Wedding Planner, Designer, or Coordinator? What's the difference?

Photography Credit: Jessica Bellinger

Photography Credit: Jessica Bellinger

Getting married means spending the rest of your life with your most favorite person on the planet...and for many it also means planning an event to celebrate the occasion. From flowers, to decor, to photography, and transportation, there are a lot of details and people to manage to make sure your day goes off without a hitch. So who do you need to hire? What's the difference between a planner, designer, or coordinator? Read on my friends and don't hesitate to contact me with questions! 

Wedding Planner 

What does a wedding planner do? 

Wedding planners are all about the logistics; vendor referrals, contract negotiations, budget, and adhering to a timeline are the planners main objectives. Planners take the guesswork out of the process and worry about the details for you. Some planners also provide design or styling services (the creative specifics of your wedding day) while others opt to leave those details to a wedding designer - which means you'll need to hire two professionals to create your ideal wedding day. Be sure to discuss whether your planner offers design services, or read on to find out what a wedding designer specifically offers....

Wedding Planner Duties

  1. Works 80-250 hours on your wedding
  2. Provides vendor referrals, negotiates contracts, schedules and attends vendor meetings
  3. Creates detailed timelines and floor plans
  4. Helps determine and manage budget
  5. Attends site tours and menu tastings
  6. Coordinates hotel room blocks and transportation
  7. Manages the rehearsal
  8. Oversees everything on the wedding day (makes sure everyone is where they need to be when they need to be, manages vendors, handles snafus, executes your vision on-site)

Hire a Wedding Planner If...

  1. You want the least amount of wedding related stress 
  2. You have very little free time because of a demanding job
  3. You have no idea where to start planning
  4. Your organizational services aren't the greatest
  5. You have a very short timeframe for planning
  6. You're hosting your wedding in an unusual space (read: not a country club, hotel, restaurant, or banquet hall)
  7. You have a weekend of wedding events

Wedding Designer (aka Wedding Stylist)

What does a wedding designer do? 

A wedding designer's role is purely aesthetic, and doesn't include things like contract negotiations or attending appointments alongside the bride. Designers specialize in the vibe; consulting on floor plans, lighting, flowers, furniture, linens, and attire and help with the decisions that will give your event a cohesive, stylish, and sophisticated look. Don't be fooled though, a wedding designer does more than choose linens and rent chairs; designers have an artistic eye to create a gorgeous event and transform a space. All those pinable instaworthy weddings you see? Yup, a wedding designer did that. 

Wedding Designer Duties

  1. Works 40 hours on your wedding
  2. Creates the wedding's design concept (read: colors, aesthetic, mood, lighting, florals, stationery, tablescapes, attire)
  3. Oversees the decor budget and related vendors (florist, rentals, lighting, stationer)
  4. Sources special props and equipment
  5. Attends a site visit to visualize where you want everything to go, devise a layout, and identify potential problems
  6. Creates detailed floor plans 
  7. Ensures all of the decor elements are in place on-site the day of the wedding

You should hire a wedding designer if....

  1. Decor and mood are the most important elements of the wedding for you
  2. You're good with organization and logistics, but creative skills are lacking or you hired a planner that doesn't do design
  3. You feel your pin-spiration is all over the place
  4. You're trying to pull off a specific theme 

Wedding Coordinator

What does a wedding coordinator do?

A wedding coordinator is logistically focused, but typically for less than a month (and some are just day-of coordinators). They confirm vendor contracts, create a da-of timeline, make sure vendors are paid and guest counts are in order, but won't be involved in planning or keep track of your budget. The coordinator is on-site to ensure what you have already prepared runs smoothly. Coordinators are great for tying up loose ends, and peace of mind the day of your wedding. 

Wedding Coordinator Duties

  1. Works approximately 25 hours on your wedding
  2. Meets with you 4-8 weeks prior to your wedding to get a handle on what you've planned so far
  3. Checks in with vendors to confirm logistics
  4. Creates detailed timeline and floor plans
  5. Completes a final walk-through of the ceremony and reception sites
  6. Addresses any overlooked details (like forgetting to hire a coat check attendant) 
  7. Manages the rehearsal
  8. Oversees everything on the wedding day 

Hire a wedding coordinator if...

  1. You're a DIY kind of person, but would like someone to handle last-minute details and make sure you haven't missed anything
  2. You're extremely organized and detail-oriented
  3. You don't have the budget for a full-service wedding planner

Things to Remember

Regardless of who you are hiring, it's best to secure them as soon as you know your wedding date (even if they aren't getting involved until the month before).  For the most part, wedding production and designs runs approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total wedding cost (depending on the planner's experience, location, and how much time your wedding requires). You can probably expect to pay between $2,000-$6,000 for a wedding coordinator and $8,000-$30,000 for a wedding planner or designer.