Wedding vs Venue Coordinator

A planner friend of mine recently had a great, very promising consultation with a couple for month-of planning and wedding management. Everything went great and she really hit it off with the couple, but when she followed up, they said, “Thanks so much, but we decided we don’t need a planner after all. Our venue has one!” Instead of taking the time to educate the couple right then and there about the differences between wedding and venue coordinators, my friend simply wished them well and went on her way.

“I bet I’ll hear from them again,” she told me, and about three months later, an email appeared in her inbox from the same couple asking if she still had their date free.

Here’s why: a venue coordinator and an event coordinator are not the same thing. Couples may hear the word “coordinator” from their venue and think, Perfect! One-stop shop! But it’s not that easy. If it was, independent planners would be out of their jobs! There’s been a major push lately in the wedding and event industry to educate our clients on exactly what we do, and a huge part of that is based around the venue coordinator/wedding coordinator issue.

The truth is that, if you’re not actually a part of the industry, you really wouldn’t know the difference. A coordinator is a coordinator, right? Well, not really. For couples who are trying to navigate this confusion, here are some key details that set venue and event coordinators apart:

1. The basics. The venue coordinator is there to handle – you guessed it – the venue. If you need a table moved, a fan turned on, or a door unlocked, he or she is most likely the one to go to. On the other hand, your wedding coordinator is there for you. If you need your dress bustled, your DJ cued for the grand entrance, or a quick crash course on how to cut your cake, your wedding coordinator is ready and willing to help. You wouldn’t ask a florist to make sure the bartenders know where your personalized koozies are, so why would you ask a venue coordinator to tell the photographer when you want to start photos? While the venue coordinator manages the venue, the wedding coordinator – by definition – manages the wedding as a whole.

2. Vendor connections. A venue coordinator might be able to provide a preferred vendor list, but only a wedding coordinator will schedule and attend consultations and review contracts with those vendors to help find the right ones for you.

3. Vendor outreach. A venue coordinator may be in touch with the vendors that are vital to setup – the rentals, the florist, maybe the security officer- but that’s about it. Meanwhile, the wedding coordinator will be the one to check in with each vendor during the planning process to go over details, arrival times, and responsibilities.

4. The preparation. A venue coordinator isn’t going to make your timeline or run your rehearsal. For a wedding coordinator, those are very basic package inclusions that you won’t even have to ask for.

5. The accessibility. Popular venues may have three weddings in a single weekend, so the focus on you may be fairly limited leading up to your big day. On the other hand, a wedding coordinator – even if they’re working with multiple clients – will be able to work closely with you over the course of several months so that you feel like a priority throughout the entire process rather than just the day of your booking and the day or your wedding.

6. The design. A venue coordinator will have beautiful photos to show from past weddings and great ideas for how to decorate, but he or she won’t be the one to help put your design plans into motion. That’s what your wedding coordinator is for.

7. The relationship. The venue employee you sign a contract with may not be the same one you meet with for your walkthrough or even the same one who’s there on your wedding day. It’s not at all uncommon to have two different venue coordinators there in a single day – one for the morning and to oversee setup and another for the evening to oversee the ceremony, reception, and teardown. Meanwhile, the wedding coordinator you have your consultation with will stay with you through the entire planning process and be there for you on your wedding day (and maybe model your ceremony programs for you!).

In the end, it’s clear what the differences are – and why it’s great to have both! While the venue coordinator won’t help plan your wedding, set up your decor, or coordinate your vendors, he or she will be an asset when it comes to important details like getting measurements, creating a floorplan, and managing the setup of the ceremony and reception. There are several weddings I’ve done where I’ve thanked my lucky stars for the amazing venue coordinators who helped me with venue-related issues. That said, if a potential client says they don’t need a wedding coordinator because their venue has one, I’ll jump at the chance to share this info – because, in the end, the wedding coordinator’s job is to make sure that you get exactly what you need to make your big day a success.

Photo by Unearthed Photography

Why Hire a Planner?

