You just got engaged and are ready to make your dreamy Pinterest board come to life. Where do you start? The first of many decisions is to choose your wedding planner. There are many different types of planners that have different job requirements.What are the differences in wedding planners? How much involvement do you want them to have in your actual wedding day? We put together a list of six types of planners to help you find the perfect match.
We break them down like this:
- Full planning and event design
- Month-of Coordination
- Day-of Coordination
- Venue or Banquet Manager
- Church Planner
- Bride Planner
Our recommendations are specific to Orlando – but if you’re in other areas feel free to message us for recommendations!
Full Wedding Planner / Event Designer
This is for the couple that wants a full-time professional involved with every aspect of their wedding. They want help from the start with creating a budget, making a list of priorities, and making a timeline from months out leading up to the wedding day. In comparison to the Venue Coordinator who is in charge of the venue, the Full-Event Planner’s focus is on you! They start this process with you from square one. Event planners usually have a long list of recommendations and will do your bookings and negotiations for you. They are responsible for managing the vendors they hire for you, ordering the save-the- dates and designing the centerpieces with your style in mind. They are there to give you advice whenever you need it and to coordinate the wedding weekend schedules to be sure things like make-up appointments and guest transportation run right on time. On your wedding day, they are running around making sure everything is going to plan. Their job is very hands-on. They assist with the set-up, direct the ceremony and deal with any unforeseen issues.
CRISTINA: I had a full planner/designer because I needed some help while in grad school. It was worth every penny! I got to enjoy my wedding day to the max without one bit of stress.
Let me approach the 2 biggest concerns about why a couple wouldn’t want to hire a full event designer/wedding planner: 1. Money and 2. Control
Weddings can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want them to be. There’s no rule about how much you should spend. The day should be about you and your marriage, and courthouse weddings are very cost-effective! But if you’re wanting to put together a bigger party, you have to prioritize some of the things that are the most important for your budget. I have brides who say a planner is number one on their list, and others who think it’s an unnecessary expense. One thing I can say, from personal experience, is that an experienced planner can often save you a great deal of money with your vendors that a non-planner wouldn’t.
Let me be 100% transparent and say that I work with certain planners who send me a lot of business. They are efficient, on-time and handle any mishaps on the day of the wedding without me having to stop taking photos to deal with minor fires. If one of these planners approach me with a great couple who may be just under my budget – I will do everything possible to work out a package for them to make it work. Because I know the couple will be taken care of, I know the day will run smoothly, and I know this planner will bring me more business!
So, many times, hiring an event planner will pay for itself (or close) if you’re having them help with hiring vendors.
If you still want full control over the wedding process – it’s yours! A planner will always defer to you as much or as little as you’d like. Don’t want to deal with following up on RSVPs from 20 families who never replied? Let them do it! Can’t figure out the proper protocol for your blended family to be walked down the aisle? You have an expert ready to help! Have a big vision of the design but aren’t sure how to source the linens? Boom! Your planner has your back. Still want to make some DIY elements? Do it! They’ll help you figure out the best spot to show it off at the wedding!
You see, a planner won’t take over your wedding – but instead is like your expert liaison who is all-to familiar with how weddings work! They know the best vendors, best discounts, newest trends and styles and can guide your big day so it runs smoothly for everyone!
Month-of Wedding Coordination
This is coordinator is for the pair that knows what they want. You know exactly what band you want playing “Brick House” at the reception. You have the caterer picked out and your venue booked. The Month-Of Coordinator can help you nail down the details. They usually start with a consultation where you are able to give them your overall plan. The coordinator will go over it with you to be sure you have everything you need. You should be prepared to give them all of the contact information for your vendors. From that moment on, the Month-Of Coordinator will be the one communicating with them. Some of their other duties include creating your wedding day itinerary, visiting the venue to give suggestions on the layout, confirming logistics with vendors, coordinating with ceremony speakers and more.
During the rehearsal, the Month-Of Coordinator will hand out a timeline to the wedding party. They will go over it with them, so that they understand how the day will go and what they are responsible for.
ELAINE: I am VERY much a planner and hired month of/partial planning. Some of the best money we spent. It saved my sanity. Also, my family was actually able to enjoy the wedding rather than worry about details/vendors etc. I really enjoyed planning my wedding…till about 30 days out, which is when our planning picked up the details.
Day-of Wedding Coordination
It’s not what it sounds like… A magical being doesn’t just show up on your wedding day and ensure that everything is perfect without knowing a thing! Usually they will meet with you a few weeks prior to start discussing. The reason for the name is because they aren’t focused on everything around the wedding. They don’t deal with sending wedding invites, the rehearsal dinner, choosing your cake flavor or anything leading up to that one day. They meet with you again the day before the wedding to be sure that they are comfortable and that their plans are taken care of.
