Yesterday, I wrote about the reality of needing help when it comes to planning and executing your wedding. When it comes down to it, you cannot be two people, and as much of your wedding (pre-planning and day-of) should be focused on the major life event that is about to happen. It should be less about the "behind the scenes" prep work.
It is my hope that every engaged couple has enough time and resources to allocated some of their budget to a wedding planner or coordinator. As much as you love your second cousin, or aunt, your best friend or almost sister in law, it can be a bit dangerous trusting your wedding in their hands. The art of producing and executing an event may sound like an intuitive skill, that anyone can pull off, but it truly does take practice, expertise, and the development of organized minded, cool, calm and collected professionals. These professionals that you hire, you will not have to see at family gatherings, weddings and parties for years to come, and will not have to harbor the bitterness that they forgot to pick up your cake.
And your mother, as sweet and wonderful and creative as she is, should not have to worry about your wedding. She raised you, fed you, listened to your teenage angst, and has had PLENTY of years of birthday parties, holiday celebrations, graduations and family dinners under her belt. Give her this one day off. She deserves it.
With family and friends out of the picture, there are four basic types of professionals you can hire, which all come with different levels of benefit.
1: The Full Service Wedding Planner - This person is the "do everything under the sun" professional. We're talking J.Lo wedding planner status. They help to establish the look and feel of your event from the beginning, so your save the date, your invitation suite, your location, decor and dress all feel cohesive. They are with you when you visit their list of preferred venues. They book your cake tasting. They help build your budget. They feel for you when your parents add 40 extra guests. They help settle the open bar vs. beer and wine debate between you and your fiancé. They craft your table numbers and place settings. They sit on ebay and track down every single vintage decanter and highball glass with a gold rim made in paris in the 1940s so your bar will look authentic. They communicate with your caterer, your florist, your event rental company, making sure no detail is left until the end. They remember to pay your vendors, so you are not left bouquet-less on your wedding day. They are your stress relievers, your cheerleaders, and your strict budget police officers. They will stand alongside you until the cake is cut, the event is over, and you are jetting off on your honeymoon. They will go home and feel such immense joy that their client turned friend (it happens - you've been working together for a year!) got everything they wanted out of their wedding day.
2: The Month-of Coordinator - This person joins your mostly finalized wedding when it's down to the wire. You may hire them mid way through planning, or earlier, but they will likely begin working on the wedding 4-6 weeks out from the big day. When you first meet - you brain dump. No detail, plan, or hope for the wedding should be left out, as this person will act as an extension of you on your wedding day. You planned it, and they will coordinate and execute it.
This person is ideal for the bride and groom who are extremely jazzed about making all of their wedding decisions themselves. They have the time on nights and weekends to research, communicate with all of the event partners to receive quotes, finalize plans and book. They are typically creative, or have the ability to whittle down and make sense of an exploding pin board, to design their perfect event. They are organized, keeping every contract, receipt, and DIY project neat and easily accessible.
When the Month-Of Coordinator comes on board, most vendor communication switches away from the couple. As it is the last minute details and questions like arrival times, server uniforms, directions, and the oh so important day-of timeline, couples can feel a great sense of relief as they wash their hands of these details and leave it to a professional. They have much more important things to consider, like facials, final workouts, final fittings, vow practicing, registry item delivery (a sea of gifts!) and the arrival of out of town guests. The month-of coordinator will coordinate and direct your rehearsal, so you can cool your pre-wedding jitters. On the day of, this person will execute all of your well planned decor decisions, will act as the onsite liaison between all vendors, will wrangle and direct the bridal party through the ceremony, and will make sure your reception flows without missing a beat.
3: The Venue Coordinator - This person is typically offered by your venue, when the package is more "all-inclusive". Your ceremony is on the property, as is your reception, you are using their rentals, linens, dish ware and chairs, and the in-house catering team is on board for the apps, dinner and cake. They will help you with any and all questions and plans that are venue specific, but generally speaking, this is where their services end.
You will be on your own to find a photographer, to design your invitation suite, to design the look and feel of your event, to bring in outside enhancements like a gelato cart, DJ or Photobooth, etc., and to build your own wedding timeline. At the end of the day, their responsibility is to ensure you love your wedding, but more so, to make sure their venue is kept clean and safe. Chances are, the professionals in this role are also tasked with planning ALL of the events at the location, whether it's a conference for 200, birthday party, corporate event, or networking happy hour, not to mention a wedding every other weekend. They will get the job done, but you may miss out on any additional personal touches.
4: The Day-of Coordinator - This person may be provided by your wedding venue, hired by the main venue coordinator to oversee the wedding if they cannot be there, OR, may be a wedding planner that offers a one day "show up and direct" service. This, my friends, is a bad idea.
It is my personal belief that a person cannot, and should not, show up on the day of your wedding having no idea what the space looks like, what decor you've picked, and who the major players are (photographer, catering team lead, officiant). They may have a general idea of set up, but will be going off of a sketched diagram you likely slaved over in microsoft word. As they unpack each individual box that is labeled "Table 1, Table 2, Table 3" they question the placement of the three candle sticks, five votives, the wine bottle table number and name cards they reveal. The bride and groom typically have to start the day onsite, directing the location of each item, staging an example table, and touring the venue so the day-of coordinator knows where to send guests when they need to use the restroom. This sounds like more work than need be. And it is.
It is important to note that many wedding planners call their "Month-of" service "Day-of" (I made this mistake in the beginning), when truthfully, they've been working on your wedding for weeks, and performing all the tasks of a month-of coordinator.
With all of this information, it can get very confusing when hiring help for your wedding. Many professionals use different words for the same thing, like event "designer", "stylist", "producer", "director", and more, which all entail a slight variation from the two main types - Planner vs. Coordinator. My advice to engaged couples? Do your research. Look at several planners to see what they offer. Request a list of responsibilities, but go into the conversation with an understanding of what YOU need, and what your budget can handle.
In my personal opinion, every single wedding needs a month-of coordinator, at minimum, unless your venue is extremely hands-on.
So enough from me! Past brides & grooms - I'd love to know who you brought on to help with your wedding. And for those engaged couples out there, are you wrestling between one type or another?
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below, OR, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm here to help!