As a full-service Santa Barbara caterer, we see way too often the difference between weddings where there is a professional coordinator and ones where there is no coordinator (or a well-intentioned “friend” trying to fill in). The difference is this: things go seamlessly and flow with a professional wedding coordinator. From our standpoint, “seamless” translates to an incredible food/beverage and service experience for the client and their guests. Because when the event is on time, a meal is cooked to perfection and guests experience it the way it was intended and it leaves a lasting impression. Also, because we coordinate rentals and set up and clean up, a professional coordinator knows the venue’s policies in advance and how they tie into the other vendor’s services and they reconcile all of this in advance.
“Seamless” doesn’t just “happen”. It is the result of a professional wedding consultant actually working with the client and the vendors in – at very minimum- weeks preceding the wedding day. Even “day of” coordinators worth their salt do not ever show up the day of and point vendors and guests around. Sadly, we see some clients trying to save money and they give us or their self-designated family friend “coordinator” a timeline to follow. But since most have not ever planned a wedding before, simply putting their “desired” timeline together or even loosely based on what their guests and vendors have verbally told them is a recipe for disaster the day of the wedding. Here’s why:
A professional wedding coordinator has years of experience and knows what to look for. He/she carefully pours over each and every vendor and venue contract – their time restrictions, their requirements to do their job, policies, etc. and then begins constructing a giant “puzzle” with all the pieces and making sure they fit together. It’s well and good to say that the florist will deliver flowers at 2pm. But will the caterer have already put out the dining tables and placed the linens for the florist to place the centerpieces? What should the catering service staff do with those centerpieces at event’s end? Place them on the ground for pick up by the florist? Send them home with guests? What about the transportation schedule? It’s idealistic to think that all guests will be onsite by a certain time if they are driving their own vehicles, but if there is shuttle service for the guests, this can add an unexpected detour in the timeline and affect food and beverage as well. Example: one vineyard does not allow guests to arrive until one half hour prior to ceremony invitation time. It takes 20 minutes (one way) to get from most hotels to this vineyard. If there are 180 guests and only two busses holding 43 guests each, there is going to be a problem. Either more busses have to be hired to transport all the guests in one sweep or the ceremony time, food and beverage timeline needs to be pushed back, etc. A professional coordinator sees all these things in advance, points them out to the client and then rectifies disasters in advance. By doing this, the coordinator is protecting the integrity of the rest of the event that guests remember most: the actual party and food and beverage portion.
But more than anything, having an objective professional who is a liaison between all of the vendors and not tied to a particular service and who spent the time in the weeks preceding the wedding tying everyone together allows each vendor to shine and do his/her best for the wedding. Some wedding vendors are offering to do “coordination” for the client. But you must ask what their definition of “coordination” is. Is it just pointing people around (and if so, according to whose timeline)? Does it involve pouring over contracts of all vendors and spending countless hours on email and phone with the vendors and venue in advance ? And if so, then how is this taking away from the job they should be doing (DJ’ing a great event, catering a great event, etc) and doing well in their specific contribution to the wedding? If they are truly spending the hours and detail a professional coordinator does in advance, then it is a concern that they perhaps are not doing the job that they were hired to do. A professional wedding coordinator‘s job is to remain objective and solely focus on the entire event. Nothing else.
As a full service caterer, we love working with professional wedding coordinators who, on the day of, are working with all of us to implement the plan we all put together and approved in advance and then keeps us posted throughout the event. Sometimes things happen that we are unaware of because we are doing our job of setting up the event, making sure the food and service is perfect, etc. These things that come up can mean having to adjust the cocktail hour /dinner time and when a coordinator recognizes that the delay may affect the food and checks with us, it allows us to give feedback and work with him/her on a time adjustment that will benefit the other vendors, guests and our meal and service, too. A coordinator who is a liaison and excellent communicator, keeping all in the loop the day of the wedding, is invaluable to everyone , but no more so than to that of the bride, groom, their family and precious guests, who will never know anything except that the event came off “without a hitch”. And making something come off “without a hitch” is hard work and takes place in prevention in advance of the actual “day of”.
We are so deeply grateful to work with some of the finest wedding coordinators in Santa Barbara. For a list of our recommended coordinators, click here.