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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  • Lisa

    We hired a DOC about a month or two before the wedding, and it was some of the best money we spent. My father is a logistics person with a lot of anxiety, and I knew that hiring a professional would make him (and us) feel better about the coordination of the day. Jack, our DOC, was invaluable as he set up the church, managed deliveries, picked up the cake, served as the de facto MC since we had a friend DJ, drove us home when our ride plans fell through, and many more things I’m sure I didn’t notice…because I didn’t have to. I highly recommend hiring a DOC to everyone I know getting married for the sake of their own sanity.

    • sofar

      Yes, we did too and our DOC was the best money I spent on the wedding. I was too much of a control freak to hire a full wedding planner, so hiring a DOC basically let me say, “OK I’ve planned the shit out of this wedding and now I want to actually enjoy it, so take it from here, DOC.”

      I didn’t really have a “super organized” friend I could lean on for day-of stuff, and, honestly, with a big wedding like ours, I felt it would have been a lot to ask someone to do without paying them. Our DOC was at the rehearsal dinner, was at the venue hours before the wedding, set up all our tables, met with all our vendors, made sure the cake was ready for cutting, made sure we kept to a schedule, distributed tips to all the vendors, and then CLEANED UP ALL THE TABLES without us even noticing. The next day, she returned all the stuff we rented and dropped off all our mason jars at Goodwill.

      • Linzenberg

        My job falls in the realm of “project management” and there was no way
        in HELL I was going to project manage my own wedding day. I get paid
        money during my day job to organize and coax, cajole, and cattle-prod
        people to do what they need to do on a schedule, and I did a really good
        job during our two-year engagement project managing our wedding
        planning. I even quite liked it for the most part. But I was NOT going to be
        in that mindset on my wedding day. Our venue was big (like, 265 acres big), and someone needed to corral everybody involved; it couldn’t be me. During our vendor interviews, I
        kept on saying “I don’t want to wear a watch on our wedding day.”

        DOC was an absolute star: We hired her very early on in the process–she
        was a luxury, in that we didn’t NEED her, like we needed food, but a
        necessary one–and had a face-to-face about a month out and were essentially in constant e-mail contact for the rest of the countdown. She built an hour-by-hour day-of schedule, making my project-management heart go pitter-patter when she scheduled to *minute-by-minute* right before the ceremony, and accommodated my control-freak five drafts of said schedule. She and her assistant were at the rehearsal dinner; she showed up at our apartment at 9 A.M. day-of to take all of our decor stuff up to the venue in her car (GOLD for these carless New Yorkers); her assistant stayed with me the whole morning, and stuck to us like glue during the photo session, even fixing the broken stems on my bouquet. They had a WHEELIE SUITCASE stuffed with emergency fixes.

        They were my brain that day. This is their business–they knew all the questions that needed to be asked and were prepared for any eventuality. I’m a Type A-plus, and when I saw her website’s “What Do I Do as Your DOC?” was TWO FULL PAGES in Word (single-spaced!), I fell in love. I was to be a DOC when I grow up.

        • sofar

          Yes! I also have Type-A tendencies (and used to work as an event planner), and so, a year out, my brain was already thinking about all the little details that would need to be taken care of on The Day.

          My husband was anti-DOC, so I typed up a list of all the day-of details that *someone* would need to handle (from putting flowers on the archway, , to setting up the gift/seating chart table, to placing “reserved” cards on the chairs assigned to family and readers for the ceremony, to assembling all the attendants for the ceremony, to touching base with the vendors a million times throughout the day). And he was like, “How does your brain even think of this stuff a year in advance???” I was like, “How does yours NOT?”

          My husband’s parents kindly through us a local reception a few months after the wedding (which also had 400 people). The cake literally went MISSING, food came out two hours late, a band showed up they forgot they even hired, and the specialty food (for people with allergies/vegetarians) never got picked up by the cousin who was supposed to pick it up and bring it. The party was a TOTAL BLAST, don’t get me wrong, but my MIL didn’t get to enjoy a second of it because there was no DOC handling things.

    • Engaged Chicago

      Hi ?? Can you please tell me more about said awesome Jack? Is he From a planning/coordinating company?

      (Asking not only I need one but also I’ve heard of an event planner by that name and am also now curious if it’s the same.)

      • Lisa

        Hello! I’m happy to talk about a great DOC he was. He is Jack Carlson from Events by Jack. My co-worker at the time used to work with him at That Special Event, which is how I came upon him. I would highly recommend him to any Chicago brides! (I was his October 2014 wedding if you do end up contacting him.)

        • Engaged Chicago

          Yess! This is who I’ve heard of! We’ve been playing phone tag a bit so now I’m super pumped to meet with him, thanks!

          • Lisa

            How funny! I know I’ve mentioned him here before, but I don’t know if anyone’s actually ended up working with him. He was really nice, got everything set up perfectly, and even showed up to the wedding dressed in our colors (a dark purple, velvet blazer with an orange tie). I hope you’re able to connect soon!

