8. “I can get you a huge break on a venue—not that you’ll ever see it.”

Some planners claim the discounts they can get you with vendors—the venue, caterer, florist, band—will make their services essentially pay for themselves. Be skeptical. “I’ve never done an event where the discounts were so high that the client didn’t need to pay additional money out of pocket,” says Lyons. Some vendors will indeed extend discounts, as much as 10 percent off the top. Escoto says she can get a hotel’s bridal suite comped for a night or a 10 percent discount from some vendors. “When you have a relationship with someone, you are going to give them the best possible price,” says Scott Hornak, CEO of Craig Scott Entertainment, which provides musicians and DJs for parties. But not all planners pass on these discounts to clients. Benson says it’s important to ask whether
your payment is the only income from your event. Otherwise, those discounts—which can really add up—will end up in your planner’s pocket.

9. “You’ll want to check my references.”

Event planning is a business with almost no barrier to entry, and in the current hiring climate, plenty are giving it a try, says Shane McMurry, founder of The Wedding Report. Inexperienced planners may not have many vendor contacts or understand how to keep costs in line with the budget. And they can get in the way at an event, says Hornak, since they may not have a feel for timing or adapt well if something goes wrong. So how do you know a planner has enough experience? For one, those who have worked for other planners before starting their own business are likely well trained. You can also look for membership in industry groups like the Association of Bridal Consultants, which has multiple levels of membership based on experience and ongoing training.

10. “If I work for the venue, it means I don’t work for you.”

These days, many venues and caterers offer in-house planning services. And it can often be a great deal. The planners at Crystal Plaza, for example, handle everything from décor to catering, theme coordination and music. “There’s no charge for it; we offer it as a service,” says venue manager Fogg. Lisa Hopkins, director of catering at the Houstonian hotel in Houston, has two full-time staff who help with event coordination, and DeAngelo says he has long offered planning services through his catering business. But look before you leap. Often planners provided by a venue aren’t just working for you; they may also be there to protect the venue and make sure you follow the rules. If you want to use the planning services of a venue or caterer, DeAngelo says, make sure you fully understand their role—and their loyalties—first.