Photo by Mary Jane Weddings | Location: San Ysidro Guest Ranch

“Oh, I’m really hands on,”  the caller says to me during our initial interview.  “I will do all my own planning. I just need a few things put out and someone to direct vendors,  day-of.”  This is generally where our conversation and interview end or, if they are genuinely interested in the expertise of a professional, I can provide some education that helps to re-direct their thought premise.  The fatal thinking behind this notion is simply this:   the caller is most likely doing wedding planning for the first time and as a seasoned wedding professional, this is my approximate six hundredth.  There is no such thing as a  “hands on” bride who can flawlessly execute her wedding planning solo and have it turn out seamless. It is  because of this:  90% of crises are prevented in advance during the planning stages when a professional knows what to look for and how one vendor’s services affect the other, etc.  Typically, the first-time bride does not know what to look for.  And unless she’s been married dozens of times, I would hazard a guess that she may not know even after her 12th wedding. For those brides who are “hands on”, it can be impending doom if a professional is not engaged prior to “day of”.  That is why my minimum service is “Month-of”, where about 6 weeks prior to the wedding date, all wedding planning by my client must be complete and I am handed over all vendor contracts for review and my clients must complete a required “Month of Worksheet/Planning Questionnaire”.  I also have a required list of vendors from which they must hire and if they do not, they (the client) is contractually-required to agree to the checklisted items of duties I hand to them that their service providers must take care of so that Aunt Betty, who has volunteered to do the florals, knows that it’s more than just putting together bouquets . There are service issues involved. Once the bride, who thought she was saving money originally, sees my list, she realizes she actually saves money by hiring a professional from the start.

The amount of work I do for “month of” is almost as much as – sometimes more than- Full Service Planning, as I have to go through and correct and re-do many of the contracts, which often involve more cost for the client with their vendors because they didn’t hire them for the proper amount of time to coincide with the venue’s policies or with other vendors integral to the success of the seamless flow of the event.  My clients pay for my expertise to help spot and prevent crises before they happen.


Photo by Mary Jane Weddings

Sometimes I will later find out  after our initial interview that an inquiring potential client went with a coordinator who would simply just do what she (the bride) wanted and show up day-of and point vendors around and put a few things out for her.  Let me tell you this, as someone who attended two of these weddings as a guest personally:  it shows.  For one wedding, guests showed up, not knowing when to be seated for the ceremony and stood in the hot sun and the coordinator showed up 20 minutes before ceremony start time and was putting together the escort card board for post-ceremony and threw the guest book out last minute. No one knew when to take their seats for the ceremony.  Even for a DIY job, a professional coordinator will suggest to the bride to designate friends or ushers to greet and direct guests.  It was an awkward and graceless start and here’s where my problem is:  it is utterly unloving and thoughtless to invite those you love to come witness your vows and share this moment, who took time out of their busy schedules and probably came bearing lovely wedding gifts, to receive them in this manner.

Additionally, at one wedding, with no professional coordinator, the bride didn’t know when to walk down the aisle and in another, the bridal party started prematurely when guests were not seated and no music was playing and the minister was no where to be found.  The rest of the timeline was a disaster, with vendors not communicating with each other and each doing his/her own thing.  A genuine professional wedding coordinator is like the conductor of a symphony.  They have the master overview and help provide a cohesive blending of all services together.  But without proper review in advance and knowing what impending doom is headed the wedding’s way, the wedding takes on a life of its own and guests notice.  No amount of beautiful floral arrangements, unlimited open bar or tasty catering can mask what guests “feel” when things are not not going right.  From little things like the Grand Entrance being completely botched with the bridal party out of order and the DJ announcing the wrong people and not catching himself to not waiting until all guests were even brought in from cocktail hour or checking with the coordinator or caterer before dismissing tables to go through the buffet.  In fact, one DJ didn’t even notice the buffet food was not out and just told guests dinner was ready completely on his own, resulting in a guest rush to the buffet , only to have the guests have to return to their seats. He also did not know that even when the buffet is ready, only a certain number of guests can go up at one time and that is planned with the caterer and coordinator in advance so it all flows.  The “coordinator” was either long gone by this time, having been hired for the hours her client “thought” she needed or in one case, was on site but because she just showed up “day of” to point people around as requested, had no master overview of the wedding and it suffered greatly, with guests leaving early and the bride wondering what happened.  Afte rall, she was “hands on” as she described in her initial phone call.  And it showed in the end.


Photo by Mary Jane Weddings | Location: Four Seasons Biltmore, Santa Barbara

Weddings are a full scale production.  You don’t have a second chance to get it right.  More than just the aesthetic element and seamless flow is also your budget:  a professional wedding coordinator can help you plan your budget and help you keep on track and review vendor contracts along the way so that you are not left with any surprises that affect your budget last minute.   They are a coach, confidant and advocate with your best interest at heart and should be considered a necessary investment for your wedding day spending plan.  If, for some reason your spending plan does not allow for Full Service Planning services, ask your Coordinator if they have an extended “Month of” planning package, allowing for “Month of” duties plus a little extra help along the planning path.


For a list of our most popular planning packages, visit our “Services” page of our Website.