  • lamarsh

    Our reception venue comes with a coordinator and catering manager, so everything will run smoothly as to the reception, but as we start to get closer to the day I am a little concerned for getting everything organized before that point. We are getting married at a church, so they should have experience with running weddings there as well. Anyone who had a similar situation who has tips? Right now, I am planning on making a VERY detailed schedule and hoping for the best.

    • Greta

      Just make sure you ask a lot of detailed conversations of the venue coordinator to find out what they will and won’t do. I’ve found some venue coordinators do it all, and others will only do things related to the venue and won’t touch other stuff. Some things to consider: Are there other rentals coming in, like chairs/tables? Will they help get those set up? Will they set up your tables/decor, or do you need friends/family to do that? Who will the photographer work with to make sure certain family members are ready at a specific time? Are you doing a lot of different events at the reception that need to happen on a timeline? (dinner, first dance, toasts, etc.) If so, who will be the person who tells people when each of these things need to happen? If dinner is running 15 minutes behind, who will be the person to tell everyone else involved in the timing that you are 15 minutes behind? Who will do the clean-up? This is just a small example of the things that a DOC would help you with that a venue coordinator may/may not help with. Think about other weddings you’ve been to, and what your vision is for your wedding, and then get a really good sense of what the venue coordinator will/won’t do.

      Also, with the church venue – same questions as above re: decor, etc. Also, is someone there going to run your rehearsal? If you’re using a minister/reverend/priest/rabbi who has done a lot of weddings they might plan on running the rehearsal themselves. But maybe not. I’ve been to some rehearsals that the bride and groom tried to run by themselves and they were very long and disorganized because no one person was in charge. I’d recommend having a good friend/family member who is super bossy help you run the rehearsal, unless you feel super confident in this as well. Just some things to consider!

      • savannnah

        Yes. We just had this clarifying conversation with our venue manager and coordinator. We are working with an Inn that has a farm on it where we are getting married. The catering is in house and they have a venue coordinator who handles all of the catering and overall picture and they just hired an event coordinator who initially seemed to be there to give them an extra hand with all of the coordination on their side (tables, chairs, ceremony set up, catering timing etc) so we were thinking we need someone to DOC. But after this last meeting, where I asked her more about her role, and she asked me very detailed questions about decor, timelines, and coordinating with the florist, it become clear she is going to DOC and beyond- which is thrilling since she wasn’t originally included in the venue price and makes me way less stressed out. We are self dj-ing so I still need someone to do some MC’ing but not much.

    • Katharine Parker

      I’m in the same boat (church wedding, venue with event manager), and I decided to book a DOC for everything that happens outside of those two spaces and outside of the hours of my wedding day. I didn’t think my wedding was that complicated, but my family convinced me that there are enough moving parts (vendors, rentals, transportation, photos at a third location, etc.) to make having someone with a view of the entire day be valuable. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone. A friend or an aunt who likes to do this would have been fine, but I didn’t have anyone offering or that I would ask.

      Aside from asking very detailed questions of your church and venue, as Greta mentions, I would also designate someone to deal with anything that comes up on the day–the cake is the wrong color? The florist can’t get into the venue? A school bus shows up instead of a vintage trolley? Your cousin who is a reader is MIA? Cocktail hour runs late? The DJ doesn’t have your song for the first dance? Making sure someone else is on call for that stuff is key. Also, make sure they know not to tell you anything is wrong. I was in a wedding once where the bride’s friend who was dealing with stuff came in 10 minutes before walking down the aisle and said, “the cake arrived. It’s lopsided.” Thanks, Jan, for that useless bit of stress pre-ceremony. If no one can fix it (and no one could. It was an ugly cake, but whatever) then there is no point telling the bride about it.

      • Lisa

        Having a point person for all questions and issues was a major reason why we hired a DOC. I went to a wedding three months before my own and saw how the bride had not put anyone else in charge other than herself. As a result, vendors, aunts, and other guests kept coming up to her throughout the night to ask her when she wanted the buffet opened, if the DJ should keep playing for a while longer, in which car the decorations needed to be loaded, etc. The poor woman barely had time to eat or enjoy the day for the constant level of questioning! If not hiring a DOC, it’s important to make sure that all of the contact info gets passed off to someone else so one doesn’t have to stage manage her/his wedding.

    • Jessica

      I was in the same boat, and with some very detailed organization beforehand and a bossy MoH who took away my cell phone on my wedding day and handled any emergencies, things worked find. Just make sure you think about all the stuff that needs to be transported around (if you have a guest book at the church, who will bring it to the reception? Where does your vintage wedding topper go at the end of the night? Those kinds of things).
      Also, I say this with annoyance/frustration/sadness as a religious person but…I have almost never been to a church wedding rehearsal that has gone well. It seems like whoever is running the show from the church is always super cranky, the wedding party is just giddy to be together and doesn’t listen to instructions, and the parents come up with a thousand questions that they never had before. I wish churches could find their most welcoming, friendly people to be wedding coordinators, but it rarely happens. (I promise to volunteer to be one soon, once my kiddo is just a little bit older.) So, lower your expectations if there’s a rehearsal, and think of it like a dress rehearsal for a performance: the worse things go the night before, the better the real thing will be! :)

  • Bibliophile1

    We had a DOC, well really a “Month of Coordinator” and it was the best money we spent! We hired her pretty early in the process, so she was also able to help with finding vendors and some other situations that came up, but the day of the wedding, she and her team made everything run so smoothly and really made all my planning and the vision that we had for decorating come to life! I’m a really anxious person when it comes to planning events, and I was able to just relax and enjoy the day. I would highly recommend it.

