What exactly DOES a wedding planner do?

Guest post by Ang
Cake cutting 1
Cake cutting 1 © by hindsightbride, used under Creative Commons license.

When you're trying to plan your wedding on a budget, luxury items like a wedding planner or a day-of coordinator are usually the first to go. That's OK, I totally get it, and I'm alright with people making the decisions they have to in order to make their wedding work. What DOES bug me is when I'm in the waiting room of the hospital, and a woman, who I'm sure is very well intentioned, asks me what I do for a living, and, after I tell her that I'm a wedding planner, she promptly calls me a parasite, trying to drain young couples out of their money. Wait, lets back that train up before I stab you in the face with a general anesthesia brochure.

I can't really blame her; the media has glamorized wedding planning, to where people assume we fuss about flower arrangements, hang fake jewels at varying heights, con helpless brides into overspending, and compare the eggshell swatches so we don't get *GASP* ivory table linens, all while wearing professional/sexy designer outfits.

So what does a wedding planner actually DO?

  • I perform a service. Can you do this yourself? Yes, much like you can change your own oil or do your own plumbing. What you pay for is the convenience of having someone else worry about it. That is the very nature of the service industry — all the pretty stuff is just bonus.
  • I'm a neutral party. I don't really care if your Aunt Edna hates my guts because we didn't use her neighbor's daughter to make the cupcakes. I have no family feuds to take part in or worry about. No one at your wedding has diapered my bum, so for the most part I am treated like the professional adult I am. On the rare cases where I'm not, I don't have to worry about so-and-so hating my guts for the next five years. This is a huge weight off of you, because you can feel free to blame everything on the crazy wedding planner. I'm OK with it really, as long as YOU are happy.
  • I see the big picture. Lots of times when planning, anyone can become zeroed in on tiny minute details and not see the forest for the trees. “OMG I've been so worried about the cake topper I forgot to order the cake!” Since this isn't my wedding, it isn't personal to me. Not that I don't care about your wedding — I DO, because I care about you, and it's my job — but I can think rationally about all aspects of it.
  • I'm not a guest. As per the Unplugged post, your guests should be able to fully immerse themselves in your wedding. I might shed a tear, or two or twenty, but I am there to make sure the caterer is setting the food out, that the DJ is set to go, and that the roller derby cocktail waitresses have their pads on. You don't have to worry about me having a good time — trust me, I am.
  • I am your middleman. I have this wacky thought that couples should enjoy their wedding day. It's much harder to do when a million people are running up to you with mini catastrophes when all you want to do is soak in the moment of the big ass life change you just made, and bask in the happy. My job is to make sure you have as many moments of happy as humanly possible by handling the mini catastrophes for you.
  • I do lots of weddings. This is a horrible fact of the wedding industry, but some nasty vendors out there give crappy service because they don't think they need to impress you. You're likely to only get married once, then they don't have to deal with you again. However, they DO want to impress me, because I can recommend them to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of potential new clients. The alternative is badmouthing them with my planner friends and doing my best to make sure they never get another wedding. Unlike some rating sites, the planning community doesn't take bribes to remove bad reviews.
  • I keep your best interests in mind. Caterer leave the venue a mess? I clean it up. Rental company forget the generator? That's on me. Table cloths have strange stains? I take pics so you get a refund, then chalk and hairspray the crap out of them to make them purity again. I hand out your final payments to vendors, so there are no detours on your way to wedded bliss. You are MY couple: your happiness is my goal in life.

So in conclusion, do you NEED a wedding planner/day-of coordinator? No, but you might want one.

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Comments on What exactly DOES a wedding planner do?

  1. THIS.

    Oh, Ang–thank you for putting this so well!

    As a wedding coordinator m’self, it’s often tricky to describe *why* it’s nice to have us around–no, my work is not “necessary”, but I’ll sure as hell do everything I can to make sure my brides and grooms have a wonderful wedding day in which they don’t have to think about anything *but* getting married.

    Well said, lady, well said.

  2. Hands down, I’d recommend Ang. She really and truly does care and I wish I’d been able to have her do my wedding. She knows her stuff AND she wants to know what you want, not what you should be having according to some make believe wedding ideal. And she’ll make it happen and help you make it happen. Looking back I can see all the things that would have been easier if I’d had an expert in my corner. Someone who would know that we needed to bring scissors and string to decorate, who would have been able to argue with my mom about how much food and alcohol really needed to be there, and hold onto my ceremony stuff and make sure stuff was ready when we were running behind with our awesome photographer.

