Should we hire a wedding planner or coordinator?

wedding party walking at Organic Pavilion in Balboa Park San Diego As a San Diego wedding photographer, the question I’m asked most often from couples is, “Should we hire a wedding planner or coordinator?” The answer I always tell them is, it depends.  Whether or not to hire a planner or coordinator is a personal choice.  There are many factors to consider.  But before we go into that, let’s talk about the differences between the two.

Many people actually think the terms wedding planner and coordinator are one and the same.  However, there is actually a difference.

What’s the difference?

A wedding planner is someone you would hire to “plan your wedding” and take care of all the time-consuming details from beginning to end. From your venue, vendors, decor, and everything in between, they take care of all logistics and facilitate everything on your wedding day.

A wedding coordinator is for couples who have done most of the planning themselves.  You would hire them a few weeks before the wedding.  They’ll look over everything you’ve done up until that point and help you prepare.  They would also be there to facilitate everything on the wedding day and are the point of contact for all vendors.

Hiring a wedding planner sounds great but we’re on a tight budget.

A wedding planner can actually save you money by keeping you on budget.  A planner can tell you where to splurge and where to cut costs.  They can also get you discounts from some of their trusted vendors.

But not everyone wants or needs a wedding planner.

You may need a wedding planner if:

  1. Want stress free planning
  2. Need someone to guide you
  3. Are planning a destination wedding
  4. Are limited on free time
  5. Have a short time frame to plan your wedding
  6. Need help staying within budget
  7. Are not very organized

If this is you, then a wedding planner may be the way to go.

However, some people are comfortable tackling the bigger tasks of planning a wedding on their own or actually want to be more involved.  In that case, a wedding planner isn’t necessary.

If you absolutely don’t think you’ll need a wedding planner, consider hiring a wedding coordinator instead.  Some brides find themselves feeling overwhelmed as the date gets closer and prefer to hire a coordinator to alleviate the stress.

bride and groom sitting on bench at Balboa Park San Diego Wedding Photographer

We’re confident handling all the details up to the wedding day and my venue comes with a coordinator. So, we don’t need to hire one.  Right?

Not necessarily.  It’s a common misconception for couples to think that because their venue comes with a coordinator, they don’t need to hire someone.

A venue coordinator is someone who is a staff or team member from the venue. They are not someone you hire. Typically, they are the ones who will make sure that everything promised by your venue is followed through and is your liaison between you and your venue’s operations team.  They don’t perform the functions of a wedding day coordinator.  Simply put, a venue coordinator is working in the venue’s best interest, not your best interest.

While you may feel comfortable handing everything up until the wedding, I always encourage couples to at least hire a coordinator for the day of.  Aside from hiring a professional photographer, the other most important vendor you should hire is a coordinator.  In fact, not hiring a coordinator ranks as one of the top three regrets from brides.  What are the other two?  That’s a blog post for another day.  Stay tuned!

From the photographer’s standpoint, a day-of coordinator is not only important for keeping things running smoothly but so they don’t have to do double duty.  When you don’t have a coordinator, everyone including your bridal party, family and other vendors look to the photographer on what to do next.  If your photographer is busy doing what a coordinator would normally do e.g., setting up details, lining up your bridal party, looking for plates after the cake cutting, or simply putting out fires, they can’t do their job properly.

Having a day of coordinator to move events along as well as manage your vendors is invaluable and lets you and your guests enjoy the day rather than feel stressed.  A stressed-out couple looks stressed out in photos.

For another perspective, I asked the pros at Time to Shine Events for their thoughts on the topic.  Here are some words of wisdom from the owner, Sunshine Birmingham.

“I was once a bride and like many, if not all brides, I had a vision. I wanted things to be a certain way, I needed to know everything would be taken care of, and I cared about all the little details. Unfortunately for me, I was also one of those brides who didn’t think a coordinator was necessary. My wedding was actually the pivotal point in my decision to start my company. As beautiful and amazing my wedding was, it could have definitely gone smoother if I had a coordinator. Hindsight is 20/20 and from the rehearsal to our farewell send-off, I would have definitely benefited from having a coordinator.

“I think now my main goal as a wedding planner or coordinator is to make sure my clients are guests at their own wedding.” – Sunshine Birmingham

“It’s one of the most important days of their lives, they should be able to relax and enjoy it!

Bride and Groom Wedding Portraits at Balboa Park San DiegoOkay, we see that hiring a wedding day coordinator is essential.  But can we just ask a good friend to do it?

*Hint – probably not if you want to remain friends!

“Whenever this question comes up, I always find it a little ironic because that’s exactly what I did for my wedding. I asked the most organized, authoritative person I trusted to execute the details and timeline for my wedding day. These days we laugh about it, but she’s told me how stressed out she was and how she basically had no idea what she was doing and kind of just winged it.

“Having a family member or a friend may seem like an easy way to avoid having a coordinator, but even the most seasoned bridesmaid veteran will not have the experience to handle certain situations that may arise. Anyone planning a wedding already knows the amount of time that’s spent figuring out all the details, finding the right vendors, the perfect venue, the perfect dress!

“Hiring a coordinator on the day of your wedding helps you enjoy the fruits of your labor. It allows you to be a guest at your own wedding and mingle with all your loved ones. A professional will know how to keep you on track with your timeline, help coordinate all your vendors on the day of, and ensure your vision becomes a reality. Should something not go according to plan, a professional will know exactly how to handle it and will make sure you blissfully unaware of all the excitement behind the scenes.

“As an added bonus, it’s also a great way to get referrals to trusted vendors.

wedding reception place setting by Time to Shine events Bali Hai restaurant

How should we go about finding a planner or coordinator?

“A word of mouth referral is always the best way to find any vendor. However, if you’re not able to get a personal referral; do your due diligence. Do a basic search for planners in your area, check their websites, their social media profiles and even their online reviews.  Most planners will offer a complimentary consultation to go over your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the services they offer. A planner’s job is easier when they know exactly what you want and what you need.

What should we look for when hiring a planner or coordinator?

“After you’ve done your due diligence when narrowing your planner choices, as with any vendor for your wedding, choose a planner you click with. Your planner should make your wedding day the best day ever! Have you ever worked with a co-worker that you didn’t click with? Did it make it that much harder to get the job done? Same concept.  A planner who understands your needs will be able to facilitate and execute all the little details to make sure they are to your liking and vision.”

A big thanks to Sunshine of Time to Shine Events for the helpful tips and advice. If you’re looking for a wedding planner in San Diego, I highly recommend Time to Shine Events.  The beautiful wedding shown on this page was made possible by her and her staff.  When it comes to helping you design and execute the perfect wedding day, they are the pros!

Time to Shine Events San Diego wedding coordinators

Time to Shine Events San Diego Wedding and Event Planners

Want to know another thing that helps your wedding day run smoothly?

A well-planned timeline!  One of the other benefits of having a wedding planner or coordinator is that they can help create a timeline for you.  But while they’ll create a vendor timeline, your photographer will create a photography timeline.

I work with all of my brides to create a timeline customized to your day.  This you can give to your wedding coordinator to incorporate into your vendor timeline.  Check out my page for tips on planning the ideal timeline.


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