Do I need a wedding coordinator?
May 26, 2016 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I need to stop reading wedding boards. Everyone says I need a day-of-coordinator for my wedding, but do I really?

We have a garden wedding with 120ish people and 2 dogs. The most complicated thing will be three clothing changes. Besides that, it's the usual wedding and we don't have strong ideas about certain things being a certain way. I am super organized so I've already started planning the timeline and we have a handful of friends and family willing to pitch in with set-up, MC, etc. we don't have a super bossy/organized friend to act as a coordinator... (That's usually me.)

All the good coordinators I've found cost from 1k-2k, and we're already at our max budget. Is it worth it to go over for this?
posted by inevitability to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I doubt it. My wedding we worried about Food, Venue, her dress, and everything else basically fell into place with a minimum of drama. We had no assigned seating, no my/her seating sides, not much music.

The only real thing I'd worry about in your case is weather, tents/weather shelter, and food.. in case of weather.
posted by Jacen at 8:40 AM on May 26, 2016

I'm a dude who's been in a handful of weddings, and the ones where there was a coordinator went much more smoothly for me than the ones where I was just remembering what to do from rehearsal. And that's just the actual ceremony itself. It was nice to have someone to go to and say " remind me what I'm supposed to be doing right now?" that wasn't the bride or groom.

If you don't hire a professional wedding planner, then either designate someone to serve this function (be in this room at 6:30, we're cutting the cake immediately after the first dance, grab Uncle Jim so he can give his speech before dessert, RELEASE THE DOVES!) or structure your ceremony and activities where they're idiot proof (ok everyone, it's time to get this thing started, here we go, yeah sure you can play guitar before our vows, love your flip flops bro).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:40 AM on May 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

My wedding was about your size and low-key. I had a good friend act as my attendant. Ten years later, I still kinda feel like I shafted her a bit by needing her to get to the reception hall early after the ceremony to decorate the tables and put out the snacks. I feel like I over-used her friendship and willingness to help and that caused her to miss some of the festivities and to have more stress than necessary.
posted by jillithd at 8:46 AM on May 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

Oh my goodness, yes. I'm the stingiest person, and this was some of the best money we spent. If the florist is running late, so do you want it to be your cell phone she calls (while you're, what, showering? having your hair done?). Consider lining up for the procession. Do you want to be reviewing your vows and quietly taking in the moment? Or running all over the place to get the officiant, groomsmen, parents of the couple, etc., all located and in the right order? You put all this time and energy into planning a big wedding; now make sure you can focus on the experience (and not "where did you want us to set up the catering tent?").
posted by slidell at 8:47 AM on May 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

My extended family tends to do large, Southern weddings on moderate budgets. Usually the bride loops in a few close friends and family members with the schedule and a few special requests and these in-the-know people are sort of the go-to herders for everyone else.
posted by mochapickle at 8:48 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

So first ask yourself, if you had a person to whom you delegated responsibility for keeping everything on track, would you actually relax and do what they told you when they told you, and attempt to enjoy yourself the rest of the time, or would you be still managing them while they manage everybody else? Since you imply that you enjoy being organized and being the one "in the know" you might not get much benefit from trying to delegate that, no matter how good/professional your potential coordinator is. My vote is, don't bother hiring somebody.
posted by aimedwander at 8:49 AM on May 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

No wedding coordinator used here. Planned entire wedding in 5 days (in-laws freaked when they found out we had already moved in and we weren't married, despite us being near-30yo adults, so they offered to pay for a wedding), and 306 people attended. It went smooth as silk without a coordinator.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:50 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

We didn't have a formal, paid one, but our wedding day (about the same size as yours) went MUCH MORE SMOOTHLY because a friend of ours basically took that role on herself of her own accord. In retrospect, that's probably the best and most useful gift we received.

That said, if you don't have some type-A pal to do it, and the option is $1500 or whatever, I get the reticence. Could you carve out the tasks and make it less of a single-person deal?

