Fact: You Need A Wedding Coordinator
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Perhaps you're naturally cool as a cucumber and you really are loving planning your own wedding. Does that mean you want to manage all of the moving parts on your wedding day instead of enjoying it? I would think not. You NEED a wedding coordinator. Coordination by definition is a harmonious combination or interaction. Harmonious may not be a word one commonly thinks of in reference to their wedding, but harmony is ideal whether it be the way your timeline flows perfectly with guests transitioning from ceremony to cocktail hour to reception or the way your vendors arrive on time and work together to give you and your fiancé the day you've always dreamed of. In this blog post we plan to cover what a wedding coordinator does, what to avoid, the difference between a venue coordinator and a wedding coordinator, why a timeline from your photographer or DJ won't cut it, why wedding coordination is priced the way it is, the best ways to save on wedding coordination and ways to plan ahead to make passing your best-laid plans over to your wedding coordinator as easy as 1-2-3. As a bonus, we will be sharing some of our favorite wedding coordinators to work with and some pretty shots of their work throughout this blog post.
Zachary Brady Designs is based in Lebanon, Kentucky and offers not only event planning and floral design, but coordination as well serving couples throughout Kentucky. Talk about talent. Anything he touches is sure to be eye-catching and timeless. P.S. I have coordinated 120ish weddings, but when I got married last October, Zach Brady coordinated mine and despite me being slightly neurotic, my day was perfect. Love Zach. Photos by The Malicotes.
What Is It Exactly That Wedding Coordinators Do?
What your coordinator does will depend on the type of coordinator they are. You want to hire a wedding coordinator who is involved with your wedding prior to the actual wedding day (sometimes called an Event Manager or Month Of Coordinator). Months prior to your wedding, a great wedding coordinator will meet with you to go over your vendors and design; he or she will likely refer you to vendors for categories you may not have hired. A month out from the big day, the real work begins. Your coordinator will work with you to create a timeline for the day including a list of vendors and install times (start and end times), a photography and music schedule, contact all of your vendors to be sure balances are paid, read through your contracts to be sure they include the required number of items (rentals/menus/chairs/food) for your guests and the number of hours required for the wedding day. Wedding coordinators orchestrate your rehearsal, manage all of the vendors installing on your wedding day, set up personal decor, coordinate the wedding ceremony and reception plus oversee the clean up and breakdown of the event. In addition, they will fix a million things that you hopefully never will know about that go wrong.
Everyone loves Shelby White! How could they not? White Cat Weddings offers wedding planning, coordination and floral design based in Lexington and in addition to being amazing, she has the cutest family made up of her husband, multiple kitties and Evie AKA the sweetest baby you have ever seen. Photos by Kelli Lynn Photography.
If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
Have you met someone who is offering to coordinate your wedding for $300 because you "only need them for one day?" If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid true "day of" coordinators.
Are they cheaper? Yes. They are cheaper because they work far fewer hours and have less experience. No one with experience offers true "day of" service because no one with experience is willing to walk blindly into an event and hope (and pray) that all goes well and then live with the backlash that will come if it doesn't. Will your "day of" coordinator arrive and not know shit about what is going on, have to ask you a million questions and everything will be a shit show? Yes. Excuse my French. Because if they are just showing up that day, they can't possibly know you or perfectly execute your wedding plans.
Mentioning "knowing you", it is best not to have someone you know on a personal level or your Aunt Louise coordinate your wedding unless they own a legitimate professional planning or coordination company. No matter how sweet she is and how many weddings she has coordinated, Aunts are guests too! She deserves to have a good time and to have time to eat her meal seated (as opposed to in the kitchen or a storage closet like most wedding coordinators on the go).
Located in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, Jessica Meadors Thomas from Allow Me Events is your go to gal for wedding coordination. Lightning fast at installations, she is sure to have your event set up in no time for a stress-free day. Photos by Bradley Quinn Photography.
The Difference Between A Venue Coordinator & A Wedding Coordinator
The difference is simple. Venue coordinators work for the venue. They keep track of contracts and the time you're allowed on the property, vendor insurance and regulations, manage the set up of venue tables and chairs if provided and be sure everything is going well with the venue as far as your event goes. You do need a venue coordinator in case of a power outage or a fire or flooding. Someone has to be in charge of the property and in most cases the venue coordinator is that someone. We have already covered what wedding coordinators do, but for the purpose of this paragraph, the difference is that a wedding coordinator works for you.
Taylor Bible Weddings is based just outside of Austin, Texas, in a tiny Hill Country town called Fredericksburg. Taylor offers a combination of full planning, coordination and floral design perfect for the stylish bride. While most of her weddings are in Texas, Taylor is happy to travel to your dream wedding destination. Photos by Hannah Haston Photography.
