What exactly DOES a wedding planner do?

Guest post by Ang
Cake cutting 1
Cake cutting 1 © by hindsightbride, used under Creative Commons license.

When you're trying to plan your wedding on a budget, luxury items like a wedding planner or a day-of coordinator are usually the first to go. That's OK, I totally get it, and I'm alright with people making the decisions they have to in order to make their wedding work. What DOES bug me is when I'm in the waiting room of the hospital, and a woman, who I'm sure is very well intentioned, asks me what I do for a living, and, after I tell her that I'm a wedding planner, she promptly calls me a parasite, trying to drain young couples out of their money. Wait, lets back that train up before I stab you in the face with a general anesthesia brochure.

I can't really blame her; the media has glamorized wedding planning, to where people assume we fuss about flower arrangements, hang fake jewels at varying heights, con helpless brides into overspending, and compare the eggshell swatches so we don't get *GASP* ivory table linens, all while wearing professional/sexy designer outfits.

So what does a wedding planner actually DO?

  • I perform a service. Can you do this yourself? Yes, much like you can change your own oil or do your own plumbing. What you pay for is the convenience of having someone else worry about it. That is the very nature of the service industry — all the pretty stuff is just bonus.
  • I'm a neutral party. I don't really care if your Aunt Edna hates my guts because we didn't use her neighbor's daughter to make the cupcakes. I have no family feuds to take part in or worry about. No one at your wedding has diapered my bum, so for the most part I am treated like the professional adult I am. On the rare cases where I'm not, I don't have to worry about so-and-so hating my guts for the next five years. This is a huge weight off of you, because you can feel free to blame everything on the crazy wedding planner. I'm OK with it really, as long as YOU are happy.
  • I see the big picture. Lots of times when planning, anyone can become zeroed in on tiny minute details and not see the forest for the trees. “OMG I've been so worried about the cake topper I forgot to order the cake!” Since this isn't my wedding, it isn't personal to me. Not that I don't care about your wedding — I DO, because I care about you, and it's my job — but I can think rationally about all aspects of it.
  • I'm not a guest. As per the Unplugged post, your guests should be able to fully immerse themselves in your wedding. I might shed a tear, or two or twenty, but I am there to make sure the caterer is setting the food out, that the DJ is set to go, and that the roller derby cocktail waitresses have their pads on. You don't have to worry about me having a good time — trust me, I am.
  • I am your middleman. I have this wacky thought that couples should enjoy their wedding day. It's much harder to do when a million people are running up to you with mini catastrophes when all you want to do is soak in the moment of the big ass life change you just made, and bask in the happy. My job is to make sure you have as many moments of happy as humanly possible by handling the mini catastrophes for you.
  • I do lots of weddings. This is a horrible fact of the wedding industry, but some nasty vendors out there give crappy service because they don't think they need to impress you. You're likely to only get married once, then they don't have to deal with you again. However, they DO want to impress me, because I can recommend them to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of potential new clients. The alternative is badmouthing them with my planner friends and doing my best to make sure they never get another wedding. Unlike some rating sites, the planning community doesn't take bribes to remove bad reviews.
  • I keep your best interests in mind. Caterer leave the venue a mess? I clean it up. Rental company forget the generator? That's on me. Table cloths have strange stains? I take pics so you get a refund, then chalk and hairspray the crap out of them to make them purity again. I hand out your final payments to vendors, so there are no detours on your way to wedded bliss. You are MY couple: your happiness is my goal in life.

So in conclusion, do you NEED a wedding planner/day-of coordinator? No, but you might want one.

Comments on What exactly DOES a wedding planner do?

  1. THIS.

    Oh, Ang–thank you for putting this so well!

    As a wedding coordinator m’self, it’s often tricky to describe *why* it’s nice to have us around–no, my work is not “necessary”, but I’ll sure as hell do everything I can to make sure my brides and grooms have a wonderful wedding day in which they don’t have to think about anything *but* getting married.

    Well said, lady, well said.

  2. Hands down, I’d recommend Ang. She really and truly does care and I wish I’d been able to have her do my wedding. She knows her stuff AND she wants to know what you want, not what you should be having according to some make believe wedding ideal. And she’ll make it happen and help you make it happen. Looking back I can see all the things that would have been easier if I’d had an expert in my corner. Someone who would know that we needed to bring scissors and string to decorate, who would have been able to argue with my mom about how much food and alcohol really needed to be there, and hold onto my ceremony stuff and make sure stuff was ready when we were running behind with our awesome photographer.