  • Another Meg

    We had two weddings- the courthouse and a big celebration complete with a ceremony exactly one year later. I figured since our initial wedding was just a thing at a courthouse with a catered dinner for 12 at my parents’ house that night, that I could handle it myself.

    Learn from my mistake. I spent the whole day coordinating. Working with the restaurant where we had lunch just before heading to the courthouse, organizing everyone to get them to the courthouse, talking to the caterer at my parents’ house instead of hanging out with my guests. I wish I’d asked a friend to manage that stuff for us, at the very least. We did that for our big celebration, and I was able to be so present. I wish I’d done the same with our little courthouse day.

  • sage

    If you are early in the wedding planning process and think that you will want to hire a professional DOC, I recommend inquiring to a few in your area (especially if in a big city) and getting a good idea of the price and what their typical services are in your area. Don’t be like me and assume you should be able to hire a DOC for $X, figure out your budget, figure out your more realistic expanded budget when venue / catering is going to run you more than expected, and then price DOCs to find out that the lowest price one in your area is 1.8 * $X and they all refuse to offer anything less than full service month-of coordination.

    We ended up asking the sister of one of my bridesmaids to Wedding Stage Manage the wedding instead and we will pay her. We are doing church ceremony (comes with a coordinator at the church) and reception at a separate location. Wedding Stage Manager’s job is to hang out at the reception venue all day making sure vendors arrive and do what they are supposed to do, help set up minimal decor elements, and act as the know-all point of contact for folks. I already have a first draft of the day-of-timeline and the wedding is not for 9 months, so we will be plenty organized by the actual wedding. Hoping this works out well!

    • Katharine Parker

      Based on their websites and responses to me, I found that DOCs in my area were all priced the same, whether they had set packages or they sent a proposal (unlike with full or partial planning, custom proposals for day-of were identical to the set packages, in my experience–most people agree on the tasks of a DOC). Also, they book up–I contacted probably 12 to find that only 3 responded and were still available 6 months before my wedding date. So if you can and you’re getting married between May and October, I would start the search earlier.

      This is to say, yes, check the market rate for a DOC in your area or be prepared to find a non-professional. But it sounds like your bridesmaid’s sister is going to work out great!

      • sage

        Yeah, I saw the same thing. They all had set packages and were mostly around the same price. I guess what it comes down to is we are very organized and probably don’t actually need a professional DOC… we just wanted someone we could hand off all the organized information to during the week before the wedding to take care of tasks on the day of, and bridesmaid’s sister will do that.

    • I had the opposite experience too: I assumed people would charge $1000+ and thought there was no way we could afford a DOC. Then my cousin got married and told me her DOC only charged about $250 so I delved into research on people in my area and found someone for around $600. Not cheap but not excessive either.

      • Lisa

        We also paid around $600 for our DOC in Chicago.

      • sage

        What?!?! I’m jealous… I checked out several in my area and almost all of them start at $2,500 :(

  • jem

    Any recs on how to find the right DOC? Or any recommendations for one in Boston area/north shore MA?

    I can’t make up my mind about whether we really need one. Our caterer keeps telling me we don’t need one and that a DOC would just get in her way, but I’m just a super anxious person and not a party planner at all, so it feels like more is more when it comes to help on the day of?

    • I guess the caterer is worried about a “too many cooks spoil the broth” scenario. The question you need to ask them is what they’d do if, say, the photographer didn’t turn up, or the DJ couldn’t find a working power socket. If those things are outside of their remit (and honestly, I feel they ought to be for a caterer, otherwise the caterer has undersold themself!) then you might want a DoC as well, but with a clear line drawn between that the DoC’s duties are and what the caterer’s are. If the caterer wants to take over all responsibilities that a DoC would, then that’s on them. Our caterer offers an event manager as part of their package, and I’m trying to establish to what extent that person is present as a DoC vs to what extent they’re just there as the catering-and-related-activities manager (I know, for example, they’ll be in charge of decorating the venue, and packing up the furniture at the end of the night, but would I be able to count of them for ceremony music snafus?).

    • Erica G

      That is a shitty thing for a caterer to say honestly. I am really really shocked that a caterer would have that opinion. In our area (Central NC) we have a great report between caterers, coordinators, and venues. We all work together to make the day go smoothly!

    • Katharine Parker

      In my experience being in weddings and with a brief stint working for a friend’s catering company, the caterer and DOC do pretty different things. The caterer is focused on getting the food out on time, staffing the bar and servers, dealing with the unexpected gluten allergy, etc. They probably will set your tables and possibly will take them down, but not every caterer will do that. They’ll deal with glassware/silverware/dish rentals and may handle returning them/prepping them for pickup (even this depends on their contract). But they may not handle linens or furniture rentals or setting up a guest book or favors or escort cards. They won’t trouble shoot if the band can’t find the venue, or if no one knows where to take gifts at the end of the night, or if the car never comes to pick you up to go to the ceremony.

