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Summerhill Pyramid Winery Photo by Kevin Trowbridge

I’d like to set the record straight on a common wedding industry misconception. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about the difference between the job of a venue-appointed wedding coordinator and that of a professional wedding planner or wedding-day coordinator.

All too often, I hear from brides that they did not hire a wedding planner or coordinator because their venue came with one. This concerns me because the two professions are not one and the same. True, some of the tasks and services performed by each may overlap, but overall they are completely different roles and therefore offer a different type of service.

 

Now, I am by no means downplaying the importance of a venue’s wedding coordinator. They can be a wonderful part of the wedding plan and enhance your overall wedding experience. If you cannot afford, or perhaps don’t want to involve a professional planner or coordinator, a venue’s coordinator can be a cherished and valued substitute.

I actually held a similar position for six years with one of Vancouver’s most popular wedding venues (Brock House Restaurant) prior to starting up DreamGroup in 2004. But it wasn’t until I became a full-fledged wedding planner that I realized just how different our jobs were!

The role of a venue coordinator is first and foremost to ensure that you have a successful experience with the venue. They will work in varying capacities (depending on the venue and the individual) to take care of you and help you enjoy a fun reception. The role of a professional independent planner or coordinator is to ensure the overall success and enjoyment of the wedding day as a whole (from hair and makeup in the morning through to bouquet celebrations at the end of the night, and every special moment in between). A wedding planner puts in place the proper pre-event planning practices and incorporates the right on-day tools to make everything happen fluidly.

It’s important to differentiate between the two roles, as venues may lead you to believe that the service they are offering should be used in lieu of hiring a professional planner or coordinator. However, you may actually be expecting something more hands on and complex in scope.

To keep it simple, here’s a breakdown of the differences between the jobs

Venue Appointed Coordinator Role:

  1. Advise on venue’s house offerings, rules and associated costs.
  2. Offer vendor referrals as needed.
  3. Assist with solidifying the food and drink plan.
  4. Provide basic reception timing guidance (i.e., food service, cake cutting, first dance, etc.).
  5. On-day venue management.
  6. Placement of personal wedding belongings (favours, overlays, even place cards if the venue offers this level of service).

Independent Wedding-Day Coordinator Role:

  1. Pre-wedding meeting to discuss priorities and wedding-day plan and to collect all relevant vendor and on-day set-up requirements and desires.
  2. Offer reminders and a finalized checklist to ensure the bride and groom have not forgotten any planning details.
  3. Create a wedding-day timeline from morning until night reflecting all vendor start and end times, all ground movements (including confirmed addresses and contact information), food service, key celebratory elements like cake cutting and bouquet toss, speech flow, etc.
  4. Oversee or conduct the rehearsal.
  5. Pick up wedding day bits and pieces to be set up at the venue (place cards, favours, cake topper, photos, flip-flops, Polaroid cameras, guestbook, etc.).
  6. On-day implementation: Available by phone and on site as needed throughout the entire day to ensure a smooth wedding-day flow and troubleshoot any occurrences, allowing the couple and their family to focus on enjoying themselves and being present in every moment the day brings.

Professional Wedding Planner Role:

  1. Meet regularly to discuss and manage ongoing needs and vision for the wedding.
  2. Shortlist vendors who meet the client’s budget, date and style expectations.
  3. Allocate your budget to maximize its purchasing power and allow the client to see what their vision will cost them so any adjustments can be made before it’s too late.
  4. Provide ongoing inspiration and ideas to help personalize a client’s wedding.
  5. Create a wedding plan of action from date of hire to W-Day, outlining tasks and responsibilities that need to be addressed.
  6. Offer important reminders to help client stay on track and motivated. Procrastination is a huge wedding planning pitfall that will be avoided with the help of an experienced planner.
  7. Support the client through any family issues or tricky dynamics that need to be overcome.
  8. Provide honest insight and advice throughout the planning stages to help the client maximize their vision, priorities and/or budget.
  9. Facilitate and confirm communications and contracts between vendors and the client to help ensure that the end service is the one provided on the day.
  10. Finalize balances due and facilitate payments as needed.
  11. Take on the responsibility for the overall success of the wedding day.
  12. On-day orchestration: See Independent Wedding Day Coordinator point 6.

 

Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.