As a wedding coordinator in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have recently begun to see virtually every type of wedding vendor putting themselves out there as "day-of" coordinators.  Florists, DJs, facility coordinators, caterers; you name it. In order to address this issue, there are two other issues involved: what is a wedding coordinator (what do we actually do), and the term "day-of" planner.

What does a wedding coordinator really do?

We provide a service. Can you do this yourself? Maybe, just as you can change your own oil, do your own taxes, and cut your own hair. But you probably hire a professional to do these things for you, as you are not an expert. What we do is provide you with the experience and expertise of doing this one thing well, over and over again. That is the very nature of hiring a professional in the service industry.

We will coordinate every aspect of your wedding, beginning with an introductory meeting for us to get to know one another and discuss your wedding vision.  From there, we will develop a long range timeline, work with you to create a wedding budget, provide referrals to the most appropriate vendors in your budget range and set up and accompany you on appointments, assist in menu selection, advise on floral and reception design, review vendor contracts, and develop ceremony and reception logistics and floor plans.  For your wedding day, we will develop a meticulously detailed timeline that will be distributed to all vendors and the wedding party.  We will coordinate your rehearsal and provide complete wedding day coordination and supervision, making sure that everything runs smoothly.

We are the unbiased and neutral party able to handle family situations gracefully and without drama. We are here months, even years, in advance of your wedding day to field endless phone calls and emails about your wedding. And this list is by no means exhaustive.

But most importantly throughout the whole process–we are coordinating all the small details, yet looking at the big picture. Unlike all of your other vendors who are focused in on their one service or product, we are looking at the entire day. This is where the issue of other vendors acting as "planners" comes in. Will your florist or DJ do all of these things for you?

We understand that in this economy, everyone feels a need to make additional income, but not at the expense of the client that hired them to do a specific job. Will your florist-coordinator be able to deal with last minute changes to your guest list, vendor cancellations or other last-minute changes that frequently happen the week of the wedding when they need to be at the flower mart, processing flowers and creating your floral designs?  Will your off-premise caterer, facility coordinator, florist or DJ "coordinator" know that your (hair/makeup stylist, photographer, or limo) hasn’t arrived at your hotel on time?  And if you, as the client, are the one to let them know, what would they do, considering that they have their "own" job to do. How will your "DJ-planner" or "florist-planner" handle overseeing other vendors’ load-in and set-up when they have their own set-up to perform? What happens when all of your vendors arrive at the curb at the same time to unload and there is only parking for two cars? Having an assistant is not the answer. Bringing in a professional wedding coordinator is the answer. As we are hired to oversee the entire event, that is our job.  We represent only the client’s best interest. 

My wedding venue has a site coordinator. Why do I need someone else?

Most wedding venues, banquet facilities and hotels have staff, which in addition to other duties, also act as on-site coordinators. Their main concern is making sure their property is taken care of. While most are extremely professional and experienced, their main priority is their venue.  Their job relates to your particular event, their venue, contracts, BEOS and regulations. Their job is not to help you with other vendors or design in the months leading that lead up to your event.

My wedding caterer is very helpful. Why do I need your help?

An off-premise caterer is a caterer that prepares and serves food at a location away from the caterer’s food production facility. Typically, off-premise catering managers have the job of overseeing the details that are directly related to their own setup, staff, food and beverage. It is not in their job description to confirm your vendors, run your rehearsal, oversee the vendors on your wedding day, cue you down the aisle at your ceremony, create a timeline that deals with issues outside of food and beverage, or make sure all of the day’s events are running according to schedule.  Furthermore, the catering manager typically leaves once the meal service has begun.

The term "day-of" coordination

A wedding is a coordinated (orchestrated) event with many moving parts, similar to a symphony.  Would a symphony conductor walk in to a performance without knowing the symphony, the music, and the musicians?  Every couple deserves a wedding planner and many recognize the exceptional value of having one. However, because of current terminology, some couples anticipate hiring a planner just for the day of the wedding. The “Day-of Coordinator” doesn't exist. The term was picked up by the media and has made its way into the everyday vocabulary. No professional coordinator will "just show up" on your wedding day to coordinate the work of vendors they know nothing about without being prepared. No couple wants someone to walk in and pretend to run the show with no prior knowledge of their wedding or preparation! The only way a planner can successfully execute a client’s wedding is to fully understand their vision and what they have contracted with their team of vendors.

The minimal amount of pre-planning required involves pre-wedding meetings. Review of all of your vendor contracts for the services and products provided. Review the arrival/set up/strike times, timelines, production schedules, venue logistics, final venue walkthrough, and the onsite coordination of the rehearsal and wedding day.  This generally amounts to a total of 30-45 hours, inclusive of your wedding day, for any experienced planner.

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Gayle | Report Abuse

Thank you for this explanation. I have recently been looking for a coordinator in my area and was experiencing information and terminology overload. I really appreciate this article, it makes me feel so much better about "splurging" on a non-vendor coordinator.

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Steven Springer | Report Abuse

As a DJ, one of our tasks is to manage the reception activities. By taking care of the announcements, music and the general flow of the party, we are allowing the bride and their family to enjoy their own party. That means coordinating with the caterer for a timetable of food served, the photographer so the proper lighting and angles are clear, and any other entertainers or vendors services. As a professional, I work closely with wedding planners so that every facet is planned and executed. I never lose sight of the goal to give the bride and groom...and their guests...the wedding experience they will enjoy.

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Doris Leonardo | Report Abuse

Good explanation of a wedding coordinator Dina. Caroline, as a caterer, I am one of those vendors. Yes, I provide a timeline (because I need to have my food on a set schedule) and I help coordinate from your arrival to the departure.....but remember I can't control the DJ who plays loud music thru dinner, who doesn't allow you enough time to eat for they want you on to next dance,etc. I can't contol the bakery who forgot to put your topper/xtra flowers on the cake. I can't control the misplacements/lost of gifts/cards. You are on your own...you are not allowing yourself to enjoy the most important day of your life. Release the control!

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Carolyn Burke | Report Abuse

This is an extremely good article. Thanks for sharing it on GatheringGuide. Carolyn Burke - Wedding Liaison St Louis MO

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Caroline | Report Abuse

Good advice but I need to save money anywhere I can. I'm planning my own wedding and if other vendors want to help me out, I'll let them!

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JENNY | Report Abuse

THAT SOUNDS CRAZY. I WOULDNT ADVISE. WEDDING PLANNERS ARE LIKE INSURANCE YOU HAVE IT BUT YOU DONT KNOW WHEN YOU REALLY ARE GOING TO WANT A GOOD POLICY. CURIOUS TO KNOW HOW YOUR EVENT WENT ON WITHOUT A HITCH AND WITHOUT A PROFESSIONAL PLANNER.

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