What is the difference between a wedding venue coordinator and a wedding planner?
I was speaking with a colleague who works at one of the larger hotels in Calgary as their wedding venue coordinator. She’s an extremely hard worker, and consistently goes above and beyond to help out her couples that are getting married where she works. During our conversation, she was expressing her frustration about a recent bad review that the venue received from one of the clients because the client had expected my colleague to take on the role and responsibilities of a wedding planner. My colleague works incredibly long hours, and goes out of her way to help the couples getting married at her hotel venue, often going way above and beyond her job description. However, her couple complained when she didn’t stay for the entire event. (She had to leave periodically to check on another wedding that was happening on the same day in one of the hotel’s other event spaces. She was also criticized for not being there to greet guests as the wedding guests as they got off the shuttles from the church.) It got me to thinking and I realized that the job title this person was given is perhaps more than a bit misleading and can be easily misconstrued by her clients. It’s past time to clarify things and establish the difference between these two job positions.
The terms of planner and coordinator are often used interchangeably, but in regards to what a couple should expect in terms of services, there is a very BIG difference. Make sure you are in the know to save yourself some unexpected grief and frustration throughout your planning process and on your wedding day, thinking that you’re getting something that you’re not!
Many hotels have a Wedding Coordinator on staff. (This position is also referred to as a Wedding Manager.) This person is often associated with the venue’s Sales and Catering team. Their primary responsibility is to be your main point of contact with the venue. They facilitate and oversee all of the details pertaining to your wedding in regards to all information the venue requires. This person is involved, usually from when you first view the venue, right up to and including the day itself. They are familiar with room locations, layouts, and venue occupancy numbers. Along with the culinary team, they plan, organize and develop the food and beverage services at your venue. They also respond to the many emails and phone calls from prospective couples looking to get married at the venue. Most importantly, they manage a large volume of files pertaining to each of the venue’s scheduled weddings and keeping all of the details organized. In destination locations, such as the many of the Mexican or Dominican all-inclusive resorts, some of these coordinators are responsible for keeping track of the details on up to five or six weddings a day. (Say goodbye to personalized service!) We’re lucky in Canada and the United States that the numbers are much more manageable. However, most venues are still doing around 100 or more weddings a year, with many of them often doing two or more events on any given weekend.
The venue wedding coordinator is expect to maintain details on each wedding, including all of the relevant information for each particular couple such as menu choices, final guest counts, accounting and collection of the money. They also manage many of the other special details in regards to AV equipment requested or furniture required, and they make sure the schedule you’re suggesting will actually work with the culinary team and event staff. Depending on their work schedule, they may or may not be there on the actual day of the wedding. (Although if they don’t work on your wedding day, be assured that the venue will have appointed someone as the main contact person on the wedding day to make sure that everything goes according to plan.) Regardless, it is unlikely for only one person to be there for the entire duration of your wedding. More often than not, one person will manage things during the day and then pass the reins to an evening banquet event manager. Venue wedding coordinators work very hard and do their absolute best to ensure that their clients have a great experience at the venue, but remember that they work for their venue. Their primary responsibility is to manage the details that the venue needs. They may offer some advice along the way, but they are not your personal wedding planner. To expect them to take on the same responsibilities is unrealistic and unwise.
On the other hand, we have Wedding Planners (also called Wedding Coordinators). This person is experienced in all areas of the wedding, usually working directly with the engaged couple. It is their responsibility to professionally guide the couple through the entire process. The planner gets to know the personal style of the couple, along with their vision for the wedding. She works with them to find the best venue and vendors that will help make the couple’s wedding vision become a reality. More importantly, she will also try to be respectful of the budget that the couple has set. A wedding planner is involved with the overall organization of the wedding, often right from the beginning, and works as an advocate for the couple from start to finish. It is the wedding planner’s responsibility to ensure that the theme and color palette of the wedding is reflected throughout the celebration, beginning with the style of the invitations, to the ceremony and reception flowers, the place settings at each table, the music, the food, and the wedding dress. Most planners can suggest ideas to customize your wedding and make it uniquely your own, as well as share their expertise on wedding etiquette and advise as needed. They look at the overall logistics, acting as a liaison between you and the venue, sorting out the details and helping put together a realistic itinerary for the entire day. Most importantly, your wedding planner’s first responsibility is to the two of you. She will be onsite on your wedding day, acting on your behalf to look after everything from start to finish!
A venue wedding coordinator is responsible for coordinating details about your actual event at the venue itself, whereas your wedding planner is responsible for managing ALL of the details of your entire wedding. it is unfair and unrealistic to expect a venue wedding coordinator to take on the same responsibilities as a wedding planner.