  3. I’m not sure if I’m completely blind or drunk or what, but I’m looking all over the website and can’t figure out where Ang is located! (please be Southern California)

    • Hi Mindy,

      I’m not in Southern California, I’m right around Boston, but I do travel! In fact most of my weddings have been out of state.

    • I was debating the whole wedding planner idea but reading this just made me sit here and go “yep, I definitely need one” And I’m located in NH so that is amazing!!!

  4. Geeze, people have called you a parasite? What a ridiculous thing to say! Regardless of if you can afford a planner or need a planner, there is no doubt that if you can have, they’re spiffy to have. In my experience, planners not only can tell me exactly which vendors would understand what I want, they often also come with discounts. In a lot of ways planners pay for themselves with their time-saving, stress-saving, money-saving ways.

  5. Amen Sister wedding planner.
    Do you need a wedding planner? Of course not, no more then you need an open bar. Are we fun to have around, good at running interference, and a shoulder to cry on? Heck yes.

    Seriously, wedding planners get a bum rap. Most of us do it because we love what we do, not because we have visions of being the next David Tuttera.

    So again: Amen sister wedding planner.

  6. I so very much wish I had had a wedding planner – I ended up going crazy leading up to the wedding trying to plan everything (and I couldn’t exactly trust my family to help, because they were NOT neutral), and then the night of our wedding I was running around paying (or forgetting to pay) vendors, and asking what was being done with the leftover cupcakes, etc. I couldn’t have afforded a wedding planner in the budget, but I’m wondering if I could have managed it in place of the caffeine and advil I kept having to take…
    Kind of like how we aren’t paying for a professional painter for our new house, but boy have we wasted a lot on supplies and wasted paint (oops what a hideous color that was) and it doesn’t even look good. Yay for service people!

    • Same here – my family was helpful in getting the day-of stuff done (THANK YOU MOM, ILU) but the planning itself had me in such as state, especially since I was trying to plan from overseas. I wish I hadn’t had that chip on my shoulder and just found some nice, like-minded person in Hawaii to do all the legwork for me!

  7. I am relieved that you cleared the air about planners/coordinators. I admit it, before we had a coordinator, I thought that it was the last thing in the world we needed to spend our wedding budget on. But I was pleasantly surprised when we met our planner, and he actually ended up saving us a ton of cash!

    The fact that he can go to vendors, tell them what we want and what we can spend, and actually being able to work out a deal, is amazing to me and worth it there alone! It’s not like they take away your personality or anything. Our coordinator only does what we ask him to do, never forcing anything upon us….and he answers questions like “What about kids meals?” and “What is the best time to start dessert?”.

    He is probably the reason I am not stressed about the wedding, at all!

  8. Bravo Ang! So very well put. I especially like the oil change analogy! I actually haven’t had anyone call me a parasite, per se, but if I hear “Oh, you mean like Jennifer Lopez?” one more time…. 😉

    If you do end up in SoCal, please look me up and let me buy you a drink. Strangely, I know very few like-minded planners out here and I bet we could have a blast swapping stories! (And if not in LA, then hopefully I’ll get to meet you at GeekGirlCon!)

  9. Yep, kind of like when we were supposed to do a ceremony run-through at 4, then I was going to throw on my dress, and the ceremony was at 5. And NO ONE SHOWED UP except for my sister-in-law and husband until TWENTY TILL 5, because one of my sisters was drunk and the other was chasing a toddler around. People were asking me all kinds of questions, guests were arriving, I looked like $hit. Then during the ceremony the musicians didn’t know what to do and my drunk sister was supposed to talk for five minutes and stood up for thirty seconds instead, and the ring warming didn’t work.

    I planned the heck out of this event. And this still happened. Get a wedding planner.

  10. We hired a wedding planner, and our big day is a little under two months away.

    She has been the BEST decision we have made so far in regards to wedding planning — She understood our vision right from the start, which is why we hired her, and she has really helped us zero in on the overall feel we are going for, and how to acheive that best (i.e. “I wouldn’t recommend doing a bridal party table if you want something less formal, because guests will take their cue from you guys, and they will feel like it’s supposed to be formal”, etc).

