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!

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A wedding planner works specifically for YOU. She is an advocate between you and all of your vendors while a venue coordinator works specifically for the venue and only handles details pertaining to the venue.

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 info@creativeweddings.ca.


Cathy MacRae, Creative Weddings Planning and Decor, Calgary and Banff Wedding Planner

Photo: Svetlana Yanova

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 info@creativeweddings.ca.