Why A Timeline from Your Photographer/DJ Won't Cut It
Photographers and DJs are some of my favorite people. Photographers obviously take the photos which last a lifetime showing off all of the gorgeous, hard work planners / coordinators / florists do and capture all of the sweetest memories you'll want to share for generations to come. DJs can make or break a party and also come complete with microphones for important announcements keeping gets informed and the event flowing smoothly. Both of these vendors spend weekend in and weekend out at wedding ceremonies and receptions. Here are the things you need to ask yourself though: Do photographers and DJs sometimes make timelines? Yes. Do photographers and DJs ever send the said timelines out to every vendor involved with your wedding? No. Even if they did send the timeline out to every vendor involved, do they really know how long it takes for each vendor to set up their things? No. Lastly, will your photographer or DJ be the first vendor to arrive and be solely focused on making sure other vendors are also arriving on time AND will they stay until the last vendor leaves to be sure all rentals are returned and the venue is left as contracted, so you get your $1000 deposit back? No. Good wedding coordinators handle all of this.
Talk about a dream team: Refined Social Events is located in Lexington and offers event planning, coordination, floral design and rentals through Canvas Event Furniture. Melody Rodgers (center) is owner and lead designer; Jen Guiler (left) and Kathryn Dunlap (right) both plan and coordinate picture-perfect events. Photos by Samantha Moore Photography.
Why Do Wedding Coordinators Cost What They Do?
Like anyone else, wedding coordinators work to make a living. Skip this section if you're cool with vendor pricing and trust that they're doing what they must to make a living.
In case you need to understand, here's an example of what the financial breakdown on a planning / coordination company could look like: There are 52 weekends in a year, but there are off season months and holiday weekends which rarely book. Most wedding planners / coordinators are only able to book 30 weddings a year. Some of these may be full planning and others may be coordination, so pricing will vary, for our purposes today, we are going to say that the weddings average out to $2500 per event for 30 events which is $75,000 per year (minus credit card fees at 3%, so $72,750). We start by determining the expenses.
Will your coordinator work from home or have a brick and mortar location? Add $2000 a month if they have a storefront, so $24,000 per year.
Most weddings have guest counts over 150 and require two staff members or more depending on the level of install required. Staff members also must be paid, so factor in another $200 per wedding day assistant, so $6000 a year. (Note: Unlike companies who hire temporary help or contract laborers for weekend help only, companies that have full-time employees always on staff have to pay those staff members enough to support themselves, but it is so much money we aren't going to discuss it here.)
Professional event coordinators carry liability insurance. This is +$100/month depending on how many employees are covered on the policy and how much they're insured for. Let's say $1200 per year.
To book weddings, wedding coordinators likely have to advertise. Most magazines run $150-$200/month for ads and websites like TheKnot.com charge monthly fees beginning at $100. Adding $300 per month for 12 months, we are at $3600.
Miscellaneous costs of running a business from buying a new client coffee to replacing a crashed computer to website fees in general vary in amount as well as month to month, but probably run $5000 per year.
Rent, water, electricity, internet, phone, car payments, car insurance, health insurance and groceries are a must. You want a wedding coordinator who will show up to your wedding focused and well-rested ready for the day ahead. Because of this, you want a wedding coordinator who can pay his / her bills and who isn't stressed about making ends meat or doesn't have a reliable vehicle and may not make it at all. Guess that their bills are at a very minimum $2500 a month not including child care, so $30,000 a year.
This totals $69,800 in expenses.
$72,750 - $39,800 (Business Expenses) = $32,950
$32,950 - 30% (Taxes) = $23,065
$23,065 - $30,000 (Living Expenses) = -$6935 (NEGATIVE $6935)
This is why many wedding planners and coordinators work from home. Even if you subtract the storefront, a coordinator is left with less than $20,000 per year. Whoa, big ballin'. Whatever will we do with all that leftover cash? Probably invest it in branding or an online course or inspirational shoots or cool software like HoneyBook for a better client experience. Maybe get a few new black dresses a year and their hair colored, so they look nice and professional at your event.
What about the planners / coordinators who average less than $2500/event maybe because they are in more rural areas (many of us are) or in their first year of business? Of course they work from home because there is no way to afford a space if they only average $1500 per wedding. Even subtracting the office space, they would be left with $19,495 to support themselves after business expenses and taxes. Luckily, most planners and coordinators are hardworking ladies and gents willing to work even harder to make wedding days marvelous working more than 30 events a year or offering additional goods and services such as floral design or rentals, so they are not destitute and can maybe retire when they are very very old.
The reason for this breakdown isn't to make you feel sorry for wedding coordinators. Wedding coordinators love their jobs or they wouldn't do them. Trust me, there are way easier jobs out there. It is to make you aware of the "why" behind their pricing. Coordinators in general usually are not over-charging. They are just trying to charge enough to avoid living under a bridge (or financial dependence on their parents or spouse).
Side note: In case you're wondering what an event coordinator is doing when they aren't spending 30+ hours per week on each event: Every single type of media you see featuring a small business takes work. Work that a business owner doesn't get paid for whether it be a pretty website, branding in general, a breathtaking Instagram feed or an ad in a magazine unless it directly results in an increase in bookings, prices or both. Education and learning new softwares also cost and consume time, but don't necessarily pay at all.
