Wedding Planning

Who Should Plan My Wedding… A Wedding Planner, Coordinator, or Designer?

Breaking down the numerous event industry planning titles!

Philadelphia wedding planner Heart & Dash :: Justin Muir of We Laugh We Love and Atomic Tangerine

When you want to get into an underpass that is fenced off.... we might be able to help!
Photo: We Laugh We Love


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.

Pennsylvania wedding planner and coordinator :: Justin Johnson Photography

Always there to carry that train! Photo: Justin Johnson Photography


Wedding Planner

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.

 

Behind the scenes of Philadelphia wedding planner Heart & Dash :: Viva Love Photo at The Olde Bar

When the bustle breaks!! 
Photo: Viva Love Photo

Wedding support provided by East Coast wedding planner Heart & Dash :: Danfredo Photo and Film at Washington House

Where do you go after the walk back down the aisle?? Photo: Danfredo Photo + Film


Partial Planner

Typical Partial Wedding Planning Duties

  • Providing a professional perspective
  • Planning & design guidance
  • Coordinating with event vendors on details
  • Vendor management
  • 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!

 

Event setup by East Coast wedding planner Heart & Dash at Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast :: Quarter Moon Co

When the candles need to be lit at the exact right moment. Photo: Quarter Moon Co


Day-Of Coordinator

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!

 

Delaware wedding planner Heart & Dash with Pat Robinson Photography

The BUTTONS!!! Photo: Pat Robinson Photography


Event Designer

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.

 

Pennsylvania wedding planner Heart & Dash out of Philadelphia with Pat Robinson Photography

Wandering the forest, preventing snags, and making great faces!
Photo: Pat Robinson Photography


Venue Coordinator

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!

Philadelphia wedding planner Sarah Kudlack from Heart & Dash :: Pat Robinson Photography


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.

Colorful Delaware County Wedding at Tyler Arboretum

Oh Sharon & Josh!! What a fun couple who constantly had us laughing (which is our favorite thing to do)!! I (Sarah) knew Sharon from being in the industry. She’s an amazing brand designer who embraces the unique and doesn’t shy away from color.

Colorful Delaware County wedding at Tyler Arboretum with Philadelphia Wedding Planner Heart & Dash with With Love and Embers and Wild Stems-189.jpg

With her amazing branding and graphic design background Sharon was on top of all things design related, but she was struggling with how to bring it all together. Why? Because hey, she hasn’t planned a wedding before. Our Heart & Dash couples often acknowledge that wedding planning can evolve into a full-time job if you’re unsure of what to do. Relying on a professional whose actual job it is to plan weddings can help alleviate a lot of the workload. Then, when wedding planning becomes enjoyable instead of an item of stress it allows you to enjoy your time with the one you love instead of wanting to murder them.

“We approached Heart & Dash to help us plan and oversee our wedding and we couldn’t have been more thankful for them and what they gave us. We had someone in our corner for the entire process.” -- Sharon & Josh

Colorful Delaware County wedding at Tyler Arboretum with Philadelphia Wedding Planner Heart & Dash with With Love and Embers and Wild Stems-287.jpg

The color palette of S&J’s wedding was stunning- brining in bold colors of poppy, navy, and orange that couples sometimes tend to shy away from. Our best guess as to why is that because a lot of the inspiration in wedding-land tends to showcase neutrals. Which, if that’s what you REALLY love,  that’s totally ok! Just don’t let what Pinterest tells you is “in” dictate your color choices - If you love color as much as S&J, use it!

Garden wedding in Pennsylvania at Tyler Arboretum with Philadelphia Wedding Planner Heart & Dash and With Love and Embers-682.jpg

When you’re planning a wedding in the northeast, fingers are always crossed for good weather. Thankfully mother nature delivered, and it was a perfect sunny June day and S&J’s love for one another poured out of them the entire time. It’s always such a pleasure to be able to witness these amazing moments in our client’s lives...it’s why we do what we do!  

