I’m constantly being asked what the difference is between a designer and a planner and whether or not you really need a planner. So I turned to Nick Yarmac, our very own in-house Event Manager, for an impromptu chat, which you’ll find below, on the ins and outs of event planning. Nick was named this year’s BizBash.com Social Event Planner of the Year, is an expert in all things regarding logistics and protocol, and has some pretty great stuff to say about this crazy business of ours.

db: I always say the difference between a designer and a planner is that the former is concerned with the visceral – what guests see, feel, touch and smell – while the latter is always aware of logistics – How Aunt Ruth is getting to the event, where she’s sitting, whether or not she’s having a good time, and how she gets home. Would you say that’s about right?

NY: Hmm. While I totally agree that it is a planner’s job to make sure Aunt Ruth gets to her seat on time (and gets her gluten-free meal), we also need to consider each guests’ sensory experience to ensure that the designer’s vision fits with the requirements of the venue, band, photographer, make-up artist, cake baker, caterer, videographer, valet manager, and stationer AND the client’s expectations of the day. The planner is essentially the “editor” who ensures that everyone’s contribution is cohesive to the big picture – and to the “story” that we’re telling with the event.

db: True, true. You are very detail oriented within the scope of an event’s “bigger picture”. I think one of the most important jobs a planner can take on is advocating for the client when it comes to the budgetary bottom line. How hard of a job is that?

NY: Working within a client’s budget and helping them decide which investments will bring them the most joy is one of the more satisfying and challenging roles I play. Having planned (and paid for) my own wedding this past summer, I understand the financial investment of an event – which, most often, is significant. A planner’s role is to guide clients toward a medium between creative decisions that they can feel good about, while maintaining the bottom line they’ve set from the beginning, know what I mean?

db:  I do know – and agree. You quite often have to step in and help balance everyone’s expectations.  People come in here with a dream and it’s our job to realize that. I dream up and produce the fantasy, but if they can’t comfortably realize the fantasy financially, you have to step in and bring them back to reality (or bring ME back to the reality of the bottom line).

NY: Well. Yes and No.  As the voice of the budget, I sometimes need to point out that for the cost of that one fantasy piece, several smaller elements can be implemented.  Take for instance a grand floral display in a walkway between two rooms at a venue – if we are looking for ways to re-evaluate our décor budget I will weigh its cost against its impact in the room (will guests know it was put there by our hosts or is it always there?), the amount of time it will be in view of the guests (in this case, they’ll just be walking by it),   and how it fits into the overall design vision (it will certainly be gorgeous, but does it tie the two rooms together?).  I often think to myself “Who will miss this if it’s not there?” – if it’s just going to be me and you, maybe we think about using those funds for pieces that will be better used – higher quality napkins, the pillar candle holders that will light up everyone’s face around the dining table, or the ice sculpture that the groom keeps talking about.  It’s all about choices

I’m not unreasonable though – you’ve stomped your foot down on more than one occasion and I defended your vision (15’ golden palm trees, remember?) and we were able to reallocate funds from elsewhere to keep that design piece, but I’m the one who ultimately has to answer to the client every time I update the budget.

db:  Heh, heh – I guess this is where I point out that Forbes Magazine just named Event Planner as the #6 most stressful job in the world, behind the likes of Military Soldier, Police and Firemen! So after that statement, I’ll ask THE question: “If I have a designer, do I NEED a planner?”

NY:   We are very lucky to have clients who are able to host amazing events. It boggles my mind that someone would go through the stress of planning their own party when, for a relatively small piece of the overall investment they could have someone step in and take all the stress, details and minutia off their plate – someone who has the expertise to not only protect the sizable investment they made in that single event but also let them enjoy their event. Think about it: sure, you can change the oil in your car, but do you really want to? No. There are people out there who can do it better, quicker and cleaner that you can. Events are wonderful and amazing and among some of the best days of your life, but why not enjoy the intense journey of getting to your big day? A planner can help you do that.

db:  I know that producing an event with a planner (whether you or any of the wonderful other professional planners we work with) always eases my mind and adds a layer of comfort to the whole process. Not to say that clients who choose to plan their events aren’t successful – they certainly can be for the seasoned event host. It’s just that the professionals do this every week and weekend, so in this case, certainly, experience counts and pays off in the long run.

NY: Exactly. Weddings (or most other events) are highly emotional for every host. Why would you want the added stress of wondering whether the valet has arrived while you’re trying to get your makeup done? Taking on all those responsibilities for my clients is what I do. It is what I know how to do. So at the end of the big day, when I stand back and watch a client totally let down and dance with their friends and family, I’m recharged to do it all over again for the next time.

db: Right? It makes it all worth it. Thanks, Nick!

The Secret Ingredient: Experience counts.  Let the professionals do their job.

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