Wedding Planner vs Wedding Coordinator

Wedding Planner vs Wedding Coordinator
Guest Article by San Diego Wedding Planner Brenda Swann of Swann Soirées.

Wedding Coordinators, we are a dime a dozen in San Diego! What isn’t a dime is the difference in our pricing. Sorting through all the service inclusions can be a task all of it’s own, confusing and overwhelming, especially when it comes to the fine print… if it is even there.

Because my friend Ed is so rad, he gave me the honor of authoring this short guide to help you understand the ins & outs of not just hiring a Wedding Coordinator, but also understanding what your investment means.

Wedding Planner vs Wedding Coordinator
The first thing that needs to be understood is that a Wedding Planner and a Wedding Coordinator is not the same thing, however, one must be BOTH in order to be truly efficient. Anyone that has ever planned anything knows that you need to coordinate plans and plans have to coordinate. As a matter of fact, I’ll be the first to admit that when I was merely moonlighting as a Wedding Coordinator, I made sure clients hiring me knew I was not a planner, for I was only working for them ON the day of their wedding… not before in any sense. Which meant I didn’t answer panic phone calls in the middle of the night, I didn’t dole out advice on etiquette or detail styling, I didn’t call your vendors the week of the wedding, write your timeline, or even have an emergency kit. My job as a Day of Coordinator was to show up and put out fires during the day of your wedding. My fees for such heroic feat were based on how many hours you’d need me on the day of your wedding. Because I had no overhead, preparations to make, or need to be educated on anything more than what you wanted for your wedding, it was cheap, like craigslist cheap. Occasionally I’d charge more if I wanted a new pair of shoes or a bag that month. Seriously. There was an undetermined value for what I did from the start, so the pricing was always flexible and based on your preparations, my efforts needed, and my consumer whims. I didn’t have any sense of ownership or pride of your event, I was merely the ox doing the work you didn’t want anyone else to do…that day.

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An El Cortez Wedding by Swann Soirées.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t enjoy not having answers or being yelled at by everyone who accused me of “not knowing” what I was doing. But who could blame them? My standard response to a problem at a wedding was “the bride planned it this way!” This was an intolerable excuse as I began to work at the same venues & with the same vendors repeatedly. Everything I did relied on having the parents or bridal party members help me throughout the wedding day, they were after all the ones that were there for the planning and knew everything the bride wanted. They were often the ones who came up with solutions to problems that arose on the wedding day, I mean, I barely knew the couple, so I wasn’t going to be the one making “best judgment” decisions for them! Not to mention that vendors didn’t listen to me anyway because they had no idea who the heck I was and they didn’t want to get in trouble from the bride by listening to some five and dime help for the day.

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Trish and Chris celebrated their wedding at the El Cortez. Brenda worked tirelessly behind the scenes and ensured every thing ran smoothly.

The realization that this “Day of Coordinator” thing didn’t really work was hard to accept for it required a lot more effort than anticipated and more knowledge than I had. I also had the misconception that Wedding Planners charged thousands of dollars and only celebrities hired them, so who would hire me if the clients had already done “everything” themselves. Despite my own reservations, I knew I had to do more to provide peace of mind (the whole reason I was being hired for anyway)- which meant I had to dedicate more than just an hour interview/consultation at the Starbucks parking lot (because all the tables were taken inside) and a weekend day to you. It also meant I had to educate myself on ALL things weddings… etiquette, design, trends, religions, laws, dress designers, venues, establish relationships with vendors, etc, etc, etc (and oh boy there’s a lot to be included in the “etcetera”). Additionally, I had to make sure I at least met you somewhere where you could sit down comfortably and talk with me! There was going to be much more time & effort for you before the wedding day, and yes, it meant that I was going to charge accordingly… after all, all jobs are compensated based on experience, education, and performance right? I mean, I am not actually an ox working your wedding.

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Swann Soiree team made sure everything was immaculate for the reception.

What more do you need though? Especially if you’ve done “everything” yourself already…

For starters, besides meeting your potential coordinator/planner to see if what he/she offers fits your needs, their portfolio and experience is sufficient, your personalities click, etc, you will need:

  • a. An entirely separate consultation (from the complimentary consultation) to talk about all the plans you’ve made- ie: bridal party specifics, colors, vendors hired, theme, styling, concerns, this is also a great opportunity to start getting to know each other better.
  • b. You will need to have access to this person either via phone or email for at least minor questions and be able to provide you with proper planning advise. It would be even better if they had tried & true referrals for reputable folks, in case you still needed to hire one or two other vendors.
  • c. A venue walk-through with them. Regardless of the person you hired having worked at the venue before, it could have been months since the last time AND it was not your wedding, so they need to be able to visualize YOUR event at the venue, with you… this is a must!
  • d. Since you’ve made all the plans already, you’ll need to sit down and talk logistics- In other words, this means they draft your timeline…which is more than just sticking times next to a duty on an excel sheet. This requires knowing contract specifics from your other vendors (contract reviewing), they also have to call them & plan out their needs are met (enough travel time, they know addresses for where they need to be, rules for the venue, etc), planning out delivery times with florists & bakers, knowing where you are getting ready, how you are getting to the ceremony, etc… Coordination of all the pieces of your wedding day is a plan that needs a lot of attention.
  • e. Once all of the above has happened, you will need to have a final pow-wow with your planner/coordinator to finalize all details and hand-off the reigns to your wedding, at which point you will know exactly what will be happening the day of the wedding, how, and who will be involved. The best part is that your entire team will also be notified of this plan too… but not by you, by the planner/coordinator (relieving you of the stress of having to assure you got a hold of everyone).
  • As you see, even when you’ve done “everything” and only have a need for the elusive creature mistakenly classified as a “Day of Coordinator,” in order for them to be a sound investment for your wedding, at minimum, they need to provide the above key services. Come wedding day, you, your parents, nor bridal party should be doing a single thing or worrying about the “what ifs” -when your planner/coordinator is well prepared to execute the event and KNOWS you as a couple. Fires wont need to be put out because they will never start, and the start to your happily ever after will start off flawlessly!

    San Diego Wedding Planner, Brenda Swann is the owner of Swann Soirees, a full service wedding and event planning boutique.

    Contact if you have questions.

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