In re: "I feel like I over-used her friendship", I guess the real question is "does she feel this way, too?" My guess is probably not. Weddings aren't just big parties, right? It's a time when your tribe can come together and do this thing WITH YOU as a sendoff into married life or whatever, so when I've been called on to help or coordinate or have specific tasks on the weekend of a wedding, I've felt pleased and proud that I was asked, you know?
posted by uberchet at 8:52 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

You do need at least one person who is making sure things stay on time and who can take care of last minute issues. I did it for my sister's wedding, but that meant I was working/on-task almost the entire time. Either split up tasks among responsible family/friends or hire someone. Also consider that saddling your guests/family with these responsibilities means that they have a job and can't really 100% enjoy being a guest. Even casual weddings have lots of moving parts and 120 guests isn't a small wedding.
posted by quince at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could you carve out the tasks and make it less of a single-person deal?

This is basically what we did. Our wedding was about the same size as yours, OP, and we did not have a coordinator. We did have a handful of of trusted relatives and friends act as day-of contacts for certain things, or help with certain tasks. I don't think anyone saw this as a burden - people were usually happy to help, and if you distribute the tasks among several people it's not much of an imposition.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:56 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Part of the fun for me at my wedding was being the one in charge, but I'm usually very laid back, so in that sense it was sort of a novelty for me. I also have enjoyed weddings more where I felt like I contributed, so I think most of your close friends and family will definitely not mind pitching in.

If your vendors and coordinators are very flaky or very numerous, maybe it might be worth it, but it doesn't sound like this is the case.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2016

Hands down, best money we spent. For us, it was important because all the aspects of our wedding were individual/piece-meal...bridal party and groomsmen getting ready at different hotels, ceremony at a park, reception at an event space, vendor providing the food was different from the vendors providing the cake and dishware, we bought and brought our own beverages, we had to hire a separate vendor to bring in tables and chairs, etc. I know that sounds overly complicated but we wanted very specific things--e.g. our favorite restaurant to cater--and would do it all again that way if given the choice as we were extremely happy with our vendors and the wedding felt very "us".

Ours was actually a month-of coordinator--when I first met with her she told me she doesn't do day-of only because there is usually way too much going on for her to try to dive in (and do a good job) at the last minute. (In retrospect, I think she is very smart to run her business this way.)

It was not cheap, but I viewed it as a gift to myself, as well as to my mom, my husband's mom, his sister, my best friend, and all of the other people who would inevitably have had to jump in and help with things. As it were, everyone had a wonderful time where they could focus on really enjoying the event itself. For me--the biggest Type-A planning, organizing, list-making, double-checking, hates-to-have-to-ask-things-of-people, worrier on the planet--I didn't spend one second of my wedding day stressing. I can say with total honesty it was the most beautiful, happiest day of my life.

That said: If your situation is a lot less complicated than ours (e.g. at a hotel where all of your stuff is coming from a handful of vendors who have already worked together many times), if you know you will probably enjoy the day no matter what, if you are not one to sweat the small stuff, if you don't at all mind asking people to help out, if it would put you in a precarious financial situation to go for's not the end of the world to get one. I, however, am SO GLAD we did. FYI, we spent about $25k total and we paid about $3,500 for her (we paid for the entire wedding ourselves--we are fortunate enough to have been in a situation to do that).

When I think back on my wedding now (almost a year later) and ask myself, "Would I rather still have that money in the bank (or spent it on something else), or have the awesome memories of what felt to me like a perfect day?" the answer is obvious.
posted by lovableiago at 9:08 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

How familiar are your vendors with your venue? Our caterer basically ran the reception portion, because she was really familiar with what worked well in that space. The florist kinda ran the day-of show (wrangling photographer and people to go in the pictures) because she already knew the family groupings.

But my mom and my sisters did do quite a bit of the cleanup afterwards, which I hadn't intended and feel bad about. I was too dazed and mentally exhausted to think about it, and they jumped in.
posted by Liesl at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2016

A friend of mine, who is a professional and certified event planner, who had everything for her smaller (~75 I think) wedding planned out to her professional standards, still ended up wanting/needing a coordinator (another event planner friend of ours did it) for the day of, so she could just chill and enjoy the day.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2016

We paid an acquaintance less than $500 to do the job (They are a corporate event planner, not a wedding planner, so we didn't have to pay wedding industrial complex prices)

Anyway, I had built the schedule, the timeline, all of that in advance, but it was so nice to hand it off to someone else whose job it was to open the church doors for the processional, give the check to the bellydancer, coordinate with the restaurant to hold off on dinner until the priest got to the reception, just a whole laundry list of small stuff like that.