    She also steered us to vendors who would “fit” with us, and steered us away from ones who wouldn’t, so we didn’t have to go to vendors who wouldn’t work for us (i.e. — “this photographer is probably more traditional than you would like, but I’d be happy to setup an appointment with them if you would like me to”)

    We had a minor issue with our venue, and she called the venue, hashed it all out, got us an update on the contract, and we sat back and said, “oh, she’ll take care of it”…

    I STRONGLY recommend a wedding planner, and I am SO excited for her to help us coordinate our big day!!

  11. Wow! What a great article! I had no idea what great services wedding planners offered. I (sadly after watching David Tutera)thought the wedding planner’s job was just to tell me how lame my DIY stuff is (Do NOT like David). I could have used a planner to be my bouncer/people regulator. People were hugging me goodbye while my back was turned to throw the bouquet. My mom (bless her heart) trotted every relative individually into my bridal room before the ceremony. Having a wedding planner or bouncer/body guard is a great idea! Thanks for informing the masses.

  12. LOVED reading this article! I have a friend who’s a wedding coordinator and she’ll definitely be coordinating my wedding!
    She’s been my friend for a few years, but I was sold on her being my wedding coordinator when I attended a different friend’s brother’s wedding, which she coordinated, and any issues that occurred, she took care of flawlessly!
    Just a couple weeks later, I attended another friend’s wedding in which there was no coordinator and my brother was the deejay. Unfortunately, there were very last minute changes in plans due to the health (or lack thereof) of one of the happy couples’ parents, which somehow changed or eliminated a dance song and I tried to act as go-fer between the bride and deejay to help with that bump, but I’m not a coordinator and I had no clue what was going on, so I wasn’t able to accurately depict to him the change of plans. Oi! He was conveying to me after the wedding he wished there had been a coordinator to help with that situation.
    He’s been the deejay for multiple weddings, but he said the ones with a coordinator have always been the smoothest!

  13. SOLD! Of course I knew of your awesomeness, Ang – I see your rad sidebar thingie all the time. But I didn’t think about how IMPORTANT – yes, I said it – your services are and how they can help keep one sane. Do elopements?

  14. I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s and (now) sister-in-law’s wedding. I’ll admit two weeks before the wedding when we got the detailed time line of the wedding day(down to the minute) my sister,also a bridesmaid, and I rolled our eyes and laughed. Even during the rehearsal we snickered some, but when the officiant was being unnecessarily rude and our new sister-to-be was upset (which caused us to get mad) that wedding planner totally took control of the situation completely earning our respect. The day of the wedding she was a godsend we never had to check the time or worry about getting to a place because she was there and she just kept us all calm all day. She even sneaked us some energy drinks when we were hiding out in the “bride room” waiting for guest to arrive. She was amazing keeping everyone in a good mood. I just have completely new respect for wedding planners after that experience.

  15. OMG! This is the first sponsored post in memory that offers a service actually near me! I’m so excited I think I just peed a little!

  16. This is my biggest “if I had it to do over…” item. I really wish I had pushed harder for hiring a planner. Yeah, we did it ourselves and it was wonderful, but there were a lot of little things that didn’t go as planned and other things that could have been planned a lot better. Of course having a planner doesn’t mean nothing will go wrong, but I believe most of our mistakes could have been avoided if we’d had the assistance of someone who knew what she (or he) was doing. Thanks for spelling out some of the benefits for those in the process of making this decision!

  17. What a great post and dead on with what we do! We are in the “people business” on one of the most important day of people’s lives and it can definitely bring out the best and worst in all involved! I just keep doing my job, smile and then go home and collapse with a glass of wine! Absolutely love what I do here in the Midwest and it is great to hear that it is the same out there near Boston! I love your sense of humor also which is a HUGE part of the coordinating job also! Keep up the good work!!

  18. Okay, so my real question now is: How does one BECOME a wedding planner? I’m not getting married for a while, but I love love love weddings and planning and parties and decorations, and whenever one of my friends is getting married my first instinct is to scream CAN I HELP YOU PLAN IT?!!! but I restrain myself because I’d have *no clue* what I was doing.

    So maybe Ang could tell me a little about this, or I could get in touch with her to have a more detailed conversation, or maybe she’ll see that comment up there that says I’m also sort of near Boston and decide she doesn’t need more competition, but however it goes, I am super curious.

    • Rachael, feel free to email me [email protected] . I’m always interested in talking to people who want to become a planner. My thought is that since it is such a personal business, everyone brings their own flavor to it. My clients wouldn’t be your clients, etc. My personality is one of the reasons I get clients from all over the country/world. Your personality will lend itself to a different kind of client.

