If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it is that weddings are a ton of work. If you are engaged, I am sure you are already feeling spreadsheet overwhelm and decision fatigue. I have heard couples compare wedding planning to having a second full time job, except you are not getting paid - in fact you are the ones paying!
The fact of the matter is that for most couples, this is the first time you have ever planned an event of this magnitude. There are lots of moving parts and little details to take care of and that is before you even get to the family politics and societal traditions. Strip away all the emotional baggage from a wedding, and you still have a huge task on your hands.
Ok, so you might not have it in the budget to hire a full on, Jennifer Lopez style wedding planner. Or maybe you are really looking forward to planning your wedding and are just feeling a little lost and overwhelmed with the logistics! Sounds like it might be time to call in a Wedding Coordinator!
Listen to episode 276 of Bridechilla
Wedding Planning vs. Coordination
There are a few key differences in full Wedding Planning and Wedding Coordination - though many planners offer both services. Full planning is the more expensive service where your planner does most of the hard work while you sip champagne and pick between the two or three options they have proposed. It is a luxury service for sure, one that is perfect for busy folks who simply do not have the time to dedicate to planning the event. Wedding planning can also include design services and other in-house add-ons.
Wedding coordination is a lighter - more nimble option for folks who need help, but don’t need someone holding their hand the whole way. It is also generally speaking, the more budget friendly option.
Now, take note… I have not once used the term “Day of Coordinator.” That is intentional. The term “Day of” causes a lot of confusion for couples and diminishes the work the coordinator actually does. For most of us, the work begins months in advance. No one can do this job in a day and actually do it well.
You may see the service referred to by some wedding professionals as Month-of Coordination or Wedding Month Management. This is terminology that is a little closer to accurate in that they take the reins at the 4 week mark and run the show from there. However, in my own business, I prefer to ditch any time constraints and I simply call it Wedding Coordination.
The Responsibilities of a Wedding Coordinator
The basic responsibilities of a wedding coordinator are mostly going to be the same no matter who you hire. Each planner has unique value that they bring to the table, whether it be through additional services they offer, design experience, or sometimes even just their personality and style! Finding a coordinator who “gets you” is extremely important. Your coordinator should be completely on board with your vision for the wedding and the amount of help you need along the way.
Here are the basics responsibilities you can expect a Wedding Coordinator to handle:
Provide you with a checklist of planning tasks so you don’t miss any important details.
Make vendor recommendations based on your needs for the wedding.
Keep track of the contact info and scope of work for each vendor you book.
Create a timeline of events for the wedding.
Visit your venue and make note of any house rules if they are not already familiar with it.
Meet with you to coordinate logistics and confirm details during the final 3-4 weeks.
Act as liaison with your vendors during the final 3-4 weeks - communicating the timeline, expectations, and other important details.
Coordinate your wedding rehearsal.
Be on-site to manage vendor setup and execute your desired decor plan.
Act as your Wedding Stage Manager - ensuring the event remains on schedule and handling any small emergencies or issues that may arise.
Provide an emergency kit with supplies, first aid, and other helpful tools.
Oversee breakdown of decor and pack-out at the end of the event.
Some awesome additional services that your coordinator might offer are:
Floorplan designs and help with seating charts.
Online planning tools and software.
Design inspiration and mood boards.
MC duties at your event.
Assistants or Setup Crews
Floral design or decor rentals
The key thing to understand is that when you hire a wedding coordinator, you are still the one planning your wedding. You book the vendors, you manage the budget, you plan and source the decor, etc… A coordinator gives guidance and support to ensure your ideas for the wedding come to fruition!
When should you hire a Wedding Coordinator?
Just engaged? Great! Go hire your wedding coordinator. No really, I am serious. Having a coordinator on your team from the very start can be a fantastic resource and they will be able to guide you toward reputable vendors and event partners.
Most wedding planners require you to have your wedding date pretty much nailed down while others choose to give priority to full planning clients and may only take coordination clients 4-6 months out to fill in the gaps in their schedule. I and many other planners will take coordination clients as much as a year (or more) out from the wedding.
Not sure where to find a good coordinator, ask your venue. Chances are they have coordinators they can recommend. BUT! There is a huge difference between a “day of coordinator” provided by the venue and an independent wedding coordinator that you hire. A venue coordinator or “day of coordinator” brought in by the venue works for the venue, not you. They will not necessarily handle all the responsibilities listed above. Read more about the differences in this fantastic article from Twelfth Night Events.
Photographers can often provide recommendations for wedding coordinators they like to work with as well. Much of the timeline creation process is done with input from the photographer so if your photog has someone they like to work with, that is a good sign that the coordinator is totally awesome!
But what will a Wedding Coordinator cost?
I wish I could give you a more specific answer, but the truth is that it depends. The cost of a Wedding Coordinator varies by location, the size of your wedding, experience of the coordinator, and the level of service provided. We are talking anywhere between around $500 on the low end all the way through $3000 on the upper end. Though the average in most parts of the US is around $1000-$1500 with prices in major cities being higher.
Things that can add to the coordinator’s cost include large guest lists, multi-day events, multi-day setup and breakdown, additional crew requirements, multiple locations on the wedding day (such as a church and a reception venue), or any design services you add. It is often possible to create a custom package if you know you are going to need more help than the basic responsibilities, but not as much as the full planning package includes.
When comparing the package prices of different planners, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Whether that be in years of experience, or services provided, there is a wide range and you definitely get what you pay for. Lower priced coordinators are generally pretty new to the business and they may be great at the job, but have less experience handling emergencies or issues. However, the younger, less experienced planner might be a fantastic fit for you and have a more modern approach to weddings and events… so my advice is to never book on price alone. Make sure you really gel with the planner and that you are clear on what services they can provide you with.
Why you should definitely have a Wedding Coordinator.
I have a secret to admit. Even with being a wedding coordinator myself, I did not actually have one at my own wedding - and it was the absolute biggest mistake I made. I convinced myself that because of all my knowledge and experience with weddings, that I could handle it all on my own. The fact is that no amount of expertise or experience can prepare you for just how straight up bonkers your wedding is going to be. It’s like a freight train fueled by ALL THE EMOTIONS going full steam ahead whether you are ready or not. You are going to need someone on your team.
A wedding coordinator will be there for you, managing all the details while you, your friends, and your family are free to be in the moment. When people talk about how quickly the wedding day goes by, it is often because they didn’t have a minute to take it all in and just experience the love and joy of the day. When you take on too many responsibilities, it is hard to be present, and you could be left wondering if it was all worth it.
Are you worried about wedding planning stress or time management? Afraid you might forget important but often overlooked details? Hiring a wedding coordinator is quite honestly one of the best things you can do to maintain your sanity while wedding planning. You don’t have to do this alone and it doesn’t have to be stressful. So go find yourselves a totally rad wedding coordinator who might just care as much about your wedding as you do!
Erica Greenwold Reisen is the lead planner and designer at Folie à Deux Events. She specializes in authentic, unique events for couples who like to challenge traditions and do their own thing. She is the founder and editor of Secularly Wed, a wedding blog dedicated to meaningful, non-religious wedding planning.