I am sure friends would have happily done this stuff for us, but I wanted them there to celebrate, not to work.
posted by antimony at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Don't make one of your friends deal with all the little piddly day-of organization stuff. Getting the chairs in the right place, pointing the vendors to the right location, etc.... It doesn't seem like much but it's a ton of work. The day-of coordinator is the way to go.
posted by matildaben at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am sure friends would have happily done this stuff for us, but I wanted them there to celebrate, not to work.

That's such a great point. Some people LOVE to chip in and do this stuff, and some people would rather enjoy being a guest. (For example, I'm an introvert who always feels more comfortable having a job/mission at social events or else I feel a little lost and out of place, so I would enjoy and be happier helping/corralling more than being a full-on guest.) It might come down to the personalities of your friends and family, and their preferences for the day.
posted by mochapickle at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm also in a similar stage of wedding planning, so I totally feel your pain.

I think the advice to get a "Day Of Coordinator" is solid, for a couple of reasons, but might not be for everyone. However, I noticed this sentence in your question:

We have a garden wedding with 120ish people and 2 dogs. The most complicated thing will be three clothing changes.

Dude. That is really complicated.

How often do you host parties with 120 people? Probably not a lot. Not to mention that you can't really "play host" during this one, because you're the one getting married. So you can't run around making sure the cookies get set with everyone's place settings as favors (including the gluten free ones for Aunt So And So!) rather than put on a tray and set on the cake table. Or walk the dogs at the perfect time before the ceremony so they don't mark the rented wedding gazebo. Or remind yourself that it's time to go change into outfit #3. etc etc etc etc.

So hiring a coordinator makes a lot of sense.

The only way I'd consider not doing it is if you have a lot of people close to you who you know are willing to act in that capacity.

FWIW my plan is to hire a PA/stage manager type (of which I know many) and pay them about the same as the average day rate for that kind of job, just for the day of my wedding. Basically I share all my tedious organizational spreadsheets with them, and they play "me" as host while I get to enjoy the actual party because it's my goddamn wedding and I don't want to spend it counting sterno cans.
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

We had a pretty small, simple wedding and didn't have one (instead relying on my mom and one of my friends), but if it was any bigger I would have absolutely wanted/needed one. There are so many small annoying details to think about with a wedding and it's so easy for them all to fly out of your head on the big day.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:29 AM on May 26, 2016

All the weddings I've been to/been in (haven't had my own) that have had planners have gone MUCH better, especially at that size and with wardrobe changes etc.

One thing to note is that the wedding planner needs to be kind of firm with people (don't go there, please wait here, let's get on with this etc) and that's something you might not want to put on someone who knows the people there.

I feel like the whole deal with the Bridezillas show was that they were probably decent people with very low budgets and no support who were just melting under that pressure.
posted by zutalors! at 9:31 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had a much smaller wedding, in which $1k was our entire budget, and I still feel like I should have hired a coordinator. I will never not encourage anyone to hire a coordinator. You probably don't need an experienced pro - maybe like even a college student off or something. But it really helps to have a dispassionate neutral party who is there just to work. It takes a lot of pressure off everyone.
posted by bleep at 9:32 AM on May 26, 2016

Ok I totally hear you all. Our vendors are super familiar with the venue and we don't have a wedding party to coordinate, so I really thought I could just split up tasks with friends/family.

To tack on my question--im totally open to any recommendations for a coordinator in the DC/Baltimore area.
posted by inevitability at 9:40 AM on May 26, 2016

All the good coordinators I've found cost from 1k-2k, and we're already at our max budget. Is it worth it to go over for this?

That's crazy. I paid $500 for an awesome planner/coordinator, but it was a December wedding (off-season) and MSP is probably a smaller market than where you are.

For me, the $500 (plus a hefty tip) was money amazingly well spent. All the cliches about "getting to feel like a guest at your own wedding," "being able to focus on the experience, as opposed to the event details" ended up ringing true. I also felt like the wedding party could focus on having fun an celebrating the day more than they would otherwise had been able to if I'd been leaning on them to do co-ordination level stuff.

