As we head into prime wedding season, it is a good time to revisit the dilemma so many engaged couples face – if you have found your venue, and it offers a “venue coordinator,” or “wedding coordinator,” is there any need to hire an independent wedding planner?
Many couples make the mistake of thinking that the two roles are the same, or at least very similar. Yes, there can be some overlap, but not much. In order to save you from finding out the hard way, we hope this post gives some clarification.
At the most basic level, the difference between an independent planner and a venue coordinator is that venue coordinators work for and are beholden to the venue; wedding planners, on the other hand, work only for you. It’s a little bit like the difference between hiring your own lawyer to handle your transaction, and hiring the company lawyer from the other side. It is not quite that serious, as that would be unethical conduct for the company lawyer and there is nothing unethical about the role of a venue coordinator. However, you will nonetheless be in a contractual relationship with the venue, and its purpose is always to protect its own interests and revenue.
Here is a detailed analysis of what you can expect from a venue coordinator, as opposed to an independent wedding planner.
The Wedding Planner
Independent wedding planners (and designers) have two priorities: making sure your wedding is everything you want it to be, and that it runs smoothly and stress free. Planners offer various levels of service, but at full service your planner is likely to have assisted in most, if not all, of the elements of your wedding, and been by your side from start to finish.
While a wedding planner can step in at any time, she often comes on board at the outset to help create a design scheme and find you the right venue. She will use her extensive knowledge of the community and the available venues and vendors, to meet the vision you are creating together. Your wedding planner will have an exact understanding of the logistics and style of your wedding, meaning that there will be someone on hand throughout the process who knows about every last detail of your day (and who isn’t you, as you’ll be a bit busy getting married!).
Your wedding planner will attend your final walk through of the venue, coordinating all of your vendors and making sure your design and flow wishes are realized. She will also manage your ceremony rehearsal, ensuring that you and your wedding party have no questions about what happens when. She will also develop and distribute to the venue and all of your vendors highly detailed timelines, so that everyone involved is on board as to the exact flow of the event.
When your wedding day arrives, you planner will be onsite from the time the venue lets her in, until the very last vendor has dismantled, cleaned up and left the venue. She will double and triple check that everything is just as you had imagined it, from the flowers, to the place settings, to the napkin folds. We deal in details, timings and minutiae, making sure that everything runs according to schedule and plan.
Wedding planners also make sure that if anything goes wrong, we have an answer for it. From emergency kits to rectify any spill or stain, to a full list of vendors’ contact details in case someone’s running late. Experience, pragmatism and preparation help wedding planners make sure there is never a need for panic.
If you are having a multi-venue wedding then your wedding planner and their team will be able to oversee setting up of the multiple venues and guest transportation between them.
The Venue Coordinator
The venue coordinator, as the title suggests, works for the venue. She generally will respond to your initial inquiry and will show you around the venue. She acts partially as a salesperson, and as things move forward, partially as an ambassador for the venue and a point of liaison between the couple and the on-site operations team.
Coordinators are responsible only for aspects of your wedding that specifically concern the venue. They can answer questions about policies and logistics, and if providing the catering, will organize menu tastings and monitor your payments. Sometimes they will assist with choices concerning tables, chairs and linens, if provided by the venue. But if these vendors are outsourced, a venue coordinator does none of this.
Venues generally love it when you have hired an independent planner because having a point of contact and responsibility, other than the bride or groom, makes their job much easier. Many venues will require that you have at least a wedding manager (sometimes called a month- or day-of coordinator).
On your wedding day the venue coordinator’s responsibility is to help ensure that the venue is set up correctly, and that your wedding suppliers adhere to the venue rules. Usually the venue coordinator will leave after the main meal has been served, leaving an operations manager or banqueting manager in charge.
Working with Vendors
If you ask a venue coordinator for a vendor recommendation, she he is likely to suggest someone from the venue’s recommended list. In many cases, these are vendors who have paid to be on the list or work on a commission basis, so you’re not really getting an honest referral based on someone’s merits or experience, or whether they meet your style.
By contrast, independent wedding planners invest a lot of time in building up a network of trusted suppliers on whom they can call. Not only will they be personally acquainted with the vendor’s work, but they’ll also tailor their recommendations based on your budget, style and personality. The importance of this in the planning process cannot be overstated. It is only through this personal referral process that your planner can be sure that she’s creating a team of wedding professionals that she can trust to deliver the best service and which isn’t going to break the bank. An experienced planner is worth her weight in gold, literally, by being able to direct you to the right vendors, for you.
Many couples think they can’t afford a wedding planner. Forget the idea that a wedding planner is a costly addition to your wedding. In most cases, a wedding planner pays for herself or himself – saving you not only time (which is money for most people), but also direct out of pocket expenses – by understanding the market, the vendors, your personality, and your budget. A venue coordinator will not engage in any aspect of the hiring or negotiation process, other than for the venue itself.
While a venue coordinator may seem like a ‘free wedding planner,’ they simply don’t have the relationship with or commitment to you that an independent wedding planner has.
There are of course many outstanding venue coordinators who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their clients have a perfect day and who are a joy for wedding planners to work alongside. Planners treasure good venue coordinators! But don’t be confused as to our roles in your wedding.
Happy planning, and we hope you will call on Save the Date! to help with your Colorado and destination wedding needs!