What Makes a Day-of Coordinator Different from a Wedding Planner?

Let me tell you


From the moment you get engaged, it feels like you need to do all the things right this minute. Of course, it feels that way because you get bombarded by All The Questions. You know, questions like, “Where are you getting married?” and “What’s the theme?” I thought I was prepared for wedding planning… and then I jumped in and discovered it was way more complicated than I expected.

When my husband and I set the intention to get married, we started researching right away, even before he’d “officially” proposed. Actually, I started planning, because I’m a nerd who loves to research and project plan—timelines and Gantt charts are my thing. Wedding research became a hobby for me, and I happily spent hours on my laptop looking at vendor websites and compiling lists for my husband to review. In my excitement, I did what most brides do… I dove in headfirst and immediately was overwhelmed with information and choices.

I recognize that I’m somewhat of a weirdo, and most people do not enjoy spending hours looking at websites and reading reviews. A lot of people take one look at anything wedding-related and feel overwhelmed. At some point, we all feel like we need help, but it can be hard to even know what kind of help you need. Lots of people will offer to help you with your wedding, but that tends to be for the fun stuff—food tastings, gown shopping, and so on. But what if you need help with… everything? Should you get a wedding planner? Can you even afford a wedding planner? Is that a thing that “regular” people do, or is that something only for rich people having huge weddings? What if you just need help with the day-of stuff? And what if you can’t afford help, but you really need it?

Let’s start with the easy answers. You should get help if you need help, but what that looks like will depend on your circumstances. Generally, this help will fall in one of three categories: wedding planner, day-of coordinator, or wedding stage manager. Most people think that wedding planners and day-of coordinators are the same thing, but that’s not exactly… true. Most wedding planners you meet will offer both wedding planning and day-of coordination services, but the scope of work is different and so is the cost.

A wedding planner is just that: someone to give you hands-on assistance in planning your nuptials, or do all the work for you, if you choose. Most wedding planners have established relationships with a variety of vendors, with some providing discounts or extras. A wedding planner will help you find and select vendors, and will work with you on design concepts for your wedding. Generally, if you hire a wedding planner, coordinating services for your wedding day will be included. As Meg lays it out in the #APWPlanner:

You might want to hire a wedding planner if: you or your partner work sixty hours a week and simply don’t have time to plan this thing; you’re planning a wedding with a ton of moving parts; you have parents that are difficult enough that you want someone who’s not you to manage them; or you want to have a wedding, but you simply have no interest in planning it.

A day-of coordinator, by contrast, provides a much more limited range of services. While the title implies that you get them for the day, you’ll actually start working with them a few weeks before your wedding. Your day-of coordinator will contact all your vendors to confirm, create your wedding day timeline, and “stage manage” your wedding day. And again, #APWPlanner FTW:

You might want to hire a DOC if: you think you can reasonably afford it. The truth is that all weddings (unless it’s five people at the courthouse) need someone keeping an eye on logistics. You can always find a friend or loved one to ask, but that means you need to be very organized during the planning process. For many of us, having a friend help out is the only real option, but if you can find the funds to pay a professional, you probably won’t regret it. (Note: if your wedding is complex and has a lot of moving parts, or a whole lot of rentals to be managed, you may actually need a DOC, and just need to find a way to budget for it, along with the generators and port-a-potties.)

Even if you’re having a small, intimate wedding, a day-of coordinator may be a good investment. Trust me, it really helps when you wake up on your wedding day and know that the only thing you have to worry about is getting married. A day-of coordinator can relieve a lot of stress and make your wedding day more enjoyable.

If you have a limited budget, consider asking a friend to “stage manage” your wedding instead of hiring a professional (check out this post to find out how). A wedding stage manager will do some of the same tasks as a day-of coordinator, like keeping the festivities on schedule and making sure people are where they are supposed to be.

Costs will vary depending on your location, but a full-service wedding planning package will be more expensive than a day-of coordinator. Many wedding planners offer their services for an hourly rate, as well. Also many planners who are just starting out may offer discounted rates. We booked our day-of coordinator during her first year of business, and she charged us half of her current rate, which was awesome for our budget.

I must admit, I was one of those people who thought I didn’t need a wedding planner, but looking back, I wish we’d given it more consideration. At the time, I thought I could handle everything and that our wedding would be relatively easy to plan. We had a clear vision for our wedding—a nerd celebration on Pi Day—which guided almost all the decisions that we made. However, we were adamant that we wanted to be guests at our wedding, and not spend our time solving issues or putting up decorations. It would have been nice to have a wedding planner, but we made it work. When we put together our budget, we prioritized funding for a day-of coordinator, over other things, and our coordinator was well worth the cost.

APW readers, tell us: did you hire a wedding planner or day of coordinator? Did you get what you needed? Any tips for our engaged couples?

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