How to deal with a crappy venue-mandated coordinator

April 7 | Guest post by Ang

I was going through my wedding pics the other day (as married people do on occasion) and I got really pissed. Hiding in the background of several pictures, there's a little girl. She is a constant reminder of the chaos that was the venue-mandated wedding planner.

I could regale you with tales about how my coordinator seemingly did everything in her power to destroy my wedding, but I won't, as that'll make me sound like an ungrateful spiteful harpy. I also don't want to take anything away from what was, overall, a really kick-ass awesome day. I will, however, tell you that her child photobombed my entire wedding.

It makes me even more livid now because I realize that most of it was my own fault.

If you've read about my wedding, you'll see I kept emphasizing the whole thing being "low maintenance." I was so obsessed with not becoming a Bridezilla that I turned into a doormat. Which led to stress and anger at being walked on, which led to guilt for being stressed or angry because only Bridezillas get stressed or angry, right? Which led to even more doormat-ness in an effort to atone for being a Bridezilla, dragging me into a sucking whirlpool of loathing and self-imposed helplessness. This is stupid. Do not do this.

Learn from my mistakes:

[DISCLAIMER: I understand that there is the option of not using a venue who has a required coordinator. I also understand that there are many wonderful venues who have amazing coordinators in their employ. This is not aimed at them — may they live long in the company of baby bunnies. This is advice to people who are locked in with a venue-mandated coordinator, are noticing red flags, and are past the point of no return.]

  • Know the rules of your venue. If we had known in advance that we were required to use the venue coordinator, I would've been able to contact her earlier, and then, would have had time to choose another venue.
  • Have a plan of action. Have an outline of what your plans are, and focus on the information you need to perform them.
  • Be a bossy pants. This is NOT the same as being a Bridezilla. I shudder even saying this since it might be taken out of context, but, as a client, you are the boss AS LONG AS YOU ARE BEING REASONABLE. Bridezilla = If I don't get to use candles I will burn this fucker down! Doormat = "Can we have candles?" Boss = "Let's talk about using candles." And then, give options to choose from, "We plan on having candles. Are open flames acceptable or do we need to use battery powered ones?" If they ignore what you want to talk about, refocus the conversation. "Thanks for bringing that up, but I want to make sure that *insert x* is taken care of before we move onto anything else."
  • Complain early, complain often. If someone isn't living up to their end of the bargain, I go by a one-strike rule. They get one chance to fix it in a timely fashion, and if they don't, you go to their superior. And you keep doing that until it's taken care of. You are a CLIENT, and deserve to get your money's worth.
  • Establish expectations. I didn't do this because I was worried about making waves, and I really should have. If you are paying a coordinator, that time belongs to you, it shouldn't have to be shared with their children, or their cellphone, or anything else.
  • Have an additional emergency contact. In the case where it's 5AM, you're in the middle of a monsoon, and the coordinator (that you're paying for) isn't showing up, you need to have another number to call.
  • Employ a bouncer. In my case my usually meek and mild sister totally whipped out the talons when the coordinator started making unreasonable demands. Volunteering to be the bad guy was the best present she could possibly give me.
  • Follow up. If your coordinator was great, they need their boss to know that. If they sucked, their boss needs to know it. If it's the latter, my suggestion is to make two versions, the one you REALLY want to send (which you then print out and burn) and a "just the facts" version containing a bulleted list of what you were promised/expected, and how those were/weren't fulfilled. Bullets are magical little business dots that keep you on task and keep things from getting too personal. Plus it makes you look efficient!

So, now we'd like to know: what are YOUR tips for working with venue-mandated coordinators who just don't quiiiiiiite understand you or your wedding?

  1. Read your contract. You need to make sure that everything is there that you think is there. Do not assume something is included just because you mentioned it or expect it. We ran into an issue at work which was thankfully easily fixed, but it was assumed that spaces for our conference had internet. It was not in the contract. We discovered it the day before and got that fixed. But you have to take charge of knowing what's in your contract. Ties in with expectations. Know what you want, know what you will not budge on, and make sure you're aware of how it does or does not fit with the contract. This goes for any communication. If you aren't feeling clear on something, make sure you get clear. Require your coordinator to explain the situation, check your options.

    7 agree
  2. For my first wedding (10 yrs ago), there was a venue-mandated coordinator. She seemed really helpful in the planning stages, but on the day of the wedding she wore a tight red dress and seemed to be in some of the important photos (my dad walking me down the aisle!) and she seemed to "forget" a lot of the important details we'd discussed. And the vendors she'd recommended were BAD.

    Check testimonials/references of the vendors! Ask the coordinator what they'll be wearing. And I should've made a list of all those important details and gone over them with her the day before.

