Breaking down the numerous event industry planning titles!
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You’re engaged. You need help. You don’t want that help to come from a slew of miscellaneous family members. Who do you reach out to?
You begin researching ‘wedding planner’ and discover there are a bunch of titles out there associated with a variety of job descriptions and price points. What do YOU need, a Wedding Planner, Wedding Coordinator, Venue Coordinator, Event Designer, Designer, Day-of Coordinator, Partial Planner (wtf is “Partial”)....?
While these words in context might seem interchangeable, they are all very unique positions with different roles, responsibilities, price points, and levels of service. We are going to help demystify some of these titles and share a little info* about each.
Always there to carry that train! Photo: Justin Johnson Photography
Typical Wedding Planner Duties
A wedding planner is typically someone who provides a variety of planning services — coordination + event management + design. Each planner is going to offer packages or services that are tailored to their strengths as well as meeting an industry standard of service. A Wedding Planner is really the ‘umbrella term’ for all the other services we’re going to break down for you here!
Who Should Hire a Wedding Planner?
Would it be too much if we said everyone?? Weddings are big investments, not just monetarily but emotionally and psychologically as well. When you invest money, emotion and more into a singular day/event we believe having some form of a wedding professional on your side, as a representative of you, the couple (not the venue, not just the design aesthetic) is a priority.
When to Book a Wedding Planner
ASAP. We believe as soon as you can book your planner (in whatever capacity you decide to) you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. Think of it as hiring a plumber halfway through a plumbing project - you’re probably going to save money booking them right off the bat versus trying to figure it out on your own then needing to call in the cavalry.
Price Ranges** for Wedding Planners
This is entirely dependant on the services they offer (see below for more specifics). If they’re offering just event management than that’s going to be drastically different than event management + planning services.
Our Thoughts on Wedding Planners
Obviously, we’re a little biased here… but we feel that if your budget allows a wedding planner is one of the best investments you can make for yourselves and your wedding day. We can’t stress the importance of finding a planner that you not only connect with but has the experience you can rely on. Within the world of wedding planning the price tags vary across a wide spectrum. Keep in mind if you look at 4 planners with similar offerings (keeping in mind no two planners offer exactly the same thing) and then a 5th whose pricing is drastically less, you need to question why that is.
When accidents happen! Photo: Justin Johnson Photography
Full Service Planner
Typical Full Service Planner Duties
Start to finish Planning — question answering, vendor meetings, sourcing, design plans, etc.
Help you create a budget & then maintain it
Customized vendor recommendations + assistance booking them
Contract negotiation and/or consultation
SOMETIMES includes event design (typically an additional fee)
Work to create the timeline + production schedule for your Wedding
Day-of event management, supervision, and execution // day-of coordination duties
Who Should Hire a Full Service Planner?
Couples looking for someone to take the reigns, start to finish.
Couples who want to do minimal planning on their own or are feeling overwhelmed by all the details that need to come together.
Couples who want to have a beautiful, stress-free event but don’t have the time to focus on planning due to careers, location (live in other area of the country) or by choice.
When to Book a Full Service Planner
ASAP! Especially since a full-service planner is assisting with budget, the sooner you book them the better so they can aid you in developing a realistic budget. A full-service planner is typically with you from engagement to the end of your wedding day.
Price Ranges** for Full Service Planners
You can expect a base fee of around $5,000+. In addition to a base fee there may also be a production fee + design fee.
Our Thoughts on Full Service Planners
Often the term ‘full-service’ is construed to mean that, “this person will do anything we ask, we’re paying them a lot of money…” While the majority of planners are in the business because they enjoy what they do and are naturally inclined to go above and beyond, this does not make them your personal assistant. If you hired a interior designer to project manage your home renovation, you would not expect them (hopefully) to answer texts at 2am in the morning, call and explain your design choices to your mom, clean your kitchen prior to renovation... similar to a planner they have a defined role, and though it might vary from planner to planner, make sure if you have specific needs to ask about that prior to booking.
Typical Partial Wedding Planning Duties
Providing a professional perspective
Planning & design guidance
Coordinating with event vendors on details
Keeping you on track with email reminders/to-do lists
Day-of event management // day-of coordination duties
Who Should Hire a Partial Wedding Planner
Couples who want to be hands-on during planning but need a guiding hand.
Couples who are feeling overwhelmed by aspects of planning they are not familiar with.
Couples looking for more involvement than just day-of coordination.
When to Book a Partial Planner
Anytime you can book asap, the better for you, but this role is typically booked 6-9 months in advance of event. Typically a partial planning package consists of a certain number of meetings. While you can often contact your planner at any point meetings typically begin around 6-9 months.
Price Ranges** for a Partial Wedding Planner
$5,000-$7,500, based on experience + specific level of planning involvement.
Our Thoughts on Partial Wedding Planning
Partial Planning is a term we don’t love because of its ambiguity. It tends to be a service that varies drastically depending on the planner, so there is not a lot of consistency in the industry. It’s also hard to put barriers on planning… we’ll help “partially” with vendor management, we’ll “partially” work with your caterer to draft a timeline… you can see the dilemma. Essentially, the people seeking a Partial Planner are looking for something more than Day-of but less than Full Service. What exactly is that? It’s important to really breakdown what it is you’re seeking above and beyond day-of event management so that you can determine are you looking for additional help with design-specific items or the planning/logistical side of things. Once you determine that, you should be able to have a clearer purview of what you need and the appropriate questions to ask various planners so you can get exactly what you’re looking for!
