First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!
There is so much to navigate while wedding planning, and as wedding planners our job is to make this process as easy and stress-free as possible!
Today we're going to talk about the difference between venue provided coordinators and independent wedding planners!
As independent wedding planners ourselves we LOVE when venue's have someone specific assigned to our client's event to be our point-of-contact. To be honest, it makes our job a little easier! However, a lot of venues market these coordinators as wedding planners to potential brides, which can be misleading. Our intention here is to educate brides so they can make the best decision for their needs!
Here are some of the main differences between an independent wedding planner and a venue coordinator:
Timelines- Timelines are one of, if not the, most important aspect of planning a wedding day. A venue coordinator will create a basic timeline usually with the caterer's arrival time, the ceremony start time, and closing times (usually 5-8 line items). Our timelines are generally 8-10 pages long and include items like "Bring the bride's grandmother a plate at dinner because she has trouble walking", and "Tell the DJ to fade out the mother/son dance at 2 minutes and 15 seconds". We also create filtered timelines for each vendor and a timeline just for the wedding party/family members who are a part of the wedding so every person knows exactly what they need to be doing and when they need to be doing it.
Vendors- Most of the time venue coordinators will send over a short form asking you to fill out your vendor information. They will usually provide recommendations if you ask, but that's about the extent of it. As wedding planners we want to learn all about our client's wedding vision so we can help them decide on colors, linens, flowers, invitations, chairs, etc. so their wedding has a seamless design throughout. They don't have to do anything alone. There's a level of trust we create with our client's, so while they ALWAYS have the final say, we can always give our design advice. Most venue coordinators don't attend any other vendor meetings with their clients (sometimes they will if they have exclusive, in-house vendors, like a caterer). With us, if a bride doesn't vibe with one florist, we'll meet with another! Often times venues have a set caterer or rental company they work with and the bride doesn't even realize she's missing out on other (possibly better) options.
Reliability- Because venue coordinators are in charge of dozens (if not hundreds) of events per year, it's not uncommon to wait several days for a response. And, unfortunately, there's often a high turnover rate. For example, one of our brides booked a venue who was just starting to implement their policy of only using their in-house planner. Since she had already hired us, we were of course allowed to work her event and were essentially grandfathered into her wedding. Within 1 month she was assigned a new venue coordinator 3 times! She said so many times, "I don't know what I would have done without you guys!" When you hire an independent wedding planner, they aren't going anywhere.
Details- We give our brides access to our entire online planning lounge so we can work alongside them with every aspect of planning. We remind them of all of their vendor payments, help with budget tracking, seating charts, and so much more! We create your timeline and help plan all of the details of the day. We always attend the rehearsals so we can make your song selections are timed out perfectly with your wedding party walking down the aisle. Venue coordinators will usually attend rehearsal (because someone has to be onsite when clients are at a venue), but cueing each of the members of the bridal party is outside their scope of responsibilities. We put out all of your decor ("Cards & Gifts" sign, favors, candles, etc.) and ensure everything is how you imagined it. Again, for most venue coordinators, this is outside the scoop of their responsibilities.
Priorities - A venue coordinator's paycheck comes from the venue, so their priority is the venue, not you. They are there the day of your event to ensure the venue rules are being followed, no one is damaging the property, and to fix any facility problems that may arise. As a wedding planner, our bride is our priority.
Again, we aren't trying to dismiss what a venue coordinator does. As wedding planners we love when venues provide a coordinator as our point-of-contact so we can ask, "Where is the best place to put the DJ based on the electrical layout of the venue?". They have worked lots of events at this venue so they do have a lot of useful knowledge! But if you ask your venue coordinator, "What time should my family arrive for pictures?" or "Who is dismissing the tables to the buffet?" or "What arrangements is the florist providing and when is she arriving?", it's likely she won't be able to answer any of these questions.
In a nutshell, don't NOT hire a wedding planner because your venue tells you they provide one!
But don't just take it from us. Here are some other articles from wedding professionals (including a venue coordinator turned wedding planner) about this topic:
Brette and Christina