With every wedding we book. One of our first questions to them is… “Have you hired your planner yet?” When the answer is no, we go over options of who would best fit their personality type & budget. But the question we get asked most is, “what is the difference between day of planning & full service?” So I went to one of my favorite wedding planners in Denver, Mark with Mark Christopher Weddings and Events to help me answer this. Mark is so knowledgeable and I’m so thankful that he had time to shed some light on the subject.
Photo by: Audrey Michel
When considering professional planning for a wedding, couples often question whether they will need full service planning, month- or day-of coordination or assistance somewhere in between. The answer is a matter of overall vision, budget, time, and personal characteristics of the couple. To help understand which service may be right, we’ve outlined each option below, based on our opinion and experiences.
At a minimum, couples should strongly consider hiring a professional day of coordinator to execute the details of the big day. Professional coordinators are those who have some experience in wedding day management – generally for some period of time, have liability and business insurances (often required of the coordinator by venues), and have a general industry knowledge. It’s important to note many planners who offer day-of coordination may actually be offering month-of coordination (if they attend the walkthrough or provide any consulting the month of the wedding). Some planners may distinguish day-of from month-of coordination, so couples should thoroughly review and understand the options before contracting.
Day-of coordination, at a minimum, should include:
A review of the couple’s hired professional contracts (to ensure times, goods or services, and terms are understood and clearly outlined).
A pre-wedding day meeting to understand the logistical needs of the event, including set-up, timeline generation, and strike requirements.
Collection of all décor and related materials for the wedding to be set up correctly (even if it’s collected day-of, there should be a location identified at which all goods will be delivered).
A set number of hours for which the planner will provide service (planners will likely offer differing amounts of time, and many will likely add hours for an additional fee if their standard time is not sufficient).
A clear, written description of the services to be performed (in a contract is most ideal).
A timeline for the wedding day, which should be distributed by the coordinator to all professionals, and for which the coordinator ensures everyone is on the same page.
Management of all formalities on the wedding day (ensuring guests feel welcome, have guidance, and that the couple completes are necessary formalities throughout the allocated time).
Coordination of all professionals on the wedding day (ensuring vendors arrive on time and provide the agreed-upon services, are in communication with one another if delays or changes occur through the evening, etc).
An emergency kit, to provide basic essentials like first aid supplies, sewing kits, stain remover, etc (to note, our kit is worth over $600).
A thank you email to the professionals post-wedding.
A thank you email to the couple, requesting the couple’s feedback about the coordinator’s services, post-wedding.
Some day-of coordinators will also attend the venue and catering walkthrough (extremely beneficial), rehearsal, and may provide recommendations of other professionals if contracted early enough in the process. Day-of coordination is usually less-expensive than full-service planning, and provides the peace of mind needed by couples to ensure their big day operates smoothly and that any issues are quickly handled by a professional.
Having a professional to guide the entire wedding process is often beneficial for many couples. A professional wedding planner has the knowledge and resources to execute the couple’s vision while maintaining the budget requirements. A professional wedding planner are those who have been in the business of wedding planning, have liability and business insurance , and have a thorough industry knowledge of traditions, trends, and have a strong understanding of formalities, professional managements, and strong foundation of event planning and management skills. Many planners will offer day-of coordination in addition to planning, but couples should thoroughly review and understand the planner’s options before contracting.
Full-service planners, at a minimum, should:
Recommend professionals with whom the couple needs to hire and who fit with the budget demands (caterers, entertainers, florists, bakeries, etc).
Offer in-person (or by Skype/phone) meetings, at which vision, design, planning, and logistics are discussed. Meetings may be outlined by a set number of meetings or hours.
Be the couple’s advocate and assist with contract negotiation, scheduling of meetings, and handling of issues or concerns.
Budget management and tracking of payments due.
Understand all contracts, including the terms set forth by each professional.
Provide assistance and guidance with etiquette, formalities, and stationery needs (i.e. invitation wording) for the wedding, as well as for wedding-related activities (rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch, etc).
Assist with design and décor (or the overall impact of such decisions). It’s important to note that some planners offer design services that may be part of the planning contract, or in addition to, so couples should ensure they understand how the planner designs or charges for such service.
Create and manage detailed itineraries for hired wedding professionals.
Be able to act professional under pressure, during high-stress periods, and when things may not go according to plan.
Provide all services provided by Day-of Coordinators, inclusive of set and strike activities.
Given the average time to plan a wedding takes about 225 hours, couples can easily reduce this demand through hiring a full-service planner. Though fees are higher (anything from flat rate to a percentage of overall budget), the professional guidance throughout the planning process can often create a reduced-stress and more enjoyable process for couples. Planners may also have the ability to secure value-added benefits, nominal discounts or have knowledge on how to maximize the couple’s budget – all of which can have favorable impacts to the couple’s experience with a planner. Couples should ensure the planner discloses (in writing) the planner’s policies on vendor discounts or incentives as well.
Finally, some planners may offer a combination of the two options, or be willing to provide partial service planning if that better fits the needs of the couple. Couples should be open to discussing their vision, budget, and needs with planners during initial consultations to ensure they receive the best option that is right for them.