When planning a wedding, no one wants to be paying for a service that they will potentially get ‘for free’ or included somewhere else. So, when couples are on the fence about still needing the full services of a wedding planner when their venue ‘comes with a venue coordinator’ I totally get the hesitation & potential confusion.
This said there are some pretty big differences between a wedding planner & venue coordinator & you need to fully understand those differences before making your final decision on who to hire (or not hire).
Very basically I see a wedding planner as the only wedding supplier hired solely to focus on your interests (sure everyone else still cares deeply about you as a couple & your celebration but their main focus is their product or service. Wedding planners are the only ones whose job it is to make you happy & allow the other suppliers to perform to their full rock star ability)
I have tried to keep this as factual & non-biased as possible – because let’s be honest I am a wedding planner & will always view my job & role through ‘wedding planner eyes’ – But these are the main differentiation points you should know or ask about.
Start of interaction:
*A wedding planner should be part of your planning way before you choose a venue
–Venue coordinators will only start working with you once you find & book the venue, this means you need to find your venue & set a date without any guidance or ‘bigger picture’ perspective.
Choice in who you work with:
*You will be able to choose any wedding planner you like & feel comfortable with.
-With your venue coordinator, you are normally stuck with who they have & just because you choose a venue you like doesn’t mean their coordinator is the best personality or creative fit for you.
Wedding industry passion, focus & knowledge:
*I personally only focus on wedding & wedding related events. Meaning my personal & business full & absolute focus is on weddings.
-Depending on what type of venue you choose the venue coordinator may not be focused on or invested in weddings.
They may run conferences, retreats, weddings or dinner parties & your wedding is just one of the events at the venue & not their main ‘career’ focus.
Time allocated to the couple:
*You are more likely to be one of a select few. Runaway Romance has a ‘2 couples a month’ limit & many other wedding planners limit the couples they work with, ensuring detailed, focused attention.
-You are more likely to be one of many. The chances of the venue coordinator having multiple functions on the same day, week & month are very high.
Creative direction for your wedding:
*A wedding planner will help you clarify your ideas, take them from a random collection, through to sourcing of real life (actually available in season/in South Africa) items.
-A venue coordinator will more than likely only oversee suppliers you have brought into to setup your day.
So, they will let the florist, draping & lighting suppliers in, show them where to go & maybe have a floor plan for them to work off…but all of the briefing & work to get them to that day is up to you.
Creating mood boards for wedding:
*Very standard practice for wedding planners. We will sift through alllll of your Pinterest boards & ideas to make one cohesive direction & look come to life.
-I have never met a venue coordinator that supplies mood boards for couples.
Individualised decor concept:
*A good wedding planner should be creating every wedding with a new & personalised decor & styling concept that reflect you as a couple. If they aren’t then you should rethink using them.
-Most venues come with standard infrastructure (glasses, tables, chairs etc.) Some venues may have a large range of ‘in house’ decor you can make use of but it is still up to you to make the decision on how this is put together & provide them with a brief on how to set it up. (if decor set up is part of their services)
Sourcing or creating individualized decor items:
*This service varies from planner to planner, but most of us have multiple suppliers, manufactures or contacts who we can get to make your personalise napkins, hand painted stationery & that one of a kind whatever it is you have in mind.
-Most venues will have a list of preferred suppliers they will share with you but it is still your responsibility to get hold of each supplier, brief them & manage communications, costing etc.
They will not do this for you & they definitely won’t go and find 7 different boutique suppliers who all specialise in different crafts.
*Very much part of what a planner should do themselves or have someone there to overlook.
-Not something I have ever seen a venue coordinator do (unless the venue owner is creative…& then you are getting their version of style not necessarily yours)
Full wedding budget management:
*I personally set up a full wedding budget that helps couples see their day in its entirety before they start booking suppliers & spending money.
This includes things that you may not have personally thought to budget for up front, like dress fitting fees, lawyer’s fees, brunch & drink on the day etc.
-Venue coordinators usually will cover the pricing & invoicing of the venue, accommodation on site, in house staff, in house bar stock & in house catering.
They will not how ever help you fit this into your overall budget. These in-house costs are also pretty set with minimal room for adjustments.
Pulling together final invoices:
*I see this as part of budget management & setting up a payment schedule with, payment dates is part of my planning services.
-Generally, the rule is if it isn’t physically part of the venue it isn’t their responsibility & they won’t invoice or follow up on external supplier invoices for you.
*Some wedding planners have an equally tight circle of preferred suppliers who they work well with or have referral or commission structures with. I personally only suggest suppliers who are available for your date, who I believe will be the best fit for you as a couple & have a great quality of work.
-Venue coordinators will provide you with a preferred supplier list. Depending on how they structure their commissions & referral fees this may just be a list of people that are beneficial for them to work with & not necessarily best for you. You still then have to contact all of these suppliers.
