Do you need a wedding planner or day of coordinator?

Guest post by Laura Guerrie

I decided to bring in a former offbeat bride to answer this question. After planning her own wedding, Laura decided to become a wedding planner, so she definitely understands the role from both sides of the bride/vendor equation.

I'd like some advice about hiring a day of coordinator for our wedding. We're doing all the planning, crafts, etc for the day ourselves, but with 100+ guests, I don't want to worry about telling food vendors where to go and other tasks during the actual wedding day.

How do you find someone to fill this role? A wedding coordinator seems to be more than we need. My partner would like one of his mother's friends to fill this role, but I'd rather it be someone we paid and who wasn't part of our circle – if something goes wrong, I don't want there to be problems with his mom and her friends! -Anne

The mystical world of Wedding Planners/Coordinators can be a mind-boggling place that makes absolutely no sense to the untrained eye. It's difficult to shop and compare services when prices are all over the board and planners name their packages after all kinds of fanciful things. How are you supposed to know if you're a Platinum Princess or Pink Petunia?

Fear not, my friends. I'm here to pull back the curtain for you, like that masked guy on the magician tell-all show. Wedding Planning Secrets – Unveiled! Today's topic: The Day-Of Coordinator (“DOC”).

To be clear, this is the most common name used for this service; however, it's misleading as a good DOC will do quite a bit of troubleshooting for you in the weeks prior to your wedding — hence all those funny package names. Regardless of the label, look for a planning package that includes a couple of in-person meetings, a venue walk-through, day-of timeline, vendor confirmations and rehearsal coordination.

I know what you're thinking: Do I need ALL THAT? Can't my Aunt Zelda tell the florist where to set up? Sure she can, and that's certainly an option. But here are some highlights of what you can expect from a pro:

  • A timeline constructed by an experienced planner will help create an event that appears to flow effortlessly, as if powered by magical fairy dust!
  • Many vendors book multiple events in a weekend and can get their wires crossed. Confirmations handled by a pro help head off confusion prior to a dance floor disaster.
  • Three words: Triangle Of Coordination! (OK, that's my name for it — perhaps not everyone calls it that.) The secret behind the magical fairy dust is a DOC bouncing all night between you, the photographer, the DJ, and the catering/venue staff. (Wait…that's a square. Crap!) We make sure music is cued, cameras are in position and you have a chance to pee before you cut the cake.
  • No matter how well things are planned and confirmed, something will go wonky on the wedding day. An experienced professional will handle any hiccups in such a way that you and your guests will never know anything unusual happened. (From last-second generator orders to one particularly fabulous debacle involving peanut sauce, I've dealt with it all and nary a bride was any the wiser.) This allows you to maintain the sensation of Perfect Wedding Nirvana throughout your day.

Can't afford a day-of coordinator? Try trading with friends!

So how do you find a DOC? Well of course first you should check Offbeat Bride's Vendor Guide. If you can't find one there, an internet search will yield many options, but specifically look for wedding vendor websites with user reviews and read them thoroughly. Bridal message boards, although often a bit scary, can provide first-hand recommendations. Prices vary greatly so be prepared to shop around, but I caution against cutting the corner too tightly here. Place your budget on one side of the scale and the level of responsibility involved in executing your vision on the other.

Then find the balance. Vibe out their website – do they seem like they're speaking your language? If so, meet with them in person to discuss your plans in detail. (This should be complimentary – I wouldn't recommend any vendor who charges for a consultation.) How do they respond to your more unique ideas?

Whatever your concepts, offbeat or otherwise, find a reputable planner who seems as enthused about them as you are and then go for it. Let Aunt Zelda relax and have a second piece of wedding cake!

planners: Rebel Belle Weddings

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Comments on Do you need a wedding planner or day of coordinator?

  1. The one thing that my husband and I both wish we would have done differently for our wedding is hire a day of coordinator. It would have made such a difference in what we had to be responsible for, and the stress level. I never figured that one would have made a difference, but I was wrong.

