As the majority of wedding venues these days also offer the services of an in house wedding co-ordinator it is not surprising that couples may not be aware of the differences between a venue wedding co-ordinator and a wedding planner and may well be asking themselves if they need a wedding planner if their venue has a wedding co-ordinator.
Indeed it is a common misconception that if your venue has a wedding co-ordinator, then you won't need a wedding planner - and I can understand why this is such an easy mistake to make when a quick browse through any wedding venue website will throw expressions at you such as:
"We can support you throughout your wedding planning"
"Get in touch to discuss how we can bring your vision to life"
"We very much work together to make sure every detail of your wedding day is taken care of"
" Our dedicated wedding co-ordinators understand that it’s the little details that make all the difference, we're poised to plan everything to perfection"
You'd be forgiven for thinking that your wedding is going to be completely organised for you by the venue!
However, whilst very much complementary, the roles of a wedding planner and a venue wedding coordinator are actually very distinct - and believe me, I have been an events manager at two major London venues so I have first hand knowledge on this!
I would like to start by saying that venue co-ordinators and wedding planners work very closely together and often forge very close relationships, to the benefit of their couples. Some of my closest industry colleagues are wedding venue managers and we have a mutual respect and admiration for each other's roles. Your venue co-ordinator will very often be passionate about the venue they work for and will have a real fondness for the fabric of the building and all the people behind the scenes who pull together to make your big day happen - such as the operations team, the facilities team, the gardeners, the security team, the house managers etc. They have valuable experience about what has been created there before so can offer ideas and they are the experts in knowing what works well and not so well in terms of things like layout and flow and they make very useful recommendations for suppliers they know and trust - and in many cases, that includes recommending me, for which I am always extremely grateful!
I always feel that the venue co-ordinators are very much 'hosting' your day - they are the public face of the venue, they welcome you in, they want to know that you've had a great experience - but a large part of their role is also protecting the building and to follow the rules of their license by ensuring that the rules and regulations of their venue are adhered to and that contractual agreements are followed. They oversee all the deliveries, in house furniture set ups, operations, health and safety, the infrastructure (heating, lighting, power, cleanliness) and ensure the venue is up to the contracted standard whilst protecting the fabric of the building and following its legal obligations.
Whilst we work very closely together and have a shared goal of wanting nothing but the best for your big day, our actual roles and responsibilities couldn't be more different - much like those of a composer and a conductor. The venue provides the essence, the framing, the backdrop for your wedding day; the venue co-ordinators set expectations and limitations, then open the doors; your planner will then create a design vision unique to you, pull together the perfect team to achieve it then manages each and every minute logistical and creative detail relating to every supplier. Your planner then leads this team, co-ordinating them all so on the day, you have a harmonious group, fully briefed, working as one.
So despite being closely aligned, read on to find out the reasons why a wedding planner and a wedding venue co-ordinator are actually such different roles, giving very difference experiences to a couple planing their wedding:
1) Appointing a wedding planner is a carefully thought through process of researching, finding and selecting a wedding professional whose style, approach and aesthetic is in line with yours, and whose proven expertise gives you confidence that they can deliver. You interview, reflect and then appoint the wedding planner of your choice whereas when you confirm your venue, you will be allocated a member of staff as your point of contact irrespective of whether you personally 'gel' or not.
2) As wedding planners tend to run their own businesses, you know that the planner you appoint perhaps 12 months or so before your wedding is definitely going to be your 'wedding wingman' from that point forward. For my couples, I am on site on your wedding day before the arrival of the first supplier right through until to the departure of the last guest and I am proud to retain close friendships with many of my couples well beyond their wedding day. On the contrary, it is a well known fact that staff turnover at some venues can be high - it may well be the case that the venue co-ordinator with whom you first bonded during your enquiry has moved on by the time your wedding date comes around.
