Like other industries such as tech or fashion, the wedding industry has its very own language, and the terminology can often be unclear to anyone not in the business. For example, what is the difference between tulle and taffeta? Or black tie and semi-formal? More importantly, what do you get from a wedding coordinator versus a wedding planner?
The distinction between all of these is significant, but the last example has the greatest effect on your wedding day and budget. To help you figure out how to choose a wedding coordinator, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from a wedding planner, a wedding coordinator, and all of the options in-between (yes, there are even more options!).
Most wedding coordinators will assist you in the final weeks leading up to your wedding, but some only play a role on the wedding day itself. Ultimately, they are there to ensure the day runs smoothly from start to finish. This includes coordinating and communicating with you and your SO, the wedding party, and the vendors, plus directing set-up and tear-down, managing the timeline, and handling any issues that may arise.
If a wedding coordinator’s contract extends beyond the day of the wedding, they will also take on duties such as creating your timeline, managing your guest list and RSVPs, attending final venue walkthroughs, communicating with your vendors, and running your ceremony rehearsal.
Wedding coordinators will get to know you and your plans as much as possible in the month of your wedding, so that they can execute your vision to fruition and ensure you don’t have to worry about a thing on your wedding day.
The big difference between a wedding coordinator and a wedding planner is the amount of time they work with you—something that ultimately affects how much control they have over everything related to your wedding.
A wedding planner will often work with you in the early stages of wedding planning. This can be extremely helpful for recommending and procuring vendors, keeping you under budget and on schedule, and answering any and all questions you may have. They can also help curate design ideas, make catering decisions, and handle any travel arrangements.
When it comes to the day of the wedding, a planner does everything a coordinator does. However, by this point, you will have worked with them much longer and more thoroughly, so they’ll be more familiar with the overall vision for the day.
Unlike both a wedding planner and wedding coordinator, a wedding designer doesn’t handle any of the logistics of your wedding. From a bird’s eye view, a designer’s role is to determine what your wedding will look like. They are in charge of any and all design-related details. They will create floor plans of both your ceremony and reception, detailing where floral arrangements should be placed, how lighting should be hung, etc.
In addition to making your wedding look beautiful, a designer can also be extremely helpful in making it feel personal. They can dream up elements that pay tribute to you and your fiancé’s relationship, like punny signage or thoughtful favors. Above all, a designer will wield their creativity to help make your wedding signature to your style in ways you couldn’t have dreamt of.
Here’s the twist: A wedding planner can also be a wedding coordinator and/or a wedding designer. Further, the terms planner and coordinator are often interchangeable, so it’s important to sit down with the professionals you are considering and go over everything that is—and isn’t—included with their services.
Do they offer design services as part of their package? How many consultations are included? Will they attend in-person vendor meetings and venue walkthroughs? How long will they work with you? Will they themselves be there on the wedding day, or will an assistant be present in their place? These are all important questions to ask in your initial meeting with wedding planners, coordinators, and designers.
To gain more clarity, research each professional’s website to see the different tiers of service they offer and look for buzzwords like “full-service,” “partial-planning,” or “creative direction.” A lot of planners and coordinators do list exactly what you will get with each service, so you can get a better idea of whether or not they meet your needs before booking a wedding consultant.
You can also vet your potential planners by reading reviews and asking for references. Another couple’s positive experience working with a planner can speak volumes and give you a better idea of what to expect when working with them.
You can think of a bridal attendant as your personal assistant on your wedding day. They will be at your beck and call from the moment you wake up (or whenever you ask them to arrive) to the moment you leave the reception—and even afterwards to wrap up any final details. Their tasks can range from bringing you coffee to packing your overnight bag.
Think of all the little details you may need on the day of your wedding: someone to steam dresses, reapply your lipstick, hold onto car keys, carry an umbrella, etc. If you need anything, a bridal attendant or day of wedding coordinator will be your go-to.
This person’s role is specifically to help you design and execute your style for the day of your wedding. This can include helping you choose your dress, picking out accessories to go with it, selecting bridesmaid styles, and creating a vision for your day-of hair and makeup. If you want to look your best on your big day, but need help making it all come together, a bridal stylist is a great option.
A venue coordinator is your resource for any and all needs related to the venue. Whether they're a coordinator at a wedding venue in Pittsburgh or San Diego, they can be a big help in making sure the band knows where to set up and the caterers can find the kitchen, however their job is to serve the needs of the venue, not you, so they don’t often cater to the finer details of the day.
Now that you know exactly what every kind of wedding planning professional does, you can make a well-informed decision. The most crucial things to consider are:
Think about how much money you can afford to spend on a coordinator. The bigger your wedding budget, the more involved planner you can afford. Coordinators are generally less expensive than planners, because they put in fewer hours in the months leading up to the wedding. Designer fees can vary based on experience, location, and what you ask of them. However, they are typically more expensive than coordinators and can easily be as expensive as a planner.
Still, it’s worth noting that just because one professional is more expensive than another doesn’t mean you will receive better service. Do your research, ask questions, and determine what is—and is not—included before booking any professional for your wedding, especially your planner or event coordinator. For more information, see our guide on how much do wedding coordinators cost?
Are you worried about forgetting something on your wedding day, or nervous you will screw up the timing? A month-of or day-of coordinator will put you at ease. Does managing your budget and navigating vendor contracts make you cringe? A wedding planner could be the way to go. Is Pinterest your worst nightmare? A wedding designer is a good option for you.
Keep in mind, though: If you hire a wedding designer, you may need to also hire a coordinator to handle the nitty-gritty details. Even if you’re ultra-organized and know what you’re doing, having someone help run the show and execute everything you have planned can be invaluable.
When we say “big details,” think location, size, and how far out your wedding is.
Are you having a long or short engagement? The less time you have, the more help you will need. Are you having a big celebration or an intimate ceremony? The more guests you invite, the more help you will need. Are you having a destination wedding or is it local? The less familiar you are and the more removed you are from your wedding venue, the more help you will need. For destination weddings, in particular, it is important to have a planner on the ground who can recommend local vendors and make decisions for you when you aren’t around.
If you’re on the fence about whether a wedding planner is worth it, consider how each one can help you achieve your dream wedding and go from there.