Should I Ask My Family To Help With My Wedding, Or Hire A Day Of Coordinator?
Your friends and family don’t want to work on your wedding day, but they’re not going to tell you that. They aren’t going to want to arrive early to your venue to take hours to set up all of your décor, check in all of your vendors and answer their questions, keep you and your bridal party on schedule, keep your photography schedule on time, etc. That’s a lot to keep track of right? Well that’s just a few things they’ll need to do BEFORE your ceremony, there’s even more running around they’ll need to do after that! Let me break it down for you in sections of what you'll need help with in the morning, during the ceremony, during the reception, and at the end of the night. After you go through all the duties of a coordinator, I’m sure you’ll see why your friends and family don’t want to take on the task of helping you plan your wedding on the day of. It’s not because they don’t want to help, its because it can be pretty overwhelming setting up a wedding from start to finish.
What Needs To Get Done The Morning of Your Wedding:
Set Up Tables & Chairs: In some cases, venues will not set up your chairs & tables for the reception, so you will need to do that. Not only do you need to set up the reception chairs and tables, but you’ll need to set up your ceremony chairs. If you have 200 guests, that’s 200 chairs you’ll need to set up at your ceremony site.
Set Up Table Linens: If your venue doesn’t set up your tables and chairs, chances are they don’t add linens to your table either, which means you need to unwrap each linen individually and place them on each table. It doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but trust me it takes forever!
Iron Linens: You don’t want creases in your tablecloths from your linens being folded right? Most coordinators (Myself included) will take the time to iron each linen to ensure each table setting is staged perfectly.
Stage any Snacks/Food Stations: You’ll want snacks to munch on as you’re getting ready, which means you’ll need someone to set up your coffee stations, breakfast items, mimosa station, and lunch trays.
Stage Décor: You’ll need to set up all the table décor, all of the ceremony décor (arch, unity table, unity ceremony accessories, signage, etc.), guest table/entry table, and tribute tables. Decorating seems simple enough, but I’ve coordinated weddings where the table centerpieces alone took me 3 hours to set up.
Spot Steam Wedding Dress and Veil: Most coordinators (Like myself) want to see your dress at peak perfection, which means we will spot steam your wedding dress and veil in the morning before you take photos.
Check in all Vendors: It seems simple, but it does take time. When your vendors arrive you will need to show them where to set up, tell them when to be ready, make sure they have the correct timeline of the day, and answer any questions they may have.
Ensure Schedule is on Time: I’ve been a part of lots of weddings, and it always goes the same way. We get excited and start talking and get distracted, before you know it we’re behind schedule. Now what? Chances are you’ll either need to cut back on your photo time, or you’ll need to push back your ceremony time. If that happens it’s not the end of the world, trust me. But I do know it's a bummer for the couple and it brings your mood down a bit.
Coordinate Transportation: If you have shuttles delivering your guests from their hotels, you’ll need to make sure they’re on time, and if they’re not? You need to have the shuttle driver's number handy to call them and ask why they are not on time with delivering guests.
What Needs To Be Done For The Ceremony:
Ceremony Rehearsal: The day before you’ll need someone to coordinate a ceremony rehearsal. I’ve seen a lot of couples think their officiant can coordinate the ceremony for them, however, couples forget that your officiant is one of the first people to walk down the aisle. How are they going to coordinate each member of the bridal party down the aisle? How will they let the DJ know when to switch the music for the bride to walk down the aisle? How will your officiant help guide the bride down the aisle or fluff her dress before her big walk so the photographer gets the perfect shot? The answer is, your officiant can’t, and neither can a member of your bridal party, you’ll need a different person that isn’t involved with your wedding to help you. Whoever is the one coordinating your bridal party for the ceremony, needs to be ok with missing out on your ceremony.
Greeting/Ushering Guests: Someone should be greeting your guests and guiding them to the ceremony seating, ensuring no one sits in the priority seating areas.
Gathering Wedding Party and Preparing Them for the Ceremony: You’ll need someone to gather the bridal party and get them lined up in order ready to walk down the aisle. This is a lot easier said than done… A lot of the time the bridal party is so excited, that they need guidance and reminders to be quiet because the wedding is in progress. If you’re doing a first look, you’ll also need a person to make sure the bride stays hidden away from the groom before he walks down the aisle.
Cueing Bridal Party for Ceremony Entrances: Whoever is the one coordinating your bridal party for the ceremony, needs to be ok with missing out on your ceremony. This person will be too busy letting each person know when to walk down the aisle, coordinating music changes with your DJ, and reminding your bridal party of tips like to walk slowly and how to hold bridal bouquets rather than to be able to pay attention to the ceremony.
Cueing DJ/Musician for Music Changes: Most people don’t have the same song playing throughout the entire ceremony. You have a designated song for the bridesmaids and groomsmen to walk down to, a special song for the bride, then a special song after the couple is married and they walk back up the aisle towards the reception. Whoever does this will also need to be ok with missing out on the ceremony, because they will need to be standing next to the DJ to let them know when to play each song.
Assisting Bride in Entrance: If you’re doing a first look, you’re not going to want to see your fiancé until you’re walking down the aisle, which means you’ll need someone to make sure you stay hidden until everyone is waiting at the altar for you. Once you get ready to walk down the aisle, you’ll need help fluffing your dress and fixing your veil so you get that perfect walking down the aisle photo!
