by Ivan Moore, Owner/DJ of Synapse Entertainment, a Cleveland area company specializing in weddings.
No matter the size or type, wedding planning can be overwhelming for every couple. You’re trying to plan a huge, momentous life event that you’ve never had to do before, all while managing the rest of your day-to-day work and life. I find at most of the weddings I DJ, there is no wedding coordinator or planner. While I can help by making a timeline and facilitating the reception, there are so many more details that go into planning and running a smooth wedding. This is where a wedding coordinator or planner can help, especially when it comes to alleviating stress.
To help answer some of your burning questions, I reached out to some of northeast Ohio’s premier wedding coordinators and planners for their input: Engaged with Nora, Lorenda Howell Events, and Eventistry by Diana.
- What’s the difference between a venue coordinator, wedding coordinator, and planner?
Nora: There are several major differences between these roles. Venue coordinators are responsible for touring the space, handling your booking, and making sure all of your vendors know their load-in/load-out procedures. If the venue handles the bar, this coordinator will also take care of this portion of your wedding as well. A venue coordinator’s main focus is making sure the space is taken care of throughout the wedding night.
A wedding coordinator is very different than this. Your coordinator will create your timeline, confirm details with your vendors, handle load-in/load-out, facilitate your ceremony rehearsal, and then on the wedding day, make sure that what you’ve planned comes to fruition. They are focused on you and your experience rather than just the venue.
Your wedding planner will help you create a design, manage your budget, secure your vendors, create a floorplan and timeline, and are there to answer any questions you have during the planning process. This is a much more hands-on and detail-focused role.
Followup question: Diana, you’ve talked about how there is no such thing as a “day of” coordinator. What do you mean by that?
Diana: Even though there are coordinators that still call it “day-of coordination”, they are not only selling themselves short but they are doing more work than just one day’s worth. In general, this kind of coordinator will meet with you at least once to go over everything. This meeting can last anywhere from one to four hours. Then, they take their chicken-scratch notes and formulate them into what they need to run the day. They are generally there for your rehearsal and then on the day itself, they work between eight to twelve hours. That’s the basics. It does not include other services they might perform, like reaching out to all of your vendors, which they should be doing. On average, a true day-of coordinator works a minimum of 16 hours for every wedding; but, that’s honestly really low. It takes hours of behind-the-scenes work to make sure that things are going to run correctly. I can’t even believe how someone could even perform “day-of coordination” with just the basics listed above.
What I do is wedding management. I manage your wedding starting two months before your big day. I help with all of the last-minute details, create your timeline for the day, and help with your floor plan. We have a minimum of two meetings that are between two and four hours each. I contact all of your vendors before the day to make sure that they have everything they need. I review your contracts to make sure they are upheld on both ends; no one wants to breach a contract. I’m there for the rehearsal and between ten to twelve hours (with an assistant) on the wedding day. I spend an average of thirty-five hours on every one of my wedding management clients. That is the way it should be and it truly is what is necessary to make a wedding run flawlessly.
- Do couples you work with depend on you for your vetted wedding vendors?
Lorenda: Yes! My full-service couples receive a concierge experience where they make one call to us and we take care of everything else. Our first phase in planning is development and research and we really dig deep and fully understand what the clients love, like, and dislike. That’s not just in regard to the design but in regard to photo style, DJs vs bands, food selection, etc. So when it is time for us to source and vet vendors for our clients, we do it with vision and budget in mind.
Diana: My couples love the fact that I give them a recommended vendor list and do tend to book off of that. But more importantly, they like that they are able to get references from me for any vendor type based on my knowledge and past experience in the local industry.
Nora: Absolutely! All of our partial and full planning clients very much depend on us to help with their vendor selection. This is one of the most important parts of the planning process because if you don’t have great vendors, then the outcome will not be what you are envisioning. We spend the majority of the planning time discussing vendors, reviews, quotes, and contracts to make sure we’re hiring the right collaborators.
- What is something(s) that you do as a wedding coordinator/planner that a client may not have thought of something that needs to be done?
Diana: Most couples only ever plan this one wedding. Since I have a generous amount of events under my belt, I have more knowledge of the inner workings of a wedding, so I bring to the table thoughts and ideas that they never even considered.
Lorenda: As a planner, I am also a designer. I do not offer floral services but we partner with amazing florists that complement the overall style of the event. In regard to planning and designing, we go through an extensive design analysis of the entire wedding. We talk about centerpieces, ceremony, stationery, food, and much more. We work on an overall cohesive aesthetic for the entire wedding and present this in a design lookbook that allows the client to see their entire wedding day come together. That is not something everyone provides and I do believe our clients are always blown away when we enter this phase.
- Is there an average amount of hours you spend on a wedding?
Diana: I would say I spend on average of 30-35 hours on each couple’s wedding for wedding management from the moment they book with me through the time I send them their closing documents.
Nora: For full planning clients, we spend about 200 hours, for partial, about 100, and for coordination, around 50 hours. Of course, this varies per event and how much work needs to be done.
- How should engaged couples go about finding a coordinator or planner and how can they find a planner that is a good fit for them?
