Wedding Coordination vs. Planning: Learn what’s what and find out the right service for you!
Let’s start with the obvious: Planning a wedding is hard. Surviving the month leading up to that wedding is even harder.
In this post I’m going to break down the three main types of professional wedding services offered to help guide couples through the process: Wedding Coordination, Partial Planning and Full-Service Planning. How do you know what is right for you and your partner? Let’s go into a bit of background on each to help you decide.
1. Wedding Coordination
To me, this category encompasses a wide variety of titles: day-of coordination, month-of coordination, wedding management, and more. This is the type of service I specialize in–and even for me it can still get confusing!
What it is: This service is most commonly referred to as “Day-of Coordination.” While personally I still use this term for familiarity purposes, I find it is only effective when couples truly understand what it means. I prefer to refer to myself as just “Wedding Coordinator.” In the simplest terms, wedding coordinators coordinate your wedding weekend. From the ceremony rehearsal to grand exit and beyond, your coordinator is there from beginning to end making sure every little detail and aspect of the timeline is running according to plan. But even the best, most experienced coordinators could not (and would never dare!) walk into your venue on a Friday having never spoken to you and be able to seamlessly coordinate your wedding the next day. This is where things can get sticky by using the term “day-of coordination.” A day-of coordinator is not someone who provides just one day of service because your venue requires it. Instead they are a professional service provider whose goal is to deliver a beautiful, stress-free wedding day to their couples after investing time and resources into creating the perfect plan for your day.
What they do: For a concise list wrapped up neatly in a bow, visit my services page to learn about the specific services included in my Wedding Management (aka “day-of” coordination) package.
Communication should begin no less than a few months before your wedding so the coordinator is able to get familiar with the venue, vendors, and décor you have already researched and booked. They will schedule a predetermined amount of meetings with you to ensure they have all of the information needed to be successful. Typically, a coordinator will create and manage your wedding day timeline, communicate final touchpoints with vendors leading up to the wedding, conduct your ceremony rehearsal, oversee set up and tear down of the ceremony and/or reception space, and be the point of contact between the couple and all other parties the day of the wedding.
When to book: With strictly coordination services, you have the most flexibility. You can book a coordinator as early as the day after you get engaged up until a few months before the wedding! All wedding professionals will have different parameters around how far out they book though, so be sure to check in with each one. For example, one coordinator might not book couples farther than one year in advance of the wedding day. On the other hand, in a pickle you may be able to hire a wedding coordinator to come in and save the day at the final hour!
Who should book a wedding coordinator: Couples who invest in coordination services should be eager to dive head first into planning their wedding. They have a vision of what their day will look like, feel confident researching and booking vendors, and are able to set and manage their wedding budget. There might be one partner who is very organized and detail oriented and maybe even has experience in planning events themselves. They understand the value in wedding coordinators and want to ensure all of their hard work pays off with the perfect wedding day.
2. Partial Wedding Planning
Although I said earlier that wedding coordination can be a confusing concept, partial planning often has the most gray areas out of the three types of services!
What it is: Partial planning is a true middle ground between wedding coordination and full-service planning. To achieve partial planning, you’ll take everything offered by a wedding coordinator on the day of the event and add on some “extra stuff.” These extras may be a set list of services determined by the planner, or it could be an a la carte style service menu to pick and choose from.
What they do: It’ll be a little easier to understand what can be offered in a partial planning service once I go into detail about full-service planning, but some examples of add-ons for partial planning may include:
- Building a vendor team
- Design elements
- Budget management
- Attending vendor meetings, tastings, etc.
The most important thing to discuss when booking a partial planner are boundaries. Partial planning is just that: partial. If too many services end up being added on, you might find yourself in a full-service planning package without intending to. It is crucial to lay out exactly what you expect of a partial planner in order to have a successful relationship! Your planner is the expert. They are there to help you and guide you through the planning process. Trust me: the goal of most wedding professionals is not to drain your bank account, so be sure to go in with an open mind when discussing your partial planning package.
When to book: There is a bit of wiggle room in when you can book a partial planner, but the most successful relationships will begin early on in the planning process so there is a clear plan of what the couple is responsible for versus what the planner will take care of. You may only want your partial planning package to include a couple extra services like managing RSVPs or recommending those last few vendors to book. Sometimes couples who set out to plan their wedding on their own find that their schedules just don’t allow that as they would have hoped. You’ve already booked a venue and photographer, decided on your table settings and are on track with your budget, but you need someone to come in and finish out the heavy lifting because you just can’t look at another wedding florist’s website. This is when booking partial planning later in the planning process may be appropriate!