  19. This may be too much of a tangent, but how does one go about becoming a wedding planner? I’ve been interested in it, but haven’t actually taken any steps that direction.

  20. We ended up with a wedding planner by accident because the lady who is our caterer is also a wedding planner. It was great, she has actually SAVED us money by suggesting by total coincidence, everything I wanted to do but mum was a bit iffy on such as having a lolly buffet instead of favours and making the cupcake and cutting cake ourselves. I would recommend one to everyone.

  21. I am glad someone in the comments brought up David Tuterra. Because that is the reference I get when I tell people I am a wedding planner. They think I am going to come in and tell them their ideas (for a 1930s French, or Steampunk, or Book theme) wedding is horrible and make them change everything.

    Being thought of as J. Lo would be so much better, because at least that chick was prepared (and I know Ang carries a huge emergency case, so she is prepared too).

    Wedding planners don’t tell you what is wrong with your ideas and make you change them (thus spending more money). We try and figure out how to make those ideas the best they can possibly be, and still feel like “you” and still stay in your budget. At least the good ones like Ang do.

    • Aww Kari, thank you!

      In regards to making ideas feel like you and staying in your budget, in the pic in the post, you can see a random pile of birch logs. People thought that they were to show the start of the aisle, but in reality, there was a GIANT hole in that spot, and we didn’t want anyone to die. Instead of the extra work of filling in said hole with dirt and sod, we piled logs left over from the chuppah. *POOF* Free themed decor!

  22. Haha you have to understand, every sponsored post this comes up, this is me: “Ooooh! That’s so cool. Look what they did there! a discount, nice, nice… so where do they-? oh. Seattle.”
    So thumbs up for the New Englanders!

  23. Question: What exactly DOES a wedding planner do?
    Keep me sane! I’d be curled up in the closet crying without my wedding planner. I’m a type-A woman that has to have a lot of order to keep myself happy and chill. My wedding planner is providing that order for me.

  24. This is great!
    a) I want to hire you to DOC my wedding of the future,
    b) I feel like you just explained what a producer does on the set of a music shoot. (One of my areas of freelancing. I often get the question from my family: what exactly is it that you do? I look at the big picture… and make sure all the camera people get fed and watered.)

  25. I’m not gunna lie, I totally just mentally calculated if we have enough money to afford to fly you out to Chicago to “be my bitch”, then see what kinda wacky stuff you’d be willing to do. Mostly it would involve acting out bits of The Lion King with me. Mostly I just want to tell your your website is AWESOME for brides with a sense of humor who are looking for the straight nuts on what we get for our money. Right on, girlfriend! Rock on with your awesome self!

    • Thank you! In appreciation, next time I’m in Chicago (My husband’s family is from there) I will be your bitch for free!

    • (I know this post is over a year old but…) I was mentally calculating if I can afford to fly Ang out to AUSTRALIA to organise my not-yet-engaged-but-can’t-be-too-far-away wedding 😛 Really loved your article Ang, I never even considered a wedding planner (though I’ve always been the stressed out host who realises she didn’t get a bite of her boyfriend’s birthday cake because she was so busy running around, so wished that she had someone else to organise things instead… and I just didn’t put 2 and 2 together when it comes to wedding planning!). I think I’ll even get a second job just to afford a wedding planner now to think of it! 🙂

  26. I just got engaged and I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed so this post was a big help.
    And OMG Ang, you’re awesome! I love your website, especially your take on weddings. =) I really wish that I could afford to fly you to Wisconsin, but I’m hoping that I can find someone here that shares these views.
    Anyway, thanks for the post and the help and the awesomeness!

  27. Sounds like a great idea to have a wedding planner no matter what kind of wedding your having. I would love to have a wedding planner for my renewal (we just had a simple ceremony and no reception) but was afraid of the cost and I have looked for one but no luck for one near me. Im outside of cincinnati ohio area.

  28. Many brides just don’t understand how much work it is to plan a fab event. And yes, wedding planners may in many cases actually save the bride money because of all their connections in the industry and knowledge.
    Great post on wedding planners.

  29. This is a really late comment, but I would have loved to have paid for a GOOD wedding coordinator like Ang seems to be. Our venue came with a wedding coordinator and she was a nightmare to deal with – bitchy, uninterested, and downright un-helpful. We truly were just another check to her. She didn’t even know my husband’s name.