3) Your wedding planner will come to meet you for planning meetings at your home or perhaps a convenient cafe or bar near your home or work; in addition, many of my meetings with my couples are at weekends or in the evenings, to fit around their work and lifestyle; when it comes to your venue co-ordinator, you naturally have to go to the venue every time you want to see them - and this would have to be on a week day, during working hours.
4) Your wedding planner will organise and attend all supplier meetings and consultations, objectively advising and guiding you; your venue co-ordinator will attend your menu tasting with you if the food is catered in house, but they do not otherwise attend any off site consultations such as with external caterers, floral design and floral sample sessions, wedding cake consultations, tableware upgrade showrooms, furniture showrooms, make up trials and bridal wear shopping. Similarly your wedding planner will go to the church (if your ceremony is off site) for site visits with suppliers, she will attend your rehearsal and of course will go there on the day to set up and check the arrangements.
5) Your wedding planner may invite you to attend industry showcase events with her to get ideas and inspiration from a range of suppliers such as Bridelux or the Wedding Show - personally, I am not tied to any particular suppliers, I just want to introduce my couples to the suppliers who I believe most closely match their aesthetic and their budget
6) Some venues only offer couples two meetings from the point of booking until their wedding date - there's absolutely no way you can plan a wedding in two meetings!
7) Wedding planners tend to limit the number of fully managed weddings they take on so that each couple has sufficient individual attention. A venue co-ordinator at a busy venue - for example one which is hosts weekday and weekend weddings and which offers a variety of spaces, such a hotel - will be juggling a huge number of couples at any one time. You may be sharing your venue co-ordinator with another 100 brides so its no surprise if responses to emails and voicemails are a little slower!
8) Your wedding planner may make herself available to you 24/7 and usually gives out a mobile phone number for out of hours queries and last minute panics, which are often over text or What's App. Your venue co-ordinator - who naturally has a clear delineation between home and work - will only be available to speak or email during business hours, when they are in the office.
9) Wedding planners see through the entire process from your very first tentative enquiry through to saying goodbye to you both at the end of the night, so you bond with just us from start to finish. When it comes to your venue, you might find that you are shown around by the sales team until point of contract, then passed to a different person for all the operational and logistical elements. On the day itself, that person might not even be rota'd on if it's a weekend, so you might find you are introduced to a third person in the run up to the date, and that person will then be your venue point of contact on the day.
10) If you are lucky enough to have the venue co-ordindator you know already on the say of your wedding, you will find that they usually depart once guests are seated for dinner and will then hand over to an Operations Manager or Night Manager to see out the rest of the night. By contrast, your planner will be by your side throughout, well into the evening, when you need to change your shoes, redo your hair, find an elderly relative to say goodbye, call a taxi for someone who needs to leave and box up all your personal items, try to reunite lost jackets and boleros with their owners and will wave you off as you depart, remaining on site until the very last guest has safely left.
11) A venue co-ordinator is a master logistician but is not neessarily a stylist. They can show you images of what has been done before but if you are the kind of couple who has no desire to repeat what has already been done but instead, a couple who is wanting a bespoke, unique design for your day, that has not 'been done before' then you need a planner! Your planner will assess the venue with fresh eyes and rather than being used to things the way they are, she will see things which can be improved, styled up or completely changed, just for your day.
12) Your venue co-ordinator will give you list of recommended suppliers and might give you insights into who their personal favourites are but it is not their job to spend time getting to know you and your vision and then match making you with suppliers who match your aesthetic, your budget and your vision to build a dream team to deliver it - that is what wedding planners do!
13) Your venue co-ordinator will want to have a list of who all your confirmed suppliers are but does not act as the single point of contact between you and all your suppliers. As your wedding planner, I co-ordinate all their diaries when arranging meetings with you, I circulate the notes from the meetings and the action points. Every time you have a query or request or there is an update or amend, I take charge of it, communicate it to the team and feed back to you as required. I ensure all the suppliers are on the same page in advance of, and throughout, your big day, all working as one to deliver your dream.