I am super organized so I've already started planning the timeline and we have a handful of friends and family willing to pitch in with set-up, MC, etc. we don't have a super bossy/organized friend to act as a coordinator... (That's usually me.)

I have been to a bunch of weddings where I've taken on this role too -- it's usually an informal thing that comes from being the significant other of a member of the bridal party, so you're there for all the setup, picture taking, etc. anyways, so you might as well help. I don't mind doing it, but I do think that brides and grooms would have been less stressed out on the day of if they had "assigned" this role beforehand.

So, I think your wedding is big enough, and potentially crazy enough (all weddings are potentially crazy) that you'll need a "foreman" for the day. Maybe you're the right person to be the foreman because who knows your wedding better than you do? Or you could outsource it by paying for a coordinator. Or you could ask a friend/family member to step up (I betcha you've got someone who is coming who can do it). Or, your Best Man/Women of Honor might be a good choice.

Either way, you should know who is in charge of taking care of the little details on the day of. It doesn't matter who it is but it should be someone who you trust.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

We split up tasks among friends/family and it worked well. We had one friend who did our DJing/announcing (minimal), a few who handled setting out desserts, another one who watched over things at the cocktail hour (while we were doing photos) to make sure there were no disasters, one who helped with the ceremony (helping people go down the aisle at the right time, coordinating a last minute boutineer disaster), and our photographer kept everything on schedule (actually she made the whole wedding schedule for us, I don't know if they all do that but ours was awesome). I think it worked out fine in our case because it was a pretty simple wedding and no one person had to be overly burdened with ALL THE TASKS. We were also lucky that there were really no major problems/disasters -- like, if the boutineers hadn't worked out, life would have gone on. :) If it had been something larger like a catering fuck up or a problem with the venue, I think I would have regretted having to be the one to deal with it (or having a close family member/friend have to waste their time dealing with it). So, you sort of have to try and judge how likely that is. But if that seems low risk, I think it's ok to split up tasks among friends/family members (and can help them feel involved, especially if you don't have a wedding party!) Just make sure no one person is on duty for the whole event or having to basically spend the wedding "working" rather than enjoying themselves with a little help on the side.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:52 AM on May 26, 2016

I did not have a wedding coordinator specifically, but our venue based wedding (of about 120 guests) supplied someone who basically acted as a coordinator. I think she told all the vendors where to go, when to set up, how to set up, got them cleaning up after themselves, etc.

I say I "think" she did these things because I assume she was the reason why everything went really smoothly and I didn't have a clue about anything going wrong. The only interaction I really with her on that day was her gently shepherding me and my husband from event to event (ceremony, greetings, pictures, dinner, first dance, etc...).

I also remember one point in the night I was dismayed to find that someone had spilled a drink all over a table that held the guestbook. But before I even knew what was happening, she had escorted me back to the main hall (very tactfully and cheerfully) while a waiter was right behind her with a replacement tablecloth. She was ON IT and a lifesaver.
posted by like_neon at 10:17 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Whatever you can do that will allow you to enjoy the day better, just do it. My wedding was a nightmare to arrange, but having help on the day let me really relax and enjoy. Luckily our caterer supplied "the enforcer" :)
One big tip for the day: ask someone to check when you need a drink and just bring it to you. There is little in the world more decadent than having someone hand you a glass when the one in your hand is almost empty. Let them know what you like in advance--it can be water or hard stuff or alternating or whatever. Seriously, this was one of the nicest things someone did for us. One less thing to worry about!
posted by mrcrow at 10:23 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to say something similar to what like_neon said. Both of our venues (ceremony and reception) came with coordinators, so there was a point person for all vendors at both places. Prior to my wedding, I had planned and coordinated several events, so I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. I delegated certain tasks to the bridal party. I thought I had everything covered (and for the most part, it was!) but here's what I missed:

- I didn't plug signing the guestbook enough, so we didn't get everyone to sign
- I had to keep the timeline in mind and keep things rolling along (ok, now we're going to do the cake, now the dance music, etc). I was running the party, not just enjoying it.
- I didn't have a good plan for getting flowers from the ceremony venue to the reception venue
- The reception venue didn't have very good follow-through on parking, so people were confused where to park, and my maid of honor had to take this on and re-park cars. In the rain.
- I didn't have anyone to help me get gifts brought to the reception into a car that would take them home.