      I’d say, go through a detailed timeline of your wedding day, from waking up to going to bed, and think about every person and object who is involved in your wedding. At each point, consider things that need managing–all the moving parts, possible delays or mix-ups, every scheduling necessity. Make a list. (There is probably a template for this list online/in the book, and if there isn’t, there should be.) Then go over the list with your caterer. Is she going to deal with those things? If not, who will? From there, figure out if you need a DOC or a friend/family member to act as stage manager.

      • Erica G

        Yea, I have to agree with this completely. Caterers do not do even close to the same tasks as a Planner or Coordinator and I just don’t understand why a caterer would tell you NOT to get a coordinator!

        There are so many moving pieces in weddings these days. It can be a lot to handle on your own! That’s why coordination is such a valuable service.

        I would say you are best off asking your Photographer or Venue who the best coordinators in the area are. DJ’s often know a bunch too!

      • AmandaBee

        This! I can’t imagine what your caterer is thinking – even if it’s an all inclusive place, there will be flower, photos, DJs, timelines, etc. to manage and they aren’t going to deal with all that. Caterers do the food, but there’s a whole lot that happen at a wedding that have nothing to do with the food.

      • jem

        Ok these responses are making me think I really do need to sit down w my caterer to clarify what she means. I don’t want to step on her toes/piss her off because… the food is in her hands!

    • We have a local Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group for weddings in my area, which is amazing for a number of reasons but was also a great place for me to ask about recommendations for DOC. From there I just read their reviews in Facebook and contacted to see who was available. I feel like reviews are the best way to pick the right person, and talking to a few to see who you get a good vibe from (and who’s in your price range).

  • This sort of folds into the conversation about the wedding party that was had the other day, because traditionally the wedding party all had coordination type roles – the ushers and bridesmaids organised the guests, the maid of honour coordinated all of the vendors, the best man was master of ceremonies for the reception, and so on. As weddings have got more complicated and wedding parties expect to be able to kick back and enjoy them too, it’s just become too much work to both be in a wedding party and be the day of coordinators (and as wedding parties have got bigger, it’s a case of too many cooks!).

    I definitely want someone involved in coordination who’s not in the wedding party, as much to convince my mother that it’s not her job and to make sure there’s someone who’s listened to us in charge rather than her*, as to make the evening run smoothly. Our caterer provides an event manger, so we need to establish which bits of the event s/he’ll be managing, and whether s/he will be able to stand up to both of our mothers and their constant conviction that we couldn’t possibly have thought of really obvious things.

    * she wasn’t entirely wrong that some stuff at my sister’s wedding wouldn’t have got done if she hadn’t done it herself, but (a) no one would have noticed and (b) far more things got done twice, or got done wrong, because she did them without being asked. J’s mother is definitely built in the same mold, as well. Yes, the venue has parking. yes, we’ve booked the venue. Yes, we’ve booked the registrar. Yes, I know I need to buy a wedding dress. Yes, the venue still has parking, like last time you asked. Yes, we can manage booking our own accommodation. Yes, oh dear god yes, there is parking, even though almost all of the guests will be staying in walking distance of the venue and will be too drunk to drive home afterwards anyway! You can see it right there on google maps!

    • Amy March

      Wait no? Where on earth is “coordinating vendors” traditionally the maid of honor’s job?!? I think this is just not true outside of some obscure “guide” somewhere.

      • Kelly

        Yeah, I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of MOH being essentially a day of coordinator, but I couldn’t imagine asking my friends & family to be in my wedding but then also have them perform a job for free for me. Not to mention I can imagine many MOH would say that type of thing may not be their strong suit or feel comfortable in that role

        • Katharine Parker

          Yeah, I would hope anyone relying on a friend for this is either (1) paying them (probably easier with a friend of a friend, depending on circumstances); or (2) friend has offered in lieu of a gift and friend is being given major gift as thank you. I’ve always heard the etiquette that wedding party is an honor, not a set of jobs, and there are no expectations beyond showing up appropriately dressed.

          • Kelly

            Yessssss, I had guilt that they had to buy an expensive dress and most of them a plane ticket. With the exception of MOH speech, I told them after the ceremony they were free to have fun :) Unless I needed help peeing, in which case I may have made them hold my dress a few times lol

      • Lisa

        Yeah, I’d never heard this before either. The closest I had to this was that I gave my sister my phone to put in her purse in case there was an emergency someone tried to get hold of me for, but otherwise I told her to just ignore anything that came in.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        The first wedding I was in, all the bridesmaids were handed a detailed schedule packet, including a timeline for the day, and a page for each vendor. “CAKE: This bakery, this contact name, this phone number, dropping off a cake that looks like [photo] at this place, at this time.” We were each a point person for one of the vendors, should there be a problem.

        • Amy March

          That’s so ridiculous!

        • zana

          I can’t get over these brides/MoHs that think telling people their jobs is the right way to go. It’s such a weird thing that’s developed, where it’s happened to them in previous weddings and so they determine that’s normal behavior and continue the abuse…BREAK THE CYCLE.

