There is a common misconception that if your wedding venue provides a venue coordinator, then you do not need to hire you own wedding coordinator. Well, in 95% of cases, I have to say that this is false.
A venue coordinator is the NOT the same as a wedding coordinator.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify a few things.
First, this article is not meant to bash venues or venue coordinators. Their jobs are very important and often crucial to the wedding day. My goal here is always to share and educate in a positive, helpful manner. I love working with amazing venue coordinators and do so very frequently.
Second, there is always an exception to the rule. In some rare cases, the venue coordinator actually DOES do the role of a wedding coordinator. However, more often than not, especially in the area I work and operate (Eastern Pennsylvania), this is not the case. If you are a wedding coordinator who works for a venue and fulfills all the roles I’m going to talk about here, you rock and I hope you’re being compensated for all the hard work that you are doing.
Third, I use the term “wedding coordinator” in this article, but this can also mean wedding planner, day-of coordinator, month-of coordinator or wedding consultant. All wedding coordinators have their own style and ways in which they work, so if there’s something specific you expect from your wedding coordinator, be sure to ask. For this article, I’m mostly speaking to my own practices and services that I provide for my clients. And to keep things simple, I just use the term “wedding coordinator”.
The Role of a Venue Coordinator
A venue coordinators role is exactly that: to coordinate the venue. From the staffing to meal service to making sure the power and lights stay on, their role is directly related to the venue. Their services are often built into the cost of the venue’s fees and they may also be the person to give you a tour of the property.
They are only responsible for the events happening at their venue, so if you’re getting ready off-site or your ceremony is taking place somewhere else, they will not play a role in or help with those events.
If the venue is also providing your tables, chairs, linens, catering, bar, and/or rentals, they are also responsible for managing the setup of those items and areas.
Many venue coordinators will provide a list of preferred vendors who have worked at their venue before and had an overall positive experience. It’s important to note that this list may be comprised of vendors who have paid to be listed (similar to paying for an ad in a magazine) and the list is often not customized to you or your needs in any way. Overall, it’s a good list to reference IF the vendors listed have experience working at your venue.
On the wedding day, some venue coordinators will not be present that day. If they are, they typically arrive 1-2 hours before the first scheduled event begins (ceremony or cocktail hour) and leave once the dinner service has completed. They will typically come and go throughout the day as they manage their other responsibilities to the venue like managing staff, responding to emails, and givings tours.
If the venue they work for is booked for the year with weddings, that venue coordinator is often balancing anywhere from 50-200+ weddings and clients a year, often on top of all the other events being hosted on-site.
The Role of a Wedding Coordinator
Wedding coordinators (or wedding planners, day-of coordinators, etc.) are there to coordinate the wedding. Unlike venue coordinators, who work for the venue, wedding coordinators work for you, the couple.
They are responsible for all of the events happening on your wedding day, including off-site events like your Church ceremony or photos at the local park.
Wedding coordinators are responsible for setting up your personal items such as your favors, menus, place cards, programs, etc. Many venue coordinators are also happy to help with this task, but it will vary based on your venue and it may be limited to a small handful of basic items. For example, if you’re DIY’ing your centerpieces, your wedding coordinator should be able to place these on the tables for you. A venue coordinator will often tell you that you need to provide someone to do that like a friend or family member.
Your wedding coordinator will help you build your team of wedding pros using their own rolodex and intimate knowledge of you and your style, budget and personalities. You’ll receive very custom recommendations based on what you’re looking for along with tips for getting the most out of what you’re investing with that vendor.
Your wedding coordinator will also be with you throughout the process to answer your questions and guide you through decisions. This is definitely an area where I can’t speak for other planners, but my clients will always receive a response from me within one business day unless I’m at an event or have been kidnapped. Most time, they receive a response in a few short hours (or less).
Because of the nature of what wedding coordinators do, they are often limited to working with 10-30 clients and weddings per year allowing them to give you more dedicated time and attention throughout your engagement.
photo by Jessica Ames Photography from Anna and Matt’s General Potter Farm Wedding
How These Roles Should Work Together
Teamwork makes the dream work, folks.
The roles of venue coordinators and wedding coordinators are so often able to come together and work towards the common goal of having a successful event for the client.
