One of the most confusing things I dealt with while wedding planning was deciding how much help I actually needed. By the time I actually decided I really needed a professional to help me, I had already booked my venue and found my dress, and then there was a period where I was just stuck. Granted, I planned my wedding from across the country and I was relying on Google to find vendors to travel into a pretty remote area of Michigan. I had a pretty tight budget and a rather lengthy invite list, so it was important to me to find everything within budget somehow but still fill all my must-haves and wants for the day I envisioned.
This is when I decided it was best for me to hire a planner who was familiar with the area and help me find vendors that weren't necessarily on Google, or even people who they could vouch for who were newer and more affordable maybe just needed a few more weddings in their portfolio before they could create a website.
From my experience working with planners already, I knew that they came in all sizes whether that was a full blown team of 4 or 5 people or just one single person running the show. It took a lot of comparison shopping and interviewing before I settled on what I thought was best for me: Someone who would take over the month before the wedding, handle coordinating of vendors, confirming timeline, and helping with set up.
Looking back, I probably should've splurged for the full-on wedding planning services that were offered to me. But I was happy with how my wedding turned out and we were able to keep everything within budget, we were referred amazing vendors (especially our DJ, who is to this day the best DJ I've ever had at any wedding I've been to), and the day went off without a hitch (or if there were hitches, I didn't know about them... which really is the main benefit and draw of hiring a planner: you don't get bothered with handling everything that goes wrong on the wedding day.)
One thing I knew to avoid, though, was the alluring draw of a "Day Of Coordinator." I didn't really even know the true differences, but Day Of is usually marketed towards for a very low budget yet big promises: taking over everything just for the day of the wedding. You hand over everything to this person and they magically know everything that will go into your day. Seems a little too good to be true, right? Don't you want someone who is supposed to make your vision come to life know a little more about, well, you?
I have worked with so many planners, and I felt like there were no better people to turn to when faced with the question of what planning service to go with when hiring a wedding planner.
I interviewed 5 different wedding planners from all over the country for their perspective.
Here's what they had to say:
Tell me a superhero story. Did you ever "save the day" by preventing or fixing a disaster?:
The Bee Whisperer:
"It was the perfect day - the sun was shining, a slight breeze, everything was going as planned. The food was all set up outside and about five minutes went by, the photographer got his shots, and then suddenly a HUGE swarm of bees started flying around the food! The guests were about to arrive any minute and I knew no one would want to go near the table with that many bees around. I luckily know a lot of little home remedies and tricks, so I had to run to the kitchen and get tons of cloves to keep the bees away and prayed it worked! I tucked little containers of cloves behind some of the food stands to make sure it doesn’t take away from the display, and it worked like a charm and kept most of the bees away (and no one got stung!)" - Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
The Cake Crash
"I think my favorite is the first wedding we ever did (7+years ago), the wedding cake delivery van crashed on the way to the wedding. The bakery was closed for the day and just sent this guy out for the last delivery. When he arrived he looked a mess ( it was just a fender bender, so he was ok)…but the cake and the desserts were not. It was a one tier cutting cake and about 150 bite sized desserts. The cake was completely caved in on one side and most of the desserts looked a wreck. So, thanks to my family being in the baking business I knew a thing or two about cakes. So, I found a zip lock bag, scraped some frosting of the cake and re-frosted it…of course, stuck a huge flower on it too…but, bomb. cake fixed. The desserts we strategically arranged the desserts and fixed some of them. No one knew. Disaster fixed. The bakery of course felt terrible and gave the client a full refund, plus a gift certificate for more treats which they used for a 1 year anniversary dessert display." - Chabli of PS Plans
The Last-Minute Planner Bail-Out
"I have so many! Should I tell you about the time I almost killed a rattlesnake with a shovel in the women's room at a rural venue? Actually, this is my favorite one: A few years back, I got a Facebook message from someone I didn't know, asking if I was available to coordinate a wedding 5 days from then. When I asked for more information, it was revealed that this couple had a wedding planner who broke up with them via a text message. To be completely fair, it sounded like she was having a tough time with her family, and there was an accident. But still, this news left them literally high and dry. The FB message I received was the maid of honor, who was friends with one of my current clients. I actually was free that coming Saturday (it was my only free weekend that month!). About an hour later, I did a Skype call with the couple, and they booked me on the spot. Five days later, I coordinated their wedding. It was a crazy whirlwind and I was so happy to be available for them. They were just the sweetest! " - Renée of Moxie Bright Events
Don't Tell the Bride, but...