Management & follow up of suppliers before the wedding day:
*As sourcing of suppliers is normally done by your wedding planner they will be responsible & in control of communications & general management (invoicing, ensuring T&C’s are understood & signed, asking what information the supplier needs to allow them to do their best work on the day, supplying realistic timelines to them etc.) from day dot to well after your wedding day.
-Most venue coordinators will be available to inform your suppliers about venue oriented facts (parking areas, gate opening times, how many stoves the kitchen has etc.) via email prior to your wedding & in person on set up days, the wedding it’s self & then for break down. This management rarely extends past factors concerning the venue though.
Set up of the timeline for your day:
*In my opinion this should be a standard service all wedding planners provide. I try and make sure each prominent supplier (so photographer, videographer, caterer & venue) have an opportunity to view the time line & give their professional suggestions on it before it is approved.
This decreases the possibility of on the day chaos, unrealistic requests & again allows them to work at their best.
-Some venue coordinators will have a good idea on how best to time their in-house services & will communicate this to you. This however normally follows a very traditional way of doing things & venues who are used to doing things a certain way can have a hard time getting their heads around something out of the norm or non-traditional.
They will not tie all of your suppliers into one plan or timeline for the day & this is often where on the day stress happens as ‘outside’ suppliers are very much in the dark about what’s happening, where & without a wedding planner, you become the ‘go to’ person.
On the day supplier management, coordination, timing & follow up:
*All suppliers should have timelines, know what they are doing where & when. Your wedding planner will make sure this actually happens on your day.
A wedding planner will be there from the start of set up to well into your reception & break down day.
-Unless you use all of the venues preferred suppliers they will mostly not feel comfortable with ‘managing’ the external suppliers & will keep their management to their in-house functions & staff.
On the day decor/flower prep & set up:
*Many wedding planners have their own decor stock & will personally do your flowers for you. If they don’t offer this service, they would have sourced a decor company & florist that would have been briefed in line with your mood board & style. They will then manage these suppliers access, timing & final product.
-Most venues will set up their own stock. (tables, cutlery, crockery, glasses etc.) in a very standard way or style. If they are willing to help with external decor or flower set up this is over & above the venue fee & is literally a set up & has very limited to no styling element.
Personalised attention VS just another function:
*Your wedding planner will know you much better than your venue coordinator & will have the knowledge & connection to really take notice of the small details & discreet things that can make all the difference to your day.
-Very rarely will your venue coordinator be popping into your bridal suite to make sure your bouquet is in water, that your mom who has diabetes & needs to eat regular has a snack before the ceremony starts & that your favorite brand of champagne has arrived.
*Within reason putting family at ease & informing them of what’s happening on the day is something a wedding planner will help you manage/contain/tone down.
-Most venue coordinators are pretty hands off when it comes to the intricacies of family dynamics/wrangling.
*This is something I leave to the professionals & have never suggest meal plans to my couples. I do however source caterers in line with their budget, food ethos & style of wedding.
-If catering is an in-house service this will come directly from your venue coordinator or the food & beverage manager. If not, you will need to source & communicate with external suppliers yourself.
Bar stock & consumption management:
*Again, this is something I leave to professionals who can gauge the crowd & specific needs better than I can. I however will be the (sober) go to person who will be told tab limits & make sure cousin Charlie has a comfortable corner to rest up in when the tequila’s catch up with him.
-If the bar is an in-house offering the venue coordinator will take responsibility of finding out how you want to run your bar, what is & isn’t included, the infrastructure (like ice, topping & straws) & bar staff management. If not, you will need to source & communicate with external suppliers yourself.
*I find break down becomes a very important aspect of your wedding day when you are using a non-traditional venue. (Like when you are in the middle of the forest & you need to make 100% sure taking down your back drop doesn’t hurt nature or leave anything behind)
Having someone to watch for these little details decreases break down time, breakages costs & makes venue owners a lot happier.
-Most venues have very strict & set breakdown requirements. Venue coordinators will communicate these to you.
There are always outliers in every industry & you may be lucky to find a venue who have high quality preferred suppliers with their supplier processes waxed & venue coordinators who do have a great creative flair, who go above & beyond in helping you tie pre-wedding day plans together & who will be there focused on you on your wedding day…but this really is the exception not the norm.
Also, remember I am generally talking about traditional wedding or function venues in the points above. For non-traditional venues, the need for a wedding planner is just on an entirely different level of necessary.
If you are a venue coordinator & think I’m talking shit or misrepresenting you, please comment below & let me know where I am wrong OR where I am right. This posts intention is in no way to undermine the role & usefulness of a venue coordinator.
Truthfully as frustrating as it is for wedding planners to ‘lose couples’ to the venue coordinator it is as frustrating for venue coordinators to be expected to be the wedding planner (& then to be crapped on by couples or families when on the wedding day they are expected to work way out of their scope or area of responsibility…)
So, I really think it is an industry conversation worth having & worth including all three side in on (the couples, the wedding planners & the venue coordinators) Can’t wait to hear what you all think?