We’ve been looking at some different preliminary planning elements so let’s take a closer look at the actual wedding day and a key person you might consider hiring or outsourcing to a friend or family member: your day-of wedding coordinator!
As with everything in the wedding planning world, there are options on this front and how much or little you want your wedding coordinator to handle and how you may or may not fill this role. Some wedding venues have an event coordinator on staff who may handle the basics of the planning and coordination process with you AND full day-of management. More often, this event coordinator just handles details leading up to and day-of coordination of the venue staff and logistics, but not the actual ins and outs of all of your vendors and managing the whereabouts of the wedding party. These venues may require that you hire an outside day-of coordinator to help things run smoothly. Or, some may leave that decision up to you and you might end up choosing to hire someone for that day, which could run you somewhere between $1,000-$2,000 depending on their responsibilities. So, this might be the time you look at saving a bit of money and asking a friend or family member to step in and play this day-of coordinator role!
Taking my DIY mantra to the max, I actually opted to not use a day-of coordinator for my own wedding. It was definitely more stressful and more to manage, but that was the kind of planner and bride I was :). Looking back on it, I can say without a doubt, it would have been helpful to have someone to transfer these duties to (but I’m also pretty sure my personality may not have allowed me to fully let go of all of the details and timeline!) As someone who has done the day-of coordinating role, I can share a few pieces of wisdom for the bride who would like to work with a family member or friend for this role and what you’ll want to make sure they’ve got prepared! And don’t worry; I eventually shared my full game plan with a trusted bridesmaid the day before the wedding so she would be able to jump in as needed.
Here are my day-of wedding coordinator tips:
1) Think about who you want to help with this role carefully. In my mind, it is someone who is uber-organized, timely, and a little outspoken. That is, you want them to feel comfortable giving people marching orders all day, being able to juggle a couple of questions/issues that could come up from the vendors and need a quick reply and most importantly, listen to the bride and groom if they have concerns about the flow or where they need to be. Whoever you select, make them a wedding planning binder for all of the information they’re going to need to keep track of. It doesn’t have to be complicated or stuffed with information, but organized for quick reference is a good idea!
2) As you’re creating that binder, compile a spreadsheet of all of your vendors, including contact information, planned arrival time, and a brief description of what they’re responsible for (chairs and tables, 6 hours of DJ services, etc.).
3) A week or two before the wedding as you’re reconfirming details with all of the vendors, introduce them to your volunteer day-of coordinator by phone or email, so everyone is on the same page and make sure they have a minute to meet in person the day before or of the wedding to put face to names and iron out any final details.
4) Create a very detailed timeline of your wedding day indicating where everyone needs to be and when and including vendor arrival information- starting from the time you wake up, any hair and make-up appointments, where the groom and his men will be during this time, where and when everyone will start to get dressed, if/when any snacks are arriving, where/when photos start, is a bus taking folks to/from the wedding and all of the details related to that, where everyone should be during the cocktail hour (more photos?), how and when the wedding party will enter the reception, timeline of events of the reception- first dance, dinner served, speeches, cake cutting, all the way until everyone heads home. It’s a good idea to also include specific tasks and those responsible. Does your sister need to bustle your dress at a specific time? Put her into the timeline. Is your wedding party setting out escort cards for you during the cocktail hour? Add that in. Circulate your timeline a month in advance to vendors and your day-of coordinator for feedback and questions. Circulate a final timeline to EVERYONE – vendors, coordinator, parents, wedding party, venue contact person – the week of the wedding so everyone knows the run of show and plan for the day.
5) Create a separate run of show just for your ceremony that details how everyone will enter for the processional, when music will be cued, the text of the ceremony, exit music and the recessional details. A rehearsal of your ceremony is recommended before the big day and your officiant may prefer to run this so you can just be sure to have your day-of coordinator present or you may ask them to coordinate this as well.
6) Make sure your coordinator has cell phone numbers for parents, siblings and wedding party too.
7) Create a ‘shot list’ with your photographer that details all of the portraits you want him/her to capture, the combinations of family you want in photos, any sort of dress reveal to your bridesmaids, first look with your groom, etc. Write it all out in advance, run it by your photographer for feedback or clarifications and share it with your coordinator.
8) These are the basics above but it’s important to have a clear discussion in advance with your coordinator about what your expectations are and how they will work with your other vendors. Our DJ really acted as our emcee for the evening prompting folks to move from the cocktail hour to the reception, initiating the first dance, the speeches or the cake cutting. So the flow of the night was heavily guided by him. Our photographers entirely managed our portrait sessions and getting folks where they needed to be. Do you just want your coordinator available for troubleshooting and otherwise hanging in the background? Or do you want your coordinator stage managing and actively getting folks where they need to be and taking more of a leadership role with your vendors? Establishing that early on and working with the vendors to clarify will make your day go smoothly and beautifully!
O, and make sure your coordinator gets to eat! They should try to eat when your vendors eat (they normally get served first for a seated dinner, go through the buffet line first, or perhaps eat during speeches), but you’ll want to make sure your coordinator has the fuel to run the show all night!