Before the wedding they confirm that the decorators, seating arrangers, and vendors are all operating on time. During the ceremony, they make sure procession starts on time and that any props are placed in the right locations. Does the maid of honor have a tissue for the bride? Does the uncle who is saying the Irish Blessing know his cue? At the reception, the Day-Of Coordinator works with the caterer to check that food is delivered warm and quickly. They oversee that the toasts aren’t going way over and collect the gifts for the bride and groom.
CHRISTINA: I picked a day of for a few reasons: first was mostly cost, but second was because I like to plan and organize things. It doesn’t scare me and I enjoy laying out all the details.
Banquet Manager or Venue Manager
The Venue Coordinator could also go by Banquet or Catering Coordinator. They are employed by the venue and focused on the location itself as well as the venue’s other employees. This means they can suggest vendors, but will generally be giving much less input than a wedding planner. They will give you site details about food and drink minimums, extra fees, venue contracts, and itemized estimates.
Beyond your choice of menu, they are completely in charge of food. They assign table orders, keep the chef running on schedule, manage the meal flow and (if around on the wedding day) supervise the wait staff to be sure everything is running smoothly. They are usually the person that took you on a tour of the facility when you made the decision, so they also have to be sure that everything at the venue is working properly on your special day. For example, they are in charge of making sure the DJ has enough power to get the party started and that the AC doesn’t cut off in the middle of dinner. Because many Venue Coordinators have multiple events per weekend, they may not attend your wedding.
ALICIA: I didn’t have a planner because it wasn’t something I thought I needed. We had an onsite coordinator and I thought that would be enough. Looking back I would have loved to not be so stressed up to the moment I walked down the aisle. I also wish I had someone timing me… like during thank you’s at dinner. There are a lot of things you don’t realize you need to be doing and having the help sure would have been nice!
Remember – the event planner is strictly committed to the venue and their staff. They want to ensure the food is plated hot and things are running on time for the chef. And if you’re getting married off-site (for instance, at a church), they won’t be with you during the day to keep things running on time, help with anything for the ceremony, etc. So you’ll still need someone to help facilitate things like timelines, vendor coordination, family, etc. If you have a stellar banquet manager (looking at you, Alfond Inn!) it’s still a great idea to hire a month-of or full event planner to help with everything else!
A church planner handles all things religious. They are employed by the church that the couple chooses to get married at. They are concerned with the ceremony itself and the flow of the service. Church planners will supply you with a selection of appropriate wedding readings, blessings, prayers, and hymns.
The bride must provide them with baptismal certificates, witness forms, marriage licenses, and pre-nuptial questionnaires. They will be present and in-charge the day of the rehearsal to be sure everyone knows their role and show the ushers where to stand and instruct the party on when to enter and exit. They greet and direct the photographer and musicians on the day of before assisting the pastor.
Remember – the church planner is strictly committed to the ceremony. I don’t want to sound like they aren’t concerned with the couple, but they are expecting you to get down the aisle on time to accommodate other weddings, mass or events later that day. So if you need a few moments to breathe before walking down, it’s likely they’ll start the ceremony anyways! Also – for some unknown reason, they will almost always stand in the doorway when you’re coming down the aisle. I have yet to figure that out – but it’s like this weird unwritten rule in churches.
The Bride Planner
Ok, so this is a bit of a “bonus” type of planner – but it’s not unheard of to have the couple plan their own wedding! For many reasons, we don’t recommend this (like, do you really want to spend the last week before your wedding dealing with vendor load-in dock info while your family is trying to celebrate with you? Or trying to enjoy cocktail hour while simultaneously putting out 20 fires while also figuring out why great aunt Elma got beef instead of fish for her meal?) I can’t say enough positive things about hiring an expert for these types of jobs – but if you have the chutzpah and the time – you may find that you’d like to do it all yourself! In this case, I’d dedicate a non-wedding-party member to be the point-person on the day of the wedding so you can enjoy the day. Preferably someone who has been to multiple weddings and knows a bit about how the behind-the-scenes works.
EMILY: I didn’t hire a planner and everyone kept telling me how I would regret it if I didn’t have one. Honestly, I wasn’t super stressed out and I had a lot of DIY at my wedding. I did my own make up, my own centerpieces, and my own bouquet! My sister and my best friend made sure everything and everyone was situated. I just had directions and diagrams and it went relatively smoothly. No regrets!