What is the difference between a wedding coordinator and a wedding planner?

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Even before you got engaged and started the wedding planning process, you might have heard the term “wedding planner” or “wedding coordinator” and thought they were pretty much the same person. While a full-service wedding planner that is with you throughout the majority of your wedding planning process will take on the role of a wedding coordinator on the day of your wedding, a wedding coordinator is generally considered a separate person for those brides doing the majority of planning themselves. Sound confusing?

One of the hottest trends in wedding planning right now is the use of a day-of wedding coordinator. A day of coordinator, also known as a wedding day coordinator, can assist wedding couples in so many beautiful ways on the actual day of their wedding. Hiring a day-of coordinator will help to alleviate a lot of the stress associated with the final days of planning as well as reduce the pressure often related to day-of logistics. A wedding couple should be able to enjoy their special day, not worry about their planned details and their execution on the day of the wedding!

Quite often, people confuse wedding planners with a day of coordinator duties. A day of coordinator is quite different from a wedding planner. Even though the day of coordination is not necessarily a new type of service, it’s important to share what day of wedding coordinators do, especially for those couples who are planning a wedding themselves.

Depending on where you are in the planning stage—and probably depending also on how many people you want to invite—you may have considered some type of wedding planning help. But do you know the difference between a day-of wedding coordinator and a wedding planner? Some couples who don’t know the difference end up hiring either one or the other without thinking it through and are then often disappointed on some level. So to help you to make the best decision, let’s talk about the specific differences between a wedding planner and a day-of wedding coordinator and how each one can—and can not—help you with your wedding.

Alright ladies, let’s talk about the differences between venue coordinators and wedding planners. As a wedding planner, one of my biggest pet peeves is when a venue sells their in-house coordinator as an actual wedding planner. I’ve learned that unless you’re in the wedding industry, the differences between the two aren’t commonly known.

About four years ago, I received a frantic call from a bride who desperately needed help with her wedding, which was 36 hours away. Yes…36 HOURS AWAY! When booking her venue, she said that the most significant selling point was that the place came with a coordinator. She was told that hiring an outside planner would be a waste of money since she was already paying for one with her place. Filling out a last-minute questionnaire from the place, she thought it was odd that they asked who her coordinator for the day would be. She answered “you” with a smiley face. The next day, she received an email stating that the person who she had been working with for months wasn’t even going to be at her wedding. She was confused as to why the bride would think she’d be there…maybe because that’s what she was told? Luckily, I was able to step in and make magic happen.

Just as I was sitting down to write this article about the difference between wedding planners and wedding coordinators, the phone rang — and in one of those absolutely fortuitous moments, the person on the other end was a recently engaged bride calling to ask that very same question. Her timing could not have been more perfect — thank you, universe!

As we spoke, she reminded me just how confusing the whole thing could be, particularly for people who are not in the wedding industry, or who have never planned a wedding. As I listened to the details of her marriage and explained our wedding coordination services at DIY Wedding Mentor, it also reminded me that wedding coordination services are not only different from those offered by wedding planners, but sometimes pretty different from those provided by other wedding coordinators as well.

So thanks to the lovely bride I just spoke with, this article just got a bit more comprehensive. Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of a grey area somewhere between a wedding coordinator who you only work with on the day of your wedding, and a full-service wedding planner. The key to finding the perfect fit for your wedding is to decide what camp your wedding will likely fall into and then interview several people in that area to see who offers the services and package that will best fit with your wedding and budget. So first things first: does your wedding lean toward needing a wedding planner or wedding coordinator? Allow me to break things down for you.

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What is the difference between a wedding venue coordinator and a wedding planner?

I was speaking with a colleague who works at one of the larger hotels in Calgary as their wedding venue coordinator. She’s an extremely hard worker and consistently goes above and beyond to help out her couples that are getting married where she works. During our conversation, she was expressing her frustration about a recent bad review that the venue received from one of the clients because the client had expected my colleague to take on the role and responsibilities of a wedding planner. My colleague works incredibly long hours, and goes out of her way to help the couples getting married at her hotel venue, often going way above and beyond her job description. However, her couple complained when she didn’t stay for the entire event. (She had to leave periodically to check on another wedding that was happening on the same day in one of the hotel’s other event spaces. She was also criticised for not being there to greet guests as the wedding guests as they got off the shuttles from the church.) It got me to thinking, and I realised that the job title this person was given is perhaps more than a bit misleading and can be easily misconstrued by her clients. It’s past time to clarify things and establish the difference between these two job positions.

The terms of planner and coordinator are often used interchangeably, but in regards to what a couple should expect in terms of services, there is a very BIG difference. Make sure you are in the know to save yourself some unexpected grief and frustration throughout your planning process and on your wedding day, thinking that you’re getting something that you’re not!

