One of the most frequent questions we get is what is the difference between a Venue Coordinator and a Wedding Planner? There are so many great venues in Victoria, and with those venues comes a Venue Coordinator. While they do know all the ins and outs of your venue, there are things that they would prefer to leave up to wedding planners! If your bustle breaks mid ceremony and you need a hand? That’s a wedding planner’s job. Is a toilet overflowing? That might be the Venue Coordinator’s job.
While there is certainly overlap in what venue coordinators and planners do, our objectives are to look after our employers best interests. For planners, our employers are the newlyweds! And for venue coordinators, it’s the company that runs the venue. We both want to make the day the best it can be, but we have different tasks on our to-do list.
We reached out a few Venue Coordinators from around Victoria and asked them some questions that will hopefully shed a little bit of light on the role of a Venue Coordinator, what is required at their venue, and their thoughts on wedding planners!
(Photography: Top Row – Left: Fragment of Light // Centre: Sabrina Patrice // Right: Sanctuary of Light. Bottom Row – Left: Marc Johannknecht // Right Top: Kyle Joinson // Right Bottom: Kim Jay)
Special thanks to all the amazing venue coordinators who participated:
Jessi-Anne – Fort Common // Ben + Nikki – Bilston Creek // Cheryl – Bear + Joey // Megan – HCP Gardens // Adrian – Sea Cider // Lisa – The Beach House
(HCP Gardens – Photography: Fragment of Light)
Does your venue require a planner? Why?
Jessi-Anne, Venue Coordinator at Fort Common: Fort Common requires that host couples and other events use a planner from our approved list of fabulous local planners. Our approved planners have either worked in the space before, or have gone above and beyond in terms of reaching out to us and getting to know the venue. Fort Common is an entirely outdoor, urban space and logistically, a little complex. In addition to owning the venue, we have relationships with a myriad of commercial tenants and residential neighbors to whom we owe the courtesy of ensuring events go as smoothly as possible – but as a real estate developer, event planning is not our area of expertise. Having a third party person on site during the event who can help us troubleshoot feedback from tenants or neighbors is critical to our success. We are proud to have great working relationships with many of the best vendors and planners in town!
Nikki + Ben, Bilston Creek: We require a day-of coordinator at minimum to ensure your day goes off the way you always wanted it to. Even if you’re planning a casual, laid-back event with a loose timeline, there is a lot that goes into a wedding behind the scenes, and ultimately it’s your planner’s role to ensure that things run smoothly so that everyone can have a good time, including the newlyweds! On the day of your wedding, having a planner who can execute your vision and deal with any hiccups can make your day much less stressful. It’s really about meeting expectations and allowing you to stay in the moment.
A few venues we spoke to do not require planners, but that doesn’t mean they think you shouldn’t hire one:
Cheryl, Bear + Joey: Bear + Joey doesn’t require a planner at all! Of course, we always highly recommend our couples work with a planner as they will remove any unnecessary stresses leading up to and on the big day.
Lisa, The Beach House: The Beach House does not require couples to have a planner as they have a strong support infrastructure in place and also because the food and beverage component is handled by the restaurant, as per licensing requirements. We welcome planners and encourage couples to pursue the hiring of planners based on their unique needs – whether that’s for full service, month of or day of. We are upfront about what we do and don’t do and let the couple decide from there whether that’s enough for them.
Adrian, Sea Cider: We provide a pre-event coordinator and an event coordinator for your event. The coordinator helps support with answering any questions about the venue and gets the client in touch with any vendors etc. People may opt to get a Planner, but it is not a requirement.
Megan, HCP Gardens: No, The Gardens at HCP does not require our clients to book a professional planner. We do offer a list of recommended vendors in various categories (planners, caterers, entertainment, etc.) but don’t require clients to book anyone from our list.
A lot of venues have a preferred vendor list and can help make introductions to these vendors, however it would be a wedding planner that could take the next steps towards booking the vendor, securing the contract, and ensuring that the vendor shows up on time on wedding day!
