DIY Bride #15: The ‘Day Of’ Planner

If you were brave enough to plan your own wedding, you’re going to need someone to run it the day you actually get married. You’re going to need someone to run the rehearsal too. You’ve been planning for a year – don’t you think you have had enough headaches?

I have been hearing a lot – a lot – regarding Day Of Coordinators being almost a waste of time and money; always from people who have never had a wedding before. The argument I hear the most is:

“I’ll just have my cousin Jenny do it. We’re best friends and she loves telling people what to do!”

Really… that’s not what we do.

TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW

When we talk about wedding planners, designers, day of coordinators, etc, we have specific ideas of what each one’s primary purpose. Let me tell you what they are:

WEDDING PLANNER

This is the big cheese, the big Pubah, the top dog. This is the one that not only brings your vision of your wedding to life, gets you the best quality for the best price, and they are tasked with keeping everything and everyone in line and on time to make things perfect. If they do their job right, you will leave your wedding wondering why you even hired a planner, because everything was so easy.

WEDDING DESIGNER

A lot of planners are also designers. The wedding designer is the one who puts everything together. Unlike the planner part who plans everything, the designer is the one who physically makes it happen. They review the brief and see how to make the vision possible, and let the planner know what is needed to really pull it off. You can see why planners and designers are a lot of times the same person.

THE ‘DAY OF’ COORDINATOR

This is a common but misleading title. This is still a wedding planner, however they are relying on the couple’s venue and vendor choices to guarantee a perfect evening. This is the one we will be focusing on today.

SO, WHAT’S A ‘DAY OF’ PLANNER?

The day of planner is the one who brings everything together. Frankly, it takes a ‘day of’ planner about a month to prepare and coordinate with the various participants, so that the day goes on without a hitch. Every planner has their own way of approaching it, but at Swingin’ Dolly, we always start with copies of the contracts for every vendor and venue that is participating. See, we memorize those contracts because we are the ones who are going to make sure they deliver what is expected. We make contact and meet with all the vendors and venues before the wedding to make sure we are all on the same page. This is a big deal. Don’t use a vendor that doesn’t have a contract for you to refer; it can become a disaster.

For example: I had a bride who had rented beautiful chairs. There was no contract because the chair people were friends of the family. The bride advised there was supposed to be 250 chairs. When the vendor dropped off the chairs, there were only 240. When I addressed the vendor, they swore the arrangement was for 240. Since I had no contract, I had little options available to me. It caused a domino effect, we had to cut a whole guest table. No one noticed, everyone had a seat, and things swimmingly went on, however I noticed, the wait staff noticed, and there was some shuffling around and minor stress that needed to be dealt with in order for everything to look seamless.

Before meeting with the vendors and venues, we research them all. We speak with previous clients and read reviews, and create a list of concerns/ questions for them when we meet. We also work closely with the vendors and venues while creating the brief for the rehearsal, the day of, and the clean up.

We have several meetings with the client in between all these meetings to make sure the things they purchased were delivered, if there’s things missing/ broken/ etc, and what other issues might be arising.

Another example: I had a bride one who hired a FB Florist. The price was good, the portfolio was impressive, and there were quite a few good reviews. Upon further digging, I found 2 BBB complaints – one was a no-show complaint – and when I spoke with the vendor on the phone, she was curt, rude, and I was getting a bad vibe. At a meeting with my client 4 days before the wedding, she mentioned the florist flaked out on a meeting with her just 5 days earlier. She was freaking out.

As the day of planner, it’s my job to make sure the wedding is perfect. I secured a secondary florist (in case there was an issue), and I scheduled a meeting with the FB Florist, who showed up 45 minutes late. I spoke with her about her tardiness and the ‘flake out’ the week before and she assured me there wasn’t going to be an issue. I was born at night, but not last night. I asked her for copies of her production schedule so I would know when and where she was creating the floral designs. I left her shop then sent my assistant back to the shop shortly after to do a little recon.

Following the schedule the FB Florist gave me, I popped back over unexpectedly several times before the wedding to confirm things were actually being created. Everything was right on schedule. The day of the wedding, I went back to the shop to review the quality of the work being done. Everything was exactly as promised.

