Hiring a Wedding Planner- Who is Right for You?
Written by Courtney N. Shale // 12.2.19
So, you’re thinking about hiring a wedding planner… YAY!
Are you in the midst of planning your wedding and trying to decide if you should hire a wedding planner or coordinator? Aren’t sure what the difference is and who does what?
You’re in the right place!
Did you know that, other than the photographer, most couples will say the best investment they made for their wedding was their wedding planner or coordinator? It’s true! Take it from me- we exist to make your life as easy as possible while bringing your wedding dreams to life.
But, how do you know what the difference is between a wedding planner, wedding coordinator, venue coordinator and which one you should hire…?
Most of these magic-making professionals you have heard about fall into one of these categories: full-service wedding planner (hey, that’s me!), month-of coordinator or wedding manager (day-of coordinators really do not exist, but we will chat about that more in a minute) and a venue or in-house coordinator (NOT a wedding planner or coordinator- they work for the venue).
Since every couple and every wedding is different in terms of what they need and the scope of the event, I’m going to break down what each professional does so you can decide what type of planner is right for you!
Full-Service Wedding Planner
Full-service wedding planning is my personal wheelhouse, and I like to break it down like this:
The Full-Service Experience with LCN Events
This exclusive, comprehensive service is ideal for the couple that has a full and busy life with a big vision and wants someone to guide them every step of the way, so they can have fun, relax and enjoy every milestone leading up to their big day. If you are the couple that wants the elite, highly-personalized touch, this one’s for you.
Full-service wedding planners are pretty much just like the name suggests- we do all the things, from start to finish, to ensure no detail goes missed. It’s how we make the magic happen and give you the best of the best.
To give you an idea of what full-service planners can do for you, here are some of the ways I help give my couples the gift of time:
My planning experience consists of three stress-free phases:
Phase 1. Planning & Design
The most enjoyable planning experience will give you the gift of time while I handle the details, strategy and logistics. During the planning and design phase, we will work closely together in my streamlined planning system to establish a budget, step-by-step planning checklists and timelines, matching you with your wedding pro dream team, sourcing travel and accommodations for you and your guests and more.
Once the planning foundation is set and your wedding pro dream team is complete, we move onto the creative side of wedding planning- design! You know that Pinterest board you have been creating for years? We will work in my virtual design studio to curate a space for all of your details, colors, textures, rentals, florals and more to personally bring that vision to life.
Phase 2. Production
This phase consists of all the behind-the-scenes work that is necessary to “make it happen”. My secret sauce is in handling communication, correspondence and coordination needs with your wedding pro dream team. From formalizing your wedding day timeline, finalizing details with your pro team and more, you and your fiancé will have time to relax, celebrate and focusing on tying the knot in this new season together while leaving the loose ends to me.
Phase 3. Wedding Management
The day you have been dreaming of has finally arrived and it’s time to make the magic happen! While you have fun and be present in the moment, I will be with you and managing the entire weekend of festivities from your rehearsal to the full wedding day. Checking in with you on-site first thing in the morning and up until I manage the flow of the evening, I will be assisting with logistics and transportation, welcoming your pro team and overseeing setup as your vision comes to life in each individual space.
How to Decide and When to Hire
Essentially, if you are looking for an experience that allows you to relax, celebrate with your loved ones and have peace-of-mind every step of the way knowing a professional is handling all of the expected and unexpected, a full-service wedding planner (possibly me!) is the one for you!
Some things you can expect from a full-service planner includes, but is not limited to: helping set and manage a budget, help research venues, recommend vendors and help with the booking/contract process, help source room blocks and other necessary transportation, help track vendor payments, track RSVPs, floor plan/table seating design, give access to awesome planning softwares and so much more in addition to, of course, everything that you hear about when it comes to month-of coordination! Read more below!
When it comes to hiring your full-service planner, the sooner the better! My secret sauce is in being as involved as possible- with every decision from the very beginning- to ensure you have the knowledge, insights and advice necessary to save you time, money and from the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Full-Service planners book up quickly (myself included), so be sure to start reaching out to set up consultations with your top picks as soon as possible!
Month-of Coordinators or Wedding Managers
I’m going to be super real with you for a second- wedding professionals HATE the word “day-of” because, to be blunt, it does NOT exist in the wedding world.
You’re probably thinking “but Courtney, IT IS EVERYWHERE!”
I know. I really do. I was guilty of using it too when I entered the industry.
But hear me out- it’s a misconception!!!
