If you’ve ever seen The Wedding Planner or Bridal Wars, it’s fairly likely you imagine that you have some idea of what a wedding planner/coordinator does for their clients. But chances are, you, like many other couples out there, are a bit fuzzy on the other smaller details.
What services should you expect to receive as part of your planning or coordination package? And possibly more importantly, what shouldn’t you be expecting them to do on your wedding day?
To cut through some common nuptial confusion, the Michelle Norwood Weddings + Events team has put together seven of the most common assumptions about a coordinator’s role on the wedding day as well as our actual roles in each activity.
1. Your wedding coordinator will not decorate all of your reception tables.
On the day of a wedding a coordinator is pulled in a dozen different directions at the same time. Almost every professional participating in set up will run into a logistical issue or have a question about where or how their job is to be performed, no matter how clearly they have been communicated with. Friends and family members will be approaching throughout set up with various issues that need immediate attention or questions that need answers, and heaven forbid disaster strike on some level. Even a well-organized coordinator is guaranteed to have their hands full. There simply isn’t enough time for them to be responsible for setting all of your reception decor simultaneously and executing all of their other responsibilities.
You CAN expect your coordinator and their team to be responsible for the placement of limited decorative pieces.
Items like your guest book, escort cards, favors, unity ceremony elements, menus and programs are all items that we can easily manage to get into place while orchestrating the rest of your set up, answering questions, and putting on our super capes to avert crisis if needed. These are all things that can be accomplished without pulling our primary focus from the execution of the event itself, and it’s our pleasure to do them for you and put the finishing touches on your vision for your day. Putting tiny details in place and seeing everything come together seamlessly thrills us and most of us kind of geek out over it inside…because we love what we do.
2. Your wedding coordinator will not run errands for you or retrieve forgotten items.
This one is pretty simple. If your coordinator is running out to replace your Spanx or grab a mysteriously missing groomsman’s shirt they are no longer doing their primary job, participating in and overseeing your event set up and execution. Your whole purpose in hiring a coordinator was to be certain that someone professional and experienced was leading the team of pros you picked to work on your day. So why would it make any sense to send them to another location where they cannot effectively do the job they were hired to do? We can’t manage event set up, put final details in place, advise on last minute etiquette questions, and combat any potential disasters ready to strike effectively long distance from Sak’s Fifth Avenue…or anywhere else.
What you CAN expect from you planner/coordinator is a fully stocked emergency kit.
We travel with Tylenol, lint rollers, Tide stain pens, spray on deodorant, safety pins, and about a million other useful items that can solve a variety of common wedding problems. We horde picture frames, little chalkboards with chalk, baskets, small vases and votives in our cars to try to prepare for any eventuality. Chances are, if you need something small-ish we have it on us…and if we don’t, better to send a friend or family member to grab it instead of the person holding the event together and captaining the ship.
3. Your wedding coordinator will not cut and/or serve your wedding cake.
This is one I struggle with a lot because it feels like a small and silly detail to take a firm stance on but hear me out–there is an excellent and important reason no coordinator in their right mind will do this for you. We don’t have catering licenses or insurance that covers us if someone gets ill from consuming wedding cake that we’ve cut. This all boils down to legalities. A coordinator who cuts your cake for you can get sued if someone gets sick from eating it. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t prepare and create the cake, or that the only reason they were cutting it for you was to be kind and try to save you a cake cutting fee somewhere–they can still be held responsible and they can lose their business over it.
You CAN expect your coordinator to make sure the cake table is stocked with serving supplies before the cutting begins and confirm with the caterers whether the anniversary tier (the top layer of the cake) is to be saved or served.
If your top tier is to be saved, we will have it boxed and set aside so that it can be transported along with your gifts at the end of the evening. We will even make sure you and your partners favorite flavors are put into a to-go box that makes its way into your getaway car along with a box of food from dinner.
4. Your wedding coordinator will not clean your reception venue.
Clean up after a wedding can be designated to a variety of individuals. The venue themselves will have a fair amount of responsibilities after an event and what they handle internally as well as what they expect clients to have taken care of by other professionals will vary by venue and is always spelled out in your venue contract. Major event strike items like breaking down chairs and tables or sweeping/mopping are never a coordinator’s responsibility and generally fall under the responsibility of the vendors providing the rentals or the venue staff (if those items were included). However, some venues state in their contract that these tasks are the responsibility of the client – in which case they will either offer an option to have their staff provide these services for a small additional fee or expect you to delegate someone to take care of the tasks.