“I can’t thank them enough for the gift they gave us that we’ll remember forever. They were the best money we spent that day and I’d spend it over and over again.” -- Sharon & Josh

 

Wedding Vendors:

Photographer: With Love & Embers
Planner: Heart & Dash
Florals: Wild Stems
Videographer:  Opus
Venue: Tyler Arboretum
Hair & Makeup: True Beauty Marks
Music: PZO Productions

You're Engaged, Now What?

First steps to take in the wedding planning journey after you get engaged

The moments after you get engaged are some of the most special and exciting moments that you’ll ever experience. Yet once the dust settles from the whirlwind couples are often hit with a wave of panic… “where do I start?”, “what is the first thing I should do to start planning my wedding?”... the list goes on!

You are NOT alone! This feeling you have is normal. What else in your life have you one day not been doing or thinking about and then the next day been thrown in the “deep end”? Kindergarten? The first day of a new job? A move? The first thing you need to do is accept that it’s ok to feel a little overwhelmed, you’re not abnormal because you instinctively do not know how to plan a wedding. We are here to help and outline the first steps to take upon saying yes!

First steps to take after getting engaged :: Ambler engagement session with Justin Johnson Photography :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Justin Johnson Photography

Enjoy Being Engaged  

Avoid the Pinterest Rabbit Hole

You will have people asking you about your date, location, color palette, wedding party attire, floral inspiration, etc. on the same day you get engaged...don’t feel like you have to have those answers yet. And in our opinion don’t be afraid to set some expectations right off the bat — “we’ve been engaged for X days, we really are focusing on enjoying this moment versus rushing into the next”.

 

Starting Planning Too Soon

Sometimes, digging into planning too soon puts more emphasis on the ‘fanfare’ of the wedding versus remembering the significance of the day and why it’s important for YOU and your partner to begin this new chapter. That being said, if you’re the individual who is excited about research, spreadsheets, and vendor contracts, by all means dig in, but in the process don’t lose site of the bigger picture.

 

Create Alone Time

Make sure to set time aside for just you and your partner. Have a weekly date night! Oftentimes we see couples so consumed by the details right away they set their partner aside. Remember the wedding day will come and go, but the marriage and your relationship is what needs to stand the test of time!

Share your engagement with friends and family :: Philadelphia engagement session with Brittney Raine Photography :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Brittney Raine Photography

Sharing Your Happy News

Spreading News of Engagement Far and Wide

Once that ring is on the finger or the question has been asked and you’ve said YES… it is a natural inclination to want to scream it from the rooftops! “FINALLY…. I thought it was never going to happen!” However, once that ring shot goes live on Instagram, keep in mind what will follow… attention. If you want to bask in all the well wishes, get all those Instagram likes, create jealousy and envy amongst your peers (exaggerating… a little) that is totally ok. But once the champagne is un-corked you can’t shove that sucker back in. So if you’re the type to avoid the limelight and want to curtail any unsolicited wedding advice, maybe consider keeping the big news and just sharing with immediate family and friends.

Don’t Rush Into Selecting Your Wedding Party

It’s common that once you’ve shared the oh so exciting news with friends and family, they’ll want to know, “who’s in your wedding party?” “I’m totally a bridesmaid right?” Remember once the invite is extended to be a part of your big day, you can’t easily back out of it without seriously injuring some feelings. Our suggestion to couples is to often pump the breaks, let people know you’re thinking about what you want for your ceremony versus jumping to hand out wedding party invites. Oftentimes couples don’t realize how expensive wedding parties can get. Especially in today’s wedding planning world where couples feel that by inviting people to be part of your wedding you’re responsible for covering everything (you’re not mind you… but that’s how a lot of couples view it). So having a smaller wedding party can be a great way to save money and reallocate it elsewhere.

Creating a wedding budget should be the first steps you take toward wedding planning :: Engagement session in Philadelphia with Viva Love Photo :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Viva Love Photo

Create a Wedding Budget

A budget is a MUST and one of the first things you should do before delving into the details of planning. You NEED to have a number. It doesn’t matter if over time the number changes. Spoiler alert: it almost definitely will.

