Wedding Coordinator vs. Planner vs. Designer: What’s the Difference?
Planning a wedding comes with a whole new set of vocabulary, and words you thought you understood suddenly take on an entirely new meaning. One of the biggest distinctions that a bride needs to figure out is what, exactly, the difference is between a wedding planner, a wedding designer, and a wedding coordinator. And who better to ask than the professionals themselves? Read on for a breakdown of what each different wedding pro does.
What Does a Wedding Planner Do?
Wedding planners are all about the logistics, from vendor referrals and contract negotiation to day-of execution of your vision. “Planners take the guesswork out of the process, making planning a wedding as seamless and smooth as possible,” says Renny Pedersen, owner and creative director of Bliss Weddings & Events. “A planner will keep track of your budget and handle the logistics. This is a skill that many can learn, but only the best planners have the years of experience and credentials that set them above the rest.” Some planners also provide design or styling services, helping with the creative specifics of your wedding day, while others opt to leave those details to a wedding designer—which means you’ll need to hire two professionals to create the day you’ve dreamed of.
Be sure to discuss whether your planner offers design services beforehand.
Wedding Planner Duties
- Puts in 80 to 250 hours.
- Provides vendor referrals and negotiates contracts; schedules and attends all vendor meetings.
- Creates detailed timelines and floor plans.
- Helps determine and manage your budget.
- Attends site tours and menu tastings.
- Brainstorms style ideas and coordinates design details.
- Coordinates hotel room blocks and transportation.
- Manages the rehearsal.
- Oversees everything on the wedding day (makes sure everyone adheres to the timeline, handles snafus, manages vendors, and executes your vision on-site).
Hire a Wedding Planner If…
- You have the budget for it.
- You want the least possible amount of wedding-related stress.
- You have no free time because of a demanding job.
- You have no clue where to start when it comes to planning, and your organizational skills aren’t the greatest.
- You have a very short time frame for planning.
- You’re throwing a destination wedding and/or a wedding weekend involving multiple events.
- You’re hosting your wedding in an unusual space (read: not a hotel, restaurant, or banquet hall).Wedding DesignerWhat Does a Wedding Designer Do?A wedding designer’s role is purely aesthetic and doesn’t include things like contract negotiations or attending appointments alongside the bride. “We specialize in design, consulting on everything from floor plans and lighting design to the flowers, furniture, linens, and attire,” says Tracy Taylor Ward, president and principal designer of Tracy Taylor Ward Design. “We help with the decisions that will give your event a cohesive, stylish, and sophisticated look.” The ability to design an event and create an atmosphere is a unique and rare talent.”It’s more than choosing linens and chairs,” says Pedersen. “A designer has an artistic eye that allows them to conceptualize the whole event and truly transform a space.”Wedding Designer Duties
- Puts in up to 40 hours.
- Creates the wedding’s design concept.
- Provides color palette guidance.
- Oversees the decor budget and vendors (florist, rentals, lighting, stationery).
- Sources special props and equipment.
- Attends a site visit to visualize where you want everything to go, devise a layout, and identify potential problems.
- Creates detailed floor plans.
- Ensures all of the decor elements are in place on-site at the wedding.
Hire a Wedding Designer If…
- The decor is the most important element of the wedding for you.
- You’re confident in your organizational and logistical skills, but your creative skills are lacking.
- You’re trying to pull off a very specific theme or you have a million wedding style ideas that you can’t narrow down.
What Does a Wedding Coordinator Do?
A wedding coordinator is logistically focused, but on a shorter timeline than a planner. They usually begin helping you prepare a month before the wedding and function as the point person on the wedding day. They will confirm vendor contracts and create a day-of timeline, as well as make sure things like payments and guest counts are in order, but won’t be involved in the earlier planning phases or keeping track of your budget. “Part of their job is to coordinate everything involved on the day of the event, from load-in and load-out to ensuring that everyone is on schedule,” says Pedersen.
Coordinators make sure everything you’ve done up until they take over is in good shape. “Hiring a coordinator to take over the month before your wedding gives them time to tweak any details and follow up on loose ends,” says event planner Andie Cuttiford. Everything is in order, nothing is forgotten, and you’re free to enjoy your wedding day.
Wedding Coordinator Duties
- Puts in approximately 10 – 20 hours.
- Meets with you before the wedding to get a handle on what you’ve planned.
- Checks in with your vendors to review confirm logistics.
- Reviews detailed timelines and floor plans.
- Completes a final walk-through of the ceremony and reception sites.
- Addresses any overlooked details (such as forgetting to hire a coat check attendant).
- Manages the rehearsal.
- Oversees everything on the wedding day.
Hire a Wedding Coordinator If…
- You want to play an active role in planning your wedding but would like someone to take care of the last-minute details and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
- You’re extremely organized and detail-oriented.
- You don’t have the budget for a full-service wedding planner.