One of the main reasons couples hire a wedding planner is for the peace of mind you will have on your wedding day. You will be able to relax and enjoy your big day knowing that your wedding planner, who has been working along side you each and every step of the way, is there to manage things and make sure all of the vendors are working together to create an incredible wedding celebration just for you!
Make sure you have all of your bases covered and have a wedding planner to look after you in your wedding day! To get started now, contact us at Creative Weddings at 1-888-790-6986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cathy MacRae is a Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise wedding planner in the business of designing customized weddings that make your heart skip a beat! She is the lead wedding planner and design coordinator for Creative Weddings Planning & Design©, working with couples to plan customized bespoke weddings that make your heart skip a beat! Located in Calgary, Canada, she plans wedding for couples primarily in and around the Calgary, Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, and Fernie area. Her clients want a wedding that is all about romance, elegance and personalized style with meaningful and heartfelt moments that take your breath away and created an incredible guest experience. She has been in involved in the wedding industry for over nine years now. The foundation of her business has been built on developing relationships with numerous quality vendors that her allow her to best match them with her clients so the end result is a unique wedding celebration that tells a story and sets the stage for the couple’s “happily ever after.” As a destination wedding specialist, she also works with couples who desire to wed in various picturesque dream locations throughout the world. She had done weddings in various exotic locales such as Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, and throughout the Caribbean. She is available to plan weddings internationally.
She has earned her Professional Wedding Planner© status with the Association of Bridal Consultants, and is also a member of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, the Calgary Bridal Alliance, and Calgary’s Event Core. In addition, she is a Certified Sandals Specialist and WeddingMoons© Specialist with Sandals© and Beaches© Resorts, specializing in romantic travel. She was a founding board member of the Wishing Well Wedding and Event Foundation, Canada’s first non-profit wish granting founding providing weddings for couples directly facing terminal illness, and continues to support the foundation in the role of a STAR vendor. Cathy also owns Consulting For Creatives, where she works as a branding expert and business coach with both new and experienced entrepreneurs in the wedding and event industry with a desire to move their business forward.
For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at 1-888-790-6986 or email her at email@example.com.
Quick question my neice has paid someone to coordinate her daughter’s wedding at the venue in Dothan,Alabama and my neice has already paid her a upfront fees of 300.00 non refundable but the lady will not respond to text, calls or any messages would my neice have a legal right to get her refund back. Due to lack of communication from the coordinator.
I am very sorry to hear this has happened to your niece. Things are frustrating enough trying to plan a wedding amidst Covid-19. She shouldn’t have to deal with this as well. I have not seen the contract, but most wedding and event vendors have a contract that clearly outlines that the initial payment is non-refúndanle. Now, I would say that if the planner is not responding to phone calls or textS she is violating the contract as well. Are there any guidelines in the contract about when service starts? For example, if I have a full wedding planning contract with a client we begin right away. If I’m only doing Day Of Coordination then we start 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding day.
The other thing I don’t know is what kind of wedding planner is this. There are a number of us who have made this our full-time career. We have been established in the industry for a number of years and belong to professional associations like the Association of Bridal Consultants that requires us to operate within a code of ethics. There are a number of people out there, however that decide that wedding planning sounds like fun, put together a website, and say they are a wedding planner. Did your niece check references and talk to any past clients to check this person’s credibility? (The price your niece paid sounds like it was a planner with less or limited experience in the industry. Most retainers are significantly more than that even for Day Of Services.)
The other thing that is a fact nowadays is that Covid-19 had devastated the wedding and event industry. While most planners have tried to accommodate couples and allowed events to be postponed it has meant that there is no income coming in. (This is not meant as an excuse, but is a reality.) Many wedding business owners from venues to florists, to cake decorators to planners have lost everything. I know of many businesses that have had to close their doors and that list keeps growing all the time. If that is the case, there is nothing to get back as the business owner has lost it all, and may be even looking at bankruptcy.
The next possibility is not a desireable one, but the fact is that there are dishonest people Out there who put out an ad, get the deposit and then disappear. That is why it is so important to check references, get referrals, and choose people who are clearly established in the industry.
My recommendation would be for your niece to get one of her bridesmaids or close friend to contact the wedding planner as if she is a new bride wanting information about hiring a wedding planner. (She does not say anything about knowing your niece!) If the Planner gets back to her, then a meeting could be set up and your niece could “surprise them at the meeting” and she could address with the planner why she has been ignored and how the two of them can move forward. If there is no response back, then the planner has long since disappeared or lost her business. (In this latter situation, the money is gone.)
As for getting the money back, you can check with your state laws on what it would cost to take the planner to small claims court, but I suspect it will cost a lot more to go to court than $300.
Once again, I’m very sorry this has happened to your niece. I wish you both all the best in trying to get it sorted out.