Wedding Planner… Wedding Coordinator… Event Designer. These terms are commonly used interchangeably , but don’t be misinformed. A planner is not a designer and may not be a coordinator. So, what’s the diff?
The Wedding Coordinator
A wedding coordinator is your basic essential to have a happy, stress-free wedding day. Many coordinators are planners as well, and offer higher packages that include planning help. “Coordinators”, in essence, are around to tie up loose ends and make sense of all of the plans you have put into place. They typically step in anywhere from a month to a week out from your wedding- but not more than that. A “site coordinator” is very, VERY different than an independent coordinator. Do not let yourself be led astray on this. Nearly EVERY site has an appointed contact- a “venue coordinator”. They are not a wedding coordinator- they are venue staff who are appointed, typically not as qualified, and not looking out for the best interest of YOU- the couple. It is a rarity, as well, that any venue coordinator will stay for the entirety of your wedding. A wedding coordinator will be there from dusk til dawn, should your wedding require it, with a happy smile on their face and a determined attitude in their heart.
The Wedding Planner
A wedding planner is someone to help you guide through the industry. They are hired to help you with venue selection, vendor selection, and any details along the way. Their expertise and experience play an essential role in pairing you with vendors to fit your budget, personality, style, and needs. Many wedding planners are coordinators as well and nearly every planner I’ve met will be there with you themselves personally on the day-of, after planning the wedding closely with you. This becomes a special relationship between the couple and the professional and it is so so – I cannot emphasize this enough – SO important that the couple is comfortable and confident in their pick for a planner. Please note that a PLANNER is there to guide the couple for the duration of their engagement. They are like a wedding manager- they aren’t typically hired to inject their style or ideas or to come up with a wedding’s concept, creatively speaking. This is left to the client. I think that brides typically cringe at the thought of hiring a planner because they fear that a planner will kill their creative freedom. Quite the opposite! We are here to foster that creativity, to encourage it, be with you in it, and ensure that the vendors you hire are the ones that will work best to gel with the vision you’ve put into place.
Event designers are the top of the line, crème de la crème for weddings. They are hired based on their beautiful past work and glowing references. They’re known for taking care of your floral design as well- as the concept for your wedding is theirs, top to bottom. This works perfect for a busy couple who wants to attend an event that is decked out to the nines! It also works for brides who just can’t seem to articulate their own vision, or who want their wedding to be more of a party thrown in their honor than they want to be mulling over the details of the party. Event designers are known for their unique and personal sense of style and their website and catalogues should reflect just that. Typically they’ll take your notes, ideas, pictures, and vision and create something fabulously YOU, with a twist only they could put onto it.
Please note THIS: not all event designers are planners. They MAY just be florists and designers. They may NOT want anything to do with the coordination of your vendors or details. This is something to be aware of before signing a contract!
The reason that it’s crucial to, at this point in the game, hire for yourself a planner or designer is because the BEST way to create a fabulous wedding is to bring in a professional from the beginning. I cannot tell you how many clients I’ve worked with who have already spent half of their budget on what I [as a planner] consider “the wrong thing”- or maybe the right thing, at the wrong place. Or the wrong amount of the right thing at the wrong place. It’s awful to see your clients- especially the ones who are on a tighter budget- spending money in ways that are unnecessary, which I know will only hurt them more when it gets down to the wire. But once contracts are in place, they’re binding and we’re forced to work miracles and jump through hoops to create the wedding of their dreams. So, in essence, hiring a planner right off the bat will not only save you emotions, stress, and frustration… but it will save you money. YES, you have to spend to save. Plus, and let’s be honest- there’s only so much research you can do, we know vendors. You will be booking blindly based on web ads or magazine articles or bridal shows. Everyone puts their best foot forward on screen or in print, but only people who work weddings nearly every weekend are going to know, when the pressure is on, who is reliable and who isn’t.
If you think you can’t afford a planner…. you can. Trust me. Remember what I said about the saving money part? NO budget is too small. If you think you don’t need a planner… you do. I hate to say it! But I promise you- I’ve yet to meet a bride who has regretted working with someone during their engagement. More than that, I’ve never even HEARD of a bride regretting hiring a coordinator just for the day of. Which is why I count that as an essential. I know money is a big concern but think of it this way: the average, established photographer in southern California is charging anywhere from $4000 to $8000 for one of their packages- and they are important! Planners, for full service, are in a comparable range and may even tend to be a bit lower than that depending on the services desired… and they are with you ten times more than that photographer will be. They may not be providing you with pictures, but they ARE working more constantly for you in the pre-wedding process. Trust me when I say that even hiring a Day-Of coordinator will be worth their weight in gold! And if there are businesses like mine in your area, there’s a coordinator who is training up an assistant or associate who doesn’t have as much of a name or reputation, who would love to work your wedding for a smaller fee. Don’t hesitate to ask. Don’t get sticker shock after the first quote. Don’t get discouraged!
When I spoke about hiring vendors, I talked about picture clippings from magazines, saving pictures from websites and blogs, etc. THIS is when you should start to do this. Sign up for websites like The Knot or Wedding Channel. Stalk blogs like Southern Weddings Magazine, Style Me Pretty [and of course, you’re HERE already!]. Save things you like. From your pictures, determine your style! This will help so much when narrowing down a venue. If you’re looking at tons of venues that don’t resemble- at all- the pictures you’ve clipped, try looking again. Try re-thinking either the picture clippings, or the venues. Think about your wedding as a cohesive styled unit. It must go with the backdrop it’s placed in! If you search for your venue around the style that you’re going for [garden-y, chic, modern, ocean view, spanish, rustic?], then it will make the planning process even that much more of a cinch!