Although it seems a simple question, the answer to “What Does a Wedding Planner Do?” changes with each and every client a wedding planner decides to work with.
This unpredictability is one of the main reasons the wedding planning field is so attractive for many. If you are the kind of person that enjoys a dynamic and unpredictable (but exciting!) working environment, becoming a wedding planner might be the perfect career for you.
So let’s get right down to it! The following is our summary of the primary duties and skills that wedding planners are responsible for, from Engagement to Honeymoon!
And it all starts with a simple conversation…
The initial consultation between the planner and the client serves to
set the groundwork as to what the client is expecting from the planner
and what the client is planning to do. The client may be the bride, the
groom, the mother or father of the bride, the mother or father of the
groom or any combination of these people. It is up to, you, the wedding
planner, to figure out who your true client (or clients) will
be, and thus whose opinion it is most important to take above all
others. In most cases, this will of course be the bride.
When a wedding planner first meets with a client, the conversation
should consist of simply explaining the packages available and briefly
discussing the type of wedding the client wants. Typically, a wedding
planner is hired for either Full Service or Day-of Coordination, and it
is imperative that the planner fully explains to the client what is
included in each of their packages.
Day of coordination involves taking care of all the logistical details of the wedding on the day of the wedding itself.
Full Service planning involves everything included in Day of Coordination plus a lot more, such as managing budget, vendors, venues, and all the nitty-gritty details that go into planning a wedding.
Remember that as a wedding planner, you should offer both of these
services; the client will always let you know which of the two they
need. A wedding planner will normally have a printed list of what is
included in each of their packages; however, the needs of each client
will still vary widely depending on the theme, venue, budget, vendors
and personality of the client. Specific advice or vendor referrals
should not be discussed until a contract is signed and the client pays a
So in order to know exactly what a wedding planner does, you’ll need
to know the difference between both forms of wedding planning services.
We’ll start with the simplest of the two.
Day of Coordinator
Most brides have looked forward to their wedding day since they were
little girls, and many refuse to let anyone else plan the details of
their wedding other than themselves! Having said that, these brides also
recognize that their wedding day should be about enjoyment and bliss,
not stressing over every detail going according to plan and
choreographing each segment of their wedding to perfection. In this
case, they’ll need some help.
Since these brides have already taken care of all the pre-wedding
preparations, and all they need is help on the day of their wedding,
what they’ll be looking for is a Day of Coordinator. And of course,
being the business-savvy wedding planner that you are, you’ll offer this
service to your lucky brides!
So let’s go over exactly what is included as part of your duty as a Day of Coordinator.
As a Day of Coordinator, your first responsibility will be to look
over the contracts for each vendor the client has chosen to hire. You
will then will contact the vendors approximately one week prior to the
wedding and introduce yourself and ensure you have accurate day of
contact information for each of them.
Don’t just settle for your vendors’ landline phone numbers. Be sure to obtain their cell numbers too, in case of an emergency.
To ensure a smooth wedding day, a wedding planner should create a
detailed timeline incorporating the photographers timeline, DJ or band’s
timeline and their own timeline for the entire duration of the wedding.
The bride, groom, their families, the photographer and DJ should
approve the timeline to ensure everyone is in sync. A copy should be
handed out to everyone in the wedding party at the rehearsal, as well.
The wedding planner should ensure that everyone who is in the wedding
party or will be escorted in to the ceremony attends the wedding
rehearsal, if possible. The phrase “Day of Coordinator” is a bit of a
misnomer as you will be in charge of the wedding rehearsal as well,
which usually takes place one or two days before the wedding. This is
your last chance to hammer out all the scheduling details with your
bride and groom, so don’t be afraid to take control and ensure that
everyone is on the same page.
On the day of the wedding, the wedding planner should arrive at the
venue early enough to supervise all vendor set-up and answer any
questions that may arise. Planners should ensure that the bride, groom,
DJ/band and photographer are all informed in advance of each event
(grand entrance, first dance, cake cutting, garter toss, etc.).
The wedding planner should be the liaison between all the vendors and
the bride/groom on the day of the wedding. This will enable the
bride/groom to enjoy the day with their friends and family instead of
having to chase after vendors. After all, that is why they hired you! It
is the wedding planner’s duty and privilege to ensure that the client’s
vision is implemented.
Once the time for the ceremony approaches the wedding planner should
begin distributing the personal flowers and ensuring everyone is in
place according to the timeline. They are responsible for ensuring each
person in the wedding party (ushers, greeters, etc.) are fulfilling
their responsibilities and that guests are being treated properly. Once
it is time for the ceremony to begin the wedding planner (or their
assistant) should be ready to queue the music and keep the processional
flowing as planned.
After the ceremony is complete the wedding planner should ensure the
guests are quickly ushered to the reception venue and the wedding party
is at the appropriate place for photos to begin. This is one of the most
crucial and overlooked segments of the wedding, but if executed
correctly it will ensure a smooth and timely start to the reception. One
of the skills you’ll need to possess as a wedding planner is the
ability to keep the wedding moving according to the timeline but also
knowing when to speed up or slow down.
You’ll learn to experience weddings as a kind of
choreographed dance–all parts must move in sync and any acceleration or
deceleration can disrupt the flow of the dance.
Wedding venues and vendors are typically very strict on scheduling,
and delays of more than 15 minutes might not only result in angry venue
managers, but also any applicable late fees associated with the venue.
And guess who’s going to shoulder the blame for venue late fees? Yep,
the wedding planner!