        • quiet000001

          I kind of like that idea as an informal thing. Like, I wouldn’t expect the wedding party to be point people, but I think as a member of the wedding party you tend to be highly visible, and so people ARE more likely to approach you with questions if they can’t figure out who else to ask, so better to have some information to work with. So purely as an FYI sort of thing. (Especially stuff not so much about vendors, but about details like where the bathrooms are in the venue, those sorts of practical things that can be easily and pretty painlessly dealt with if you happen to know the answer instead of having to send someone to the wedding planner/DOC or whomever.)

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Right, you may be seen as someone with authority or knowledge. Though, in my experience as a bridemaid, that has never actually been true. In this particular situation I didn’t think much of it, and I didn’t know any different. The bride was (and is) a hyper-organized person, and she figured she would be busy all day. I just prayed that nothing would be the matter with the flowers, or whatever my thing was, because I had no idea what to do if there was. (Probably call the bride over and relay the problem and let her decide how to fix it?) And I’ll note that none of the groomsmen were entrusted with/expected to carry any sort of responsibility beyond, “Wear this, show up.”

          • quiet000001

            Well, that’s just messed up. Men can’t read a piece of paper? If you’re going to make one person in the wedding party feel awkward, they all should. :P

            I think it’s a know your venue/people thing, too – all-inclusive resort with excellent signage? Probably people will figure things out without asking. Tent and portapotties tucked away somewhere odd? Make sure people know where they are so the information can be spread amongst the guests. (I’d tell close family, too, not just the wedding party.) Likewise the schedule – lots of older folks who are likely to be waiting for the cake cutting so they can leave? Maybe try to give people an idea when that will be so guests can find out what to expect. Etc.

      • It’s certainly not as common an expectation as it used to be, but it’s still pretty common advice in UK wedding guides (and amongst my parents’ generation, which has caused tension at weddings). It’s often phrased in terms of keeping any and all stresses away from the Bride (here, here, here and here, though that also talks about the MoH paying for her own dress, which is a massive NO in a UK wedding). Most of the weddings I’ve been to, and worked at, the MoH is the first point of contact for any vendor or guest queries, followed by the MoB. You only go to the couple if it’s a serious emergency that can’t be smoothed over without their help. It’s noticeable that Pippa Middleton’s meteoric rise in party planning is built on being MoH at her sister’s wedding, even though as a Royal event there’s no way in hell a servant would approach any of the wedding party with a query.

        • Amy March

          I mean, I’ll give you that crappy online guides list this as a job. I’m sure TheKnot has a huge list of jobs too. But I don’t believe that managing vendors has ever actually been the maid of honor’s job.

          • The term maid of honour originally comes from the same term for a queen’s attendant; the maid of honour is a social peer performing the duties of a servant. Queen Victoria’s bridesmaids were her maids of honour. It doesn’t appear as a specific wedding role until 1895, and like other wedding party roles (like page boy) it’s used to indicate these are your peers performing servant duties for you for the day. A lot of different traditions collide in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century, with biblical handmaidens, legal witnesses*, roman matrons of honour, and various other roles becoming part of the history of what we broadly recognise as the modern wedding party. It’s complicated by the fact that vendors don’t become a staple until post world war two (when if you’re rich they stop being your servants, and if you’re poor they stop being your family members), by which point US and UK traditions have already diverged on several counts, so I think that’s where the split really comes in. US wedding traditions are becoming more and more common over here (partly due to the internet, but also due to our love of US TV and US TV’s love of a wedding!) so it’s harder to say when that started falling out of favour.

            *do you need witnesses to get married in the US? I’ve seen websites featuring elopements with just the couple and the officiant, but I don’t know if there’s a different point at which witnesses are required. Usually the MoH and BM are witnesses in the UK, but sometimes making non-wedding party people the witnesses is a way of honouring more people.

          • zana

            If you’ve “seen” elopements, then there was also a photographer, i.e., a witness ;)

            I think we also need to keep in mind that sometimes “traditions” are family-centric, or region-specific. And that Miss Manners etiquette comes from a certain time and place, just as Emily Post etiquette has been adopting more recent time/place things. So, it’s possible that for mssolo’s family, MoH-vendor-wrangler was expected, but maybe 50 miles away it was a different story?

            In Miss Manners etiquette, the bridal/groom party have no duties, besides standing at the front with the couple at the right time (i.e., ceremony) in the right outfit. Ushers aren’t considered proper etiquette, I don’t think…if they’re performing a job, it lessens the honor, is the basic concept.

          • quiet000001

            I thought the Best Man was supposed to have the job of keeping track of the rings? And the MoH is supposed to wrangle the wedding gown and the bouquet as needed? Those are technically jobs beyond standing around being decorative.

          • zana

            Standing up with the couple is a symbolic act of standing up with them to support the marriage. It is not being decorative, although, the way many modern brides act that does seem to be a common misconception.

            These duties you list for MoH and Best Man are above and beyond the basic requirements of the honorable roles. You cannot expect this of the MoH/BM, so if you need them to perform these roles, you should set it up in the most voluntary way possible, so that they can say no. People commonly believe that the MoH and BM are also duty-bound to give a toast. Although it is common, it is not a requirement…and you can also set up this request in the most voluntary way possible.

