Planning a wedding comes with a huge list of To Do's, and while you may think you can handle it on your own, some things are better left to the pros. Before hiring any help, it's important to note how much time you're willing to devote to planning, what you'll need the most help with, and how much of your budget can be set aside for a planner, coordinator, or designer. You're probably thinking, "Wait, what's the difference?" Read on to learn each pro's expertise and how they'll make your planning process a breeze and your wedding the day you've been dreaming of!

Wedding Planner

For many people in the industry, the titles of wedding planner and wedding consultant can be interchangeable. Fortunately, the term bridal consultant has started to fade away as more grooms take the planning lead. This person works with couples and their families to piece together the 15 or so wedding professionals and agreements that may be involved in modern weddings. Think of them as a general contractor. They work with you to establish and manage a budget, make referrals of qualified wedding professionals, provide etiquette advice, attend meetings with wedding pros, tastings, and work to keep the wedding planning on track. Additionally, they oversee the timing and flow of the wedding day. In most cases, this will be a full planning service involving a relatively large number of hours spent planning and in meetings. However, to capture a larger market segment, many planners are offering tiered options, at varying price points, for couples who may be a little more hands-on.

Wedding Designer

Wedding designers seem to have arrived on the scene from one of two camps.

The first is the wedding planner who wanted to increase their market share but also took notice of the growing desire to have a cohesive look that permeated the entire wedding. Years ago, wedding flowers needed to match the bridesmaid's dresses and the color often found its way into a few simple touches of ribbon on favors or invitations. Styled Shoots, Pinterest, and Instagram-worthy details catapulted millennial wedding planners into wedding designers. The second camp was the transition of the local flower shop to a full-service florist, many specializing in weddings. Not only do they offer more than floral sprays and bouquets but because they often were pulled into the overall wedding planning details by their clients, they too set themselves apart by becoming wedding designers. Either way, wedding designers focus on the aesthetics of the wedding day. They should also have experience in budgeting, referrals of talented professionals, and exceptional organizational skills.

Wedding Coordinator

A wedding coordinator or wedding day manager is as a more affordable alternative to full-service wedding planning. Don't be mislead by the term "day of" when it comes to these pros. Wedding coordination is a service tier that involves way more than just the wedding day. A wedding coordinator often works with couples for a few weeks before the wedding to find out as much as possible about the details of their wedding day. They reach out to all of their wedding pros, review their contracts to be sure what they were hired for, prepare a timeline, and act as the go-to person on the day of the wedding. With a lower price point than full-service planning or wedding design, this service is often the entry point for newer wedding planners. Newer planners offer services at much lower pricing than more experienced planners to help grow their portfolio. The challenge is, a wedding coordinator is picking up the couples' planning pieces and cleaning up potential issues in the last 30 days before the wedding. Having no input in the planning or involvement from the beginning of the process, there is greater risk for things to go wrong but having a second set of experienced eyes on your details is a huge help to manage your wedding planning stresses.

Which Is Right For You?

Knowing which of these talented wedding professionals might be the best fit for your wedding may be a matter of dollars and cents. Full-service wedding planning or wedding design can sometimes involve upwards of 200 hours worth of emails, meetings, planning, and design. If a full-service planner is not financially an option for your budget, find a talented wedding professional who offers partial planning packages where you can have them by your side for guidance, referrals, and cost-saving suggestions. If you're working on a reasonably modest budget, look for an experienced wedding planner who may offer consultations—a meeting at the beginning of the planning process to help you establish a wedding budget, give you a game plan, and make some recommendations of wedding pros to help start you off on the right track.

Regardless of your wedding budget, a wedding coordinator or wedding day manager is a must. You want to be the guest of honor at your wedding, with family being guests—not running the show—and taking care of timing and any possible issues. A good wedding day manager will be an investment for you to feel (and look!) relaxed on your wedding day and actually enjoy your time with family and friends.

Hero Photo Courtesy of Amira Gray Photography