Ask any professional, experienced wedding planning company about day-of wedding coordination, and they will agree unanimously on one thing – Buyer Beware. Let’s get real shall we? Inexperienced and budget day-of ‘coordinators’ are the wedding world equivalent of the cowboy contractor who your uncle Fred swears did a great job for him and his roof, but you learn too late that there was a reason that cowboy was so cheap; they did not have the experience, the staff or the tools required, and were ill-equipped to deal with last-minute hitches or glitches.
This includes vendors in other areas (typically, stylists or even officiants) who fancy that hey, they can easily do the wedding planners’ job as well as their own, having no realization of what is required for even adequate preparation, or of what goes on behind the scenes, and it also includes the friend of the bride who the bride reckons can easily coordinate her day for free. We have a cautionary tale on this one; we rented some ceremony decor recently to a couple who had a friend to coordinate their day. Arriving with the decor, we noticed there was no signing table and, being the helpful souls we are, we asked the friend if she was planning to set one up. Her reply, bless her heart, was ‘what’s a signing table?’ Oh dear. We worried about that poor girl for the rest of the day.
Here’s the thing, we understand that budgets are tight and weddings can be expensive (though they don’t have to be) but false economy to coordinate the most important day of your life, is emphatically not what you need.
If you are adamant on hiring a budget coordinator/friend of the couple/non-planning vendor to just show up and orchestrate your day, do consider these hard questions:
- Do they have an extensive vendor list in case of last-minute no-shows or switches? If you plan an outdoor wedding and Ma Nature is not cooperating, can they get on the phone, call in some favours if necessary, and swiftly arrange a substitute venue? And if not, are they prepared for literally ANYTHING that Ma Nature can throw at you?
- Do they have enough experience to not panic, to remain calm and resourceful in the face of unexpected glitches? Do they come equipped with the ‘tools’ required that they may or may not need? – Oh, the venue kitchen has no cake stand? That’s ok, we have one, ditto for cake serving set. Maid of honour gets her period unexpectedly? No worries, we have tampons in the Bride Kit. MOH has no clue how to bustle the bride’s dress? Cool, we can do that. An unexpected snowfall means your aisle disappeared? Leave it to us, we’ll create one for you
- Coordinating a wedding day is like conducting an orchestra, you have to be aware of how all sections of the orchestra work together to make beautiful music, and you have to do it with no sign of visible effort. News flash – coordinating your friend’s or sister’s wedding does NOT make you a wedding planner.
- Do they have knowledge of, and experience with, vendor contracts, floor plans, seating charts, timelines? Do they even have insurance for the venue? Can they deal with setting up decor they have never seen before, supplied by the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride all of whom are well-intentioned but completely unfamiliar with the venue, and did not realize that those cute hanging pompoms have nothing to hang them from, or that there is no room for that adorable Pinterest-inspired backdrop?
- Can they be a Jack-of-all-Trades and step in to operate an iPod dock with an iPod playlist that the Best Man, bless him, got completely wrong, or video the ceremony because the best friend who said she would do that, was a no-show? How about helping to wrangle dogs for the couple’s apres ceremony photo shoot?
6. Are they realistic of how many staff they need to have on-site from start to finish to ensure a smooth and glitch-free day? Often, budget day-ofs are cheap because they work alone, not realizing how much hard labour it takes to set up and tear down decor, to do a fast turn-around of decor from ceremony site to reception venue, to be prepared to remain on-site usually for a MINIMUM of 10-12 hours or longer. We have even heard of budget day-ofs who literally charge BY THE HOUR, which is incredible to any professional planner; there is no such thing as ‘by the hour’ to a pro planner, you get there and stay there as long as you have to. End-of.
7. Can they and do they give you a comprehensive timeline? The timeline is the bible for the entire day, including the rehearsal. It can take us several office hours to plan and prepare/print a timeline which leaves absolutely nothing to chance; it includes a Day-Before plan, Day-Of plan which covers every single minute of the day including when the bride should eat and do hair and make-up, when the various vendors arrive and where, when guests arrive and any special instructions re guests who need extra help or attention, exact timing for ceremony and reception, speeches when and by whom, whether there is a first dance, bouquet toss etc, plus detailed contact details for every single vendor.
8. Will they be there at party’s end to collect and deliver cards and gifts to your hotel room, not to mention random items that guests invariably leave behind? Will they be there to tear down your decor and carefully ensure that anything you may want to keep is not tossed out with the trash? Will they be prepared to cheerfully roll up their sleeves and buss tables because the venue staff and on-site caterer upped and left hours ago?
We do offer a day-of service. Our day-of service is appropriately called Peace of Mind. It is more expensive than the service of a cheap day-of or ‘I can do this’ non-planning vendor (and certainly more expensive than the free ‘friend of the bride’) because we put in time for advance planning and getting to know you, and because we are realistic of what is needed to ensure a stress-free day. That’s it really. Our final piece of advice? If booking a day-of coordinator, be careful what you wish for, because what you get may not be what you want.