Many hotels have a Wedding Coordinator on staff. (This position is also referred to as a Wedding Manager.) This person is often associated with the venue’s Sales and Catering team. Their primary responsibility is to be your main point of contact with the venue. They facilitate and oversee all of the details pertaining to your wedding in regards to all information the venue requires. This person is involved, usually from when you first view the venue, right up to and including the day itself. They are familiar with room locations, layouts, and venue occupancy numbers.

Along with the culinary team, they plan, organise and develop the food and beverage services at your venue. They also respond to the many emails and phone calls from prospective couples looking to get married at the venue.

Most importantly, they manage a large volume of files about each of the venue’s scheduled weddings and keeping all of the details organised. In destination locations, such as the many of the Mexican or Dominican all-inclusive resorts, some of these coordinators are responsible for keeping track of the details on up to five or six weddings a day. (Say goodbye to personalised service!) We’re lucky in Canada and the United States that the numbers are much more manageable. However, most venues are still doing around 100 or more weddings a year, with many of them often doing two or more events on any given weekend.

wedding planner setting bridal table

The venue wedding coordinator is expected to maintain details on each wedding, including all of the relevant information for each particular couple such as menu choices, final guest counts, accounting and collection of the money. They also manage many of the other special details in regards to AV equipment requested or furniture required, and they make sure the schedule you’re suggesting will work with the culinary team and event staff. Depending on their work schedule, they may or may not be there on the actual day of the wedding. (Although if they don’t work on your wedding day, be assured that the venue will have appointed someone as the main contact person on the wedding day to make sure that everything goes according to plan.) Regardless, it is unlikely for only one person to be there for the entire duration of your wedding. More often than not, one person will manage things during the day and then pass the reins to an event banquet event manager. Venue wedding coordinators work very hard and do their absolute best to ensure that their clients have a great experience at the venue, but remember that they work for their venue. Their primary responsibility is to manage the details that the venue needs. They may offer some advice along the way, but they are not your wedding planner. To expect them to take on the same responsibilities is unrealistic and unwise.

On the other hand, we have Wedding Planners (also called Wedding Coordinators). This person is experienced in all areas of the wedding, usually working directly with the engaged couple. It is her responsibility to guide the couple through the entire process professionally. The planner gets to know the personal style of the couple, along with their vision for the wedding. She works with them to find the best venue and vendors that will help make the couple’s wedding vision become a reality. More importantly, she will also try to be respectful of the budget that the couple has set. A wedding planner is involved with the overall organisation of the wedding, often right from the beginning, and works as an advocate for the couple from start to finish. It is the wedding planner’s responsibility to ensure that the theme and color palette of the wedding is reflected throughout the celebration, beginning with the style of the invitations, to the ceremony and reception flowers, the place settings at each table, the music, the food, and the wedding dress. Most planners can suggest ideas to customise your wedding and make it uniquely your own, as well as share their expertise on wedding etiquette and advise as needed. They look at the overall logistics, acting as a liaison between you and the venue, sorting out the details and helping put together a realistic itinerary for the entire day. Most importantly, your wedding planner’s first responsibility is to the two of you. She will be onsite on your wedding day, acting on your behalf to look after everything from start to finish!

A venue wedding coordinator is responsible for coordinating details about your actual event at the venue itself. In contrast, your wedding planner is responsible for managing ALL of the details of your entire wedding. It is unfair and unrealistic to expect a venue wedding coordinator to take on the same responsibilities as a wedding planner.

One of the main reasons couples hire a wedding planner is for the peace of mind you will have on your wedding day. You will be able to relax and enjoy your big day knowing that your wedding planner, who has been working along with side you every step of the way, is there to manage things and make sure all of the vendors are working together to create an incredible wedding celebration just for you!

When you begin planning your wedding, you’ll start looking for vendors, checking out Pinterest for ideas, and making mental notes about all of the things you want to make sure are perfect on your wedding day.

Most likely, with all of those beautiful ideas and detailed checklists, you will soon realise that you will not be able to do it all on your own. Even though you could plan everything to be just the way that you always imagined, for you to be able to enjoy and be fully present for your wedding, you’re going to need a little help.

That help could come in the form of an incredible friend (preferably not a part of your wedding party, they’ll be a bit tied up), but sometimes you’ll seek assistance from a wedding professional.

Researching and booking your wedding suppliers is one of the first things you’ll want to think about as your wedding plans come together. But finding the right suppliers can be tricky – especially if you’re not sure exactly who you need!

Wedding planners, coordinators and stylists are a great investment for busy couples, but there can be a little bit of confusion when it comes to the differences between each one. While they might sound similar, there are actually some key differences you should be aware of to help you find the best fit for your requirements.

If you’re currently in the process of booking suppliers, keep reading as we explain the differences between planners, coordinators and stylists, including the roles and responsibilities of each one!