When the candles need to be lit at the exact right moment. Photo: Quarter Moon Co
Typical Duties of a Day-of Wedding Coordinator
Gathering information from couple’s in a series of meetings prior to event date to allow them to manage couple’s event (Note: while typically prior meetings are involved those meetings are specifically information gathering, not planning)
Maintaining & executing your day’s details
Monitoring vendor load-in & setup
Executing your timeline, keeping your day on schedule
Small day-of details — bustling dress, pinning boutonniere, gathering & organizing family for photos
Packing up/ organizing pick up of any personal items (gifts, cards, photos, table numbers, extra alcohol etc.)
Who Should Hire a Day-Of Coordinator
Couples who would like to plan their own wedding but want to enjoy their day and have someone else execute the details.
Couples who have already planned their event but want someone to take the reins day-of.
When to Book a Day-of Coordinator
Could be booked at any point however, some companies only allow this service to be booked a certain number of months in advance of event date. Typically a day-of coordination package consists of a certain number of meetings and a very specific level of involvement. While you can often contact your planner at any point meetings often are at a 6 month and/or 3 month marks.
Price Ranges** of Day-of Wedding Coordinators
$1,800-$2,800 based on experience.
Our Thoughts on Day-of Coordinators
Similar to Partial Planning we feel the term Day-of Coordinator is so limiting. Is this someone who just shows up on your wedding day, who you never have a meeting with in advance of your event, is it just one person who is there? At Heart & Dash we prefer the term Event Management. Just in the title alone you already have a better understanding of what we’re doing with this service. We manage YOUR event, an event you’ve planned and designed. This service is essential for any couple who realizes all they put into their wedding and deservedly want to enjoy their wedding not work at it!
The BUTTONS!!! Photo: Pat Robinson Photography
Typical Duties of an Event Designer
Gathers inspiration from couple
Creates a cohesive vision and design plan and coordinating design budget for couple’s wedding
Sources and books creative team of vendors
Manages creative team
Creates any custom design elements — wedding backdrop, bar, stationery, etc.
On the day-of event, manages production — load-in/out, setup, installation, making sure design plan comes to life, event breakdown
Does not include — logistical planning in terms of management of vendors outside the design team or Day-of Coordination in terms of event management
Who Should Hire an Event Designer
Couples who are focused on the details of their event creating a visually cohesive narrative & feel.
Couples feeling overwhelmed after looking at their Pinterest board of 700+ images.
When to Book an Event Designer
Best to book when venue is acquired so following vendors booked can coordinate with overall design plan.
Price Ranges** of an Event Designer
Pricing structure for design services are typically not a flat fee. This is because design services are very hard to predict and outline at the beginning of planning. The scope of work throughout design is often the most fluid. The majority of Event Designers charge a base fee + a percentage of the design costs. This allows for the scope of design work to fluctuate while ensuring the Designers costs are covered.
Our Thoughts on Event Designers
Event design is a great service to book for the couples looking for direction with their many decor ideas. Booking an event designer requires trust though as it’s not something you want to hire for and then micromanage. Do your research, find a designer you trust and feel will be up front with you and then trust them. That’s not to say your opinion won’t be taken into consideration, actually the opposite. A great designer will find out all there is to know about you as a couple, listen to your love story, find out what inspires you and then take that and create a plan.
Wandering the forest, preventing snags, and making great faces!
Photo: Pat Robinson Photography
Who Should Hire a Venue Coordinator
This is typically not a hired position. This is a position held by someone who is on the venue’s payroll or contracted by the venue and/or caterer who might be exclusive to that particular venue.
Typical Duties of a Venue Coordinator
Selling and booking the event space
Answering venue/caterer questions about the space, service, venue rules, etc
Making sure vendors have access to materials needed - tables (if provided by venue), power supply, etc.
Directing vendors to their designated areas
Maintaining and dealing with venue issues last minute — parking, restrooms, food service, etc.
Does not include involvement with hotel, ceremony, travel, attire, hair & makeup, booking vendors
When to Book a Venue Coordinator
This service will be booked automatically when you book your venue.
Price Ranges** of a Venue Coordinator
Typically included in the price of booking your venue.
Our Thoughts on Venue Coordinators
Venue Coordinators are a great asset to your vendor team. We love working with venues that employ a venue coordinator because it means that we can focus on the couple versus issues with the venue or food service. Having a venue that has an on-site Venue Coordinator that works with your planner is ensuring a great level of service. However, for some reason there are unfortunately a lot of venues out there who are very territorial about things and tend to downplay the asset that is a planner. A planner is there to be an advocate of the couple, when push comes to shove a Venue Coordinator represents the venue. A good depiction of differences of services is, if it is time for you to walk down the aisle, but the septic tank on the venue property is overflowing, the Venue Coordinator will take care of the septic issue but you’re not left without guidance/assistance because your planner is still with you. If you are entirely reliant upon a Venue Coordinator and are “sold” the idea that they *replace* a planner you might end up feeling disappointed with level of service on your wedding day. This is not to say there aren’t great Venue Coordinators out there, just be informed!
So there it is our brief (haha yeah right) rundown of the various titles for wedding planners within the event industry. Having an idea of what you’re looking for or what service you’d feel most comfortable with is a great start. However, keep in mind the power of conversation. In most cases the person who fills one of these positions for you will be with you throughout the entire planning journey. You want someone you connect with, can trust, and dare we say, like? Trust your gut!
If you found this article helpful, and you’re looking for a wedding planner that specializes in working with couples who know what they want but don’t know how to get there, we’d love to chat! Fill out an inquiry form to get started here.
* Information is based on our knowledge of the event/wedding industry and common practices in our region.
**Our price ranges are based on average pricing in the Northeast Region of service and a typical wedding size of 150 people.