So yeah, some things fell through the cracks. But for the most part, it went great! Some people told me it was the best wedding they'd ever been to.
posted by Pearl928 at 10:37 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a wedding of 120 people, no wedding party, everything happening in one place, with only a few vendors because almost everything was supplied by the venue. Here are some of the things my coordinator did:

1. Got family members at the right place/time did hair, makeup, and photos

2. Found a parking garage for the officiant, who was driving in from upstate

3. Tipped all the vendors

4. Kept an eye on things while we ducked up to our hotel room for private champagne, snacks, and a moment to ourselves after the ceremony itself.

And that's just the stuff I know about!
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:41 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

A day-of-coordinator was absolutely the best money we spent. It enabled us to just relax and enjoy the day. I wanted my friends to relax and enjoy too, and not be running around setting things up/coordinating, etc.
We were able to find someone just starting out as a wedding planner (she was transitioning from doing special events at a non-profit). She was willing to cut us a deal if we agreed to be a reference. She was awesome so it was win win. We found her by looking at wedding boards (specifically, I think
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 10:58 AM on May 26, 2016

We had a small family-reunion style wedding.

Instead of a coordinator, I put together a detailed timeline of who/what/where and tagged names to things (like "go get food from X and put it Y"). I sent this timeline to all family and wedding party people.

At my rehearsal dinner, anything that didn't have a name on it got divvied up and volunteered-for. Everyone referred to it and the wedding went smoothly.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:22 AM on May 26, 2016

I wanted a day-of coordinator but the woman we hired flaked out on us. So my family pitched in and did the chair setup, flower arranging, etc. I didn't hear any complaints, but it depends on your family I suppose. (I'd done similar duties for 5 other family weddings and it was my turn dammit).

I was so burned out by the actual day that I didn't have a good master list for when I was being sequestered in my bride room or whatever it was called and not available to answer questions. That would have been helpful because no matter how much I said "NO QUESTIONS FOR THE BRIDE PLEASE THANK YOU" my mom had an annoying tendency to bug me anyway about stuff that wasn't important.

So, if your family and friends are the kind who can take it in hand and get the things done, then you don't need a coordinator in my opinion. If your family is drama central and asking such a thing would be guaranteeing a scene, then hire someone.

my mom is elderly and in poor health and was kind of freaking out about how much needed to get done because she couldn't do any of it. Meanwhile, quietly, my brothers and sisters and in-laws were doing all the work. So it all got done but I kind of wish I had hired someone just so that I didn't have a fight with my mom on my wedding day. YMMV.
posted by cabingirl at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2016

We had a small, intimate, cheap wedding and on the day of, all I wanted to do was get my hair done, get my dress on, and get married, but PEOPLE KEPT ASKING ME QUESTIONS. Do you want this? Where do you want that? What about this other thing? I kept saying "I don't care! Do what you think best! I really don't care!" but the reply was always BUT IT'S YOUR DAY I WANT IT TO BE EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT! and didn't accept my answer when I said what I wanted was to not make those decisions, and kept pressing me to make decisions. Which stressed me out and made me angry.

My future sister-in-law (as of this coming fall!) stepped in gracefully and took over all the niggling little decisions and details, and I promoted her to wedding party on the spot (which mostly means she appears in all the photos of the wedding party as we didn't have anything more formal than that).

So to sum up: you don't necessarily need a professional coordinator on the day of, but if I were you, I'd enlist a friend or relative who's willing to run interference when things are starting to stress you out.
posted by telophase at 11:57 AM on May 26, 2016

Oh gosh. Please, please, please hire a day-of coordinator. I don't know what your budget is, but we spent less than $5,000 on a wedding for 36 people (which was certainly our max) and if two of our closest friends had not just commandeered the entire event with spreadsheets, I don't know how we would have done it. I know a LOT of people who work in the wedding industry and I cannot stress enough how important it is to actually have one point person running "the show."

I see you live in DC. I live a couple hours south of there and there are a ton of capable wedding planners in Charlottesville if you're interested in names or recommendations. Many of them travel to the DC area to work on weddings often.
posted by pinetree at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been married twice, each time with 75 guests. One was at a restaurant where they handled nearly everything, and one was in our backyard. Both weddings were awesome and well-reviewed by all as the nicest wedding they'd been to in ages. Lovely to hear. But guess which one was the more stressful event for me, the bride?