(Bilston Creek Farm – Photography by Sanctuary of Light)
What is the difference between a venue coordinator and a planner?
Jessi-Anne, Fort Common: Fort Common is rented out on a “bare bones” basis – we have power and water on site as well as available, modular seating for up to 75 guests. Other décor and vendors are coordinated by the event host and their planner. A Fort Common Venue Co-ordinator does a rehearsal walk through with the host and planner the day before an event, and is available on the day of the event to support our commercial tenants and the host/planner.
Nikki + Ben, Bilston Creek: We always have a member of our staff on-site during weddings to ensure that guests and vendors have what they need from us. We handle things like moving any tables and chairs that are rented with the venue, but any other rentals and decor are up to your planner. We’re always eager to pitch in and help with any issues that come up, but you should count on your own planner to handle things like executing your timeline, greeting guests, making sure everyone gets a safe ride home at the end up of the night, and setting up and tearing down all of your decor and rentals.
Cheryl, Bear + Joey: A Venue coordinator will work with you to organize the flow of the day with everything related to the hired venue service. This includes planning and sampling menus, realistic floor plans and reception timelines, and any technical details, rules, and regulations as it pertains solely to the venue. We don’t offer decor set up, formal timelines, guests greeting etc. A planner, on the other hand, will do all that, and also work with you and all your hired vendors leading up to the day to develop your vision, they will coordinate the day of set up and execution making sure all of your external vendors are on time and providing the services promised, and the cleanup and rental returns after the fact. A planner will set up timelines for all your vendors and orchestrate seamless setup times and windows for each. In short terms, a venue coordinator makes sure dinner is on time and your guests have enough seats, and the planner makes sure the DJ shows up and your florals are the perfect shade of blush…and come equipped with bobby pins and hairspray…just in case.
Megan, HCP Gardens: Let’s start with a similarity first: venue coordinators and wedding planners both act in the best interests of their employer. A wedding planner’s employer is their client, so they get to know the couple really well and can advocate for their needs on the wedding day. A venue coordinator’s employer is the venue, so my primary responsibility is to ensure the place stays beautiful and operational for everyone, including garden visitors and future event clients. During the planning process, I can definitely make recommendations and help create a basic timeline with the information I have, but a wedding planner is the only one with a bird’s eye view of the whole day and all the moving parts. On the wedding day, I’m happy to help with decor setup (I have definitely done my fair share of chair covers), but I always tell clients that I can’t commit to being the one in charge, because something else might come up onsite that I need to run and take care of. Trust me, if your caterer blows a breaker or there’s a toilet malfunctioning, you want me available for that! My first venue coordinator job was at a private golf club with in-house catering. I had a whole banquet team working under me, so I could delegate things to my team and do more decor setup. At HCP, I only have one assistant for part of the summer. Every venue is different, which is exactly why a planner is a good idea!
Adrian, Sea Cider: The coordinator helps answer any questions about the venue such as setup for the ceremony space, table setup for the dinner, bar setup and coordinate a timeline for the day. They are also there to help setup a rehearsal for the event the day before the wedding. A planner would be someone that would be connecting with all the vendors and ensure that all is coordinated with the couple, the vendors, and the venue. We are in charge of the setup of the ceremony space, cocktail hour and the dinner space. The catering team (one of our preferred caterers – Truffles, Toque, House of Boateng & Food for Thought) is in charge of setting up the tables for dinner.
(The Beach House – Photography: Sabrina Patrice)
Do you recommend booking a wedding planner?
Jessi-Anne, Fort Common: A million times yes. We really don’t want to have to call the couple on the day of their wedding to talk about parking and noise levels!
Nikki + Ben, Bilston Creek: Absolutely! Planning a wedding is no easy feat, and we’ve seen what a difference it can make in a couple’s experience when they have a planner who they can trust to take care of every little detail. Even though friends and family might be willing to step up and help, it can be nice to have a professional you can turn to when things come up at the last minute, and no one wants to miss out on an important part of the day. It can be especially handy after everyone has had a few drinks!
