I’ll never forget the email that changed my life. The subject line was “Wedding Stuff” but really, it was a proposal. “I’ve been wanting to ask if you would be willing to take your role to the next level: Will you be my day-of coordinator?” I’d known the sender since Girl Scouts. I answered her email seven minutes after I got it. “Of course I’ll be your day-of coordinator,” I said. “I love to coordinate!” Except, of course, I knew absolutely nothing about coordinating a wedding. Everything I thought I knew, I credited to J.Lo. I’d seen The Wedding Planner a dozen times. Wedding planning, it seemed, took exactly three things: a headset, sensible heels, and Matthew McConaughey. I had two out of three and figured, how hard could it be? It was only a wedding. Ha.
I ended that friend’s wedding sobbing into a bowl of lukewarm spaghetti. I was so hungry, tired, and upset. It took me years—and more than a dozen weddings as a professional wedding coordinator—to stop cringing at the memory of that day. It didn’t have to be this way. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about how things could have been better, and observing what does and doesn’t work for my clients. Here’s what to do if you want to hire a “friendor.”
1. Get it in writing
If you’re asking your friend to help with your wedding, you need to make their job obvious. This can feel weird. “I don’t want to boss my friend around!” You have to get over it. You are doing everyone a favor by being as clear as possible about what your friend needs to do to help you and your partner. Of course, sometimes, you don’t know yourself. There’s a pernicious belief that people planning weddings know how to plan weddings. But riddle me this: When was the last time you hosted a multi-thousand dollar party for your closest friends and family? Exactly.
When you ask your friend to help, spell out what you want them to do. An easy way to do this is to write a job description. Use it as a way to talk with your friend about what they need (and want!) out of the situation as well as what you and your partner need (and want!). It doesn’t have to be overly formal; a bulleted list is fine. The goal is to simply collect everyone’s thoughts and have something to point to that says, “Oh right, that’s what we’re doing.”
2. Pay your friend — at least a little
People often hire a friendor because they want to save money. That makes sense. When the average American wedding costs approximately $35,000, why wouldn’t you save money wherever you can because, seriously, $35,000?! But remember: You are still hiring your friend. A gift card, a dinner out, even a crisp $20 bill does wonders for morale. Most importantly, it recognizes that your friend is performing a service and that service deserves to be compensated (even if you think they didn’t do a great job). One word of caution here: the wedding industry is a bloated, nasty place where everything costs more than you think and sometimes, more than it should. But the fact remains: You get what you pay for (usually). You will likely save money hiring a friendor but you need to match your expectations to their time, skill, and availability. In a perfect world, you’ll get a $5,000 value for the cost of a Starbucks gift card but, more often than not, you and your partner will need to adjust what you want with what you can get (#life).
3. Be honest
So often when a friend asks for help, the impulse is to throw caution to the wind and say “yes” to anything and everything. That’s what I did. Avoid soggy spaghetti by talking honestly about what exactly your friend’s experience is and if it aligns with what you and your partner want. Your friend bartends. Great! What does that mean exactly? Do they know how to tap a keg, or is mixology a weekend hobby? Your friend loves flowers. Awesome! Does that mean they’re able to create bouquets, boutonnières, and corsages for an entire wedding party, and centerpieces for the reception, if you choose to have them? When will they do this? How much money will they need to buy materials? When and how will clean up be handled? These questions aren’t rude—they’re honest.
Asking shows that you value your friend’s time and talent, and, by extension, your friendship. If your friend’s answers aren’t what you’d like them to be, don’t be discouraged. You can work together with whatever the situation is as long as you all know where you’re starting. A friend who grows herbs on their windowsill is going to need different support than a friend who owns a flower farm. You can also decide if perhaps what your friend can do isn’t quite what you and your partner need (and vice versa). It’s better to find that out early than on the wedding day.
4. Appreciate that your friend is no longer a guest
When I told my friend that I would be her day-of coordinator, I thought I would still get to go to her wedding. Unfortunately, by becoming her coordinator, I gave up my rights as a guest (despite her heartfelt wish that I wouldn’t). This, I realized years after the fact, is why I was so upset the night of her wedding. I didn’t sob into cold noodles because I was mad at her. I cried because one of the people I love most in the world got married and I was so busy, I missed the whole thing.
If you ask your friend to help with your wedding, you owe them the truth: They are no longer a guest. No matter how small the task or how “easy” the assignment, they now have a job. They can no longer just roll out of bed, throw on a nice outfit, and go to the wedding. They’ve got work to do. A good friend takes that job seriously—you’re getting married and they don’t want to mess it up—but by taking the job, they immediately lose the blissful ignorance of your average wedding guest. Respect that. Honor it. Most importantly, don’t fool your friend (or yourself) into thinking that they can “just be a guest.”
They’re something better: a friend.