I didn't have anyone designated as on-site coordinator for the day-of, but I'm 100% positive I would have enjoyed my second wedding far more if I had. I hoped and expected people would simply step up to help... but they really didn't, not unless asked to. Nothing serious went wrong (because I did so much advance planning and setup), but no one else except my bartenders were of any real help in dealing with last-minute things. My now-husband, who was on crutches and IMO overly trusting of others, quickly absolved himself of all responsibility, and enjoyed himself immensely. However, I, as the bride and planner, was under a constant barrage of little unforeseen things, which kept me from being able to relax and truly enjoy myself until the formal part was over...

I rolled with most of it like a champ IMHO, but still seethe a bit at the following stupid things:
- My husband and our immediate families were tasked with helping set up. They all took off from the house an hour before the ceremony to "go get ready", and I didn't know until I looked outside that no one put the table decorations out... why, I have no idea. Wrangled early guests to help, and I, THE BRIDE, wound up only being able to start getting ready 10 minutes before the ceremony myself.
- Now-Hubby felt it was totally ok to keep sending guests upstairs to our bathroom for use despite the fact the bride (ME!) was getting ready last-minute in there. (I could've shot him for that).
- Copious amounts of food ordered. Caterer showed up quickly, put half out in the buffet and half in the oven and took off - I never even saw him. When food in the buffet ran out and people started grumbling "omg i'm still hungry", I was incredulous. Thank god my bartender knew where the extra food was and dealt with it.
- Mother in law's token task was bringing rhubarb pie, which she took uber-seriously. I wasn't planning on stressing getting dessert out ASAP after food, wanted to allow people some time to digest and move around. But no one told her, so the minute it looks like people are starting to finish up eating, she gets to work. She gets coffee going and puts out the 15 coffee mugs from my kitchen, complains there's obviously not enough cups for everybody. As coffee is my lifeblood so help me god I made sure there was a giant stack of paper coffee cups with the bartenders, which I had to grab myself and give to her.

Yes the few things I still remember with annoyance are so very minor, I know. Mainly they're annoying to me because I tried so hard to prepare everything in advance, and I still had things happen ever so slightly outside of my control, at inconvenient times, that people expected me to deal with. The wedding would have been a breeze if I wasn't THE BRIDE - very hard to direct and star in a show at the same time. I still don't reflect on our wedding with much fondness.

You can get away without a paid wedding coordinator if you're confident in your advance-planning. Just know that, unless you're well-experienced at throwing events, despite your best efforts there WILL be kinks needing ironing, and if someone else isn't tasked with dealing with them, you will have to deal with it yourself. And it will stress you out.
posted by lizbunny at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lol nope.

It's definitely nice to have someone reliable you can throw jobs at and know they'll get done, though. Basically you need a stress sump who'll take stress away so you can have as good a time as possible.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2016

I was the day-of coordinator (for free) for a friend's wedding. I had to solve no less than six minor and two major emergencies. Just ask a friend to do it if you don't want to pay for it, but it really helps to have one.
posted by corb at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2016

I had a fairly low-key wedding of a similar size to you - and both my husband and mother were skeptical that a day-of coordinator would be helpful and not just something the wedding industrial complex deemed necessary. But now all would agree that it was a great decision to get one - my friends and family was able to relax and enjoy (they did help out, but the coordinator helped to make sure they knew what to do and handle any problems). She helped with decor and set up, did some like MCing, and also pointed out a few things I'd forgotten in the last minute prep so we could handle beforehand.

I ran into the same problem you did about the expense, and the point made earlier about coordinators insisting that they can only provide "month-of" or "week-of" coordinating rather than just the day, which drives up the cost. But I knew that I really had all the planning under control, and really only needed someone that day. I wanted someone to be there but couldn't afford a huge amount. So I looked on thumbtack (a platform for getting quotes from different independent professionals) and found a woman who did event coordination but hadn't set up a fancy webpage yet with the prices to match. I called a few references that checked out and met with her in person, and was able to have a day-of-coordinator for a reasonable price (don't remember how much but definitely less than $400). It's worth considering as a middle ground.
posted by purplevelvet at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, you don't need one. We did everything ourselves, which meant a bit of sprinting about on the morning of the wedding. We could have delegated to friends and family, but tbh that would have stressed me out even more. There is no WAY I would have trusted a random event planner to do stuff exactly how I wanted it done but that is probably just me, I was a bit of a Bridezilla.

