Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Site Coordinator Vs. Wedding Coordinator

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"My venue has an on-site wedding coordinator, so why do I need a Professional Wedding Coordinator or Planner?"

This is a common question and one we wish all venues would be more honest about from the beginning.  We are very used to working with coordinators in churches and/or venues, so it's not uncommon to have a wedding coordinator and site coordinator.  In fact, it is a huge bonus to have someone who is familiar with the facility and has seen many events take place there.  The overlap between what a facility coordinator brings to the day of and what a wedding coordinator does throughout the planning process can create a powerful team of vendors working together to handle all the details.  It may sound like an unnecessary expense, but MOST church/venue coordinators will tell you that having a well-trained and experienced professional wedding coordinator is not only a benefit to you, but to them as well.  The biggest way to sum it up is that we guide you and ALL of your vendors to handle the details of the wedding from the moment you book us until the end of the wedding night (and sometimes beyond depending upon the services you have selected.)

  • Primary Focus: Site vs. Client
    • A venue/church coordinator is better described as an on-site coordinator; some are even more appropriately titled "Catering Managers" or "Site Coordinator."  An on-site coordinator oversees the wedding or reception, but their priority is to watch over the best interest of the venue. Our role as a wedding coordinator is to look out for the best interest of the family with regard to all vendors and aspects of the wedding weekend.  In fact, most on-site coordinators leave once dinner has been served.  Having an on-site coordinator is valuable in promoting the sale and the experience of the venue; they appear to be an added asset when booking, and they are! However, they do not fill the role of a wedding coordinator.  It is important to have someone that knows where all of the outlets suited for a band's needs are located and who to call if the air conditioner needs to be adjusted. The site coordinator wants to make sure your experience with the VENUE is superb, but they aren't going to make sure your florist is running on time, has delivered everything that was contracted, your cake is as you had envisioned, or your photographer is capturing all those special pictures you want to have.  There are some venues we love working with, because we know that the on-site staff when combined with our services will make for a flawless event.  We will do everything we can to form a strong team with your site coordinator no matter where we are though.
  • Money
    • The site-coordinator may offer some discounts to ensure that you book your event with them, but they are not going to seek out discounts with other vendors or negotiate better rates with other vendors for you.  An experienced wedding planner with great vendor relationships should be able to tell you which vendors may offer you a discount as the planner's client (that would have otherwise been unavailable to you) and which ones he/she may be able to negotiate the contract or proposal to be more in your favor.
  • Details during the planning process
    • The on-site coordinator won't be the one to accompany you to your vendor appointments and to make sure your linens, floral, and your lighting are all cohesive.  Between now and the wedding, you will have questions about etiquette, decor, timing, logistics, what kind of lighting to use, etc.  They will answer some of your questions, but that is not their job to answer questions about every detail.  When venues have 2-6 weddings or events booked every weekend, they simply don't have the time to guide you through the planning process in such great detail.  The site coordinators are not there to read over your contracts to make sure your best interests are being met and you are being protected.  They don't guide you in a budget plan and help prioritize your spending. 
  • Detail set-up on the day of
    • A wedding coordinator will help set out those little extras you may have worked so hard to make or to design.  The escort cards, the programs, the favors, and the tossing items are all little pieces of the wedding that begin to add up in the amount of time to set up that may fall on you to get ready.  You should not become stressed with the little pieces of the day that need to be done, or worse, run the risk of forgetting details.
  • Preferred Vendor List vs. Vendor Recommendations
    • A site coordinator may have "vendor recommendations" which means they will hand you a "preferred vendor list."  Again, they are working with the interest of the venue in mind and may not go out of their way to find a vendor that fits your personality, budget, and vision.  There may be some good vendors listed on a venue's preferred vendor list, but you have to ask when was that vendor list last updated and why were those vendors selected.  Just last month, a client that booked The Fairy Godmothers, had been given a preferred vendor list by the venue with out of date recommendations. They hesitantly booked a florist that did not give them a contract.  We later found out that not only was the  florist intending to include out-of-date smaller arrangements than the client had envisioned, but the florist was planning on using fake flowers.  Next, we found out that the baker they were referred to was going to make their fondant covered wedding cake despite not having any experience with fondant.  The baker was also working out of her unlicensed home kitchen (before the cottage law) instead of a regulated commercial kitchen and did not have any contract in place!  The clients booked our services with 2 months to go before their wedding, and we were able to find a new florist, a new (professional) pastry chef, and review all of their other bookings, on top of the other planning pieces that normally take place during that time frame.