14) Your planner will review supplier contracts and will negotiate terms on your behalf if necessary; she will manage deposit payments, payment schedules and ensures all suppliers are paid on time as per their terms. Venue co-ordinators do not get involved in supplier contracts and payments.
15) Your wedding planner will draw up a master budget outlining the line items and charges for each and every supplier and element for your wedding, advising you on where you could make savings, and keeping it constantly updated with all the variations and fluctuations. Again, this is not within the remit of a venue wedding co-ordinator.
16) Your wedding planner checks that the timings suggested by the suppliers actually work with the timings of the day in terms of dovetailing everyone's movements and requirements together to ensure a smooth flow for set up and strike. No one wants a traffic jam of suppliers vans arriving and departing, a crush for the goods lift all at the same time or fighting for elbow space when setting up and styling the tables. Your venue co-ordinator will create a schedule for everything the venue is responsible for - deliveries, furniture set up etc but if you want a detailed minute my minute schedule for everyone on site, and you don't have a planner, you'll need to do that yourself.
17) Good suppliers need direction! They constantly request information on load in, timings, access, space available, food arrangements, what is and isn't permissible, restrictions, exactly how you want things done etc and as you are the one that booked them, they'll be looking to you for all of this. As your wedding planner, naturally that is my role, to carefully manage and brief all the suppliers but if you don't have a planner, your wedding venue co-ordinator will not be doing this for you so be prepared!
18) Your wedding planner spends an inordinate amount of time creating and perfecting the timeline for the day - coordinating the arrivals and set ups, the standby times, the operational timings as well as of course planing the timings for your movements and requirements throughout the day. If you don't have a planner, your venue co-ordinator will request a copy of a timeline from you a couple of weeks before your date but does not take responsibility for any oversights in the workings!
19) Your wedding planner prepares and circulates detailed individual timelines for various suppliers who need specific information such as your hair and make up team, your wedding car drivers, your photographer and videographer and your bridal party and ushers. It does not fall within a venue wedding co-ordinator's responsibility to do this.
20) Your planner will connect the designs and requirements of key suppliers whose work involves close co-ordination with another - for example your cake maker and your florist (if you are having fresh flowers on the cake), your band with your sound engineer about their rider, your band with your caterer about their dietary requirements and food timings, your photographer and your HMUA team so s/he knows when is the best time to capture you getting ready etc. A venue wedding co-ordinator does not go into this level of detail.
21) Your wedding planner lives and breathes the ins and outs of your wedding day - for example, I check your day stationery for typos prior to signing off for print, I know the exact details of what every supplier is doing and when, such as the blooms in each floral installation, the flavours of each layer of wedding cake, the musicians set lists; I will work with the photographer to schedule the timings around the best available light and golden hour, I brief the photographer and videographer about key people and when the key moments are, I work with the production company to work out the best and most flattering lighting effects to introduce and accompany your first dance, effectively I take responsibility for all your suppliers to be in the right place at the right time and will be right behind them to ensure that happens!
22) Your venue will ask you for a floor plan for any furniture they are required to set out for you, and showing the location of any additional hired in furniture and staging etc to check that all H&S requirements are adhered to (fire exits etc) - they won't do it for you however, your wedding planner will! It's all part of the service to create a scale master layout plan, incorporating all the elements such as hired furniture, staging and dance floor, dinner tables, floral installations, cake table, other hired props - ensuring there is enough floor space, power, ceiling height etc to accommodate everything.
23) Your wedding planner will draw up your table seating plan (and will then most likely retain a mental photographic memory of it!) and will amend and update it each time a guest name changes or needs to move - which happens a lot! Your venue might ask for a copy but they won't do it for you and make all those amends.
24) Your wedding planner will arrange and chair all an site production meeting at the venue with all the major suppliers a couple of weeks prior to your wedding day to walk it all through and ensure nothing has been overlooked. Your venue co-ordinator will naturally attend and needs all the details but is not responsive for double checking every supplier element, every timeline, looking for - and if found, averting! - possible oversights prior the big day.