Also spend less time with your photographer. That's my only regret, she dragged us off for what felt like hours for the photo shoot, and all the photos were awful anyway (I hate posing for pictures, and it shows). The photos our friends took were far better.
posted by tinkletown at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2016

Yep. I was a big DIY bride and did everything myself, including self-catering and setup, and I anticipated doing everything myself, but the one thing I would really do differently is have a day-of coordinator - someone to migrate between groups, line people up, and cue everyone for timing. Because I didn't have this person there was a fair amount of confusion, especially when you get separated from one another and need to be getting people moving or your tlmeline is going to hell. You may think you will be able to do this, but it's really hard to realize how much everyone else is going to distract you mightily with emotional moments, last-minute crises, and questions. Let someone else field logistics so that you can be present for your day.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been this person for my best friend who had a very DIY wedding. I dealt with the fact that her bartender never showed up, helped with hair and makeup, wrangled the photographer, got some people setting up flowers and tables, and various other stuff. My job was to keep everything from being her problem. Her job was to get married. I was more than happy to do it because I love my friend dearly and also I love to ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS, but it is a fair bit of work and the person you ask to take it on needs to be just as type A and detail-oriented and good and a crisis as you are, and they need to fully understand the difference between agreeing that "yeah I'll help out" and "Yes I agree to be the phone number all your vendors have and I will be there four hours early and ignore my date for the duration while I help you." Bossy isn't necessary; a sense of responsibility, and reliability, is.

I had a day-of coordinator for my wedding for a few reasons. First, because I did large-scale event planning in some other parts of my life and I loved the event coordinators I worked with and came to really respect what they can make happen. Second, because I got married in the foreign country where we were living at the time so all my guests were coming from far away, few had a local phone number, no one knew the area or local culture well, etc, so it was worth paying someone to be that point person. It turned out to be super useful because she helped my caterer sort out changes to dinner when it was discovered our venue setup didn't suit a served dinner (ending in rapid rearrangement for buffet) and then when the bus containing us and half our guests was delayed over an hour getting to our venue, she made things happen with the other half of the guests who had driven themselves to the venue and rearranged the night's schedule to ensure we still got to the photos, toasts, cake cutting, etc within a reasonable amount of time.

Also, time was an absolute blur at my wedding - she came to me at 10 PM saying she was going to take off and I was shocked that it was any later than 8 - so it was great having someone who was focused on making sure the important stuff got done before guests started to get tired and leave, because I was on such a euphoric high I didn't event notice.

One thing I learned doing event planning is that professional event managers work off of scripts, which is basically a "at this time, X happens, and here are the key people involved" sort of table/spreadsheet document. I made one from my wedding, which had a cover page containing the names and contact info of the wedding party, immediate family members, and vendors, and sent it out to each vendor and my wedding planner a week in advance. This highlighted a couple of issues we were able to deal with in advance, and provided my day-of coordinator with the details she needed to rearrange the schedule after our bus was delayed. Highly recommend the script. I'm happy to send you mine as an example if you MeMail me your email address. Even if you are relaxed about exactly when things happen (we were!) it's a good working schedule.

I'm also really surprised to hear how expensive they are... are you getting married in a big city? How many pre-wedding meetings are they accounting for? I found one was perfectly sufficient, with occasional email in the four weeks leading up to the event.

But no matter what: don't try to do this yourself. As at my friend's wedding, your job is to get married. Find someone else to worry about things going wrong.
posted by olinerd at 7:48 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just another reason you need a day-of person: I run events for a living and I had various point people and and event timeline ("script") with full info and phone numbers and briefed everyone on it, and when the day came most of thise folks got swept up in things and pretty much basically ignored it, and Since I was showering/ getting dressed/ I was unable to keep charge of it. Lesson learned. You can have the best spreadsheets and timelines, but that doesn't mater on the day of. What you need is someone to outsource the timeline management to.
posted by Miko at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2016

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