What's the difference between a wedding planner and an on-site coordinator? Should we hire one if we have the other? How do we make our big day memorable for our guests? Here, Toronto event planner extraordinaire Melissa Andre of Melissa Andrew Events answers your burning questions when it comes to choosing a wedding planner.
1. What are the main differences between a venue coordinator and wedding planner?
Melissa Andre: The site coordinator works for the venue, so they work with the kitchen, handle venue logistics and organize their staff. They might also have suggestions as to where to the cake table generally goes when they have an event there. The wedding planner works for the couple. A planner would discuss decor details with the client beforehand and maybe decide that, even though 90% of the time the venue puts the cake table over there, we want it somewhere else. We do everything from creating custom designs to taking your bridal party's cell phone numbers in case we need them throughout the day. A site coordinator wouldn't really know what's going on the morning of your wedding or when you're doing your photos because their focus is on the venue itself. It's a different level of service. So, a planner really takes care of an entire day when you think of day-of coordination, whereas a site coordinator is really focused on venue-specific details while you're at the venue. If you have fireworks, for example, the onsite coordinator would be worried about how they affect the venue, rather than cuing them and making sure people are where they need to be for photos, etc.
2. What is your #1 tip for couples who are looking to work with a wedding planner?
MA: A couple should hire a planner that offers a service they are expecting to get. A lot of people who hire me are really looking for a designer, whereas other people are just looking for someone to guide them in the right direction. Other people are looking for someone to help make DIY projects. You have to hire a planner that does whatever it is that you want because there are so many types of planners. You wouldn't want to hire someone that isn't a designer and then be disappointed when they're not coming up with these elaborate designs for you if they're more of a consultant.
3. Are there any major DO's or DONT's for couples who want to work with a wedding planner?
MA: Trust your planner: that's my rule. Our timelines are so different from someone who is planning their own wedding. Some people get nervous and say, "My bridesmaid is also engaged and she's already booked linens... how come I haven't booked linens?" But I might not have ordered linens yet because I have insight into a new line of linens coming out that I want to hold back for. Another thing people do is to skip ahead to the stuff that they want to do, and that's something you should really trust your planner on, too. There's a system for how different planners like to work. I always start with a floor plan because I'll design flowers based on where I see tables in a room, whereas other planners might pick a centerpiece they like and put it on whatever table they end up having. I find that you should trust your planner and the timeline and the process because, if they have a lot of experience, that's their process for a reason.
4. A couple will always remember their big day, but what are some of the things that make a wedding memorable for their guests?
MA: I think that a lot of people plan their wedding with all of their favorite things, which is important, but you do need to remember that it's an event that you're actually hosting for other people. I had someone who didn't want fruits and vegetables at the wedding because they personally didn't like fruits and vegetables, but you have to keep your guests in mind. If you exclusively like to listen to hip hop or jazz, you should include those elements because you love them, but remember that you're hosting 100 or 200 or 500 people. The flow of the day and the temperature are also important. When I tell people that their photos are going to take too long that day and their guests are not going to be comfortable because they will have to wait outside for three hours, I'll sometimes hear, "I don’t really care because I want those photos." But you never want to make your guests feel like you only care about your photos or your favorite meal or music. You have to plan something that the majority of people are going to enjoy.
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