Wait, There is a Difference?
The simple answer - YES. No worries though - it’s an easy (and super common) mistake to make. Understanding the difference between a wedding venue coordinator and a wedding coordinator (or wedding planner) can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration. In fact, many brides mistakenly think that if their wedding venue offers a free on site coordinator, they don’t need the services of wedding coordinator at all. You might be tempted to do the same, especially to save on costs. But there’s a good chance that you could end up frustrated and stressed out on your wedding day when the venue coordinator fails to “perform."
The Venue Coordinator
In a nut shell, the venue coordinator is coordinating between yourself and the venue staff only. Venue coordinators are employees of the venue in which they work. They act as a liaison between the bride and groom and the venue’s operations team. Their responsibilities are those pertaining to your experience with them, directly: showcasing the venue, consulting your food and beverage choices, formalizing your catering needs, arranging menu tastings and processing the final invoice.
On wedding day, their focus is delivering their contracted services, exclusively: ensuring the venue set up is accurately [tables, chairs and place setting only], the food is out on time and that tear down happens seamlessly. In addition, a venue coordinator often departs once the meal is served. This may be an important consideration if your are looking for support for the remainder of the evening or need any assistance with the tear down of items that the venue is not responsible for. A venue coordinator stays until the meal is served, and the majority of the time, leaves after. Some may stay until the cake is cut and served. He or she will not be by your side throughout the day or night.
Also, if your ceremony is at a location other than the venue, your wedding coordinator will be there with you. A venue coordinator will not be at that offsite ceremony.
Unfortunately, it is often assumed that the venue coordinator is going to help set up your decor, work with your third-party vendors and act as a general overseer on the day. When this doesn’t happen, the coordinator ends up getting a bad rap, being blamed for not performing duties that were actually not part of her responsibilities at all. And the bride spends her wedding day freaking out because nothing is happening as it “should.”
And remember: Venues are known to have a high turnover rate among the coordinator/sales positions. The person that you book your wedding with may or may not still be there when it comes time for your wedding a year, year and a half later. Or, your venue coordinator might be working on multiple weddings that day. Your wedding coordinator is hired by YOU, hand selected by YOU, and won’t be going anywhere (unless, God forbid, something horrible happens)!
The Wedding Planner
A professional wedding planner is your personal consultant, with a wide stemmed focus on every detail in curating your dream wedding. A wedding coordinator stays by your side throughout the day and night. They are there to tell you when things will be occurring throughout the night, such as the cake cutting, bouquet toss, toasts, etc.
From the initial planning stages [providing venue options, reviewing contracts, researching and recommending suppliers] to wedding day preparation, [creating an itinerary/timeline, organizing your ceremony rehearsal, confirming details with all contracted vendors] your wedding planner is present for every decision.
Come wedding day, they over-see time management [ceremony, processional, recessional, cocktail hour transition, grand entrance, speeches, dancing etc.], prompt the MC and vendors, troubleshoot and ensure quality control of set up, including personalized details and decor. Many will take over the reins up to one month out, allowing you to be fully focused on being a bride, enjoying a stressless last fews weeks together.
The main difference lies in this: A venue coordinator works for the needs of the venue, acting out the requirements of your contract in a smooth and timely manner. A wedding planner works for you, ensuring every detail of your day is flawless and orchestrated exactly as you’ve planned.
Venue Coordinator Responsibilities
What they do fabulously is manage the venue and keep the kitchen operating at full capacity! What they generally don’t do is answer all the miscellaneous questions that pop up throughout the day (a wedding planner is the one who answers these questions):
- What time will the makeup artist arrive?
- When and where will the flowers be delivered?
- Who will arrange the table settings?
- Where should the families go for formal pictures? And what time should they arrive?
- What time should the DJ announce dinner after the cocktail party?
- Who’s going to release tables for dinner?
- Who should sit where?
- When and where will the other wedding vendors eat?
- Who’s going to cut the cake after the bride and groom take the first slice?
- When should the DJ open the dance floor?
- Who will gather our guests for our sparkler send off?
The venue coordinator is not going to set up your wedding decor. They’re not going to be responsible for anything other than making sure the actual tables, chairs and dinnerware are set. They’re not going to set up your flowers, name cards, or even place your table numbers on the tables. This would be the job of a wedding planner to oversee, or something you would need to take care of personally. (Do you even NEED a wedding planner??)
The venue coordinator is not going to oversee that outside vendors do their job. They are not going to make sure that bouquets you ordered are the correct size or contain the correct flowers. They are not going to make sure that the DJ plays the requested song as you enter the reception hall, or that the DJ even arrives on time at all. The venue coordinator is not going to make sure that your carefully plotted wedding timeline is adhered to. Here a wedding planner is pretty much a life saver, acting as a behind the scenes director, making sure that all the players know their parts, and that they are on cue, too.
Of course each situation and venue will be unique, so you’ll absolutely need to have a very detailed conversation with your vendors to determine what will be handled by whom. By making sure you’re familiar with the general responsibilities of an onsite wedding venue coordinator VS a wedding planner, you can avoid quite a bit of frustration and unmet expectations. While having a wedding planner is not a must for every bride out there, understanding what to expect if you did want the full wedding planning service is super important to ensure you get what you’re hoping for!
If you’re planning your wedding and trying to figure out where to start, make sure you read our entire wedding planning series from start to finish! The series includes the next steps to take once you are engaged, how to select your wedding photographer, tips for planning your engagement photo shoot outfit, and more.
Throwing a Wedding Requires Teamwork
So build your team — one that is truly enthusiastic about every part of who you are and what you’re hoping to experience at your wedding. Begin your marriage journey by surrounding yourself with all those who love and affirm this incredible decision you’re making, including all the people you’ve hired to be there. Because they could turn out to be good friends, too.
Still have questions about the difference between a outside wedding planer and a venue coordinator? Take a peek HERE, for a detailed look at the role of a wedding planner.