Last week I kicked off my wedding planner guest blogger series and I am so excited that I have so many talented wedding planners scheduled to share their expertise! Last week we learned why your wedding needs a wedding planner. After reading last week’s post, as a newly engaged couple planning your own wedding you may be thinking to yourself, “my venue already has its own coordinator- do I really need to hire another???” This is such a common oversight that so many of my couples make- there is a HUGE difference between a site coordinator and a wedding planner, and I am so thankful that the wonderful Miranda Meisenbach of Mira Events has so clearly outlined the major differences between the two to ensure your wedding day runs smoothly and you are free to ENJOY your day!
What is the Difference between a Venue Site Coordinator and a Wedding Planner?
By Miranda Meisenbach, PWC
One of the most crucial aspects of any wedding day is a dedicated point person managing the timeline, communicating with the other vendors, and ensuring even the smallest details are attended to. In short, you need a wedding coordinator.
The concept of a wedding coordinator has evolved drastically over the last 25 years. What started out as a part time hobby for some has turned into a staple profession within a massive industry that continues to grow. What this means is there are several ways for someone to be considered a “coordinator” and those ways are not always created equal.
One of the most common questions brides and grooms have when seeking a solution for their wedding day coordination is “what is the difference between a site coordinator and a wedding planner?” Many venues have a fantastic team dedicated to planning and executing all of the details pertaining to their property. For a wedding, this means having at least an overview of what other vendors are going to be doing, what the timeline will look like, and getting details on the set-up and layout. Because of this, many venues may refer to their staff as “day-of coordinators”, “event coordinators”, or “wedding coordinators”.
This nomenclature can create confusion for couples, with many lines blurred between the roles of a venue site coordinator and a private wedding planner. There are a few key differences that prospective clients should be aware of.
A site coordinator works for the venue. A wedding planner works for you.
At the end of the day, a venue site coordinator must keep the interests of the property priority to the interests of the client. Their first and foremost concern will be the details that apply to the venue and its responsibilities throughout the day. A professional wedding planner, on the other hand, is specifically contracted to advocate on your behalf during the actual day of, as well as ensure that there are no contractual discrepancies that might cause an issue on the day of. A private wedding planner will review your vendor contracts in detail well in advance of the wedding, making sure that everything lines up to both the client’s expectations, as well as to those of the venue. Furthermore, IF there are any issues that pop up throughout the planning process or on the day of, a private wedding planner will work with the venue and vendors to find an agreeable solution.
A site coordinator will be an excellent resource for what will work well with your venue, but might not be as helpful with non-venue related items.
Now, there are certainly some truly phenomenal site coordinators out there who have years of industry experience and can offer great advice on things like wardrobe, invitations, wedding websites, travel logistics, and more. Most, however, will not simply because it’s not their job! A private wedding planner is exactly the resource you will need for an unbiased, third party opinion on matters regarding all aspects of wedding planning. Even more valuably, a professional wedding planner can take on a significant portion of the legwork to relieve the burden from the clients. Generally, anything that takes place off property will not fall under the responsibility of a venue coordinator, which can put a lot of stress on couples and their families if they don’t also have the assistance of a professional wedding coordinator.
A successful wedding day includes BOTH a dedicate site coordinator and a professional wedding planner.
Venue coordinators and private wedding coordinators are each others favorite people when it comes to day-of production and pre-event planning. They often work very closely together to ensure that all of the client’s needs are being met. It is with mutual frustration that a venue coordinator tries to scrape together personal details from a client without a wedding planner and a wedding planner tries to work out a perfect floorplan from a venue without a dedicated site coordinator. Both coordinators need each other on the day of to attend to the multitude of details and items that pop up throughout the day (both planned and unplanned!) Any venue coordinator that tells a client they “don’t need a wedding planner” is either inexperienced or doesn’t have the best interest of the client in mind. Weddings and special events are products of partnerships between vendors and clients. Professional, dedicated, well-rounded vendor teams are imperative to produce a truly successful event.
To recap, here are some examples of what roles site coordinators and wedding planners take on various items:
Site Coordinator: Includes information about vendor arrivals and departures, ceremony start time, and when certain activities will take place throughout the night. Will be most concerned with giving the venue team pertinent information.
Wedding Planner: Will include vendor, client, wedding party, and family arrival times, as well as their various locations throughout the day (vital for the getting ready/set-up portion of the event). Will often create separate timelines specific for the clients/wedding party to follow so that everyone is on the same page and knows where they should be at various times. Will include small details such as song selections, speech orders, meal selections for the newlyweds, and much more.
Site Coordinator: Could give a list of recommended or required vendors for couples to select from. Will collect contact information from each vendor. Could meet each vendor prior to the wedding at a final walk-through or wrap-up meeting. Will likely meet most of them for the first time on the day of.
Wedding Planner: Will work with the clients to find the best vendors for their event based on style, availability, and budget. Will spend several hours coordinating with each vendor to iron out all necessary details, relaying them to other vendors or the venue if necessary. Will become a point of contact for the vendors leading up to and on the day of.
WEDDING DRESS BUSTLE OR WARDROBE MALFUNCTION
Site Coordinator: Not guaranteed to have experience in bustling, hemming, or any other type of wardrobe fix although some do.
Wedding Planner: Arrives with working knowledge of dress bustles, as well as an emergency kit of supplies that include sewing materials.
PERSONAL DETAILS AT THE END OF THE NIGHT
Site Coordinator: Most venues will require all personal items to be off property or at least packed away at the end of the evening. Depending on policies, the site coordinator may be able to assist with packing up these items at the end of the evening.
Wedding Planner: Will create a detailed pack list of all personal items that will include where they are to be packed to/taken home with at the end of the event. Will personal pack-up and may even transport personal items to ensure safe delivery to clients. Have been known to drive client or guest vehicles to end of the night destinations.
OVER-SERVED WEDDING GUESTS
Site Coordinator: Will warn the guests of their behavior, may cut them off at the bar, and ultimately could call security or the police to have them removed.
Wedding Planner: Will ideally know enough about the guests’ connection to the clients to make the best decision on how to handle their behavior. Will gently encourage them to drink water and help explain why they are not being served at the bar. Will support the site coordinator if matters escalate, but will do everything possible to protect the client’s interests as well as their security deposit.
Miranda Meisenbach is a Professional Wedding Consultant certified by the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, as well as the owner and lead coordinator for Mira Weddings + Events. She has 9 years of event and wedding planning experience in a variety of regions including San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe Area, and Phoenix, Arizona. When she is not working she is hiking with her children, practicing yoga, or studying and performing music.