Let’s talk about the differences between venue coordinators and wedding planners. I’ve learned that unless you’re in the wedding industry, the differences between the two aren’t commonly known. As a wedding planner, one of my biggest pet peeves is when a venue sells their in-house coordinator as an actual wedding planner.
About 2 years ago, I received a frantic call from a bride who desperately needed help with her wedding which was 3 weeks away. When booking her venue, she said that the biggest selling point was that the venue 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 venue. Filling out a last-minute questionnaire from the venue, 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, the bride received an email stating that the person with whom she had been working with for months, was only going to be at her wedding for a couple of hours. The venue coordinator was confused as to why the bride would think she’d be there for longer than that…maybe because that’s what she was told? Luckily, I was able to step in and make magic happen (wedding planners are magicians in disguise).
The Venue Coordinator
Venue coordinators are employees of the venue in which they work. They act as a liaison between the bride & groom and the venue’s operations team. Their responsibilities are those pertaining to your experience with them directly: showcasing the venue, consulting your food and beverage choices, formalizing your catering needs, arranging menu tastings, creating a BEO (Banquet Event Order), and processing the final invoice.
On wedding day, their focus is delivering their contracted services exclusively: ensuring the venue set up is accurate (tables, chairs, and place setting only), ensuring the food is out on time, and that tear down happens seamlessly. In addition, a Venue Coordinator often departs once the meal is served. This may be an important consideration if you are looking for support for the remainder of the evening or need any assistance with the tear down of items that the venue is not responsible for.
And remember: while you may have worked with one individual throughout the planning process, there is no guarantee that you will be provided with that same individual on your big day!
The Wedding Planner
A professional Wedding Planner is your personal consultant, with a wide-stemmed focus on every detail in curating your dream wedding.
From the initial planning stages (providing venue options, reviewing contracts, researching and recommending vendors) to wedding day preparation, (creating an itinerary/timeline, organizing your ceremony rehearsal, confirming details with all contracted vendors). Your wedding planner is present for every decision.
Come wedding day, they oversee time management (that the ceremony starts on time, your wedding party and family are lined up for the processional, recessional, Cocktail Hour transition, your grand entrance, toasts, dancing etc.), prompt the MC and vendors, as well as troubleshoot and ensure quality control of set up including personalized details and decor. In addition, a wedding planner will prepare valuable tools for you, such as vendor contact forms, floor plans, master timeline, and MC scripts. Many will take over the reins up to one month out, allowing you to be fully focused on being a bride, enjoying a stress less last few weeks together.
This also goes for “Day of” Wedding Coordinators personally hired by you. While they may come in closer to event day (typically one month before your wedding), they work exclusively for you!
Here are some of the key differences between a venue coordinator and a wedding planner:
Venue Coordinator - They are responsible for everything that specifically deals with the venue. Tables, chairs, linens, food, beverage, etc. If the venue provides catering, their focus is to make sure that the kitchen and wait staff are scheduled according to their needs.
Wedding Planner - They are responsible for everything that comes with your venue AND making sure that your vendors know where they’re supposed to be and when. If the venue provides linens, it is the job of the wedding planner to choose the color based on the design of the wedding and to keep the quantities correct.
Venue Coordinator - The venue coordinator will most-likely provide a list of preferred vendors and that’s the extent of their involvement when it comes to interacting with the vendors.
Wedding Planner - Your wedding planner will schedule and attend your meetings with your vendors. They are the main point of contact between you and your vendors. If a vendor is lost, running late, or is having an emergency, they’ll contact your wedding planner who will then put out the fire. Your wedding planner gives recommendations based on vendors they’ve worked with previously and based on your budget. They also review contracts; set up hotel room blocks, etc.
I’ve heard it SO many times –
“Oh the venue coordinator will handle everything, I don’t need a wedding planner/coordinator.”
Venue Coordinator - Hotels that provide catering will have a timeline solely for their catering staff. Their timeline will center on when the food will be prepared and served. That’s it.
Wedding Planner - The wedding planner’s timeline details all aspects of the day from the time that the bride wakes up to the moment that the doors close. As a wedding planner, I have to know every single that is happening with every single person involved in the day. I schedule arrival times for all vendors, when the photos will be taken, what songs will be played for each dance, when the cake will be cut and when and where the sparkler send-off will be. We do it ALL.
Venue Coordinator - You’re most likely sharing your venue coordinator with at least 100 other brides. This means delayed responses to phone calls and emails. This also means that you have to try to catch them during business hours.
Wedding Planner – Fortunately (and unfortunately), wedding planners are available almost 24/7. Of course there are exceptions but if you’re having an emergency, you can pick up the phone and send a quick text message. Your venue coordinator isn’t giving you their personal cell phone number.
Venue Coordinator – They’re not designing your wedding. Period.
Wedding Planner – They’ll design your ceremony and reception. They’ll choose your colors, linens, flowers, table set-up and design and so on and so on.
Brides, do not make the mistake of not hiring a wedding planner because your venue has a “wedding coordinator”. Planners do drastically different things and they’re more hands-on. Believe me, spend the money on a planner at the beginning so that you don’t have to find out in the middle of planning that you don’t actually have a planner, but a venue coordinator.
If you are not sure if you need or can afford a wedding planner or Day-of Coordinator, call a couple of them and see what services they offer and what their services cost. I think you would be surprised to know that a wedding planner/coordinator is affordable. In the end, they can save you time, money, and stress! Happy Planning!