Day-of Coordinators Do NOT Exist
In order for you to have the experience you are looking for, there is NO possible way for someone to just show up the DAY of your wedding and know what is going on and make things happen.
If you think you really just need someone for the day-of the wedding, please hear me out. This professional is going to need time to get to know you, to know what you have planned out, who you hired and SO much more BEFORE the day of your wedding. There is not enough time the “day-of” to run through all of this and have the day you have dreamed of.
That’s why month-of coordinators and wedding managers exist. Essentially, the word “day-of” is just the wrong term. I’m only telling you this as a helpful tool, because that is part of what I do- I help educate my couples regardless if they hire me or not! Why? Because no on expects you to know what you don’t know! After all, weddings are what I do for a living- that’s the only reason I am in the know. For example, I don’t know what I don’t know about taxes, and that’s why I hire someone to do them for me! The same applies here, friend!
So, what do month-of coordinators or wedding managers do (and why “day-of” is the wrong term)? Let’s break it down:
These professionals will come in roughly 4-6 weeks before your big day to finalize details- everything up until this point will have been handled by you!
They will do final walkthroughs of your chosen venues, check in and confirm details with your chosen vendors, build a “day-of” timeline and manage your rehearsal and, of course, your wedding day.
How to Decide and When to Hire
These pros are perfect for the couples that are super organized, understand how to create and operate a budget, have the magic touch for design and want to take charge of planning their big day. Likewise, these pros are a great fit for the couples who have a limited budget, but want to hire a professional who can bring it all together before the day of the wedding.
I sincerely recommend that every couple hires a month-of coordinator or wedding manager, at the very least, to ensure everything you have planned and worked for comes to life- trust me, couples agree that it is worth the small investment.
When it comes to hiring your month-of coordinator or wedding manager, 6-8 months out is the magic number. When I offered this service, I explained to my couples that although most of the work will happen right before the wedding, I like to check in with them along the way to make sure they are staying on track and help answer any questions they may have. I even helped give advice and vendor recommendations when asked. Many month-of coordinators or wedding managers will do the same for you!
Venue Coordinators or In-House Coordinators
Many venues have someone on staff to serve as your main contact for the venue- they are often referred to as a venue coordinator or in-house coordinator and should not be considered a replacement for an outside planner or coordinator.
Before starting my business, I served as a venue coordinator or in-house coordinator for several country clubs, resorts and other venues across the Midwest.
Venue coordinators or in-house coordinators will handle all things for the venue; including but not limited to creating a diagram for the ceremony and/or reception spaces and overseeing set-up and delivery, conducting the tasting if they offer in-house catering and explaining what their packages include (in-house rental items, tables, chairs, linens etc.) and keep their team on schedule.
There is more to it than that- but a lot of it includes things you don’t think of or see; like cleaning the spaces, creating signage, having adequate staff available, ensuring maintenance has the lighting and HVAC set appropriately, coordinating Banquet Event Orders (BEOs)… don’t worry, I’ll stop there!
The key takeaway here is that a venue coordinator or in-house coordinator works for the venue, not for you. An outside planner or coordinator will manage everything at the venue, coordinate with your vendors and check in with you to keep you and your wedding party on schedule while the venue coordinator or in-house coordinator is working behind the scenes to ensure the venue itself is taken care of.
While some venue coordinators or in-house coordinators might have the time available or be willing to lend a helping hand on smaller details (aka going above and beyond!), they will not be assisting you with personal needs and all of the items outlines above under full-service planners or month-of coordinators or wedding managers.
How to Decide and When to Hire… Oh Wait!
How to decide and when to hire means something completely different for this category.
If you are sticking to a tight budget and your venue offers a venue coordinator or in-house coordinator for an extra fee, myself and many others will always recommend prioritizing an outside planner or coordinator instead. And if a venue coordinator or in-house coordinator is included with your choice of venue, hire an outside planner or coordinator anyway!
Trust me, since I have operated on both sides of the spectrum, I can tell you that couples do not regret hiring a professional who is there to focus only on you on the day of your wedding and all the month leading up to it. This alone is part of what made me want to become a full-service planner under my own business- to provide couples with the experience they deserve.
After operating on the venue side of things for six years, my approach and process were designed with one question in mind: “if I was the one planning my wedding, what would I want to experience from working with a planner?”.
So, what do you think? Who is right for you?
If you think we would be a good fit, I would LOVE to chat with you- send me a message!!
And if you still are unsure, I welcome you to check out more wedding planning resources crafted just for you!