Why A Wedding Budget is Necessary

If you have a baseline number in mind, it will be your guiding hand throughout the many decisions you’ll have to make throughout the planning process. Every decision you have to make — selecting a venue, choosing a photographer, finalizing flowers — comes with a price tag. If you go into those decisions knowing what you can afford, it almost removes a level of stress because you don’t have to be wishy washy. Yes, I can afford that. No, that’s not in my budget. If during the planning process you choose to go over budget, say there’s a wedding lounge you’ve been eyeing up, if it’s more than what you anticipated you get to make a conscious decision about going over your budget versus retroactively looking back and feeling regret.

Wedding Budgets are Key to Decision Making

If you are lacking a wedding budget or just going off what you *think* your number there is a greater risk of making decisions along the way that you will come to regret. A great example of this is booking a venue. Couples often are SO eager to get the planning underway that they’ll start researching venues, pick one that they like, and book it without any consideration as to how that will affect other elements of their wedding. By booking that venue have you now so greatly reduced your floral budget that you won’t be able to have centerpieces? Have you booked that venue on a whim because you were so eager to ‘have a venue’ that you didn’t ask about additional costs or upgrades that might be necessary to execute your vision? Start with a budget, period!

Wedding Budget Tools

There are a lot of great tools out there to help with creating a wedding budget. While they are great tools, don’t take any one over the other as gospel. Look at them as a guideline where you can alter it to fit your needs. For example if typically florals are 8% of overall wedding budget and photography is 10%, but for you your priorities are florals over photography, don’t be afraid to adjust those numbers.

Do your research when selecting wedding vendors :: Engagement session at Bok Building in Philadelphia with Danfredo Photo + Film :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Danfredo Photo + Film

Do Your Wedding Research

Information Overload

When you get engaged, an influx of information comes to you from not only the internet but friends, coworkers, family, friends, family friends, parents, parent’s friends’ children… you get the picture! You need to be aware of your personal limits and how much information you can handle before you reach that tipping point. If everyone and their brother is dolling out wedding advice and that is making you feel anxious and overwhelmed, then right off the bat you need to establish a way to shut that down. You can choose to listen and let it go in one ear and out the other of develop a little phrase that lets people you got this — ”you know what I’m sure that’s a great idea, however, we are really diving into doing our own research and embracing the process of figuring it out on our own”.

Selecting Your Wedding Vendor Team

As with all things wedding everyone in your life, on your Facebook wall, and at work is going to be oh so happy to share their wedding vendor recommendations with you. Couple that with the overwhelming amount of Google search results, Knot listings, advertisements in magazines… the wedding vendors that you just  have to. have will be coming at ya hot and heavy. As with all wedding advice and information you receive, remember to take things with a grain of salt.

Even though your best friend is RAVING about how phenomenal her wedding photographer is, while it doesn’t mean you can’t look into them, they might have a totally different aesthetic, personality, or price point than works for you. Sometimes turning to an unbiased third party — like your wedding planner or amazing photographer that you LOVE — can be super helpful.

Getting a recommendation from a vendor for another vendor is going to be based in more fact versus feeling. They’re not likely to recommend someone who is not trustworthy or whom they’ve worked with before and has been late to a wedding. Plus because you’ve already booked them, they have an idea of your price point and can make a more informed referral. Bottom line, wedding vendors are businesses, the information that you’re encountering on Google, their website, The Knot is carefully curated, which is perfectly acceptable but food for thought as you begin your vendor selection.


Being engaged is something to celebrate, you’re beginning a new chapter in your life and you get to write the narrative. Don’t let it be a story filled with stress, anxiety and a large dose of overwhelm. You got this and should you want a wedding planner to help guide you through the process, we’re here to help!

Pocono lakeside engagement session on Lake Wallenpaupack :: Heart & Dash wedding planning :: Viva Love Photo

Photo: Viva Love Photo

 

At Heart & Dash we love working with couples who identify as planning a non-traditional wedding. What that means to each couple is different, but no matter what it is that’s causing you stress, we’re here to help!

Click here for more information on how we can help create your perfect day.