Over the course of my planning career, I’ve had to justify my work more times than I care to admit. A lot of people (mostly unmarried people or people who haven’t hosted an event, to be honest) question the necessity of having a planner. What does a planner do, anyway? Schedule some appointments, look at stationary, boss people around on the Big Day? Anyone can do that, right? Well, quite frankly, yes – but that doesn’t even begin to cover all that a planner really does. Here’s a little bit of insight into what planners do and how they can help to bring your event to life in a way that no one else can.

1.) Planning is stressful. It’s not all cake tastings and picking out flowers; it’s setting deadlines, researching vendors, making phone calls, reviewing contracts, and creating timelines. When you already have a busy schedule with work, social obligations, and whatever else you have going on, do you really want to devote multiple hours a week  for months to the planning process?

2.) Bringing your vision to life is hard. You may know what you want, but not how to get it. I did an event for SXSW where the client wanted a 15’x15′ fully-functioning Etch-A-Sketch. While he was asking, “Does that even exist?”, I was asking, “What color do you want it to be?” Planners have resources and contacts. We know where to go and who to talk to to get what you want. Nothing is impossible.

3.) A planner can complement your skills. Are you very creative but have a hard time with the contracts and timelines? Are you more detail-oriented and struggle with figuring out your overall vision? The right planner for you will handle the parts of the process that you have trouble with. Whether you want someone to take your plans and put them into action or someone to help you figure out your design and decor, you can find a planner that helps round out your team and make the whole process easier.

4.) It’s hard to narrow down vendors. Every cake looks delicious. Every DJ plays good music. Every photographer has a beautiful, artsy website. What you don’t see is the reputation, specialty, and personality of each vendor. Planners work with literally hundreds of other vendors and can figure out who will work best on your team.

5.) Planners know the right questions to ask. In the same vein, planners can figure out your needs for your event and make sure that the vendors you choose will deliver. I’ve had clients sign contracts that don’t promise what they want; for example, a recent bride hired a caterer solely to drop off their food and leave, then was confused as to why the caterer wasn’t staying to serve or clean up. Contracts are confusing, but planners know what to look for.

6.) Planners are intermediaries. It can be really awkward if you’re planning an event and your sweet best friend or family member is trying to take over. If they want red flowers and you want yellow, you might feel swayed to choose their idea for the sake of not hurting feelings. When you have a planner, you’re the client, and the planner will handle those awkward conversations to make sure that you get exactly what you want.

7.) A planner wants to help. Your bridesmaid won’t want to skip girl time on the morning of the wedding to set up the place settings. Your best friend won’t want to get to your fundraiser frazzled and already tired from driving all over town to pick up linens and flowers. Your mom won’t want to miss the first half of your birthday party because she’s on the phone with a vendor who’s running late. Your planner, on the other hand, is ready and willing to do what you don’t have time for. It’s in the job description.

8.) Sticking to a budget is hard. If your dream vendor is out of your price range, you may feel discouraged – or worse, you may be tempted to go overboard on spending. When you have a planner, he or she can figure out great ways to make your dream come true without breaking the bank. With a little bit of creativity and industry know-how, any event can look like it has a champagne budget, even if it doesn’t.

9.) Things go wrong at the last minute. A table setting may get lost in the mix. People may decline their RSVP but show up anyway. Transportation may get lost on the way to your venue. A bridesmaid’s gel bra may explode all over her dress ten minutes before the ceremony. I’ve dealt with all of these issues, and that’s kept the client from having to deal with them. Even if things are easy fixes – a call to a vendor, an extra chair placed here or there, a phone call to give step-by-step directions, a draped sash made out of a table runner – they would add to the client’s stress and make their day just a little bit less perfect.

10.) You should be able to enjoy the event. If you’re the one in charge of sticking to the timeline, coordinating vendor arrivals and departures, running the setup and breakdown, managing the flow of the event, keeping an eye on the food and drinks, adjusting the lighting, rounding people up for photos, and ensuring that everyone else is happy, your event will pass in the blink of an eye – and you won’t even know what happened. Your event, no matter how big or how small, is your day and your time to shine, so give yourself a chance to enjoy it. Be present. Let someone else handle the stress.

Copyright ® Julep Events 2017