This is actually a personal story where I first-hand witnessed a coordinator save the day at a wedding I was shooting. It was a Friday wedding, and the vendors were setting up and I was shooting the getting ready. At 4pm, about 20 minutes before the ceremony, I went to get detail shots of the ceremony space and the set up of the reception area. The coordinator, visibly stressed, pulled me aside and said, "Don't tell the bride, but the baker had the wrong day scheduled for her cake and there's no cake. Please don't let her see the reception area, I don't want her to know the cake isn't here. I called them when I noticed they were late for drop off and they explained the situation... I don't know how this wasn't caught sooner. They are currently making the cakes and they will try to deliver them by 9pm." Cake cutting was scheduled for 9:15pm, so that was cutting it close. And if you've ever made a cake before, you know it takes time to cool before you can ice/decorate it... so I nodded and thanked my lucky stars that I was neither the baker or the poor planner who had this huge problem that was currently out of her control. I kept a smile on my face the whole time, did my best to avoid the reception area during formal photos, and prayed the cake would show up on time. At 9:20pm, the main cake and the groom's cake rolled out of the kitchen and was set up for cutting. It was honestly a gorgeous cake and I would never have known it was made in such a rush. The cake cutting went as planned and the bride and groom were none the wiser.
What is the difference between a wedding planner and a day of coordinator?
"The first thing I can say is they are definitely not the same thing, but both roles are wonderful for different reasons! A day of coordinator is there to make sure things run smoothly and put out any fires that may arise on the wedding day. A full service planner will be able to offer advice on etiquette, design, styling, etc. and is much more likely to do a lot of other random requests during the planning process and leading up to the wedding. These tasks could include anything from booking flights for your cousins, to mailing your invitations, to decorating the newlywed suite!" - Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
"Oh, there is a HUGE difference. On the client side, it's about time spent with you and time spent working on your wedding. A full-service Wedding Planner will be with you every single step of the way - sometimes even before you select a wedding date! We are there for every decision, every design board, every vendor who gets hired onto the team. We make sure your overall vision of your day gets carried through each and every aspect of the day. We also get to know you so well that we can troubleshoot for you, if need be, without every asking you or telling you what went wrong. That's the Wedding Planner Magic.
A Wedding Coordinator has a different job. Quite frankly, the term "day-of" a complete misnomer for what the job entails. A Wedding Coordinator takes all of the work you did as the couple (booking the vendors, design, any personal or DIY projects) and runs your wedding day for you so that you can relax and enjoy yourself. Depending on the coordinator, some will offer vendor referrals and matchmaking, some do not. At the very least, your "day-of" coordinator is likely working with you for four to six weeks pre-wedding, which is why I hate the term "day-of" so much. NO ONE can just walk into your wedding on the day-of and do a flawless job. Actually, forget flawless. They couldn't even do a mediocre job. It's just not possible. You have to know all the moving pieces, and the players (your couple and all the vendors) to do the job correctly. Ideally, you will also have years of experience in of-the-moment problem solving and have a cool and calm demeanor. I call this level of service Wedding Management. For me, that's what it's about. It's about expertly managing all the moving parts of your wedding day." - Renee of Moxie Bright Events
"Full planning is the whole she-bang, I like to tell clients…we rapidly become best friends and plan a wedding. We are with client from picking the venue, designing the wedding, picking all the vendors and bringing it all to life day of.
Day of is REALLY month of, I am not a fan of the Day of Title…even though most clients call it Day of. This package starts about a month or a little more than that before the wedding day. This is basically dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. Clients pick all the vendors and plan the wedding, we pull it all together. We do the rehearsal and are on site for the whole wedding day. We create the master timeline for the day, send it to all the vendors a week before and handle all questions and problems day of the wedding." -Chabeli of http://www.psplans.com/
What exactly does a day of coordinator do?
"To me, day of coordination is actually more like “month of” coordination because the process starts much earlier than on the wedding day itself. An overview of what a few weeks before the wedding looks like consists of confirming vendor details, having final review meetings, and making sure everyone is on the same page and prepared to flawlessly execute the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception. As you can imagine, it wouldn't be very efficient if a coordinator stepped in the morning of the wedding and was tasked with holding it all together!" -Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
"If you run into a Coordinator who tells you that can do "day-of" and it only includes ONE day of services, run away. Do not give this person your hard earned money. They don't know what they're doing." Renée of Moxie Bright Events
"Everyone says they want to hire a "day of coordinator" for their wedding but truly that concept is a myth, a hoax, a unicorn. No one wants someone to come in suddenly and take over their life event without any prior knowledge of the goings-on. Your wedding day deserves investment, communication, collaboration, and someone who knows what the heck is going on!" -Sarah of www.kindredweddingsandevents.com
Why should someone hire a wedding planner?