And don’t think that your job is done after the guests and newlywed
couple have exited the reception. Even after everyone clears out,
planners should make sure all of the client’s personal property and
wedding gifts are properly packed and secured in a vehicle, hotel room
or storage room. Plan ahead and have your client recruit volunteers if
there are a lot of items to be packed or stored.
Nothing ruins a honeymoon like finding out that all of the gift
envelopes were stolen or that the expensive, rented flower vases were
forgotten at the reception hall. Keep your brides happy and ensure that
proper care is taken to conclude the event smoothly and responsibly.
Even if you are not personally responsible for certain items to be taken
care of, make sure that whoever is responsible for them hasn’t
forgotten their duties. And there’s no need to memorize–you can write
all of this down beforehand.
Full Service Planner
Of course, not all brides envision their wedding as Disney fairy
tales, or perhaps they have but are too busy with their careers and just
can’t be hassled with the details of planning their perfect wedding, so
they’ll ask you to take care of them each step of the way. While you
have the added luxury of commanding much higher prices for this level of
service, this kind of wedding planning is a mammoth task to undertake.
Luckily, the more experience you gain, the more streamlined and
effortless your process will become.
As mentioned, Full Service wedding planning is comprised of
everything included in Day of Coordination in addition to months of
planning and perfecting prior to the big day.
Let’s get started!
In some way or another, the budget will affect every decision of the
wedding. Very early in the planning stages, the wedding planner should
initiate a detailed discussion with the client as to their budget for
the wedding. Some clients will handle the budget themselves and some
clients will want or need your assistance. Before considering any venues
or making appointments with any vendors you must be certain that
everyone agrees on the total budget for the wedding. You can waste a lot
of your time and end up with a very upset and frustrated client by
looking at venues or vendors that are not within their expected budget.
Despite its importance, don’t think the budget is set in stone,
either. As the bride and groom evolve and change, so will their plans
for their wedding. They may eventually realize that the wedding is too
great of an expense and reduce their budget, or more commonly, they may
realize that their dream wedding is going to cost more than they had
realized and this will raise the budget. The wedding planner must keep
up with these changing expectations and craft their proposals
Once the budget is agreed upon, it is time to begin researching
venues. Comparing venues can be one of the most complicated jobs a
wedding planner has to do, but it is also where they can be provide the
most value to their client. Each venue you are considering will probably
include different rental items, price their food and beverage
differently and may figure tax, tip and service charges at different
Before you pull your hair out trying to compare venues, give each
venue a call and ask if they have availabilities on your targeted
wedding day. If a venue is not available for a specific date (or dates)
then your job as a wedding planner just became a lot easier. This may
upset the bride and groom, but your job as a planner is to provide the
best possible options to your couples and being able to rule out a venue
just speeds up the process of finding the venue that your couple will
eventually agree on.
The sooner you rule out the wrong wedding venues,
the quicker you’ll find the right one. Venues are often booked over a
year in advance so don’t delay for too long!
It’s important to keep a sympathetic yet pragmatic approach with your couples.
Be careful to read venue contracts carefully! Booking the venue will
often be the single greatest expenditure for most couples and even small
differences in fine print can cost your clients thousands of dollars.
Ask venues to hold a date while your clients make a decision and
encourage them to decide quickly and pay a deposit as soon as possible.
You never want to start looking for venues all over again because your
client’s wedding date was taken the day before their deposit was
And yes, it has happened. And no, it’s not pretty!
Once a venue and date is selected and confirmed with a deposit, it is
time to begin selecting vendors. Just as is the case with venues, many
of the best wedding vendors (photographers, videographers, florists,
etc.) can book a year or more in advance. To ensure the best selection
of vendors for your client you want to quickly begin booking
appointments for vendors within your client’s budget and style.
Keep in mind your client’s personality and schedule when booking
appointments. Some clients have a difficult time making decisions and
can feel overwhelmed easily, so feed them vendors slowly. Give them time
to consider each vendor and make a decision on each category before
moving on to the next one. Other clients may only have a short period of
time before going back to school or, if they are having a destination
wedding, they might only be able to make one trip to the area. If this
is the case then make all the appointments quickly and bunched together.
You can already see the challenges that go into being a wedding
planner, but as mentioned previously, your task will become more more
rewarding the more skilled you become.
Turning Magic Into Reality
After the venue and vendors are booked and secured, your client will
need your help with everything else that makes a wedding the magical day
they always envisioned.
Your client may want your assistance with the selection of the bride
and bridal parties attire. This may include attending appointments at
the bridal salon or simply giving your opinion on photos sent to you by
email. It is a good idea to attend at least one appointment with the
florist, since it will typically be up to you to distribute the
corsages, boutonnieres, and bouquets to the bridal party and you will
want to be familiar with the ceremony and reception décor as well. The
client may want your opinion on the wedding cake, linen colors, food
selections or the way in which the food will be served. All this while
keeping the budget in the back of your mind!
So many details and we have not even mentioned the printed materials!
I’m talking about the Save the Dates, wedding invitations, rehearsal
dinner invitations, menus, place cards, programs and welcome letters.
Even if your client does not require your help with all of these details
you still should ensure they stay on track with getting everything done
in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
Since every wedding will be entirely unique, the answer to the
question, “What does a wedding planner do?” will never be entirely
complete. But nevertheless, take away this message: your primary duty as
a wedding planner is to satisfy the concerns that the bride had when
she decided to look for a wedding planner. These concerns will always
change, and that is OK. As long as you’re there to meet them, you’ve
fulfilled your duty.
Despite the stress and pressure that comes with the territory, wedding planning can be a very lucrative and rewarding experience if done diligently and responsibly.
Go out there and remember to enjoy it! You’re playing a key role in making someone’s dreams come to reality.