  2. I struggled with the idea of hiring a coordinator – but with 250 guests, the idea of someone else on hand the day off (someone not from ‘our circle’ – who we wanted to be there just enjoying themselves) started looking better & better. It took me awhile to find someone who gave me the right ‘vibe’ that I was willing to pay them to do something I knew I could do (if I weren’t in the middle of getting married!), but in the end, I have & I think it’s going to be some of the best money we spend on the whole event! You don’t want to spend all that time & energy planning just to have it fall apart the day of – you want that ‘Triangle/Square of Coordination’ going on!

  3. I ended up hiring a day-of-coordinator… I orignally worried that she’d end up having nothing to do; instead, she ended up doing *everything* and working her butt off. She arranged all my bulk flowers, coordinated with my cousin who was running the ipod for our ceremony, helped the caterer set up tables, changed the trash bags, cut up the wedding cake, etc., etc. She was amazing and a lifesaver. Our wedding would still have gone off without her, but I would’ve been WAY more stressed. My aunts pitched in, too, and were invaluable, but I was happy none of them had to “run” the whole day.

    Oh, and our DOC was just starting off in the business and barely charged us anything (we ended up tipping her a ton, because she totally earned it). Plus, she was a really cool/sweet person.

    • This is what I did. My wedding is next April, but the wedding coordinators (they are a duo) only had one wedding under their belt. By the time my wedding rolls around they will have all the weddings from this wedding season under their belt (and I will have gotten them for their new coordinator price). My wedding isn’t large, but I don’t want to be putting the centerpieces together and hanging the lanterns in the museum. I want to have a nice relaxing morning and afternoon!

    • Hi can you recommend your DOC or any suggestions if one is getting married in queens ny

      thanks ,

  4. “Sniper.” It rhymes with “diaper” and would make a great song. 😀

    On a more related note – great advice. My little sister is insisting that she is going to help plan my wedding. We’ll see if she actually wants to be the DOC. 🙂

  5. WORTH IT! I hired a day of for apx. $1,000. But she’s more like a “week of” coordinator. I searched for a party planner, not a wedding coordinator. I ended up finding an eco-minded party consulting group that would do it for me. The lady isn’t all crazy about wedding this and bride that – which was perfect for me. I didn’t want to find someone all about the WIC. If you’re in SF I highly recommend Twirl Management!!!

  6. i wish my sister hired a day of coordinator. well…she had one. she had one she hated. who backed out the day before and had her assistant do it. my sister was so laid back about the entire thing that we, the bridal party, had no idea what to expect.

    we woke up at 8 am the day of the wedding to the flower girl’s dresses 8 hours away, frozen flowers, and a peed on couch. and my sister, the bride, still insisted that we would set everything up, get our nails done, have lunch, pick up the desserts, take showers, get ready, eat a meal…and she was going to put all the flowers together herself.

    she was in la la land. the bridal party and some friends in town set everything up. myself and two other saving graces ran around like chickens with our heads cut off. getting everyone burgers at mcdonalds, buying scissors at the gas station, buying grocery story flowers. making all the bouquets at 5:50. the wedding was at 6 pm. we were late. we got phone calls that people were worried she backed out.

    the groomsmen spent the day drinking beer on the beach. they were supposed to put everything away at the end of the night but nothing was settled upon and we had the sinking feeling we would be breaking everything down. we misunderstood and thought the entire party had to be shut down at ten pm, so at nine, in sundresses and strappy sandals, began carrying cases of beer out to the car. no one else moving a finger to help.

    my sister was totally unphased and out of it. she had a good time, and that is what matters to me. but, selfishly, i wish that myself and some of her friends had been able to enjoy themselves more. i really wanted to celebrate with her. i wanted to have a good time and not worry about doing manual labor all day and night for a wedding i was in.