"You should hire a wedding planner for many reasons such as budget and logistics, but one of the most important ones is to enjoy your engagement period without stress! That time in your life is SO special and hiring a planner means you don’t have to be googling florists at 4 am, you always have someone to talk to, and you have a professional opinion available to you at all times." -Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
"There is a strange thing that has happened in our modern society, where as soon as you get engaged, everyone expects that you will automatically develop new and exciting skill sets. The internet tells you that you CAN and SHOULD know how to plan your own wedding, and that is such a tragedy. It's OK not to know how to do this! It's not really common sense and it's definitely not second nature. I don't know how to be a photographer, and just because someone buys me a fancy camera doesn't mean I suddenly have professional photography skills, you know? You don't know what you don't know, but I do. Wedding Planners will save you time, energy, your sanity, your interpersonal relationships, and sometimes even money." -Renee of Moxie Bright Events
"Every couple deserves to experience their special day like a guest - no looking at clocks, no directing guests or vendors where to go, and no answering questions that will only put one on edge. A wedding planner can help you research vendors, construct a flawless timeline, volley ideas that feel unattainable, keep budgets balanced and guests happy all night long so you can have your dream wedding and relax the entire time." - Sarah of www.kindredweddingsandevents.com
"Planning a wedding isn’t all craft parties and rosé; it’s a lot of research, difficult conversations, negotiating, and detailed organizing. For those who identify strongly with Monica from Friends it’s a dream come true... For pretty much everyone else it’s time to call a planner." -Chabeli of http://www.psplans.com/
What is one mistake you think most couples make while wedding planning?
"I would say getting caught up in the things that are outside of their control. For example, the bride walks into the venue and the centerpiece on a table isn’t perfectly aligned, or it’s too hot outside for your ceremony and now she feels like the day is ruined. Don’t sweat the small stuff! You will always remember this day as the amazing day you got to marry the love of your life, and all the little details that may not have gone as planned only became a part of your beautiful love story and that’s okay - cause it’s uniquely yours." -Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
"They spend a lot of time and energy worrying about the reception, but not enough time working on the ceremony. Write your vows early, and edit them often!" -Renee of Moxie Bright Events
"I think the major mistake we see when planning is not creating a strategic plan in booking vendors when working with a specific budget. Most clients will book a photographer, florist or videographer before a caterer. A caterer is going to be one of or the most highest ticket items/vendors, and when you don’t book him first you don’t know what you should be leaving aside for food. So, lets explain more: Let’s say a client is spending 30K on their wedding and they book photo and video first after the venue (which was 5K). The photographer and vidoegrapher that they absolutely want is 9K and they book it. They have now spent 14K on venue, photo + video, leaving them 16K to complete the following: Catering, Florals, Rentals, Save the Dates, Invitations, Wedding Cake + Dessert, DJ or Band, Wedding Dress, Wedding Rings, Tux or Suit, Table Numbers, Seating Charts, Escort Cards, Parking/ Valet if Needed, Shuttle if needed, Officiant, Church Donation if needed, Hotel Room if needed (for getting ready or night of)
When doing this type of booking/ contracting vendors they tend to ALWAYS be over budget in the end. Most people that start of the way the examples explains tend to be over budget by 5-10K." -Chabeli of http://www.psplans.com/
What is one piece of advice you give to your clients to help ease the stress of wedding planning?
"Don’t be afraid to talk about money. Many people dread having the discussion about the budget, and often times there’s more than one person contributing to the bill. The best advice I can give is to be upfront, open, and honest about what everyone is willing to spend and set your budget. From there, sit down with your sweetheart and prioritize what is most important to you. This will help throughout the entire planning process as they vet vendors and figure out which areas they want to spend extra money in, and which things are “nice to have’s,” but not absolutely required. It’s definitely a great base to come back to in the planning process." -Shivani of www.vanikodesigns.com
"Your wedding is about you, sure. But it's also equally about your partner, and it's also about all of your guests. As the Couple of Honor (Bride & Groom, Groom & Groom, Bride & Bride), you are the gracious hosts of the wedding, as well as guests of honor. Hire a creative team (vendors) that you like and trust enough so that you can let go and just relax, and focus on your partner and your guests. The day goes REALLY fast." -Renee of Moxie Bright Events
"Always ALWAYS always do a budget before planning and HAVE FUN!" -Chabeli of http://www.psplans.com/