Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's the difference in a planner, coordinator, site manager and a director?

You’ll miss me when I’m gone…

Thanks to Pintrest, Social Media, Bridal Magazines and tons of bridal TV many couples today think they do not need a planner.  However, even the best planner needs a coordinator.  As a bride, it is impossible to hold a bouquet, the groom and the clipboard of schedules, details, directions and be at the venue(s) during set up if they are scheduled for hair and make-up all at the same time.  At least hire a day of coordinator to come in and tie up all of your loose ends and allow you, your family and friends to be guests at your wedding.  If they are “working” your event, they will never be fully present in the moment.  So now that we’ve got your attention let’s talk about the difference between planner verses coordinator.  

There are several different levels of event directors, coordinators and planners but all are worth their weight in gold once the event is underway and even more when it’s wrapping up.  A full wedding planner can be one of the best investments in your wedding especially if your family has never planned a large scaled event in this decade.  I personally highly recommend hiring a planner first because they can really set the guidelines and tone of your wedding.  The first items of business we check off our list are budgets, visions and guest lists with our clients.  It may not be the most fun portion of the planning process but it allows for less stress and headaches later.  Knowing how many guests you can afford to host will allow you to have your dream day and still enjoy the day after the wedding.   Then we start looking at venues because several venues have strict rules and preferred vendors.  Being a full scale planner, I can help guide my couples to the right venue for the right price.  Having a planner will save you lots of time and money.  Normally since we have gone over the budget first, we have already included our fees to be absorbed and still can recommend local professional vendors to meet the needs of your vision.  Planners are also helpful when it comes to negotiating contracts, pricing and items included in services for events.  Several professionals may even work in teams to offer package deals because they know if a certain planner is working their event they can focus on their trade skill and will offer special rates to ensure working more events together to create a smooth experience for all involved. 

Whether your budget does not allow for a full service planner, you love the planning aspect of your wedding or you are a full blown control freak that wants to oversee the negotiating of contracts and take the reins of all planning aspects there are options for you to plan and still enjoy your day.   I am still a firm believer that Month of Coordinators are miracle workers and magicians and not all wedding planners nor coordinators can handle being “month of” only.  Although there is no such thing as true day of coordinator because you and your coordinator should meet a few times prior to your big day to set up expectations.  Technically day of coordinators are truly month of coordinators.  Month of coordinators will usually meet at the signing of the contract to confirm dates, go over the budget, timelines and offer some vendor referrals.  They typically do not attend every venue tour prior to booking the perfect spot or sit in every vendor meeting.  Month of coordinators typically require a walkthrough of the venue will usually give information for you to fill out while planning and then will work with you more in-depth closer to the month of coordinating your event.  It is always wise to try and hirer those earlier in the planning process to go over your vision and ideas.  They may be able to offer a list of their preferred professional vendors to have assistance in the portions of the planning you are taking on yourself.  Beware of all details of your contract to avoid going over hours or limitations set by the guidelines of the package you have agreed upon.  If you feel you need more assistance in planning or would like more one on one time with your coordinator just speak with them about adding hours to your package or upgrading to a full planning service.  Communication will be a key factor of this package with all of your professional vendors and your coordinator.  Make sure take lots of notes during each session meeting with vendors, ask for dual copies of all contracts, rules and regulations and request for detailed layouts from your venue(s) to share your vision across the board with all of your vendors and coordinator.  Ask your month of coordinator if phone calls, emails, texting or social messaging are limited or restricted per your package.  The month of coordinator will assist you in creating schedules and depending the package you negotiate may contact your vendors to ensure they do not have any questions about the event.  No matter what, having them in your final days of planning can be the difference in a calm wedding day and a bridezilla showing up creating a tornado of stress and chaos. 

You may be familiar with ceremony directors or using the person affiliated with your hometown church, and that’s great!  At least you have someone their directing everyone with the most stressful portion of the day but ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is my ceremony and reception being held at the same venue?
  • Who will be setting up my guest tables, all of my personal items (cake serving set, toasting flutes, memory table, etc.)?
  • Who will be packing all of the gifts, centerpieces, and personal items after the event (or who will be directing this)?
  • Will she/he know how to handle all of my vendors as they are loading in and out?
  • Will they be remaining for the entire event?
  • Will they assist with all of the behind the scenes to prepared vendors of upcoming traditional activities (toasts, cake cutting etc.)?
  • Will they know what to do if a vendor arrives late?
  • Will they know what to do in situations of something breaking, arriving damaged or delivered incorrectly?
  • Do they understand they are technically a vendor and shouldn’t be drinking the entire event (liability)?
  • Who will take care of any guests that may get out of hand (alcohol, family issues, etc.)?

While I love my church directors, and even encourage for them to still be present the day of the event to assist us.  It is great to have a coordinator that is going to remain onsite the duration of the event from the first vendor arriving to the last one leaving so that there is one set of eyes and ears for the entire event.  Having one true leader will encourage a smoother day.  Also keep in mind there are more aspects to the reception than the ceremony.  The ceremony director is a key factor as well but you should have an event manager at the reception to ensure your day stays on schedule and knows how to read a crowd to move certain activities up or push them back during a crowded dance floor.  Having enough staff to handle your size event will also ensure in a smooth day.  It’s great to “cash in” on all the family deals but allow them to be present during the ceremony and reception.  Hire a full event staff to set up all of your DIY projects, help with traffic, bus tables, take care of trash, load up gifts, and ensure the venue is clean properly to receive your full deposit.  If your catering company only offers “drop and go” to save money, bring in an event team to take care of the tables, replenish beverages, bartend and take care of trash.  We promise your guests’ experience will be tripled if they don’t have to pick up their own trash or plates at the end of the night.  Allow your guests (all of them) to be guests!

Some venues offer a site manager for your day please keep in mind that their sole responsibility is to make sure the site is clean, in working order and set up per your agreement. Site managers are not responsible in unloading or loading your vehicles (it’s actually a liability if they break any of your items), line your wedding party up prior to the ceremony, or help your vendors know when certain items are about to happen.  They won’t tell you how to cut your cake, where to look for the best photos or tips in having a memorable event that’s why you should hire a professional planner or coordinator.  However, it is wise to offer the venue site manager a copy of the schedule so they can determine times that guests will be arriving and leaving, do restrooms checks and change any lighting needs that come with the venue.  They should also be aware of any guests with special needs, surprises and exit plans to prepare their staff accordingly. 

Still questioning why you should hire a professional wedding planner or coordinator?  Your friends, family and significate other truly love you but they will become tired of only talking everything wedding with you.  Having a planner and/or coordinator to bounce ideas and questions off of will allow your circle of people to truly enjoy the planning process with you.  While coordinators will remove most stress from your day a planner will handle all the stress up until the day as well as the BIG EVENT!  Professional event planners understand things happen and while nothing will go 100% correct the day of the wedding, they know how to roll with the punches, are quick to think on their feet and have years of knowledge and first-hand experience at what works and doesn’t work to make your event memorable and smooth.  So when I say having someone their every step of the way is worth their weight in gold, I MEAN IT!  Just ask friends and families that recently got married how fast the day goes by and how tired they were whether they had a planner or not….I promise those without a coordinator truly wished they had invested in someone to set everything up, take care of all the behind the scenes, and pack everything up at the end of day or at the least had someone to bounce ideas off of during the process or be honest about some of the great ideas that actually don’t work out as smoothly as anticipated.  So when I say you will miss your professional planner and coordinator… just hire a great one.

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