You and your favorite person have decided to tie the knot. A ring has been offered and accepted, kisses and promises have been exchanged and now the rigorous task of planning begins.
Where will you make your vows? Who will you invite? Which invitations will you choose to invite them with? Flowers? What color? Chicken or fish? Fondant or no fondant? Chocolate? Vanilla? Strawberry? All three? Which photographer? Which photography package? Honeymoon? The list goes on and on and on. Somewhere in there the thought of a wedding coordinator will come up.
But do you really need one? I mean, really, really? Just how complicated can it be? You’re an adult (I hope), and perfectly capable of making intelligent, mature choices on your own. It’s not like you’re planning to invade a small country or fly to Mars. You love each other, you’re going to have a party in honor of that fact, you’ll invite people you love to witness the event, and there will be food, drink and dancing. Simple.
Or is it? What could possibly go wrong? What exactly, besides telling the bride and groom when to walk down the aisle and making sure the DJ knows when to announce the parent dances, does a wedding coordinator do? Venues all seem to offer a “day-of coordinator” to help you onsite. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it’s probably not. It depends. If money is an issue you’ll obviously have to cut corners in places, and this may be the place to do it. The Huffington Post has an article about full-service vs. day-of wedding coordinators that may interest you.
In my professional opinion (aside from the bride, the groom, the minister and the guests) a dedicated, experienced wedding coordinator could be one of the most important people at your wedding. They’ll do more than just help you organize your day. They go over contracts, negotiate deals with other vendors, make sure your limo knows where to go, coordinate the cake delivery, talk to your florist, plan the event schedule with the DJ, answer questions you have and orchestrate the rehearsal. The list goes on and on. Not only can a good coordinator actually save you money, but he or she might even help save a relationship or two by offering some crisis management during a moment of family stress. A day-of coordinator, while helpful, will not be there for you during the majority of the process.
So what? It’s just a party. Let’s have fun and not sweat the small stuff. If that’s your approach, and I’m not suggesting it’s right or wrong, then you obviously shouldn’t be worried about coordinators. However, be advised it might not be a party for you. You’ll probably be too busy managing things to enjoy it, and since you’ve presumably never staged a wedding before, problems are sure to arise. Maybe controlled, loving chaos is your thing. If it is, my hat’s off to you. But if you’re interested in something with a little more shape to it, you will need someone with experience to help manage the event.
A wedding is a major affair. You need to know that every single little detail, no matter how trivial, has to be prearranged with members of the small army that make up your wedding day, and that many of those details must be coordinated weeks or even months in advance. Out of town guest lodging needs to be figured out; the ceremony location, details, officiant and staff need a game plan; transportation needs to be chosen and coordinated; the reception venue and entertainment staff need to know exactly how the evening will go; and even the final exit of the bride and groom will probably need to be scheduled. To name a few things. When one thing gets out of whack during the day, it can effect everything else, and even an inexperienced coordinator can cause problems.
A few years ago I shot a wedding at the University Club in New York City. The family of the betrothed paid good money for the church, the reception, my photography, and many other things. Unfortunately for them, while the University Club delivered impeccable service, the coordinator was not up to the task. Throughout the day she was hard to find and incommunicative, and she didn’t seem clear on the day’s schedule. During the bride’s getting ready, I lost the bride (who prematurely left to the ceremony) because I wasn’t informed of the change. At the reception, the cake was scheduled to be cut following the best man’s speech. When the best man concluded his toast, the band started playing again. Surprised, I looked around for the coordinator to find out what was going on. She was nowhere to be seen. It was then that the maître d’ ran up to me and frantically told me they were cutting the cake and we’d better get out there. I arrived in time to get a few photos of the bride and groom finishing the cake-cutting ceremony, but not much more. Were it not for the University Club’s maître d’, I would’ve missed it entirely!
Last winter I worked with April Schreck of April Occasions, a coordinator who was on top of everything with a smile. She responded to my initial email positively and gave me a rundown of the wedding day a full week before the wedding, something that almost never happens. Even with the good coordinators. But here’s where she really proved herself: the couple decided last minute that they wanted to shoot portraits in Grand Central Station. However, the MTA won’t let you shoot there without a permit, which can take a week or two to process. April got on the horn with the station manager and managed to procure a permit in a day. Obviously, the success of the wedding did not hinge upon portraits being taken there, but it helps prove my point. It was no surprise that, as far as I could tell, because of April’s attention to detail and clear communication, the entire day ran smoothly and without issue.
When I worked with Christina Whitney of Whitney Events, she managed to quietly be everywhere at once without ever seeming stressed out or in a hurry. Near the end of the party (when coordinators typically throw in the towel) I thought she’d snuck out of the reception and gone home. But I found her calmly moving around behind the scenes keeping an eye on things. It’s no surprise that this particular wedding stood out as a well-run event.
One time I was working a coordinatorless wedding at a very large venue that hosted multiple events at a time. The manager, a nice fellow who was obviously in charge of a lot that evening, inadvertently tried to get me to shoot the wrong client. Another time I worked along side a coordinator who saved the bride from a complete nervous breakdown. You see where this is going.
These are just a few instances off the top of my head. I have other stories backing up my point. Over all, professionally-coordinated weddings seem to have fewer things go wrong with them. The choice is yours. It’s your party. But money that seems to be lost to a good coordinator is actually piece of mind bought to ensure that one of the biggest days of your life is also one of the best days of your life.