  3. I’m not sure if I’m completely blind or drunk or what, but I’m looking all over the website and can’t figure out where Ang is located! (please be Southern California)

    • Hi Mindy,

      I’m not in Southern California, I’m right around Boston, but I do travel! In fact most of my weddings have been out of state.

    • I was debating the whole wedding planner idea but reading this just made me sit here and go “yep, I definitely need one” And I’m located in NH so that is amazing!!!

  4. Geeze, people have called you a parasite? What a ridiculous thing to say! Regardless of if you can afford a planner or need a planner, there is no doubt that if you can have, they’re spiffy to have. In my experience, planners not only can tell me exactly which vendors would understand what I want, they often also come with discounts. In a lot of ways planners pay for themselves with their time-saving, stress-saving, money-saving ways.

  5. Amen Sister wedding planner.
    Do you need a wedding planner? Of course not, no more then you need an open bar. Are we fun to have around, good at running interference, and a shoulder to cry on? Heck yes.

    Seriously, wedding planners get a bum rap. Most of us do it because we love what we do, not because we have visions of being the next David Tuttera.

    So again: Amen sister wedding planner.

  6. I so very much wish I had had a wedding planner – I ended up going crazy leading up to the wedding trying to plan everything (and I couldn’t exactly trust my family to help, because they were NOT neutral), and then the night of our wedding I was running around paying (or forgetting to pay) vendors, and asking what was being done with the leftover cupcakes, etc. I couldn’t have afforded a wedding planner in the budget, but I’m wondering if I could have managed it in place of the caffeine and advil I kept having to take…
    Kind of like how we aren’t paying for a professional painter for our new house, but boy have we wasted a lot on supplies and wasted paint (oops what a hideous color that was) and it doesn’t even look good. Yay for service people!

    • Same here – my family was helpful in getting the day-of stuff done (THANK YOU MOM, ILU) but the planning itself had me in such as state, especially since I was trying to plan from overseas. I wish I hadn’t had that chip on my shoulder and just found some nice, like-minded person in Hawaii to do all the legwork for me!

  7. I am relieved that you cleared the air about planners/coordinators. I admit it, before we had a coordinator, I thought that it was the last thing in the world we needed to spend our wedding budget on. But I was pleasantly surprised when we met our planner, and he actually ended up saving us a ton of cash!

    The fact that he can go to vendors, tell them what we want and what we can spend, and actually being able to work out a deal, is amazing to me and worth it there alone! It’s not like they take away your personality or anything. Our coordinator only does what we ask him to do, never forcing anything upon us….and he answers questions like “What about kids meals?” and “What is the best time to start dessert?”.

    He is probably the reason I am not stressed about the wedding, at all!

  8. Bravo Ang! So very well put. I especially like the oil change analogy! I actually haven’t had anyone call me a parasite, per se, but if I hear “Oh, you mean like Jennifer Lopez?” one more time…. 😉

    If you do end up in SoCal, please look me up and let me buy you a drink. Strangely, I know very few like-minded planners out here and I bet we could have a blast swapping stories! (And if not in LA, then hopefully I’ll get to meet you at GeekGirlCon!)

  9. Yep, kind of like when we were supposed to do a ceremony run-through at 4, then I was going to throw on my dress, and the ceremony was at 5. And NO ONE SHOWED UP except for my sister-in-law and husband until TWENTY TILL 5, because one of my sisters was drunk and the other was chasing a toddler around. People were asking me all kinds of questions, guests were arriving, I looked like $hit. Then during the ceremony the musicians didn’t know what to do and my drunk sister was supposed to talk for five minutes and stood up for thirty seconds instead, and the ring warming didn’t work.

    I planned the heck out of this event. And this still happened. Get a wedding planner.

  10. We hired a wedding planner, and our big day is a little under two months away.

    She has been the BEST decision we have made so far in regards to wedding planning — She understood our vision right from the start, which is why we hired her, and she has really helped us zero in on the overall feel we are going for, and how to acheive that best (i.e. “I wouldn’t recommend doing a bridal party table if you want something less formal, because guests will take their cue from you guys, and they will feel like it’s supposed to be formal”, etc).

    She also steered us to vendors who would “fit” with us, and steered us away from ones who wouldn’t, so we didn’t have to go to vendors who wouldn’t work for us (i.e. — “this photographer is probably more traditional than you would like, but I’d be happy to setup an appointment with them if you would like me to”)

    We had a minor issue with our venue, and she called the venue, hashed it all out, got us an update on the contract, and we sat back and said, “oh, she’ll take care of it”…

    I STRONGLY recommend a wedding planner, and I am SO excited for her to help us coordinate our big day!!

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