A Few Key Things to Keep in Mind
- Book Ahead of Time
Whether you’re hiring a wedding planner, wedding designer, or wedding consultant, it’s best to secure them as soon as you know your wedding date—even if they aren’t getting involved until the month before. This tactic also can help you get the most for your money. “If a couple books us early, we’re happy to provide them with our list of performance-driven vendor recommendations,” says Anna Leath of Just About Married in New York City.
- Consider the Cost
Planners tell us that, for the most part, full-service wedding production and design runs approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total wedding cost, depending on the planner’s experience, what region of the U.S. they’re based in, and how much time your wedding demands. A wedding director generally will cost at least 25 percent of what a full-service planner would charge (so if the total package is $10,000, you can expect to pay $2,500 for a limited-service package). You probably can expect to pay between $2,000 and $6,000 for a qualified wedding director and $8,000 and $30,000 for a wedding planner or designer.
- Vet Your Pros
There’s no license or certification required to practice wedding planning—and while belonging to an organization like the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants (ACPWC), or the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) is an indicator of experience, it’s not the only one. Talent speaks for itself via photos on the planner’s company website or blog.
And, of course, as with all the pros you might hire, always read reviews and politely ask for references from other vendors and couples.
- Always Put Someone in Charge of Day-Of Tasks
Someone—not you—needs to make sure the wedding day itself runs smoothly and that everything you’ve planned is executed properly. But what if a professional wedding planner is not in your budget? While most venue coordinators and catering managers are happy to handle basic on-site logistics and simple setups—like arranging escort cards on a table or placing menu cards on each plate—keep in mind that their allegiance ultimately is to their employer, not you (meaning they’re making sure the food is served on time, not that the DJ is playing the right songs or that there are enough pens for the guest book).
“It would be unfair to expect your vendors to handle tasks they weren’t hired for, but it’s helpful to tell them that you don’t have a planner and won’t be securing one,” says Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction in San Francisco. “The most professional people certainly will do as much as they can for you.” The best option is to ask a responsible, trusted friend to handle a few important tasks, like managing the timeline or handling any issues that arise with vendors, and then to thank the person with a gift card to a store that they like. “But you have to be really understanding that this is not the person’s profession—don’t expect everything to be perfect,” says Leath.
Trending Now: The Day Of Wedding Coordinator
One of the hottest trends in wedding planning right now is the use of a day of wedding coordinator. A day of coordinator, also known as a Wedding Day Coordinator, can really assist wedding couples in so many wonderful ways on the actual day of their wedding. Hiring a day of coordinator will help to alleviate a lot of the stress associated with the final days of planning as well as reduce the pressure often associated with day-of logistics. A wedding couple should be able to enjoy their special day, not worry about their planned details and their execution on the day of the wedding!
Quite often people confuse wedding planners with day of coordinator duties. A day of coordinator is actually quite different from a wedding planner. Even though the day of coordination is not necessarily a new type of service, it’s important to share what day of wedding coordinators do, especially for those couples who are planning a wedding themselves.
We spoke with Carla Friday of Details Made Simple to learn more about day of coordinator duties and why hiring a day of coordinator could prove essential for your wedding day!
What is the difference between a wedding planner and a day of wedding coordinator?
A full-service wedding planner basically handles everything for the couple, from start to finish. A wedding planner’s tasks include the overall design and vision of wedding, keeping the couples within their budgets, contract negotiations, the hiring of vendors, as well as execution of the event vision on the day of the wedding.
But what does a day of wedding coordinator do? A wedding day coordinator will jump into the process a few weeks prior the big day, usually to help those couples who are planning the wedding themselves. Yes, there is help for those couples who are planning their weddings on their own!
A day of wedding coordinator will be logistically focused and available to you to get everything organized as you lead up to the day of the wedding. They are there to take over on the day of the wedding to ensure that all details that are planned, are executed. As we like to say, a day of coordinator is essential for any couple who wants to do most of the planning themselves, but when their wedding day arrives, they need a professional to execute all of their hard work and planning. Having a professional such as a day of wedding coordinator there to handle the logistics is so essential because a wedding couple should be able to enjoy themselves at their wedding and not worry about anything!
As a day of wedding coordinator, at what point in the wedding planning process do you come in the process?
A day of coordinator really comes into the process depending upon the needs of the couple. We have couples who book our services a year out from their wedding date because they already know the value of having a day of wedding coordinator and want to ensure we are available for them on the day of the wedding. We also have couples who call us closer to their wedding, like two months out let’s say, which usually happens as their stress begins to mount and they realize they need help. They start to worry about details and aren’t sure how it will come together in the end so hiring us helps to alleviate that.
What does a day of coordinator do to help the couples who are choosing to plan their own weddings rather than hire a full-service wedding planner?
Weddings by reverie will take the day of coordination a step further in these situations to help guide our couples through their planning process. We become a resource for them and remove some stress as they know we are just a phone call or text away! From the time of the contract, we do monthly check-ins, provide amazing vendor recommendations, give advice and guidance through their planning process while providing wedding day management on the day of the wedding. Our main goal is to ensure that our clients feel like actual guests at their own wedding!