Hummingbird Page Event Co. is NEW on the Louisville wedding scene (read: very affordable for a limited time). Like many planning / coordination companies, Ginna Matson also offers floral design. While a new business owner, she is well-versed in large events; her background is in catering coordination and venue management prior to launching her company in 2018. Headshot by Space, Place & Southern Grace.
Ways to Save on Wedding Coordination
Here goes, the best ways to save money and hire a quality coordinator:
Hire a new company. New companies, as in those less than a year old, are trying to establish themselves and many times have more affordable pricing. I am not saying go out and hire your high school friend who got married and just wants to be a wedding planner. I am saying that if you are on a budget and willing to work with a less established company, hire someone who just launched a new company and has experience in events whether they have been interning / working for another planning company or another fast-paced wedding industry company (for example catering). Experienced companies likely charge a minimum of $1500 for coordination, but many run $2000-$2500 and are worth every penny. You may be able to find a newer company for less than $1000 just because they haven't had their first birthday yet. Note: Actual age or years in business do not equate to experience. Experience comes from the number of events one has worked. For example: A company may have 30 weddings in their first year and have the same level of experience as another company that has 10 weddings per year, but has been in business three years.
Choose a coordination company that offers multiple goods and services. While not all event planners / coordinators offer additional goods and services, many offer floral design and event rentals. While the cost of flowers and rentals typically does not decrease, some planners and coordinators will give a slight discount to couples using them for multiple services; don't realistically expect more than 5%-10% off or a flat rate discount like $100 off. In addition, the fewer companies you use for different wedding needs, the fewer delivery and pick up fees.
Seek companies outside of major cities. Why? Basically rent is cheaper outside of large cities and choosing someone outside of metro areas may save you a bit just because overhead is less for those companies.
Get married in off season or on a weekday. Coordination requires the same amount of work whether on a Tuesday or a Saturday and whether in the winter or the fall, so not all companies will offer off season or weekday discounts. That said, when business is slow in the very hot or very cold months, some coordinators may be willing to give a slight discount on their services to maintain cash flow. Likewise, full-time coordinators (as in those who plan and coordinate weddings as their primary source of income) rarely have weddings Monday-Thursday. They can easily book a wedding on one of those weekdays and still book a weekend wedding, so they may be willing to give a price break.
Avoid tents if possible OR manage your own tent install. Maybe not every coordinator charges extra for tented weddings, but tented weddings require install days prior to the event and days after, so some do charge more for tents and the added fees are fair. What would normally be 20 hours in two days quickly turns into 40 hours in four days with a tent if your coordinator has to manage the tent install/breakdown.
Two Words: Horse Whisperer. I was so impressed with Angela Sallee with Bit by Bit Events at a recent wedding she coordinated where we designed florals. Not only is she one of the most organized and detail-oriented planners I have ever worked with, but she has a background in horses perfect for any Kentucky wedding. She even put me at ease while I draped florals around our sweet bride's horse. Photo credit Kaylie Plummer Photography (top/left) and The Malicotes (bottom/right).
Passing Your Best-Laid Plans Over to Your Wedding Coordinator
There are a few necessary items to address to make handing over the reins a positive experience. First off, keep all of your contracts in order and be sure everything you expect to have coming from vendors is listed in the contracts. You can keep your printed contracts in a binder or if they're digital in maybe a DropBox file. When your coordinator reads through your contracts, he / she will be making sure hours align and on your wedding day will be checking in vendors based on what is listed on their contracts. Next, limit the amount of personal decor you purchase at Hobby Lobby (or wherever). Any personal decor you do purchase should be packed in plastic Rubbermaid tubs with an itemized list of contents and necessary instructions on each box. This will help your coordinator not only set up personal decor, but also repack everything at the close of the event, inventorying while packing. Last, relax. Once you have hired a coordinator and set them up for success, let them do their jobs. To be sure you can enjoy your day, assign a close friend or family member to be the point of contact on your wedding day who can make decisions on your behalf if your coordinator has questions, issues that must be addressed or is dealing with difficult guests.
This might be the shortest blog post I ever share. Joking. HIRE A COORDINATOR. They will save your life. Maybe not your life, but your wedding day for sure. Thanks so much for reading along today for the fifth post in our wedding planning series. For more tips and lovely inspiration, check out our Instagram at @_giselle_smith. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to receive monthly email updates. Next week we will be covering Tried & True Timeline Outlines.
Stay Tuned & Happy Planning! XOXO
In case anyone doesn't know me, Giselle Smith here, owner and designer at Lovely Leaves currently living in quiet Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I am a traveler of sorts; we accept weddings throughout the United States if styles and stars align. While we sometimes coordinate weddings, our primary focus is designing gorgeous florals and styling all of the finer details for Instagram-worthy wedding magic. Photos of me in my office A.K.A. the coffee shop, Vibe Coffee, by Katie Rhodes Photography.