Do I Need a Coordinator or a Planner?

It’s always tricky when you’re looking at a guesstimate wedding budget and trying to decide if you’re better off hiring a wedding planner or a day-of coordinator.  You’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, if I can handle all the planning myself, why do I need help on the big day?  I’m super organized.  I have lots of great friends who will assist.  I’m good on my own, no need to spend that extra money.”  And for a few lucky brides, this is completely true.  But most of us could use a professional who keeps the crowd pointing in the right direction.  The timing of the wedding day almost requires this now, as you usually no longer have the entire day to decorate and organize.  Your deliveries are happening while you should be taking pictures, along with your mom and maid of honor.  It can be frustrating.

So, what exactly does a wedding planner or day-of coordinator do?  The first point is to distinguish between the two.  A coordinator steps into your wedding later in the game than a planner.  Depending on the package, your coordinator may be present for the rehearsal and the wedding day only, or they might be involved for a longer lead-time, such as two weeks out, a month or more.  A wedding coordinator’s role is to make sure that the wedding day runs smoothly, using the information and the plan that you have supplied.  This involves everything from lining up your bridal party for the ceremony, ensuring there is a lit votive behind the unity candle, coordinating arrivals and departures at the reception site, to breaking down the décor at your venue after you leave.  The level of service will vary based on the coordinator in question.

A wedding planner does quite a bit more.  Because she is involved in the planning process from the beginning, your planner will have a much more detailed understanding of the wedding day.  This means that when faced with a hitch on your wedding day, she is able to really make the decision that will move the day forward while staying true to what you want.  Another great thing about wedding planners is that they have wonderful networks and resources, so that they can help you find exactly what you need to implement your vision.  If your wedding planner works with you on hiring vendors, she is able to create a team of professionals interested in your wedding day running smoothly.  Having everyone on the same page throughout the planning process also gives your vendors the insight to understand what you want and make it happen, even if something goes awry.

Wedding planners also can be very helpful on two of the biggest wedding headaches: budgeting and figuring out the actual plan for the wedding day.  Because planners work with a variety of brides, they are able to develop an understanding of cost in your market.  So, once he or she has a handle on your vision, they can help you figure out how much you need to spend to realize it.  Conversely, if your overall budget is fixed, a good planner can help you figure out what can be cut or redistributed so as not to detract from the overall look and feel of your wedding.  The wedding day plan is an exercise in logistics, details, and communication.  On the wedding day, a planner may be working with as many as 20 different vendors to pull everything together.  However, because they have been involved in your planning process, they can begin creating the agenda for the day early on, fleshing out the timeline and details as new facts and ideas come to light.  For a multi-site wedding day, the timeline may run two, five, or even 10 pages in length!  The timeline might include things like:

  • Hair and makeup appointments, with estimated completion times, number of stylists, and rotating seating to ensure everyone is finished on time
  • The order of the ceremony – processional and recessional names and song titles, pieces of the ceremony, reminders to ensure everything is prepared for all of the special traditions included, details about working with the church or venue coordinator, and seating assignments for key guests
  • Transportation arrivals and departures, with contact information for both the company and the drivers, in case something goes wrong
  • The names and pronunciation of names for everyone being introduced into the reception
  • Times for key events – not just the first dance and cake cutting, but when each course will be served or the buffet will be open, a schedule for which vendors will eat when, breaks for vendors if necessary, and other back-of-the-house considerations
  • Event strike details, like who will take home what, a list of vendor decor property, vendor strike requirements, and the venue’s timing considerations and regulations

Maybe your event isn’t particularly complex.  There are still a lot of details to remember!  Hiring a planner or a coordinator allows you to focus instead on enjoying your wedding day and beginning your marriage together.

We’ve gathered up some links from other sources on planning and/or coordinating for your browsing pleasure.

Check out our package for coordination here, and our planning packages here and here.  As always, we love questions, so feel free to leave one in the comments or contact us for more information!


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  1. […] think couples often don’t really understand what a planner does or how having one would benefit […]