What's the Difference Between a Wedding Planner and a Wedding Coordinator?

Before starting my business, I only knew the term “wedding planner” — I’ve seen the J. Lo movie — but I couldn’t tell you the difference between a “planner” versus a “coordinator” versus a “day-of coordinator.” Are those even real jobs?

Turns out, they are and everybody who does them does them differently.

I find the wedding industry an unnecessarily confusing place so to help, below are my working definitions of wedding planner, wedding coordinator, and wedding month-of or day-of coordinator.

I’ve included the typical fees for each “tier” of wedding planning professional based on what I’ve seen in the industry.

Wedding planner 

This is someone who handles your whole wedding.

They’re the person who will mock up different tablescapes and recruit a team of vendors (many of whom they’ve previously worked with and may even have discounts/deals with). A wedding planner quite literally plans your wedding, with as much or as little help from you and your partner as you two want to give.

  • Typical cost: $3,000 to $5,000 (I’ve seen wedding planners quote up to $10,000)

  • Terms to look for: “full-service planning” or “full-scale planning”

  • Will they attend any walkthrough that I might have at my venue? Oh yeah. They probably helped schedule when it was.

  • Will they attend my rehearsal? Yep! They might also plan your post-rehearsal meal, welcome dinner, post-wedding brunch, etc. I once met a wedding planner who even attended her brides’ dress fittings.

  • Will they make me a timeline? You bet.

Wedding coordinator

This is someone who’s more of a project manager than a designer.

A wedding coordinator will still set up your decorations but they’re not going to make you a mood board or send you three different photography contracts to consider (though, personally, I do always offer to review any contracts that my clients may have on file).

There are two big differences to consider when considering one coordinator over another coordinator: 1) do they cap their hours? and 2) when do they start working with you and your partner?

On the question of hours, many coordinators offer a range of hours for the wedding day (usually between eight to ten hours though I’ve seen as low as six). They’ll charge an hourly rate for any time over that “cap.” (Note: I don’t cap my hours because, honestly, if you hire me, I’m yours until the deed is done.)

As for when a coordinator starts working with you, it depends on the coordinator. Personally, I’ve made the choice to start working with couples as soon as they book me. I do this because couples I’ve worked with in the past tell me that my monthly check-ins were one of the most helpful parts of their wedding planning. (Selfishly, the regular check-ins keep me on track, too.)

Other coordinators will set a specific number of meetings or calls — usually one or two — to have together before your wedding. Nearly all coordinators make themselves available for unlimited email, text, etc. because really, who’s going to ignore a paying client?

  • Typical cost: My rate is $1,500 to $2,000 (here’s the math behind my fee). Some coordinators charge more — say, $2,500. I’ve yet to find one that does what I do and charges less than $1,500.

  • Terms to look for: “partial planning” is a popular one though, honestly, the term means different things to different vendors so be sure to clarify

  • Will they attend any walkthrough that I might have at my venue? It depends. For my clients in the Portland metro area, I attend any final venue walkthrough (so the one that typically happens four to six weeks out from your wedding). Other coordinators charge extra if they attend. Check out my “What to Discuss at Your First and Final Walkthroughs" free resource, if you want to handle your own walkthrough.

  • Will they attend my rehearsal? Again, it depends. I do because I find the rehearsal is a great place to answer last-minute questions and meet the couple’s VIPs but not all coordinators attend rehearsals (or if they do, they will charge extra for the service).

  • Will they make me a timeline? Yes, they should. A benefit of hiring a coordinator is that they handle this so you and your partner don’t have to.

Month-of or day-of coordinator

This is kind of like a more professional version of that friend you’re thinking of asking to help.

Yes, technically, I bill myself as a day-of coordinator but, as my business has evolved, “day-of wedding coordinator” has become a bit of a misnomer. I actually get started the day a couple hires me (for the reasons I explained in the previous section) but I’ve hesitated to change the name of my business (the SEO!).

My sob story aside, there is such a thing as a purely month-of or day-of coordinator. This is a person whom, after you’ve booked them, won’t be involved in your wedding at all until — you guessed it — the month of, week of, or sometimes even day of your wedding.

I don’t know many people who do this type of work because, honestly, it’s really hard to show up on a wedding day and learn all at once who’s doing what when.

  • Typical cost: $800 to $1,000

  • Terms to look for: “month-of” or “day-of”

  • Will they attend any walkthrough that I might have at my venue? Nope.

  • Will they attend my rehearsal? You can always ask (and then pay them for their time) but usually, no.

  • Will they make me a timeline? From what I’ve seen, no. Typically, a couple who works with a month-of or day-of coordinator is responsible for creating all resources — namely, a timeline and a “directory” of all vendors — that they then hand over to the month-of or day-of coordinator to then execute. To help, check out my “Timeline” and “Vendor and Wedding VIPs List” templates.

Do I even need this service?

Maybe you don't even need a wedding planner, wedding coordinator, or a month-of or day-of coordinator. Not everyone does.

But if the tasks above sound like things you'd rather not do and if you’re in a place where it makes sense for you to pay someone, trust me: There is a person out there who can help. Maybe it’s even me.