    1 agrees
  3. SUCH a good article. I've dealt with a fair share of unreasonable venue coordinators, AND some awesome ones who let the day happen as the bride wants it, and even goes to bat for her when needed. Read your contracts, and ask if (and how) they might restrict the people you hire for your big day (flowers, decor, photog, videog, planner, musicians, officiant, etc.).

    0 agree
  4. We almost DID get stuck with a venue coordinator we didn't like (we have since changed our venue)! She was pretty much playing by the venue's rules, not ours. She did not talk us through anything at all. Finally, I said, "I don't really feel like we're envisioning the same thing, is there someone else who can help us?"

    I didn't even specify how we needed help…but in a matter of seconds, she became a lot easier to work with! Still, I don't regret leaving her behind one bit.

    3 agree
    • Word! A polite, "I don't think we are on the same page. May I speak to someone else, please?" Is my go-to phrase when I am having problems with any customer service person or strange "I'm technically the customer or employee but not really" situation. Usually, it serves as a wake up call to the person that you are aware of their bad behavior and aren't going to be a doormat. They are also more likely to cooperate because you getting someone else is a clear signal to their boss that they aren't doing their job. And, when this phrase doesn't work, and they respond with something snotty, it then gives you a nice segueway in to, "All right, I'd like to speak to your supervisor, then."

      16 agree
  5. To the above:
    Hey wedding biz owners/bloggers: Please just use your real name in your comment — not your business name or title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your business or blog. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.

    11 agree
  6. I would just go right along with be clear with all of you expectations right up front. It could even be helpful to right down your major must haves and expectations to then compare to the contract with someone from the venue before signing or making payment. that way you can feel confident and you give the venue and opportunity to see you and your expectations clearly.

    1 agrees
    • This!

      We made a list of 'must have' features as soon as we started looking at venues, mainly to make sure we didn't forget anything when looking around but it proved very useful for checking/negotiating contracts as well.

      The real deal breaker was that we wanted my brother as DJ. He does it professionally anyway but some people acted like we'd asked for a parade of dancing elephants. Needless to say they were off the list.

      I suspect our venue's coordinator didn't expect us to go through with it, she said ok then started in with a list of equipment he'd need to provide, safety checks it'd need, liability insurance etc. etc. and I think she expected us to be like "oh ok, we thought he'd pick the songs". She looked suprised when we said it was fine, but went with it.

      0 agree
  7. I don't know what this means… maybe I'm behind? Our venue doesn't seem to have a coordinator I guess. I mean there was a woman we talked to a few times. We met her once, paid, and then we just go in and set up.

    I don't know what else there is to coordinate? Now I'm a little worried.

    0 agree
    • Not all venues have a coordinator. Usually they only come into play if the venue does a lot of private events. They're the logistics people who know all the rules, can tell you how many tables fit into a space, inform you about lighting choices, what kind of booze is available, suggest layouts, tell you if the building has wi-fi, give vendor recommendations and they make sure you don't burn the place down.

      They're kind of like a private Day of Coordinator for just that venue, and as a result, their job is to act in the venue's best interests.

      2 agree
      • I feel it's important to note: You have to use their coordinator. You do NOT have to forgo having your own as well. Their coordinator is there for your contact point to the venue. But your wedding coordinator and their event coordinator can duke it out all they want and leave you out of it.

        2 agree
  8. I love this article. Words like "bitch" and "Bridezilla" are thrown around to prevent women from standing up for what they want and need. I've been working on being more assertive lately for this exact reason.

    13 agree
  9. This is a great topic to bring up as it does not get mentioned enough.

    Being a person that works for a company that produces corporate events (not weddings), every site/ venue comes with staff whether they are a required coordinator or a state parks person that will make sure things are closed for a private event. The connection you have with those individuals is paramount and I would never go with a site unless you felt comfortable that they could do the job.

    Before you make a decision on a venue coordinator or separate wedding coordinator, do your research too. Look online for reviews. If they are none online you are completely in your right to ask them for references.

    1 agrees
  10. I was so obsessed with not becoming a Bridezilla that I turned into a doormat. Which led to stress and anger at being walked on, which led to guilt for being stressed or angry because only Bridezillas get stressed or angry, right? Which led to even more doormat-ness in an effort to atone for being a Bridezilla, dragging me into a sucking whirlpool of loathing and self-imposed helplessness. This is stupid. Do not do this.

    I realize this is specifically about venue coordinators, but this could apply to anything wedding related. My MIL used to say that "All brides become a little bit bridezilla," and that frightened me, but now I understand that she meant, "All brides are human and have breaking points, and that's OK." And she did NOT mean allowing yourself to be a doormat. I just wish she had a different choice of phrasing. :)

    7 agree
    • I would phrase it more as, "Everyone reaches a point where they become assertive." I've recently realized that I was absolutely doing the "I don't want to be a bridezilla so you can totally walk all over me" thing. My new thing is to pretend that this isn't a wedding and I'm just planning an event. Pretend I'm a regular client, not a 'bride'.