    My mom acted as a surrogate planner for us, as we were living 2+ hours away from the wedding location (and my husband was living in a different country all together until a month before!)

    A good wedding planner is worth his/her weight in gold!

  30. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want to hire a wedding planner BEFORE my partner officially proposes. I’ve set some *ahem* rather demanding standards for the proposal (ok, they’re not that demanding, just that I want it to be dressed up, in public, and SOON), and I know he’d love a little help making sure that the story of our proposal is something we will both cherish and want to tell our children–and parents, for that matter! We are planning a dual-location cross-country wedding, and I think a wedding planner is crucial to that success.

  31. This is awesome! I want a wedding planner, even if it’s just for a few things here and there and someone to be there on the day of. I just think I might scream if I have to add one more thing (and expense) to this day. I have thought about asking a friend to do this, and my fiance has talked about assigning jobs to his family, but then I think “they are already going to have enough to do”. Then again, he slaved over his sisters wedding and figures she owes him some payback. Still a neutral third party, maybe even with some awesome ideas I hadn’t thought of, would be so great. I’m afraid to ask how much it would cost.

    • Hi Michele,

      You may want to see if a planner that you like/is near you/ etc. does consulting for those few things besides day of coordination. I do, and I know that Ang does (she even does a ton of stuff online). That way you don’t have to pay for full planning but get a little bit more than just DOC. A lot of people just do consulting by the hour to come up with ideas and such. I do that a lot for craft projects. As for how much it would cost – I always believe vendors should put prices on their website. Ang does, I do, and I am sure a lot of OBB vendors do. So you shouldn’t have to email and ask. Budgets range depending on what part of the country you live in, how long the planner has been working, number of guests, amount of work, etc. but anyone that you would want to work with will talk over expectations with you and you shouldn’t feel nervous about asking.

  32. Ang – I’m a professional writer. I ran across your blog while trying to learn what wedding planners do so I can write an intelligent vendor communication. It’s obvious you should write a book FOR wanna-be wedding planners! I run a writing group in Florida, so I’m always enthusiastic when I “meet” a writer who has a truly worthwhile, marketable book in ’em! Do it – you’ll help others and add to your credentials! (Wedding Planner & Author.)

  33. I loved this post. Thank you for sharing. I have been considering pursuing wedding planning as a profession. I got married over a year ago and never quite got over the wedding planning bug. My best friend just got engaged and I am having a blast helping her with decision-making, but though I am a sucker for all of the pretty details of a wedding, I also feel very much like I have the right personality to be the person that can make the wedding planning and wedding day experience as good as possible for couples. My question for Ang is, how does one get into wedding planning ? With a quick google search it looks like there are programs that I can enroll in, but is that necessary? I love to know your own story and/or any advice you can give me concerning this. Thanks!

  34. This post was awesome! It encompasses all the reasons I chose to hire a planner and more that I didn’t even THINK of- like that vendors are going to want to impress the planner. I totally value the work that wedding planners do, so huge thank you for saving me years of therapy and several boxes of hair dye!

  35. Our wedding venue provided a coordinator as part of their package, and it was wonderful! I dropped off my boxes of diy decor and she went to work. Just beautiful. She ensured everyone was set up and ready to go. It was nice to sit down and eat and drink; she politely shooed away guests who tried to approach us during dinner. When our toasting glasses went missing (a well meaning bus boy accidentally grabbed them), she went on a personal mission to find them. My stepson spilled his dinner on the floor…didn’t even have to find her as she had all ready sent a staff member to clean amd another one to make him another plate. I didn’t have a coordinator for the ceremony and that was stressful (plus the set up/take down of decorations and 100 chairs). Lesson learned!

  36. Ah, no doubt we love to go extra miles to make our clients blithe and the big day memorable. While during the whole celebration we get attached emotionally as well that we hide very successfully and that makes us perfect choice to pick!

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  38. As a bagpiper who’s played for a lot of weddings, I love working with a good wedding coordinator. The good ones are as Ang describes, and for me as a “vendor,” on the day it’s great to have a pro to go to knowing I’m not bothering the bride or even the bride’s mother or father — they’ve got more important things to worry about. My job is to be there early, prepared and create a wonderful sound at the appointed time(s) and create delight, not cause any worry, to a bride. Generally I don’t need much, but the right cues are important and a coordinator is the one on top of things, has the big picture, and knows the cues.

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