details.

Event Planner and Woman meeting outdoors

A smart event planner will work within your budget and use established relationships with vendors that might even save you money. Employing an event planner will cost you but, if you're planning an elaborate affair, it will be worth it.

choosing an event planner

Check the Internet or phone book for a professional in your area and arrange a preliminary meeting to discuss your budget. Ask about base rates and minimum number of guests. Most party planners organize events on a per-person basis, with additional fees for services like entertainment, activity coordinators and service staff.  Hint: You don't want to pay by the hour. If you decide not to hire a professional, keep in mind that online tools such as offer comprehensive party planning and budgeting tools -- free!

Definitely consider hiring a pro if:

  • Your event will be outdoors. A good event planner can find a tent and set it up. She's prepared for anything and can juggle a change of plans while you inform guests. In fact, as you interview event planners, find out how they have handled last-minute weather-related changes in the past.
  • Creativity is not your forte. If your idea of imaginative decor is setting out colored napkins, a party planner can come up with ideas for any occasion, plus a theme that will tie all the elements of the party together.
  • Your organizational skills are lacking. Planning a party is not for everyone. If you constantly hunt for your glasses and car keys, do not even think about planning a party.
  • You want to enjoy your party. Why spend the party cooking, bartending or decorating when you can mingle and make your guests feel special? Event planners keep everything running smoothly, handling everything from making sure the DJ has enough CDs to making sure the bartender has ice. All you have to do is have fun!
  • Your event is complicated. Hot dogs and burgers on the patio are one thing, but if you're serving a three-course meal with a full bar for 20, you need help. The more ambitious your event, the more likely you will need a professional to plan budgets, coordinate the menu, manage guest lists, arrange decorations and tend to other time-consuming minutiae. For a wedding, a planner can even handle airline and hotel bookings for out-of-town events or guests.

Ultimately, the decision to use a party planner's services is about convenience. While the cost is often higher than a do-it-yourself party, sharing the memories of these unforgettable events with your guests can make it all worthwhile.