You CAN expect your coordinator to work with you to assign different tasks associated with event break down and decor disposal to vendors and/or a cleaning crew. We will help you designate someone (or a couple of someones) to check over the bride and groom’s suites to be sure that they are cleared out and nothing is left behind. Chances are they will also facilitate alongside your family and friends, or your florist, packing up small decor pieces they set out or emptying vases and generally making sure that event tear down is organized and that nothing is forgotten. Keep in mind that if you do want us to do more than organize and oversee the breakdown and disposal of your decor you can always inquire about additional services for a fee.
5. Your wedding coordinator will not bus tables or take out the trash.
Caterers and bartenders are generally responsible for the busing of tables as part of their contract, as well as removal of the trash created by the event and the cleanliness of the areas that they use. We will be in great communication with the venue staff as well as the catering team and the bartenders, therefore, there should not be a reason for the coordinator to be handling trash. If you are hosting a more casual wedding with limited catering there should still be a clear breakdown in responsibilities including but not limited to assigning trash removal to a cleaning company or event staffing company.
You CAN expect your coordinator to work with event staff from the caterer and the venue to see that tables are bussed in an expedient manner and that trash is cleared from wastebaskets as needed.
In the case of venues in historic buildings that do not have dumpsters you can also expect your coordinator to prearrange for the catering team to anticipate needing to transport trash and dispose of it after the event.
6. Your wedding coordinator will not handle or transport your wedding gifts.
This one is an assumption we run into a lot. We have no problem with the idea of carrying your gifts to load into a friend or family member’s car and really want to be helpful but…wedding gifts are often expensive, and what happens when you open your brand new beautiful $450 espresso maker from Uncle Dave and realize part of it is damaged? It could have broken in transit…but the natural assumption is that someone dropped it or mishandled it, and if we were the ones handling gifts and loading the car, guess who gets the blame. I’ve never once dropped or mishandled a wedding gift and neither has anyone on my team because we don’t take chances by handling them, it’s just too risky.
You CAN expect us to work with you to select a responsible individual in your wedding party, a family member, or a close friend to handle and transport the gifts.
We’ll double check under the gift table’s skirt and behind things to make sure no stray card or gift is left unaccounted for, hold the doors for your designated gift transporter while they load, and even unlock their car for them while their hands are full. We just don’t want to touch the gifts if we can avoid it.
7. Your wedding coordinator will not return rented clothing items for you.
So, we have no problem returning a cake stand to the baker for you, or the votives that the florist used in the tablescapes, but we won’t save your friends and family the hassle of returning tuxes? What gives?!? Late fees & damages, that’s what.
The baker and the florist typically don’t have late fees in place that designate a specific return time for their items or super stiff penalties into the hundreds and hundreds of dollars for damaged items–suit rental groups do. Since your fiance, father, groomsmen etc. rented their suits, they are financially responsible for returning them at the correct time and in the proper condition. Transferring responsibility to your coordinator can lead to problems if any of the suits is returned in less than pristine condition or if we are unable to get them back to the rental group until later in the week. (Keep in mind most suit rentals are due back on Mondays–a day many coordinators take off.) It’s simply a duty best left to the individuals who rented the items in the first place.
You CAN expect your wedding coordinator to assist bridesmaids and groomsmen in double checking both the Man Cave/Groom’s Suite and the overall venue itself to be certain that everyone has their jackets, vests, ties, etc. and that nothing has been shed in a frenzy on the dance floor and gets left behind.
Wedding days are long and suits are hot, and often uncomfortable after a while, even if they fit well. We completely expect several of your guys to shed a jacket or vest in some random location after a few drinks. We are happy to be certain that everyone has all the pieces of their ensemble accounted for before they depart for the evening–we’ll even crawl under tables and peek under furniture all over the venue to make sure nothing is forgotten. We just can’t be responsible for returning something we didn’t sign a rental agreement for.
We are generally helpful people by nature and it delights us to make your life easier and your big day flawless, however, there are some things we just can’t do. Talk to us in advance about any jobs or duties that you anticipate needing to be completed and are uncertain about whom will complete them–communication is key in the relationship between client and planner/coordinator. There are so many things we can gladly handle for you! And, if there are things on your list that we just can’t do, we are always happy to help you find a solution for getting them done–that’s just part of our job.