Who should book a partial wedding planner: Couples who want to be partially involved in the planning process, but need a little more assistance than is offered by a wedding coordinator. Busier schedules may not allow for the couple to be as involved as they like, but they are still doing some of the research and outreach to vendors and creating vision boards for their décor on Pinterest. These couples do not need the assistance of full-service planning or design, but need help in specific areas of planning their wedding.
3. Full-Service Planning
Full-service planning is the whole package. Seriously.
What it is: A full-service planning package should include everything start to finish from choosing a venue, creating vision boards, building a vendor team and negotiating contracts. Of course your planner and their team will also be there on your day to make sure everything runs smoothly. Your wedding planner will be your right-hand person all the way throughout the planning process!
What they do: After getting to know you as a couple and getting an idea of your wedding style, your planner will research venues and vendors that will fit your needs perfectly. They will typically attend all vendor meetings and facilitate or be included in all communication. There may be flexibility and variances on what each planner includes in their full-service package when it comes to things like personal communication and extra services such as attending dress fittings or distributing welcome bags. When it comes down to it, most planners will do just about anything you ask—for the right price! Remember your planner is your biggest supporter when it comes to your wedding, but they are not your personal assistant or clean-up crew. Picking up grandma from the airport or bussing tables after cocktail hour are not in their job description. Your planner may be there throughout all the events taking place during your wedding weekend like a welcome cocktail reception, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself and a farewell brunch the next day. Keep in mind, all services provided by a wedding coordinator will likely be included in a full-service package to some extent.
When to book: If you want to make the most of your experience with your wedding planner, they should be the very first thing you book. Even if you have a venue and vendors in mind, your planner will be the best resource to you when it comes to finalizing these decisions.
Who should book a full-service wedding planner: Couples who want everything to be taken care of from the moment they get engaged, to the moment they're in the getaway car. Full-service planning is the best option for the "hands-off" couple or those who have extremely busy schedules. Couples who invest in full-service planning may not have an interest in planning their own weddings, or they may greatly value the expertise of a wedding planner and want to be in the best hands possible when it comes to planning their day. Since it includes the most service, full-service planning will likely be the most expensive option.
A Few More Notes:
Wedding Planning vs. Wedding Design
Planning and design often go hand in hand, but not all wedding planners are wedding designers and not all designers are planners. Design refers to all creative elements of the wedding. All the pretty things like the tablescape, breathtaking ceremony spaces, elaborate backdrops and vignettes, or any unique details that would really make your wedding one of a kind– such as personalized escort cards or signage, are all brought to life by a wedding designer.
Wedding Coordinator vs. Venue Coordinator
Understanding the difference between your venue coordinator and an outside wedding coordinator or planner is one of the most important topics I like to educate couples about. When you email a wedding venue, you’ll likely communicate with someone holding a title such as venue coordinator or manager, catering coordinator, director of special events, etc. This person is employed by your venue to be the liaison between the services provided by the venue and the client (you). Your venue coordinator is likely extremely hospitable and wonderfully helpful, but it is simply not their job to provide the same type and scope of services as a wedding coordinator or planner. Unless it is specifically outlined in your contract that the venue coordinator will do things such as run your ceremony rehearsal, communicate with your vendors ahead of the wedding or stay through the conclusion of your event, please do not assume they will do so!
Now that I’ve outlined the differences between coordination, partial planning and full-service planning (as well as wedding design and venue coordination!), I hope you have a good idea of what type of service is right for you! Whether you are an event pro looking for coordination, a busy professional who can’t wait to start planning but needs a little bit of help, or you want to sit back, enjoy your engagement and leave the work to the professionals, remember: although wedding planning can be stressful, it should still be one of the most special and love-filled times of your life. One of my favorite pieces of wedding planning advice is this:
You’re getting married, you’re not getting wedding-ed.
Creating the ideal planning situation for you and your partner will lead to a magical, low stress day to enjoy with your loved ones and brand new spouse with a focus on all the right things.
Want to learn more about my wedding coordination services? Head over to my Services Page.
Sarah Soldau is a Southern California based wedding coordinator, specializing in wedding management (also known as day-of coordination). Her goal is to educate and empower couples to be confident and in control of planning their own dream wedding day, and then actually enjoy it! As a “bridal cheerleader,” she is her couples’ biggest advocate on their wedding day and leaves no detail unnoticed. By sharing her own experiences in wedding planning, as well as her love of makeup and fashion on The Blushing Blog, she hopes to leave the world with a little more love and beauty. Head to the Contact page to learn more about services and pricing.