Retrieving and Taking any Belongings from Bridal Party after the Ceremony to Reception: The Couple will be off taking photos with their family and bridal party, so you’ll need to assign someone to take any ceremony items such as your vow books, unity accessories, etc. into the reception hall.
What Needs To Be Done For Your Reception:
Guiding Guests to Cocktail Hour after Ceremony: Sometimes guests get confused on where the reception will be held, especially when the ceremony location is offsite from your reception venue. In that case, you’ll want someone stationed to help guide your guests from one location to the next.
“Hiding” Bridal Party from Guests Until Grand Introduction: Let’s be honest, once guests see you, they’re going to try to talk to you. You might need help sneaking away to your bridal suite or other location to hide away in until your grand introduction.
Lining Up and Cueing Wedding Party for Grand Introductions: This is probably the most difficult part of my job as a day of coordinator believe it or not. It takes way longer than it should to round up each member of the bridal party to get them ready for their grand introductions, but it takes even longer to get them settled down to give them instructions. Your bridal party is pumped up! You just got married, and they are so excited for you! But with the alcohol and excitement flowing through each person, it can be hard to direct everyone, especially if you have a large wedding party. It’s extremely helpful to have someone coordinate with the DJ for your grand entrances, but someone who is able to stay back with the bridal party and let them know when to go. Without a guide, your bridal party may get confused and will introduce themselves before your DJ is ready, or they may not have heard the DJ call their names and they don’t come out at all.
Making Sure Your Vendors are READY for Your Grand Intro: Not only will you need to round everyone up for the grand introduction, you’ll need to make sure your vendors are ready to go too. You’ll need to make sure your DJ is ready to make the announcements, your photographer and videographer are standing ready to capture the moments everyone gets introduced, and you’ll need to make sure your caterer is ready to set up for dinner (Because your dinner is typically served quickly after introductions).
Making Sure all Special Announcements are Communicated with the DJ: You’ll want to check in with your DJ constantly throughout the night to make sure they make announcements for cocktail hour, the grand introduction, speeches, dinner, transportation info, dessert announcements, etc.
Gathering Bridal Party and Speech Makers for Toasts: Like gathering your bridal party for the grand introduction, gathering speech makers can sometimes be difficult. You’ll need to have the DJ make an announcement for speeches, and make sure each speech maker is ready and is where they're supposed to be.
Ensuring Special Requests are Accommodated: Do you have a guest with a special dietary restriction? You’ll need to make sure that person is being helped. Don’t leave it up to your guest to fend for themselves.
What Do You Need to Do At The End of The Night:
Coordinating End of Night Events: You’ll need help from someone to cut and serve your wedding cake, replenish your dessert bar, and set up and display your late night snack.
Cut and Plate the Wedding Cake: As mentioned above, you’ll need help with cutting and serving your cake. Most people think their caterers can help with this, and they can, but they typically charge a couple hundred dollars to do so. I’ve had brides say they’ll just cut and serve their cake for their guests to cut costs, and that is a bad idea on so many different levels. First of all, cutting cake can get messy, and I don’t want it ending up on your dress. Especially if it’s a tiered cake, you’ll need to dig into the cake with your freshly manicured nails to get out the dowels (what is holding your cake layers together). There’s also a trick to cutting wedding cake that professionals like myself are experienced with.
Collect Personal Items: You’ll want someone you trust to move your cards and gifts into the bridal suite or into a locked car to ensure no one gets sticky fingers. Unfortunately it does happen sometimes.
Pack up Leftover Food: More than likely you’ll have quite a bit of food left over, and you’ll need to assign someone to pack it all up for you unless you plan on throwing away your leftover appetizers, dinner, desserts, wedding cake, and late night snacks.
Removal of Décor: At the end of the night, it’s a major mood killer to have all of the lights turned on in the venue and pack up all of your décor. Unfortunately it needs to be done though, as most venues will not allow you to leave décor overnight, and require it all be out by midnight.
Double Check the Space for Any Bridal Leftover Belongings: It’s very helpful to have someone who is sober do this, trust me!
Ensure all Vendors are Checked Out to Venue Standards In a Timely Manner: Once all of your décor and personal belongings are packed up, you’ll need to stay at the venue to make sure your vendors get their things packed up and leave the venue before it closes.
Cleaning The Venue: Some venues require you to pack up all of the tables and chairs and put them away, clean their kitchen, and in some cases sweep the place in order to get your deposit back. After a glorious day of celebration, partying, and drinking, this is the last thing you want to do. That goes for your friends and family as well. Although they may not outwardly tell you that they don’t want to help, trust me, they don’t.
So now you can see everything you’ll need your friends and family to take care of should you choose not to hire a day of coordinator. The purpose of this post was not to scare you, but to educate you. Planning a wedding can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve seen couples handle everything from start to finish without a day of coordinator and pull it off perfectly. Were they stressed out while doing it though? I’d have to assume they were, but they were able to save some money and use it for other things like their honeymoon or purchasing a home, which was important to them.
I have worked weddings though where things went wrong, and the couples didn’t need to worry about it because I was there. I’ve had bushes catch on fire at a venue, vendors not showing up, décor rental companies forgetting things, but at the end of the day everything worked out because I had the time and ability to fix the problems. It keeps my job interesting, but in no way would I want a couple having to deal with what I do. Their wedding day is one that is meant to be relaxing, filled with lots of love from your spouse as well as your friends and family. Leave all the stressful and challenging parts to your planner.
Amanda Armstrong, Monique & Michael's Wedding