  • Budget Planning
    • You have a budget.  Part of our job as a wedding coordinator is to help you find ways to think creatively and save money or come up with cost-effective solutions. Many times, vendors are willing to offer discounts because of our relationships with them and because they know working with our team is going to make their job easier.  Ask your vendors!  They will tell you it is a night and day difference between weddings with experienced planners and weddings without.  
  • Vendor Selection
    • Vendors can make or break your event.  Knowing the client and knowing your vendors is one way we make sure that we match personalities in vendor selection.  Part of our job is building and maintaining relationships with reputable vendors and staying current on the happenings within the industry.  Our team attends monthly industry meetings and networking events to grow our relationships.  It's not only the reason we are able to make educated recommendations, but if something goes wrong on the day of the wedding for some reason, we have an easier time calling in favors with vendors because of our relationships with them. 
  • Number of Events on Your Wedding Weekend
    • We are a boutique firm.  That means that we focus on quality of weddings vs. quantity and take a limited amount of weddings on in a year.  A Fairy Godmother will not take on more than one wedding in a weekend.  Especially if you are an out-of-town client or your venue has another large event (ie. golf tournament or fashion show) the week of your wedding, you are going to want someone who is focused on your wedding planning.  As sweet and talented as your site coordinator may be, the reality is that he/she is going to be starting your wedding on the end of a long event weekend!
  • Proactive Planning
    • The earlier you book a wedding coordinator, the better.  Wedding planners don't just handle the day-of services (although that is a BIG part of what we do,) but we help troubleshoot items and confirm with vendors many times prior to the wedding weekend to minimize the risk of any surprises.  We create a detailed timeline that coordinates all the vendors for load-in, set-up, the order of events, making sure the photographer, the couple and the family are where they need to be when they need to be. We make sure the music is appropriate, the music starts and stops when needed, the food is kept replenished, the bartenders are not serving an irresponsible guest, the tossing items are ready and passed out, and the couple's transportation is ready and waiting.  We'll make sure the photographer or videographer doesn't decide to run to the restroom when the DJ announces the first dance or that it's time to cut the cake.
  • Communication Regarding Timeline
    • We don't do late...unless you tell us to.  We will find a way to get back on track with regards to the timeline while still ensuring a smooth flow of events.  In the event that things are running late, for example, you don't want the buffet line to open because the on-site coordinator told the kitchen staff to serve the food even though the officiant has not had a chance to bless the meal.  Communication is one of our most important jobs.  Nobody else fully takes on that big responsibility.
  • Timeline Manager
    • A site coordinator usually leaves after the meal has been served. Without a wedding coordinator, suddenly your DJ/band or your photographer becomes tasked with maintaining the flow of the evening and whether or not the father of the bride and the bride are ready for the father daughter dance or if the photographer or videographer are ready or if they had to run to the restroom. Having that responsibility means they are not able to do their job to the best of their abilities.
  • Eat
    • We'll make sure that the couple eats, and then we'll do what we can to have food set aside for them (if they desire) for the limo ride home. Maybe they are enjoying the company of their guests so much they didn't get a chance to sit and eat the wedding cake, we will make sure to box some up and send it home with them.
  • Knowing the Details & Handling Details on the Day of
    • Our job is to make things run so seamlessly smooth that the couple and both sets of parents are guests at the wedding and not having to "work" it.  If any problems do occur, we make decisions and handle things so that most brides never even know there was an issue.  If a bridesmaid's zipper gets stuck and breaks, the groom's boutonniere breaks, the candles on a table weren't lit - we are there with an emergency kit as big as a large suitcase to handle those little issues.  If it looks like it's going to rain, but the couple's send off transportation is a vintage convertible, we'll be the ones to make the call and give the transportation vendor notice to put the roof back on.
If you still aren't convinced, check HERE for a 2 part blog entry from a British Columbia planner.


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