Organization and attention to detail are key! This is a first time process for most wedding couples so that they are truly flying blind through the planning. With this in mind, we always recommend helpful ways to simplify planning. The guest list, floorplan design, seating arrangements, and timeline tools are invaluable throughout the planning process.
As the wedding day approaches, we construct a detailed timeline and run of show for the day of the wedding, confirm and manage all wedding vendors, and become their point of contact on the wedding day. We monitor and setup the wedding details, organize the bridal party and family for the ceremony as well as do damage control for anything that might come up on the day of the wedding. Think of day of coordinators as your own personal wedding day ninja! Basically, we take the wedding you have spent the last year or so diligently planning come to life and without a hitch!
As a day of coordinator, do you offer different levels of service? For example, if a couple is working within a tight budget, is there a package available to them?
The Perfect Day Package includes the following services:
- 2 in-person meetings – one of which will be the venue walkthrough. We want to learn your wedding vision inside and out!
- Complete wedding management and day-of execution for up to 10 hrs.
- Review all your vendor contracts as needed to understand exactly what will be arriving day-of.
- Venue walk-through to go over the details and logistics of the wedding day.
- Identify any missing pieces to the wedding day that may have been missed but are essential to run smoothly.
- Unlimited contact via email from the time of contract. Any phone and video chats need to be pre-scheduled ~ We are always here for you!
- Monthly email check-ins to ensure discussed details are going as planned, no matter how far out you book us -we are in this together!
- Vendor management – we will coordinate with all contracted wedding vendors listed on your vendor form and confirm their arrival times, get insurance info, meal counts, confirm services booked, and any other important details, at least 1 week or more prior to the wedding.
- Greet wedding vendors and be the point of contact the day of your wedding ~ this way no one is bothering you will questions or concerns!
- Cross-check venue set up, making sure ceremony and reception are set to perfection. Fixing any errors that may come up.
- Distribute bouquets & pin corsages to the bridal party, attendants & family members.
- Remind Best Man, Maid of Honor, Parents, and honored guests when they are about to give toasts
- Assist bridal party and family for photographs ~ things could get crazy and they may need some guidance, we will be there to help if needed.
- Set-up and styling of all wedding elements ~ this is key to having your vision come to life! (Escort cards, favors, guest books, table numbers, photo booth props, DIY elements, etc.)*
- Direct ushers and helpers with seating and program distribution.
- Professional coordinator onsite for up to 10 hoursof wedding day management.
- Distribute final payments & gratuities as needed to vendors ~ you won’t have time to do this as you will be too busy having the best day of your life!
- Retain the marriage license for the officiant.
- Arrange for all your personal items are packed up and given to a designated family member, room, and/or vehicle.
- Most importantly, full access to the Wedding Day “Emergency Kit” ~ Trust us, it always comes in handy!
Planning the perfect destination wedding?
Want to ensure that your big day goes well by having your own destination wedding coordinator there? Then this is the package for you!
Sometimes you just need that “right-hand” to help with things for your dreams of a destination wedding. Whether you are too busy with work or just need help with dealing with those on “island time” or international vendors that work at a different pace than you are used to – we offer consultation hours to help with the planning of your destination wedding.
These packages are a little different than our other wedding day coordination packages as we will allocate a set amount of hours to complete the tasks needed to help you plan the perfect destination wedding weekend.
Destination Package — $1,000
You can allocate however you wish, but here are some of the more popular tasks our destination brides have us do:
- Create a wedding website for their guests to get all the pertinent wedding information like hotel booking, country, and travel regulations, wedding day details, etc.
- Handle the shipping and transportation logistics of wedding items to and from the wedding location.
- Work directly with your destination venue contact and ensure clear communication and execution.
- DIY projects to add a little personalization to the wedding. We can give ideas to add some flair to your big day without breaking the bank!
- Help with Save the Dates: order, assemble, and mail.
- Help with Invitations and email communications for local and international guests.
- Create a detailed wedding timeline for the day so vendors and bridal party members know what’s going on ~ we keep everyone in check!
- Help produce an overall logistics game plan for having a wedding on a large property resort.
- A lot of our brides find these consultation hours super valuable as it gives them the help they need to make the perfect destination wedding all come together.Should you need or want your Destination Wedding Planner/Coordinator to be on-site for your big day, we can do that as well, and here is how it works.
- All travel, accommodations, and food must be paid for by the client. Travel day fees may apply.
- The Day of the Wedding Coordination is included for up to 10 hours of on-site service.
- Any additional days needed on-site before or after the actual wedding day price is $200 per day — up to
- We can help with the coordination of the rehearsal dinner, pool party, beach party, and any other activities during your wedding weekend, **additional day services rate applies.
- It’s important to have these elements running seamlessly and on time so you and your guests are enjoying themselves and not working out all the details on site. You can achieve that by hiring a Destination Wedding Coordinator
Here at Weddings by reverie, we understand that each destination wedding is unique and different. Call us today to discuss your vision and be on your way to becoming a Weddings by reverie Destination Bride!
*For liability reasons, our coordinators cannot serve food or drinks to guests, bus tables, hang anything decorations that require a ladder or move anything that is heavy enough to require machinery.