    that is my story. (a month and a half later and i am not so disillusioned but still disappointed.) a little planning and a little someone to help move things along would have been great. someone to say, “hey bride, you are LATE, get going!” and “hey bride, you are NOT making the bouquets, let them help you!” and “how will we transport you AFTER photos at the ceremony site to the reception site?”…instead of the entire bridal party twiddling their thumbs for an hour…deciding who got to stay and who had to wait with a car.

    i think if you’re an excellent planner & have amazing, dependable friends, you may not need to hire someone on the day of. but i think it is very, very worth it. because even if the bride isn’t wildly stressed out…their wedding party, friends, and family, may be. (and that is a terribly crummy memory to have of a wedding.)

    the end.

    • This is what I’m so worried about happening at my wedding. My fiance works as a wedding caterer and says, “DOCs are a waste of money, they just get in the way and fuck everything up,” but I don’t think he’s looking at it from the point of view of people who are going to get stuck setting everything up and breaking it down!

      • As a coordinator, I have heard many caterers and venues complain to me about other coordinators. Like every business, there are good and bad day of coordinators. I would recommend reading a lot of reviews and even asking your potential coordinators for past client referrals you can call. That way you know exactly what you are getting and that the money you spend will be worth it.

  7. As a very-freshly-married gentleman, I would echo all the sentiments above. (Full disclosure: Laura was my DOC. My wife and I owe her what you humans call a “life debt”.)

    If you like the idea of having creative control over all the details of your kooky wedding, but still would like to remain calm and sane on the big day (as well as the final weeks running up to it), a DOC is a perfect fit and a *great* asset. The above-mentioned invisible problem solving that a pro will provide is invaluable, as is the advice during the planning.

    White and fluffy as it may be, your wedding is a train. A DOC makes the train run on time.

    “Magical fairy dust” is an apt description, actually.

    • @Luke Thank you so much for making it so clear what a DOC can do for a DIY bride. We have had brides create Folders detailing step by step how the table arrangements, Cake table and many other parts of the wedding should flow and look like. We 100% agree that you MUST hire a coordinator to ensure you Truly enjoy your big day. We love it when our couple and their guest are able to leave in peace while we handle the Setup and Knockdown.

  8. Thanks so much for this! All week I’ve been trying to decide whether to hire a DOC. I guess it is really worth it. I can always count on Offbeat Bride for calm and honest advice.

  9. *points to Luke*

    What he said.

    I am the other half of the couple who owe’s Laura a “life debt” for her work at our recent wedding (seriously, hubby, prequel references? Is it too late to get this thing annulled? *rimshot*).

    One of my good friends, the moment I got engaged, said “I only have one piece of advice for you. Get a DOC. Worth every penny.” After the past month, I can say that it’s the one piece of advice I would pass along to any newly engaged friend, especially if you’re planning a wedding for over 100 people filled with offbeat, DIY personal touches and/or going through a DIY venue where you need to bring in everything through a variety of vendors (and, accordingly, need a DOC to get you in touch with an “ice guy” to order 400lbs of ice, which is a skill most of us don’t use in our day-to-day).

    Laura’s advice above regarding finding a coordinator that GETS what you are doing is really important (Laura not only didn’t flinch when she saw our lightsaber cake cutter, she took pictures of it) and is organized and on the case about a month before the actual day.

    Just meeting with someone a few weeks ahead of time to run through all the logistics and address issues you hadn’t yet considered (from cocktail napkins for the bar to who was going to place the giant AT-AT on the cake and when), was a huuuuuuge relief. When my HTB remarked on wedding day that he couldn’t believe how zen I was, he also knew exactly who to thank. I can’t speak for all DOCs, but Laura was a great support system and sounding board for a bride both offbeat and anal-retentive when it comes to details and lists!

  10. Thanks for this post!

    Since I have ADHD, and we strongly suspect my fiance has it as well, a wedding planner is a rather big priority for us. Somebody’s gotta organize this stuff, and it ain’t gonna be us.

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