Too busy with life to really plan your wedding in detail? Have someone else do it for you and check out our list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help take the stress away.

What Does a Wedding Planner Do?

A wedding planner is essentially your dedicated event manager. Their role is to manage and execute all of the logistics involved in planning your day. From sourcing and booking suppliers to managing contracts and developing timelines, a wedding planner ensures your planning process runs seamlessly from beginning to end.

Wedding planners have known for their incredible organisation and multi-tasking skills as well as their attention to detail. They’ll often have different packages available depending on your requirements, from full-service planning to partial planning or on-the-day coordination (more on that soon!).

Depending on your package, the responsibilities of a full-service wedding planner generally include:

  • Assisting with sourcing venue locations for both the ceremony and reception
  • Organising and attending site-visits and appointments
  • Researching and booking all vendors required for the day
  • Helping you create, delegate and track your budget (including managing invoices and payments)
  • You are managing all vendor correspondence on your behalf (including managing contracts and documentation).
  • Managing your RSVPs and assisting with floor plan and seating chart creation
  • Creation and distribution of your wedding day timeline
  • Overseeing set-up and coordination on the day (including managing suppliers, guests, and handling last-minute emergencies!)
  • A full-service wedding planner is best suited for couples wanting to hand over the bulk of their wedding organisation to a professional. This option is also ideal for busy, time-poor couples who might be juggling wedding planning with full-time work, family and other commitments.

A wedding planner typically works 80-250 hours for the average couple. He or she has many roles, namely using their expertise to take the guesswork out of the wedding planning process, making this period go as smoothly and as stress-free as possible.

Wedding planners pretty much do it all! These professionals assist primarily in coordinating the logistics of a wedding—of which there is an abundance. They also are great for providing a bride and groom with reliable vendor referrals. These are people they’ve worked with time and time again and are trusted to do a great job at your wedding.

Wedding planners also keep track of your budget and work closely with couples on the design aspect of their wedding. They allow their keen eyes to assist with the creative specifics of your day. They can work with your florist to make your vision come to life. Many planners also have an arsenal of decor products such as candle holders, vases, and other accents that they keep for all of their clients to use at their weddings.

Think of a wedding planner as an all-encompassing service when it comes to making your day happen. From start to finish, planners help you book and, in some cases, negotiate prices with vendors that you are booking. For vendors you’re hunting for, they help you source them. Wedding planners attend venue tours and tastings with you throughout the planning process. They assist in all of the logistics of your day, such as working out the necessary hotel blocks, seating charts and floor plans. They will also build a wedding week and wedding day schedule, facilitate your rehearsal, and sometimes even stuff and send the invitations on your behalf. For wedding planners, there is no task too big or too small. All in all, they are that “behind the scenes” person or team that works endlessly to bring your perfect day to life.

Think of a wedding planner as your new best friend. This person has no other job but to make sure your wedding is exactly what you want it to be (so pretty much the most amazing best friend ever). When you choose to hire a wedding planner might vary, but theoretically, they are the person you call shortly after you get engaged and after you figure out a general budget (and whether or not you can afford a wedding planner, which we’ll get to in another post). Once you hire a wedding planner, you give them a very broad (or very detailed) vision of your wedding and they can then help you pick out everything from a wedding venue to wedding florists, caterer, furniture rentals, invitations, and more. Depending on your time and budget constraints, you can then be as involved as you want to be. If you’re super busy at work or in life and don’t have 150 hours to dedicate to wedding planning, they can take it over for you. Or if you have time for certain aspects of it but not others, they can work with you as much or as little as you want. Wedding planners can help you not only create a detailed timeline and budget but hopefully help you stick to it. And if they’re worth their salt, they will be able to offer a vast amount of knowledge and insight into the best vendors in your area to bring your wedding vision to life.

Planning for your wedding? Check out our post on How to plan a wedding on a budget?

What Does a Wedding Coordinator Do?

As mentioned earlier, a wedding planner usually also offers a separate service known as “on-the-day coordination” or “day-of coordination”. However, your wedding venue may offer their own “venue coordinator” –and this is where the confusion can set in! Here are the key differences to keep in mind:

A wedding coordinator is tasked with a leadership and organisation role over all wedding vendors, details and wedding-day tasks. Also known as a wedding planner, the coordinator maintains contact with all vendors during the planning period and acts as a liaison between the bride and groom and the various wedding participants. The planner may also offer consultative advice and help with the budget.

A wedding coordinator is an external contractor booked by you and your partner. They differ from a full-service wedding planner in that their sole responsibility is to manage and oversee the running of your wedding day itself. Unlike a wedding planner, they aren’t involved in any of the pre-wedding preparation like booking vendors or managing contracts. Instead, a wedding coordinator will step in around one month before the day and work with you in the final lead-up.

