ART Caitlin 1With Santa Barbara going from about 5 or 6 leading professional wedding planners a few years ago to about 82 now (last count), couples getting married in this area who are either required by their venue to have a professional event coordinator or simply those knowing the invaluable investment a professional provides,  find themselves in a quandary with the overwhelming amount of choices listed for them now in our area.

The individual wedding coordinators who make up that (approximate) 82 count range from long-time, well-established professionals who are educated, experienced, work continually and are referred by venues and event partners alike, to those who moonlight on the side as a hobby to those who are simply in love with the idea of being a wedding planner (perhaps they planned their own wedding or a friend’s) and think it’s either about pointing people around day-of and/or just hiring vendors who do “pretty” things and services. 

Any seasoned, professional event planner will tell you that it is so much more than that, and because they know this, they know that “day of” coordination services simply do not exist when you are a professional.  Knowledge of this fact means that it may help sift out 80% of the 82 Santa Barbara wedding coordinators, some of whom offer “day-of”, thereby narrowing down the choices to those candidates who will truly benefit the wedding couple.  Truly experienced professionals have integrity and know that offering “day of” is a disservice to the couple and would never remotely entertain the thought of damaging a day so precious to the couple or their families.

Here is the reality of “Day-of” Coordination and why I won’t be your “Day-of” Coordinator (our minimum package is “Month-of” and actually starts about 8-12 weeks before the wedding day):

  • The majority  of brides (or their families/friends helping them) are planning a wedding for the first time.  They have no idea how their creative ideas actually translate to the practical and logistical demands “day of”.  Further, they do not know how to contract or review event supplier’s contracts for issues that will affect other suppliers, the venue, the timeline or even the integrity of the wedding day.   For me to step in “day of” with no prior knowledge, review or communication with vendors, I am stepping into a landmine field laden with crises that I was not able to see, predict, correct or avoid because I was not involved with any aspect of planning – or reviewing the couple’s planning with my 1000+ wedding, over-20-years, certified- wedding-professional-experience.  And to be clear: it has nothing to do with decor or superficial things like personal preference on floral or color choice.  It boils down to timing, logistics, contracts and major service issues that can break a wedding, its couple, their guests,  and destroy what should be a lovely memory of a lifetime in one small , few-hour sweep.  And these potential pitfalls are only evident when you know what to look for and have many years of experience under your belt.
  • It takes me weeks (at an intense pace) to review what has often taken a couple one year to plan. In those weeks, I have to put together a giant puzzle piece, with detailed communication to the event suppliers, review the details of their contracts, and because I was not involved with the solicitation of their vendor’s contracts, more often than not , correct timing and logistical issues.  And that sometimes translates to the client having to pay the suppliers more last minute because they didn’t know what to look for when they hired them on their own at the beginning.  I have a customized worksheet that all my clients must fill out that involves personal preferences as well as answering details that I reconcile with their vendor contracts.  Examples of crises prevented when a coordinator is involved for “month of” or more include having photographers leave before key timelined landmark events are captured in photos,  bridal party and family not having what they need for pre-ceremony photos, not knowing where to go and when,  the florist delivering decor and not having any of the set up even remotely close to being finished so they can do their job (therefore it upsets the timely start of the event and pushes them and other vendors into overtime, whose cost is passed on to the client with surprise bills post-event day), key timelined events happening with all the equipment and staff necessary, rental equipment issues and timing, sorting out family dynamics, ceremony processional/recessional etiquette, VIP ceremony seating plan, and oh so much more.  When someone who is strictly “day of” is running around putting out fires, they are not minding the rest of the event and other fires break out because of this.  It’s a no-win situation.   But, when done properly, with a minimum of “month of” service offered, nothing is left to figure out “day of”.  And because of this, the number one compliment I receive after a wedding was how stress-free it was for everyone.  Including event partners!  When everyone – guests and event supply partners- are supported and happy, there is a magic to the event that makes it a memory to last a lifetime.

With a “day of” only coordinator, they simply do not have the foresight to be of any true use to the couple or their families.  It is more often than not a quick way for the coordinator to make some money and learn weddings on the client’s dime.  Some “day of” coordinators charge $300-$900 and to the inexperienced bride, that can look incredibly appealing compared to the long time professionals who offer “month of” minimal services ranging from $1500-$3,000.  But you must remember, with a “day of” coordinator, you are paying someone to be there for a day; whereas with “month-of”, you are paying for a month or longer of invaluable crisis-prevention, expert expertise, as well as all the prep and execution for the intricacies with the ceremony rehearsal as well as all the details of “day of”.   And most seasoned event professionals include an assistant “day of” in their “month of”package (for events over 50 guests), so when viewed in this light, the $1500-$3,000 for almost two months worth of work that includes the day of and the guarantee of a fun, seamless day, seems like a nominal investment.

Even the best-intentioned wedding couples who say they will “tell” the day-of coordinator what they “need” them to do does not work. The wedding couple, having most likely planned a wedding for the first time, does not know what they need.  The “day-of” coordinator ends up being of no true service in the end.   The results?  An unhappy wedding day, a miserable couple who often wants part of their money returned after when they realize there truly is no such thing as “day of” wedding coordination and is often left with unexpected bills from event partners who had to do extra “day of” because no one spotted the possible problems in advance to prevent them.

And what about the engaged couples who have family/friends who have planned events (or even say they’ve planned weddings) who say they will “help” the couple so all the professional coordinator has to do is just “show up” and do what they say “day-of”?   Unless this family/friend has over 600 weddings’ experience, is a certified wedding professional with over 20 years experience and more, it is highly unlikely they will be able to have the foresight that an experienced wedding professional will have.   And to ask a professional and experienced wedding planner to lend their brand name and reputation over to a couple (or their well-intentioned family) without having any advance review and corrections of the planning that took place without them is a death-sentence to their business.

When all parties- the client and the event partners –  buy into the plan and are a part of the process in advance, it allows the day to run seamlessly and is actually fun for all.  This simply does not happen with someone showing up “day of” to guess.  But perhaps the most important issue of all is that of integrity:  anyone who could say that they would take on a day as precious as a wedding – a lifetime landmark event- without being intimately involved prior to “day-of”, lacks heart.  It is unconscionable that anyone could take a couple’s money and “wing it” day-of only on one of the most important days of the couple’s life.

Photo by Jensen Sutta

Photo by Jensen Sutta