      I'm happy to say that this realization led me to canning my graphic designer (long story simmers down to: in five months of trying to get an invitation design, it was essentially expected that I design the invitation, tell her exactly what to do and what fonts, and she puts in in InDesign for a fee. Um, I have InDesign and tutorials at my fingertips. I need someone to do the design!), hiring a new graphic designer, and feeling super happy with myself that I took control and stopped being a doormat without being hurtful. And, my awesome invitations are going to arrive any day now!

      Moral of the story: you can be nice and assertive. Just don't wait to stick up for yourself until you're mad.

      2 agree
  11. I was really stressing that this was going to happen to us. We booked our venue over a year in advance, and then 6 months out from the wedding they got a new coordinator.

    The first woman was amazing and I was really worried the new one would be a dissapointment or completely steam roller our cool ideas as coordinators at other venues had tried to. So far she's been great too though. Just keeping fingers crossed it carries on that way.

    0 agree
  12. It's awful you had such a bad experience with your venue coordinator. I'm actually a coordinator for my church, and the woman I replaced was atrocious.

    Basically there are some things that cannot be accommodated based on the church policies, and our hands are tied, but the bottom line is the day belongs to the bride and groom and every effort is made to make sure that everything you want (within reason) is met and that the day goes as smoothly as possible.

    The more you communicate with us, the better prepared we will be to make everything happen as gracefully as possible. It's all on how you act. Chances are, unless you plan weddings for a living, your planner knows more than you (crowd control, the floor plan layout that works best for everything you want to accomplish, and hundreds of helpful tips to make everything run smoothly). That's not to say that you don't know what you're talking about because after all it's your day. I'm just saying that if you are rude or try to go around the coordinator, you may miss out on special extras that we are willing to throw inn for free. I've been known to throw in a few extra hours of decorating time (including bending some rules) just because a bride was not being too demanding. I've also been known to barter prices to get 20-30% discounts just for brides. But I won't do this if a bride is rude, bossy, or being unreasonable.

    If you had a crappy person I'm sorry, but not all of us are bad.

    1 agrees
    • Hi Sarah,

      As I pointed out in my disclaimer

      "I also understand that there are many wonderful venues who have amazing coordinators in their employ. This is not aimed at them"

      Obviously a couple's first step should be to work with the coordinator and communicate their needs. This guide is a fallback for when that does not work.

      I assure you that in my case I did every thing in my power to be accommodating, and I would have LOVED to get the logistics information that you outlined in your post from her. But I did not.

      A small sample of my dealings with her:

      We were promised a large main room with two adjoining rooms. She neglected to tell the teachers about the arrangement, and when we showed up on Friday to decorate, one teacher refused us access.

      She did not know how many tables would fit in the space, nor what the standing capacity was.

      I asked multiple times for the Wi-fi information, since we were to be streaming the wedding. She blew me off, and we ended up having a friend bring a hotspot for us, which we had to pay for, even though the church had a strong Wi-Fi connection that was to be included in the package.

      She was an hour late to let us in the church, while we sat outside in the pouring rain.

      In addition to photobombing my wedding, her child interrupted every meeting we had, talked back to me, "improved" on my decorations by taking rolls of my expensive ribbon I had set aside for bouquets, and tying giant knots around everything, bothered my guests, STOLE FOOD, and was generally unpleasant, while her mother stood there with a grin on her face, and insisted on talking about cancer to the two family members there who were obviously going through chemotherapy.

      She repeatedly LIED about the church's rules, in order to cater the wedding to what she wanted. Some of the things that were included were "No bare shoulders, no flash photography, no decorations on the pews, no access through the side door, no secular readings, music only is allowed for processional and recessional." NONE of these were actual rules that the church had, they were rules that SHE decided were important.

      So yes, I do know what is expected of a venue coordinator, and I know many of you perform your jobs admirably well, and I could not do MY job without you. However, crappy venue coordinators exist, and if a couple is in the position where they have to deal with them, I hope this helps.

      9 agree
      • This is a fabulous excuse to have a 2nd wedding with a renewal of vows and do it the way YOU want it.

        2 agree
      • Oh my word. I was scanning the comments in hopes of finding examples of when your sister went all fisticuffs with the coordinator. Did she step in concerning the daughter or about the coordinator herself?

        I hope she tied that little girl to a chair with your leftover ribbon and pushed her behind a curtain. I've seriously never heard of a coordinator bringing anyone else to a wedding.