            Basically, I’m just advocating for not demanding anything of your wedding party beyond showing up at the right time in the right outfit. There are ways to phrase these requests/additional-expectations that gives them a way out. (i.e., an email to the entire wedding party, “The DJ wants to know the names of people giving a toast ahead of time, so if any of you would like to give a toast after dinner, it’d be great to hear from you.”) To the BM for being responsible for the wedding rings, “I know it’s a real big responsibility to keep track of the rings, but we’d really appreciate it if you could ensure they get from the hotel to the ceremony? If not, I can just keep them in my pocket, no worries.”

          • quiet000001

            The duties I listed are very much typical for my area. I think someone from around me would expect to be doing those things (plus planning the bachelor/bachelorette party) if they accepted the role of MoH or BM. (I don’t know that I would expect those things – I’d rather people just do what they felt comfortable doing.)

            So it’s probably a highly regional thing?

            I do agree that expecting the bridal party to be in charge of vendors is odd and above and beyond. (I’m actually not really comfortable with asking a friend to do that stuff at all – then they can’t focus on the event because they have to be troubleshooting all day. So they aren’t really there with you. I know some people can’t afford to hire someone, so you do what you can, but I’d happily hire a DOC or similar if I could fit it into the budget.)

            I don’t have a problem with making sure the wedding party knows basic info (as I said in another comment, stuff like where the bathrooms are or what the general schedule of events is intended to be) because that will be helpful for them and might make them feel more comfortable if someone asks them questions since they’re identifiable as a member of the wedding. (That’s a know your people thing, too – my friends tend to be uncomfortable if someone asks them a basic question they reasonably would know the answer to, and they don’t know the answer. So they’d be happier if they could answer those questions to some degree.)

          • zana

            “Etiquette” is not a regional thing. But there are social/family/friend expectations that can vary by region/age/social group. I’m cautioning against assuming you know what people expect to be part of their duties, because these change so much according to all these different factors. I’m currently in one such wedding where the bride/MoH is making all kinds of these assumptions, and it’s working out very poorly.

            What is the harm in making all the extra duties optional? And being extra thankful when people do step into these voluntary positions? Why can’t you make BM & ring-handling something you ask, with great respect and the option to bow out? Why can’t you give your MoH the option to help you with your dress?

            What is gained by automatically expecting everyone to be okay with these duties?
            There is a high risk of offending people, so why not just take the safer route and let people step up, rather than telling them what to do? If it truly is an honor, than why take away from that honor by requiring your nearest to do administrative duties, unless they actually want to?

          • Etiquette is massively cultural, there’s no way around it. In the US you can’t have evening guests without it being bad etiquette, because it implies ranking your guests, but wedding showers have a lot of etiquette associated with them to ensure the event runs smoothly. In the UK there’s a lot of etiquette about inviting and attending as an evening guests because it’s a cultural norm, but there’s no way to hold a wedding shower without it being bad etiquette, because it implies you expect gifts and it’s well outside of cultural norms. Etiquette is about navigating your culture in a way that manages people’s expectations and doesn’t place undue obligations on them. If your wedding party expect to be integral to the running of the day, then asking them to merely turn up in a nice outfit (that, in the UK,the couple bought for them) isn’t relieving them of obligation, it’s downgrading them to guests who don’t get to sit down during the ceremony. If that’s all you want them to do, then the etiquette is about managing their expectations around that.

          • zana

            Think of your friend who you ask to be MoH, and she really wants to stand up with you at the altar/arch/chuppah/etc. but is terrified of public speaking. Or doesn’t have the money to throw you a bridal shower. Should she say ‘no’ because she can’t perform these auxiliary *duties*? Or should she accept, because you are her best friend too, and she wants to stand in support of your marriage during the ceremony?

          • There are regional differences across the UK (I can be pretty confident the SE and NE has these responsibilities, not sure about SW, NW or midlands, and London is it’s own beast!), but as a general rule part of the honour of being in a wedding party is being entrusted with significant roles to play in making sure the day goes ahead as planned. To just turn up and wear a pretty outfit is what guests do, and I think a lot of bridesmaids and ushers over here would be disappointed to have their roles downgraded as such. If you don’t want vendors going to the MoH, you need to tell them who they should be approaching with questions.

          • zana

            I’m not saying you can’t have a MoH with a few extra duties, I’m saying that you have to provide as easy a way out as possible, because the real honor is standing up with the couple in symbolic support of the couple. If the MoH wants to give a toast, or host a bridal shower, or set-up the tables, etc. she should be able to. But it should not be expected/demanded. You can phrase these requests in such a way that shows you are not *expecting* this…and then express how incredibly grateful you are if they do decide/volunteer to perform these extra duties.

            The honor is significantly lessened when you tell your MoH that she will give a toast. Or when you demand a stag party from your Best Man. You can make these opportunities in a gracious manner that allows your people to perform whichever activity they feel motivated to provide, but if you *require* a duty, you’ve reduced the honor.