25) On the day, you might only see your venue co-ordinator at the beginning, middle and end of your wedding day as they have other work to do in their office. As your planner, I am by your side and within your eyeline nearly all the time, watching your body language to see if you are OK or need anything, I am available to you in an instant with a discreet nod or call.
26) Your wedding planner looks after your suppliers on the day - she will ensure that your photographer, videographer, technical crew, MC and musicians all get a hot meal at the time they need it, that the armless chairs the quartet needs are set out correctly, that the dressing room has soft drinks and a coat rail with hangers for performance wear, that the band has drinks backstage if their rider requests it, she briefs them constantly about changes to the timings and keeps them all in the loop as the day progresses. As a wedding planner, I know that a well looked after team is a happy smiley team and one that will go the extra mile to deliver and be accommodating to last minute changes and requests so I ensure that my team and I are looking after the people behind the scenes as much as the two of you and your guests.
27) As a wedding planner, I carry an emergency box on the day containing all kinds of useful items - just in case - and I am on hand at a moments notice with it! In the past, mine has been called upon for deodorant for a nervous best man before his speech, new stockings for the bride as hers had a ladder, superglue for a broken table name frame, gaffer tape for all kinds of things, spare tent cards and a calligraphy pen for guest name adjustments, sun tan lotion for bald heads and cooling gel for bee stings.
28) Wedding planning is all about the details. It is not in the job description of a wedding venue co-ordinator to check how many singers are in your church choir and order additional orders of service to cover them too; or to hold back the bridesmaids and tell them exactly when to start walking down the aisle, perfectly spaced after you! Will they brief the ushers about how to share out the confetti and then manage the guests ready for the confetti shot, ensuring your VIP guests are at the front of the shot? Will they cue the walk in music as you make your entrance into your wedding breakfast as husband and wife, will they check the photographer and videographer are in the right place at the right time, give the father of the bride, best man and groom a heads up 5 mins before their speeches are due? Will they ensure all Champagne glasses are topped up before the toasts, cue the sound engineer to cut the music just before the speeches, be on hand to to remind you which layer of the cake to cut into and hook your dress up for dancing? As your planner, I will cue you ready for your first dance, ensure you always have a glass of water to hand, as well as Champagne, discreetly reapply your lippie when needed or or go and find your flat shoes when your feet are aching! I will organise the sparkler moment late at night and will gather all your guests to wave you off at the end of the night: I will have boxed up all the meaningful mementoes of your day to go back with a relative such as your 'bride' and 'groom' place names, left over menus and orders of service, your table plan, spare favours, your wedding cards and gifts from guests, your bouquet and left over cake, your wedding guest book and pen etc.
29) In summary, as your host for the day, your venue co-ordinator will be very much your big day BFF but it is not their role to creatively and logistically support you throughout your wedding planning journey to the extent that your wedding planner will.
30) In a nutshell, your co-ordinator will give you the information you need and then lets you get on with the planning and organising; the venue needs to be kept abreast of the arrangements you've made, but they do not do the planning for you. By contrast, tour wedding planner works for YOU and only for you; she acts as your designer, your project manager, your logistician, your accountant, your counsellor, your wedding wing man - ultimately, she is the orchestrator for your whole wedding experience.
I hope this has been a useful illustration of how different our two roles are - we work closely together but our responsibilities are entirely different.
If you'd like my help on your wedding day, either for our signature fully managed service or our reduced wedding day management service, just get in touch here and see if we are available on your date.
If you love the idea of having a wedding planner but think you can't afford it, read my blog here all about how the various fee levels available means a wedding planner is an affordable and sensible option for all couples and all the reasons why given how much a wedding costs, you can't afford NOT to have a wedding planner to ensure it all goes off without a hitch!
I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
Photo credits: Kate Nielen Photography
Venue: Cliveden House
Planner: Couture Events Ltd