Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Me?-- A Wedding Coordinator?!

Most people planning a wedding on a budget can’t afford a full time wedding planner. They are a highly valuable resource, but acquiring their expertise can be a trade-off. While planners are usually able to find the great deals that you’re looking for, they often soak up anywhere from 10-15% of your budget. Planners are sometimes able to work out everything, including their fee within your budget, but there are still a few unresolved issues to consider:

  • Will you be forced to use lower quality vendors than you could have afforded?
  • Can you find affordable vendors yourself and save the money spent on coordinator services?
  • Do you need a coordinator for all aspects of your wedding, or just a few?
  • Is your budget so small that a coordinator can't help you?

We will go over each of these points to ponder and address some realistic solutions for people planning a wedding on a tight budget. The bottom line is that there are ways to get around the wedding coordinator pickle without putting all the stress of planning on you.

Will you be forced to use lower quality vendors than you could have afforded?

Let’s say you have $10,000 to spend on your wedding and you’d like to have 100 guests. The wedding coordinator may be able to arrange the appropriate vendors and other details, adding up to a grand total of $8,800, but you need to lower your guest list to 80. She then keeps $1,200 for her services. For the most part, she was able to work things out pretty well for you, but it’s not ideal.

There are two potential problems here: 1) it may be extremely difficult to lower your list by 20 people and 2) you missed out on $1,200 that could have gone toward better catering, nicer flowers, etc.

While the coordinator may have saved you a lot of time and energy on finding and booking affordable vendors, you will likely be forced to lower your standards due to the further price constraints imposed by your obligation to pay the coordinator.

Even brides on a budget often have one or two “must haves” that they are willing to work around in order to make them happy. Sometimes, a bride will be willing to spend a large chunk of her budget on her dream dress in exchange for more creative, low-cost centerpieces and flowers. When your already tiny budget is lowered even more by the cost of a coordinator, you are unable to splurge in any areas that are important to you.

Can you find affordable vendors yourself and save the money spent on coordinator services?

In the days before the internet, coordinators were probably an essential part of planning a decent wedding. How would you ever find all of the services that are available out there unless you called every number in the phone book? Today, we have literally millions of resources available to help us with every step of the way. From general wedding planning tips, timelines, & budget calculators to local vendors and reviews from other brides, you’ve got the tools necessary to plan every aspect of your wedding.

If your budget is $10,000 and you are able to find the same vendors and services that the coordinator found, you now have $1,200 to put into your savings account or pay off some credit card debt. Just because you have a certain amount of money, it doesn’t mean you need to spend it all.

Do you need a coordinator for all aspects of your wedding, or just a few?

Many coordinators offer a la carte services, such as day-of coordination, partial consultation, and rehearsal, ceremony and reception services. Think about what you can plan and handle yourself and what you might need help with.

I highly recommend a “day-of wedding coordinator.” You want to be able to enjoy your special day – you shouldn’t have to worry about the flow of events, timing, deliveries, and making sure everything is in its appropriate place. I would also highly recommend finding a trusted acquaintance to take on this task. They don’t need to have experience with event planning, but it should be someone who is organized and responsible. You will want to provide the person with a list of tasks in the order they need to be completed. This person should be on top of:


-floral arrangements/ décor set up in the ceremony location

-officiant, music, photographer, videographer set up

-ushers- how to seat guests (arrive at least 30 min prior)

-the person giving out programs (if using)

-keep wedding party out of area where guests are arriving

-who will hold the real rings- usually the best man

-check on corsages, boutonnieres, bouquets

-cue music

-wedding party procession (including parents and grandparents)

-survival kit (Kleenex, double back tape, pins, hair clips, mints)

-keep wedding party close by for pictures after ceremony

Reception— (* = should be set up before leaving for ceremony)

-Transportation set up to pick up wedding party

-*Caterer set up

-*Bar set up

-*Centerpieces and place settings set up

-*Wedding cake set up

-*Favors placed in appropriate location

-*Guest book set up with pen

-Transfer of any ceremony décor that needs to be at the reception

-DJ/ band set up

-Give vendors their checks (payment)

-Intercept bridal party as they arrive for photos

-Bridal party entrance (timing)

-Timing of first dance, serving of food, cake cutting, bouquet toss, toasts

-Make sure all vendors are fed

You should provide all contact information to this person ahead of time so that they can be making any last-minute calls the morning of the event. You will also need to send all vendors a timeline of the day’s events ahead of time, so they are aware of this schedule and it puts less pressure on the person acting as coordinator.

This is a huge responsibility and should definitely be acknowledged by offering a small monetary gift or gift certificate (at least $100). If you don’t think the person will accept money, you should provide a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or store.

Is your budget so small that a coordinator can’t help you?

If a wedding planner is going to make less than $1,000 on your entire event, it might not be worth it for them to take on the task of planning your wedding. Actually, the Bridal Association of America reported that only 15% of couples use a wedding coordinator to plan their wedding. I would assume that these are mostly people who aren’t on tight budgets. So, where does this leave you?

Enlist the help of bridesmaids, family and friends to help you with all the small things. These small things add up to huge help! Utilize people’s strengths. If you have a family member who is in sales, ask him or her to negotiate with some vendors for you. If you have a friend who loves art, ask her to help you with decoration and centerpiece ideas. When it comes down to the actual assembly of your wedding, get the whole group together to lend a hand. For instance, have an invitation-writing party. Your bridesmaids and family members can help you address, stuff and seal the invitations.

People continue to amaze me with their creativity and style when planning a wedding on a budget. It seems that there is no budget too small and no schedule too full to plan a gorgeous wedding. The key is to accept help from those you love- that’s what they are there for. The perfect wedding coordinator might be your neighbor or colleague; leave no rock unturned!

For more information on budget wedding planning, visit www.budgetwiseweddingmd.com. While the vendors on this page are located in Maryland, the rest of the tools and resources are for general budget wedding planning. Good luck!