          • quiet000001

            Except you’re ignoring that in some places people would actually be upset if you told them they weren’t to do whatever task they expected to be doing as part of the role. So making it so they don’t do the things is not actually a kindness for them.

            Again, this is a know your people thing – try to be aware of what expectations are in your social group and discuss them explicitly with the people you are asking to take on the roles, so you can figure out solutions to issues like “I want to be your MoH but can’t do public speaking” and “I know you said I shouldn’t do anything, but I really want to throw you a bachelor/bachelorette party” with your particular people.

            My original comment was because it was stated that the wedding party traditionally NEVER has jobs, and that is completely contrary to my own experience in my social circles. Regardless of if it is a good thing or not, there are long standing traditions about these things in some places/cultures/religions. It is not true that the wedding party never have jobs.

            That doesn’t mean you need to give them jobs, as the people having a wedding, it just means you should understand they may be thinking the role means one thing while you think something else. So like most things in life, it is important to communicate and not make assumptions and definitely don’t dump a whole packet of expectations on people on the day of.

          • zana

            I never said you tell your wedding party “not to do anything.” Anyone who phrases it as, “Will you be my bridesmaid, I don’t want you to do anything.” Is from bizarro land. You leave it open, or provide hints that are easy for your wedding party to take up or ignore.

            By not demanding things from your wedding party, they’re still fully capable of volunteering for the activities that are important to them, whatever that looks like based on their regional/cultural/social beliefs. By not *demanding* particular duties, you allow more freedom for people to have these different beliefs, and to pursue them in the way most important to them. By not demanding/assigning tasks and instead allowing for them to take up the duties they wish to, you will hurt others’ feelings less, guaranteed.

            You phrase it as such, “I would love it if you would do me the honor of standing up with me to support my marriage on my wedding day.” You do not tell your MoH that you expect to have a bachelorette party planned and paid for by her, maybe a couple months later (when nothing has been volunteered) you say, “I’d really love a bachelorette party, but I know life gets busy/expensive/etc.” This line/conversation can be completely skipped if your bridal party volunteers. The same for the Best Man holding the rings, etc.

            Under this scheme, it is still possible for everyone to contribute whatever activities that are most culturally relevant to them…without having these activities assigned. If you’re assigning duties, you should be paying them like vendors. If they’re volunteering for duties, then that’s fine. The trick is to not pressure your nearest and dearest into activities simply because they’re in the wedding party.

          • quiet000001

            I think we are largely in agreement, but one key point is that for some people the things they think are responsibilities of the role (like making a speech) are PART of the honor of being asked, and people should also be aware of and sensitive to that, since those people might be upset and offended to NOT be expected to do anything.

            Not that it means you should expect everyone to do things, just be careful with how you present things. People can be super sensitive about stuff to do with weddings, especially when there are two different cultures combining. How many stories have we seen about someone taking something as a deliberate slight or insult when it wasn’t what was intended at all?

            The best thing to do is to be open and communicate and start by finding out what expectations people have – not just what you expect of them, but what they expect the role means. Ask if there is anything they are looking forward to, or anything they think they should be doing that they don’t want to do, etc.

            But yes, we agree that loading your wedding party down with jobs and expectations is rude, especially ‘surprise’ jobs that they only find out about on the day. (I mean, it’s all rude, but how many people are going to feel like they can actually object or say they don’t want to do a job if it’s sprung on them on the day of the wedding? That is a particularly bad position to put people in. So it is extra bonus rude.) (I do think providing them with information is good. At the very least I’d probably make sure everyone in the wedding party knew who the go-to problem solver was – friend, wedding planner, whomever. But that isn’t a job, that is just useful knowledge.)

          • savannnah

            There are also huge regional and cultural differences. The role of the MC for instance does not exist in American weddings and their functions are provided by the DJ, or not at all. I only know about MC’s at wedding because of the bridechilla podcast, which is hosted by an Australian.

          • UK weddings normally go ceremony – cocktails – meal – speeches (FoB, groom, BM, because it’s all men talking about the transaction just completed, because ugh misogynistic tradition) – cake – first dance, with short gaps in between. Unless the DJ works for the venue, you have to pay extra to have them turn up before the first dance, so the best man is in charge of announcing the speeches, including his own.

  • Erica G

    I am a Wedding Planner/Coordinator and even with my “day-of” clients, I start helping out months ahead of time. You can absolutely hire a “day-of” coordinator at any point in the process (though preferably not last minute) and they can then be a resource for recommendations and to bounce ideas off of. I prefer to come on at the start so I can just quietly collect vendor info and coordinating details in the background until things kick into high-gear about a month out from the wedding. It is for this reason I do not call myself a Day of Coordinator, I call the service Wedding Coordination, so people know its more than just showing up on the day of the wedding!

  • Kelly

    We were fortunate that the hotel we had the ceremony & reception at had an Event Manager that managed the event up until the F&B began, in which case the Banquet Manager took over. This was enough for us, and our hotel contact was fantastic. Although, both my husband and I are in the hotel industry, so events and hospitality may come more naturally to us in terms of how things work than someone without that background. I followed up with all our vendors a week prior to the wedding confirming the date and load in times.