As a wedding planner, I know who does good work, how vendors work with me, and how vendors and venues work together. When you’re hired as a day of planner, there’s a lot to prepare for just in case the vendors or venue fail to make things magical. We always make contingency plans because you aren’t always familiar with the vendors and venues that were decided on. Call it OCD, call it paranoia, call it what ever you want, but I have heard enough horror stories from people who didn’t hire a planner to make sure that when a client hires me, she has no stories to tell.

Planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. All those people who were so excited when you got engaged and said, “I’ll help you with whatever you need!” are suddenly not around. They have things to do, they have their own plans on how to ‘help’ you, and they never ever follow through. Go onto any FB ‘just engaged’ group and you will see post after post after post about how at first the MOH (Maid of Honor) was all gung ho but then she just vanished when it came to actually contributing. Or how Mom promised to pay for the venue but she’s backing out now because she doesn’t like the caterer that was hired. It can be a real nightmare.
COST ANALYSIS
I have read article after article, and I have spoken with my clients after the fact and they agree: Getting a good planner is worth their weight in gold. But what does that actually cost? It can get a little tricky here.
In Southern California, an event planner makes – on average – $32 an hour according to Salary.com. At Swingin’ Dolly, we charge $30 an hour.
There are different ways that’s billed. Generally, for a ‘day of’ planner, the fee is a flat fee that covers everything. There are those planners that charge a percentage of the overall cost of the wedding itself (meaning if you paid $10,000 for the wedding, your planner is going to cost you $1,000). There are some that charge hourly but have exclusions in their contract like they don’t do any clean up, they don’t do any set up, or they get an automatic hour off during the event for a lunch break.
I thought the lunch break one was crazy too.
At Swingin’ Dolly Events, we do things a little different. We create a pricing package to fit your needs and your budget. We also offer hourly additional time in case more time is needed at the actual event. You never know what can happen. Also, we don’t exclude anything. If you need help cleaning your home for the backyard event, we do that. If you need help keeping the kids entertained while you finish getting your make-up on, we do that too. There are usually a lot of exceptions that planners and designers make, but we try to be affordable and flexible.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE COST
The other biggest benefit of having a ‘day of’ planner is the headache relief. Weddings and events are Murphey’s Law Vortexes: What ever can go wrong, WILL go wrong. As the person who is getting married, how much do you really trust Aunt Ysadora to get everything done, and done right? Not just right, but perfect? You need someone who is politically correct, multi-tasking, in control, and commanding.
The nice thing about hiring someone is you know they will be your advocate. You don’t have to worry about people changing what you want because they feel the runners and center pieces would be better flipped. You have the assurance that you will be represented appropriately.
THAT’S NOT ALL
One more thing that a lot of my clients like: Your ‘day of’ planner is your hired bitch. I don’t know how else to phrase it. One of the very first things I ask all my clients is, “Do you see anyone – guest, family member, anyone – who may cause an issue or put your day in jeopardy?” ALL my clients – I mean all of them – sigh relief after I tell them they don’t have to deal with those people.
I had a bride where she and her in-laws didn’t get a long. So much so, the in-laws planned for the sis-in-law to get engaged at the wedding DURING THE CEREMONY! Once I found out that plan, I had it thwarted; but still! Look, it’s not my job to judge how people get engaged or when. It IS my job to protect my client’s wedding day.
Oh, and then there was this time…
I had a client who didn’t advise of  any conflicts she anticipated. However, once the wedding party started to show up, a groomsman approached me asking about when he can perform his psalm reading and toast. He already had toasting time allotted to him, I advised him if there was anything he wanted to read, he needed to do that during his toast. He didn’t like that, he wanted to stand in the dancefloor and address the guests. This was strictly against the bride’s wishes.
I advised the DJ of the issue just for him to keep an eye out and sure enough, the groomsman requested a mic from the DJ. What the DJ didn’t know was that I had already taken both mics incognito when I first warned him. I returned the mics to the DJ in plenty of time of their scheduled usage.
REALLY: THEY’RE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD
Your ‘Day of’ planner should run interference for you, they should be able to put your mind at ease, they should have the confidence and support of the vendors you chose, and they should make you remember that your wedding was perfect and not riddled with problems.
Please, if you are brave enough to plan your wedding alone, PLEASE hire a ‘day of’ planner so you don’t have to go it alone. I promise you, a good one with worth every dime.

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