The responsibilities of a wedding coordinator generally include:

  • A site meeting one month before the wedding (where you’ll hand over all of your plans, timings and contacts for the day)
  • Preparing and distributing your wedding day timeline
  • Confirming final details with both your venue and suppliers including a bump in/bump out times and responsibilities on the day
  • Overseeing set-up and coordination on the day itself (including managing suppliers and guests, setting up furniture and decor, moving items between locations, and handling last-minute emergencies)

A venue coordinator is employed by your venue, and their services are usually included in your venue package. Their scope of work differs from an external wedding coordinator in that they are generally only responsible for dealing with logistics related specifically to the venue. They don’t typically manage your other suppliers and aren’t responsible for anything happening off-site (for example, if your wedding ceremony is being hosted in a separate location). They also won’t be responsible for setting up any additional items not included in your package (for example – centrepieces, flowers, place cards, signage, and another decor).

A wedding coordinator is a lot like a wedding planner; only he or she works in a much smaller time window. They will work about 25 hours on average for a couple, usually beginning to help the couple prepare about a month before the wedding date.

On the other hand, wedding coordinators, sometimes also referred to as wedding consultants, somewhat overlap with what traditional wedding planners do, but there are also some differences to point out. These vendors are focused primarily on logistics, and they’re usually only hired for a short segment of the time spent wedding planning. In fact, in some cases, couples only use the services of a wedding coordinator on the actual big day.

Most typically, wedding coordinators work with a couple the month before the wedding as the “point person” who will make the magic happen behind the scenes on the wedding day. They work to confirm your vendors, manage and schedule any final payments, ensure guest counts are correct on the vendor side, and even create a day-of timeline as far as the logistics for the day are concerned.

Think of this vendor as someone who is going to help facilitate every logistical part of your wedding day, from the first delivery to the last pick-up of the night. These individuals are there to receive your floral delivery and are there when your chair rentals get returned. They’re great for tying up loose ends and ensuring that no detail gets missed on the big day. More than that, they’re a reliable partner to handle odds and ends and all things logistical on your wedding day, giving you the freedom to enjoy and not worry about whether the vendors are on time and if they need any assistance or not.

Unlike wedding planners, wedding coordinators do not offer much help booking and negotiating with vendors, nor do they give many referrals due to how late in the process they’re involved. They also don’t aid much in the overall design of the wedding as planners do. They won’t be there to attend most site visits or do the little things like stuff invitations.

The responsibilities of a venue coordinator can vary depending on the venue, but generally include:

  • Managing and coordinating all services offered onsite (for example, food and beverage service or in-house furniture selections)
  • Creating an in-house schedule for the day and coordinating all venue staff
  • Giving vendors access to your venue and managing deliveries and pick-ups
  • Setting up any venue inclusions (for example, tables and chairs)
  • Overseeing health and safety throughout the event (for example, ensuring suppliers are adhering to venue safety policies, cleaning up broken glasses, etc.)
  • It’s important to check your inclusions thoroughly. Hence, you know exactly what to expect with your venue coordinator before dismissing the idea of a wedding coordinator, as the scope of work may be more limited than what you require.

The wedding coordinator is pretty much a gift from the gods on your wedding day. They are the woman or man behind the curtain, making sure that your wedding day goes as smoothly as possible, so you (hopefully) don’t have to worry about ANYTHING. They are not the person you call after you get engaged to help you pick out the perfect wedding venue, caterer, florist, or other design details, but they will take all the hard work and research you’ve done and turn those plans into reality. You typically meet with a wedding coordinator several months or several weeks (depending on the service level you opt to get from them) before your wedding to go over your wedding timeline, guest count, venue details, and more. My wedding coordinator was great in that she not only recommended and booked things like a chair and linen rentals for us but went to our tasting and helped us devise a seating chart and day-of timeline (such as when the speeches would take places as well as the first dance and toast)…all for $1,500 (which included tip and extra pre-wedding hours) . They make sure the tables are set on time, the guests are seated in the right spot, the ceremony starts and ends on time, things are packed up and sent back to the vendors and that everything is running as smoothly as possible.

One thing to keep in mind is that your wedding venue might offer varying levels of wedding planning and coordination, so it’s good to check with them to make sure you’re not doubling up. Also, a lot of times even if a wedding venue has a coordinator their services might differ from that of a traditional wedding coordinator, so you’ll want to make sure what they offer and what you need before you decide whether or not to hire additional help.

Depending on your budget and the time you have to dedicate to planning a wedding, I highly recommend using either a wedding coordinator or a wedding planner. I used a wedding coordinator and NOT a planner, and while I’m sure a wedding planner would have made my life 1,000 times easier, my budget didn’t allow for it, and I was OK dedicating time to researching wedding venues, florists, invitations, and pretty much every other tiny detail along with a ton of help from my mom. In the end, the services I got from my wedding coordinator were more than amazing and ended up being all that we needed.

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