  • emilyg25

    We had a DIY wedding for ~100 in a raw space (backyard) and did not have a coordinator, but my now-husband and I are both project people with project families. I planned everything to the tee and then handed off my spreadsheets to my Type A mom.

  • AmandaBee

    Minor tip if you are thinking of picking a friend to stage manage instead of paying a professional DOC: pick a friend who is hella organized and who is not afraid to boss people (including your family) around a bit. This is not a job for the friend you love who is kinda scattered, or the really sweet friend who has no backbone and will get steamrolled by pushy vendors/family, or the person who gets super anxious trying to keep track of moving parts. Those people can still be involved if you want them to be, but the stage manager role is going to make them miserable on the day of, and you don’t want to do that to yourself or your friends.

    The friend I asked to be the stage manager was so awesome and we would not have kept track of all the moving parts without her. She’s also the kind of person who likes organizing people/events, so (she says) it was actually fun for her. I had other friends who were super awesome and helpful, but who I don’t think would have been able to organize a wedding or at the very least would’ve been nervous wrecks trying. So we involved those friends (who had asked to be involved) in other ways that played to their skills better.

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      Yes! My criteria was that our DOC had to be proactive and independent. My litmus test really just boiled down to “Can they get shit done?”

      • savannnah

        I’m slightly terrified of my sister in law, who is a project manager for a large division of a super male-dominated field and I was like she’ll be perfect.

        • AmandaBee

          Solid rule of thumb: Choose your sorta-intimidating friend. Barring any actual event planners in your life, project managers and (in my case) former elementary school teachers are solid choices. Wrangling family members at a wedding is not all that different than wrangling fourth graders, kwim?

    • Jane

      Yeah – my sister and I didn’t know to have a DOC (no one told us about APW – there was soooo much we didn’t know!) and so I fell into the role unofficially without being given lots of useful lists, because the lists didn’t exist. The wedding was a blast but, organization-wise, was a complete fiasco.

      One of the hardest things was that, all of a sudden, I found myself tasked with MAKING ALL THE LAST MINUTE DECISIONS without ever having that authority bestowed on me. Once I realized that was my job, and that my sister was going from to be fine with whatever I decided, it was fine.

      So, I think some of it is, innate personality. But a lot of it is setting your DOC up for success, and then officially empowering them to take charge. Because even a somewhat bossy person (like me) is going to feel pretty awkward telling their sister’s new in-laws what to do without some sort of acknowledgment that s/he is the person in charge.

  • We hired a DOC who we loved. She kept everything running smooth all night (like seriously, I didn’t not hear about any problems/issues/snafus until weeks later, she handled it all!) Additionally she was WONDERFUL for wrangling family and running interference when some folks at the rehearsal had some very strong opinions/objections to how we had structured our processional. Honestly, just her running that interference at the rehearsal alone may have been worth her fee in my mind. I had a friend recently ask me how I was so chill at the rehearsal and on the wedding day and our DOC played a huge role in that.

  • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

    We hired a friend who house manages the theater I perform at. She was the perfect person for the job; I was looking for someone who could get shit done without waiting to be told. I trusted her implicitly, and everything went so smoothly, as far as I knew! I found out after about a couple of hiccups, but our DOC handled them perfectly.

  • Alison

    Our venue had an on-site event coordinator who pitched in the day-of to help manage the caterer and help reset the room. She even queued us up for the procession. I also tasked two of my most organized/logistical/event planner friends with the set-up, timeline, etc. Another friend pitched in too because she just really wanted to help.

    I basically handed my coordinator friends a binder ahead of time with a timeline, contact information and maps of where everything needed to go. They were a phenomenal and I trusted them with everything. Get your most trustworthy, willing friend that isn’t in the bridal party to help. Second on choosing the slightly bossy friend who isn’t afraid to tell your family members to stop moving things around or make the caterer to fix the cake setting.

    We were tight on our budget by that point so I paid them in Starbucks gift cards and a nice bottle of wine. And a huge thank you in the program. But they are some of my closest friends and if one day they asked me to return the favor, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  • Suzanne Goodman

    A DOC and someone to help with clean up are the only things I wish I had done differently for my wedding. I run events (not weddings) for a living so I thought I’d be fine on my own – but in hind site I was worried throughout the day that things wouldn’t come together. The ceremony at City Hall ran late so then we were running late to get home for the reception and set things up… it all went well, but it would have been nice just to have a couple of people that we trusted managing all that so I didn’t have to think of it and I could just chill with my new wife and our loved ones.

    Seriously, if you can possibly afford it, do it!

  • Pingback: What Makes a Day-of Coordinator Different from a Wedding Planner? | Wedding Adviser()

  • This answers the main question I’ve had this whole time, which is how the heck can someone help the wedding run smoothly when they show up the morning of! I’m glad to know now that I can talk to a DOC far in advance and that they will be involved in more than just telling me when to start walking down the aisle. What a relief!

  • Janice Turner

    Is this still relevant for today? Or have things changed? What I’m curious about is how this will carry out, like what will the trend be for this type of stuff?

  • Derek Page
  • Derek Page

    Shared! Shared! This is AWESOME stuff man! Thank you!