WTF is a Day-Of Coordinator?
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
The number one question I get asked is “what exactly does a day-of coordinator do?”
Everyone needs someone to run their wedding so that they can enjoy the day they have spent so much time, energy, and money creating, and industry insiders know this and always hire someone to handle it. Outside of the event industry, though, I know a lot of people wonder if they really need a coordinator, and what that person actually does. So, in the interest of honesty, I’m giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what your planner is really doing on the day of the wedding, and in all the days leading up to it.
If you have everything planned out for your wedding – all your wedding vendors are booked, your floor plans are made, you have everything printed, embellished, and ready to go – you might truly feel like all you need is someone to light the candles and cue the music before you go down the aisle. But if you don’t get married on the regular (no judgement!), and you’re not a wedding planner yourself, that’s almost never the case (and what’s more, “day-of coordinator” is a major misnomer).
There are a ton of planners out there who offer day-of packages, but they all start at least three weeks, and as much as eight weeks before the wedding. Here are the main things your “day-of” coordinator will usually do for and with you in that time:
• Filling in the blanks: If your planner doesn’t start working with you until a few months or weeks before the wedding, chances are that your wedding vendors are already booked, but there might be something you missed. Your planner can catch that, and help you figure out how to proceed.
• Logistics: In the week or two before the day, I always call every single wedding vendor and make sure that I know their load-in and load-out times, and that the venue is cool with those times, and that they are appropriately staggered. It makes no sense for a florist to show up at 8am if the arch or chuppah isn’t installed, and if the tablecloths aren’t yet on the tables. It also helps you avoid fees – for example, if the venue needs the room cleared by 5am because they have an event the next day, and your DJ leaves their equipment behind, you can get charged when the maintenance staff have to move it! Starting price for these (avoidable) errors is $500.
• Timeline: When should speeches happen? Are you including the mother-son dance? When and where does cake cutting happen? Your timeline is the guide that your planner will create and use to manage everything on event day. Even when I manage an event for another planner (when I’m just a hired gun) I always revise the timeline before I go in to work, because I worked in catering for over ten years and I know how long it takes each company to serve and clear 350 dinner plates... and that ranges from 20 minutes to one hour, depending on whether you sprung for extra staff.
• On the day: As the wedding vendors arrive, I’m there to direct traffic, and confirm that everything you asked for is being delivered. I also set up: seating cards, programs, signage, flip flops, bathroom baskets, kippahs, bonbonnieres, the guest book, candles, menus, table numbers… and anything else your heart desires. The aim is to have everything pretty much set by the time the bridal party arrives on site for photos, and then I’m running my timeline and putting out fires and generally making sure everyone else – especially the couple! – is carefree. A huge part of my job is managing all of the other wedding vendors, making sure they have what they need to do their job, and helping them figure out how to handle whatever scenario we are in.
Carrying a couple of things as I finish setting up a ceremony at Montreal's McGill Faculty Club.
So, you see, day-of coordination really doesn’t do the job justice. I heard one planner call it “event management, and twelve days on the day.” As a language nerd (blame my readaholic mom), I cannot abide the “day-of” title. What’s more, I don’t do a great job at limiting contact with my clients (#boundaries #workingonit!), so once someone has booked me, I like to start working with them right away. Whether it’s a budgetary issue, advice on which wedding vendors to choose (which ultimately helps both of us), or they’re having any number of the emotional freak-outs that are par for the course when planning a major life event, it doesn’t benefit either of us for me to shut them out until a certain date. That’s why I took “day-of” off my website, and changed that package to The Journey, to reflect what I actually do, which is give my clients unlimited access to me from the moment they book, for my expertise in events and for coaching. That way, I can ensure that you enjoy the journey to the day, and by the time the wedding rolls around, we’ve spent so much time with each other, you know that I get your vision and you can trust me completely, and I know that I set us all up for success.
Want to know more about what sets me apart from the rest of Montreal’s wedding planners? Check out my about page: WTF is a Wedding Coach?