Cheryl, Bear + Joey: Always! Finding the perfect wedding planner elevates the entire experience for everyone involved. They are worth their weight in gold. Wedding Planners and Venue Coordinators and other vendors understand each other’s industry and professions and make magic happen.
Megan, HCP Gardens: Yes, yes, yes!
(Bear + Joey – Photography: Kyle Joinson)
What would you tell couples who are on the fence of booking or not booking a planner?
Jessi-Anne, Fort Common: Booking a minimum of day-of coordination is not only a requirement of using the Fort Common, but it is a great investment – let someone else worry about where the food is going to go, or where the washroom keys are ? When you have friends and family competing for your attention on your big day, it’s just not fair to you or your partner to have to drop everything and finesse a logistical item. We have priced the Fort Common in a way that we feel respects our requirement of the planner expense.
Nikki + Ben, Bilston Creek: If you’re not sure if you need a planner, start by looking at your timeline for your day. If you’re not sure who is responsible for setting up for your ceremony and reception, getting people/stuff from point A to point B throughout the day, or making sure everything is cleaned up at the end of the night, without a planner, that’s you. Chances are you’ll need some help, so you’ll want to delegate roles in advance. We’ve hosted beautiful weddings where guests have a big role to play in the execution of the day, and this can feel really special, but be sure to talk to your friends and family about their expectations before you assume that they’ll take responsibility for a certain aspect of your day. You should ask yourselves how much you can realistically take on as a couple as well, both with planning and on the day of your wedding. You know yourself and your guests better than anyone, so you’re the best person to judge how much help you need.
Cheryl, Bear + Joey: Go with your heart. We are pro-planner, however, a planner may not be for everyone. Don’t be afraid to shop around, get references, and really make sure it’s right for you both, and the scale and vibe of day you are hoping to achieve. If you are not sure, talk to your venue coordinator, we will be honest with our recommendations.
Megan, HCP Gardens: Do it! Your only regret will be not booking one sooner. If you’re on the fence, look through your to-do list (do you have a wedding to-do list yet?) and see where you need the most help. Most planners can offer a free or low-cost consultation so you can get to know each other and see if you’re a good fit. You might not need a full planning package, but I can’t think of any event that wouldn’t benefit from having someone in charge of cleanup at the end of the night.
Adrian, Sea Cider: I would say that it is up to them and how involved they want to be with the planning process. We provide a logistics worksheet which is a checklist of what needs to be done, so a lot of people find this helpful. Having a planner gets rid of all the stress of doing all this, so I generally recommend it if people are unsure as to what is involved etc.
(Fort Common – Photography: Kim Jay)
Are you there on the day of the event?
Jessi-Anne, Fort Common: Fort Common/Fort Properties has a Fort Common Coordinator on site for a portion of the event, to support venue logistics and our commercial tenants. They are available by phone until the end of the event.
Nikki + Ben, Bilston Creek: Yes! We are always on hand in case of emergency and to ensure every promise we’ve made comes true. We work hard to create a venue that makes it relatively seamless to host a wedding, and we like to make sure that someone is there to ensure your wedding exceeds every expectation. Plus we love a good celebration. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Cheryl, Bear + Joey: YES!
Megan, HCP Gardens: Yes, I am onsite on the day of the event. I set up everything that HCP provides, help direct deliveries, and then I’ll probably have a few site visits scheduled with other couples before the guests arrive. During the ceremony, I’m in the gardens making sure other visitors don’t get too close or too loud. Once dinner is underway, I’m usually in the office answering emails. I don’t have my eyes on the party 100% of the time, but I do a lap of the venue every 30-60 minutes to ensure the gates are closed and that guests aren’t drinking/smoking where they shouldn’t be. At the end of the night, I’m helping to get everyone offsite in a timely manner so that I can reset the room for the next event.
Adrian, Sea Cider: The coordinator assigned to the event will be here early on to make sure everything is set up the way the client expects things to be done. If there is a Planner invloved this facilitates things as they would be able to coordinate together.
(Sea Cider – Photography by Marc Johannknecht + Helen Cyr)