For example, while the venue coordinator is able to focus on making sure the first course of the dinner service and staffing is coming together and staying on time, the wedding coordinator is able to work with the photographer, film team and DJ/band to coordinate your introductions, First Dance and toasts.
While the venue coordinator is overseeing the big picture setup with tables, chairs and linens, the wedding coordinator is able to focus on the more personal details like the place cards, favors and table numbers.
When a wedding coordinator is on board, venue coordinators can focus 100% on their roles with the venue and not try to be in a million places at once. They don’t need to worry about making sure your Dad is in the room and ready to give his toast. They don’t need to place your change of shoes under your table and help you switch them when the time comes. And they don’t need to think about snagging your bouquet after your Grande Entrance so you can seamlessly transition into your First Dance.
photo by Daniel Moyer Photography from Lauren and Sean’s NYC Wedding
Why Some Venues Might Say “You Don’t Need To Hire A Planner”
It always breaks my heart when I hear a venue telling couples that they don’t need to hire their own coordinator or wedding planner. But there are a few reasons why this might be the case.
First, they likely had a bad experience with an unprofessional/inexperienced/bossy wedding coordinator who tried to come in to the venue and break rules, change systems and be very disrespectful to the whole place. I’m sorry to say that this does happen and it does suck. Please don’t hire mean or disrespectful wedding planners, you guys.
Egos have no place in the world of weddings and while I’m confident in what I do and how I do it, I’m always making sure that I’m maintaining respect for the venue I’m in and the people I’m working with.
Second, some venues may not feel comfortable with someone taking a magnifying glass to what they’re doing. A wedding coordinator will advocate for the couple and make sure things are being done as promised. This means no cutting corners or saying “good enough”. Because on the wedding day, things are often moving so quickly for the couple and their families that they can completely forget about the little extras that were discussed or promised. Wedding coordinators don’t forget. ;)
Finally, if a venue advertises that their rates “include a wedding planner”, then that instantly increases the value of what they’re providing, whether that person is an ACTUAL wedding planner or not. It’s often far too late that a couple realizes that the venue coordinator who they were told was a “wedding planner” is simply a venue coordinator and not at all fulfilling the role they were expecting.
Trust me when I say, some of the most high-end, luxurious and amazing venues on this planet welcome and LOVE working with professional wedding coordinators all the time. If five-star operations can happily work with wedding planners, your venue should be open to it, too.
Why You Should Still Consider Hiring Your Own Wedding Coordinator
Having your own independent wedding coordinator on your team means that you have someone dedicated to you. They will be there to work with you and your entire team of wedding pros for all key events of the day. If you need guidance with etiquette, finding the best wording for your wedding invitations, reviewing your contracts, or fixing a broken bustle on your dress, they will be there to help you.
Also, while some venue coordinators have been in their positions for years, it’s not uncommon to see some turnover throughout your engagement. I once worked with FIVE different venue coordinators at the same venue for the same wedding over the course of just one year. Each person just kept leaving as quickly as they came (it’s not an easy job, that’s for sure) and I know that the couple was relieved to have a constant person in the mix who was able to keep everything organized and on-track during each transition.
Again, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you’re not sure if your venue coordinators is one of the rare exceptions, feel free to ask them the following questions:
- Will you help us coordinate events happening off-site?
(For example, getting ready, off-site photos or an off-site ceremony)
- Will you help us coordinate transportation?
(In addition to just to/from their venue)
- Will you help us determine the timing for hair/makeup and photos?
- Will you help us during Family photos?
- Will you be in communication with all of our wedding vendors?
(Or just the ones involved in setting up or delivering to the venue)
- How quickly should we expect to receive a response from you?
(Anything more than one or two business days feels like too long to me)
- Will you be present on the wedding day?
(This is important)
- When do you typically arrive/leave on the wedding day?
(If your reception ends at 11pm, but they leave for the day at 9pm, who is going to be there to help you pack up personal belongings and make sure all of the guests safely have a ride home or back to the hotel?)
I realize that this article has certain biases being written by a wedding coordinator and all. But this is not just my opinion and there are many other articles and resources out there that discuss this same topic:
- Offbeat Bride: “Venue coordinator vs. a day-of coordinator: What’s the dif!?”
- Every Last Detail: “Wedding Coordinator vs. Venue Coordinator”
- Huffington Post: “The Difference Between A Wedding Planner And Venue Coordinator”