        4 agree
  13. I am in the same boat, being an event manager myself I tried approaching it as if I were my own client. BAD IDEA! I have learned to get everything in writing because not only do they just blurt out a price or response because they felt like I was asking too early about certain things but when I followed up the story changed. When I got upset I was acting like a stressed out bride and now the Coordinator would prefer speaking to my mom as opposed to me.

    0 agree
    • I've got a list of "get it in writing" excuses prepped.

      "I've got a lot on my plate, can you email that to me so I don't remember it wrong?"

      "Can you email that to me so I can forward it to my mom? She won't believe it coming from me."

      "I'm not headed home right now, could you email that to me so I can plug it into my budget properly tonight?"

      Even a simple "Can I get a copy of that for my records?" doesn't put most people off

      And so on. It's a good way to test whether they're BSing you, when they don't want to write it down. "I've got a lot on my plate" is also becoming code between me and my partner for "I'm foggy and tired and WE NEED TO GO" so he can take over wrapping up anything we need to do to get out of wherever we are right now. Now I just need to get him to remember the code more than 50% of the time ;).

      1 agrees
  14. This was a great article, and an awesome reminder of how not to suck at your job. I'm super excited because I just scored a job as a venue coordinator, and this is a perfect reminder that MY ideal is not nessesarily YOUR ideal–and that is okay. In fact, maybe you should send your coordinator a link to this site. Because that's why I love OBB–anything goes and everything is beautiful, meaningful and kick-ass.
    I'm sorry you had such a bad experience!

    2 agree
  15. I booked my wedding venue over a year ago for my upcoming October wedding. I am currently on my 4th wedding coordinator for my venue. I agree, put EVERYTHING in the contract, whether you think it is a trivial thing or super important thing.

    The first coordinator was awesome, she was so laid back and open to all my suggestions and excited about my wedding. She had no rules and basically wanted to make sure I had the best day possible.

    I called her to check in about 8 months away from the wedding, only to find out she no longer worked there. I was put in touch with the interim wedding coordinator, who it had seemed had never even been to a wedding. I took some time to gather my thoughts and emotions and re-explain my wedding to my new clueless coordinator. When I called, there was another new coordinator! I immediately made an appointment to meet this new person, and brought my Dad along to keep me level-headed. I was told I would no longer be allowed access to the room my girls and I were supposed to be getting ready in. I scoured my contract, and realized it was never written that we were using that room to get ready. That really steamed my buns, but I decided, it wasn't a huge deal, since I booked a sweet hotel room about 5 minutes from the venue, so we could get ready there.

    At four months out, I called back to check in again, only to learn I have my fourth, yes FOURTH, wedding coordinator. A fourth person to explain my wedding to. We hit it off great, everything seemed to be going well until we started discussing the bar. We had previously decided to provide tokens for two complimentary drinks per guest, which was okay with all the other coordinators, but not with this one. She is insisting that we have an open bar, but we do not want an open bar and the token idea is what we came up with when dealing with the other coordinators. Alas, this was also not written in the contract. I am still battling with her about this, and I am peeved. I have two months before my wedding and cannot come to a middle ground with her about the bar. Instead of working with me, she has been fighting me every step of the way. I personally feel like it is bad business to fight with the paying customer.

    P.S. I also really dislike the whole "bridezilla" thing, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I do think it was put into the universe by crappy wedding coordinators and vendors to make brides feel terrible about themselves. I know there are some crazy people out there who go off the deep end, but seriously planning a wedding can get even the most chill bride to at least dangle a bit off the deep end.

    4 agree
    • I love the phrase "steamed my buns" and want to incorporate it into my life.

      1 agrees
  16. OMG!! I wish I had this when I was dealing with a crap "coordinator" at my wedding venue. She was 19 and had never participated in a wedding. I though everything was going fine and dandy until the week before the wedding she suddenly started to tell us that we couldn't have a DJ at the venue. She was totally shocked when I told her that wedding DJ's are booked 6 months in advance and 1 week notice is not sufficient. Thankfully my fabulous Maid of Awesome drove over and made a very vocal appeal. I would highly recommend every tip on this list, as I ended up doing all of those things in the week before my wedding.
    I would add that if the coordinator is young or inexperienced with weddings, they could be oblivious to the stress and timeline involved in wedding planning. It may pay to politely educate them on wedding planning basics before getting the talons out.

    0 agree
  17. Any advice for someone dealing with a venue where the coordinator is the booker? We've already booked and she is USELESS at getting back to me! I don't know how to make her sit up and take notice. She hasn't got back to an enquiry sent two weeks ago, despite my fiance politely chasing a week later. I'm so worried the day won't even go ahead now.

    0 agree

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.