Lorenda: The initial consultation is everything! During that meeting, our clients interview us and we interview them. We email them before the meeting and ask them to come prepared with all questions they may have. We let them know it’s an interview on both ends and not just about whether or not they can afford our services. It’s about being an overall good fit. Do we connect? Are our personalities a good match? Is our vibe or energy the same? Those things matter to Lorenda Howell Events. Our clients matter to us, so it’s not a one sided decision.
Diana: Best thing to do is to set up a consultation with a few different ones. Wedding planners and coordinators really get in there with you and are your advocate for the day. You need to make sure you not only get along with them, but that you can comfortably communicate with them and like their work style. If things don’t mesh right, it can make for a trying time together.
Nora: The first thing to consider when searching for a planner is the type of investment you want to make overall on your wedding. Different planners work with different budgets and you can get a sense of this by looking at their portfolio and social media channels. Next, when meeting with planners, make sure they are someone who you enjoy as a person, not just as a planner. This person is going to be by your side during the entire planning process (usually 1-2 years) and you want them to be someone you can easily talk to and share personal details with. They should be someone you feel comfortable with and someone who makes you excited to work on your wedding.
- What is the price range for a professional coordinator or wedding planner in NE Ohio?
Diana: A professional experienced wedding coordinator/manager will charge between $1,000 – $3,000. A full service wedding planner will start at about $6,000 and go up based on scope of service and experience.
Nora: This varies greatly, especially in NE Ohio. If you’re looking for a coordinator, plan on spending somewhere between $1,500-3,000. For full service planning, be prepared to spend around 10% of your budget on a planner.
Lorenda: There’s a very large range. For us, there is no “one size fits all”. There are so many factors, such as guest count, location, how many locations, length of event, peak season or “off season”, etc. And all clients require a different level of attention and we account for that in our pricing, too. Some clients need just someone to manage the details and ensure their day goes smoothly; that’s what we call event management. Others may need full service planning where they’ve done some work, little work, or no work at all. Since we offer customer services, we also offer custom pricing, so everything is built to fit the clients wants, interests, and needs.
- Is it part of your job to deal with situations and buffer the couple from stress and deal with putting out fires? Feel free to share a story.
Lorenda: Yes! At Lorenda Howell Events, our mission is to create incredible experiences for incredible people. A portion of creating an experience is managing expectations, emotions, and both the client’s and guest’s experience.
Diana: It is very much my job to foresee red flags and find a solution to problems on the day. I talk with my couples so much leading up to the day so that I can feel comfortable making decisions on their behalf so that they don’t have to worry.
- I have to ask, what is something that you hate that a DJ does (or does not do) at an event you work at?
Nora: I’m actually very picky when it comes to DJs. One of my biggest pet peeves is dead air. There should always either be music or an announcement/speech being made. We want the day to feel effortless!
Lorenda: I have a local DJ that gets on the mic right as open dance is beginning and asks every single guest to come out to the dance floor for a photo. It is not at the client’s request as it is really for his portfolio. Some clients are happy he did that because they get this large group photo. Most others don’t care. I find it super annoying as it inconveniences people (especially older guests to make their way onto the dance floor) or it leaves people out. Think about those who ran to the bathroom after the formal stuff was out of the way and now there is a great picture floating around that they were not a part of.
Diana: When they’re not a team player and take everything over, leaving me out, or think I’m going to do their job so they do nothing (ex. lining up for grand entrance, helping to move events along), except announcements and playing music.
- What is something that you LOVE that the DJ does (or does not do) at an event that you’re working at?
Diana: Is very open with communication and makes sure everyone is ready for the next step.
Lorenda: I love when a DJ does not leave their booth too much. Also when they come to the hall to ensure everyone is lined up in the right order and reviews name pronunciations. Lastly, we love when DJs understand a planner’s role and allows time for check-ins before transitioning into new activities.
Nora: I love when DJs get wedding parties amped up before grand entrances into the reception. You can always tell when they do this because the wedding party enters with super high energy!
- Even if couples don’t hire a coordinator or planner, what is some advice that you would give to them if they are planning their own wedding?
Nora: Make sure that you incorporate who you are into your wedding day. You want your wedding to be a true reflection of your story and personal style. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else does!
Diana: Before you do anything make a guest list and a budget. Also, make sure to include an “oops” segment in the budget too so if you go over on something, it’s already planned for.
It’s safe to say, a professional wedding coordinator or planner is incredibly helpful. Even if you can’t afford a full wedding planner, having some professional help the day-of is worth the investment if you can find it in your budget. Thanks to Eventistry by Diana, Lorenda Howell Events and Engaged with Nora for answering questions about wedding coordinators and planners. For their contact information and service offerings, please find more information about them below.
About the Coordinators and Planners
Planner and Designer, Lorenda Howell Events
Offering event management for day-of and full-service planning.
Nora Culley Tuck
Owner / Lead Planner, Engaged With Nora
Offering coordination, partial, and full planning.
Owner, Wedding Manager, Eventistry by Diana
Offering wedding management or wedding coordination.