Expert Advice: The Difference Between a Wedding Planner and a Venue Coordinator

One of the best investments you can make for your wedding day is hiring a wedding planner. The couples whom we feature always say how vital their planner was in executing their vision, and making the day even more enjoyable so that they nor their family had to worry about a thing.

But do you really need a wedding planner if you’re working with a venue that provides a coordinator?

The answer is still yes.

Couples often get confused as to the duties of a wedding planner versus a venue coordinator, so we turned to our local vendors to share the details on each role. And to break it down, even more, wedding planners are hired by the couple to manage all aspects of the day, whereas the venue coordinator’s responsibilities are usually only venue-related.

“These are truly two separate roles and should remain separate in the execution of a wedding. You can absolutely get vendor recommendations from your venue coordinator (and should, because they know the vendors that know the space well), but you should not expect your venue coordinator to be your wedding planner, Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events explains. “You should always hire a planner! These people are pure magic in the wedding industry and worth their weight in gold. Find a planner that you vibe with because you’ll spend the majority of your wedding process with them. Many form friendships over the process of planning and remain, friends, long after the wedding is over.”

Our Marry Me Tampa Bay preferred venue coordinators and wedding planners share insight into the responsbilites of a wedding planner versus and venue coordinator and why you need both.

Expert Advice: The Difference Between a Wedding Planner and a Venue Coordinator

Red Mesa Events

What are the Main Responsibilities of a Wedding Planner?

“A professional wedding planner’s main responsibility is to be an advocate for the couple. That often includes assistance with budgeting, providing qualified vendor referrals, design, and etiquette advice. Sometimes it includes being there as part of their support system.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner with Special Moments Event Planning

“A wedding planner’s role is to coordinate all of the vendors that are involved in the wedding weekend and run your entire timeline for the weekend. It is pretty all-encompassing with regards to every aspect of the wedding.” -Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events

“We advocate for your wedding and understand the style, colors, and vibe of the couple to ensure their vision has a cohesive feel from start to finish. Wedding planners review the overall budget and recommend top-notch vendors based on this budget. We organize your wedding day timeline and coordinate vendor arrivals/set up times, set up the ceremony and reception spaces, and make sure that the wedding party is on time and in the right places while solving other last-minute emergencies.” -Riley Gersch, owner and wedding planner with Elegant Affairs by Design

“There are many responsibilities that a wedding planner has in their job description. Overall, overseeing and managing the planning process is the main focus. We begin by making an initial budget so we can stay in line with the client’s vision in relation to their overall wedding budget. Once the budget is approved we then begin reaching out to vendors and presenting these options to our couples for them to make a final decision. Once the decision is made, we review all contracts and make sure that everything looks right before signing. Once we are closer to the date we create a master timeline and verify that all vendors are aware of the full day of run down. We are the first on-site on the wedding day and the last to leave. This ensures everything is set correctly as well as all items are taken down at the end of the night, leaving the venue the way it was when we started.” -Kelsey DiMisa, Associate Planner with Parties A’La Carte

“As a wedding planner, there are so many responsibilities, and I think it’s hard to find just one. Our main responsibility is the client. We want them to remember the day forever, have the time of their lives and enjoy everything with no stress. We are in charge of the timeline and management of the day, and we are also in charge of all setup and all vendor setup. We’re typically the first vendor to arrive other than hair and make-up.” -Katy Turchich-Martin, owner and wedding planner with Coastal Coordinating

“There are 101 responsibilities but I think it’s important to note the following. Your planner will be your sounding board and backbone throughout the entire process. From answering all of your questions for reassurance to knowing exactly who to call for what, including recommending or not recommending people, places, or things. They are the real-life Google for weddings! Your planner is also there for support and mental support. Weddings take a mental toll on a client, more than any other type of event, so being there as support is huge in keeping the couple calm, level-headed, and talking through situations that may arise with family, friends, wedding party, etc. Your planner will be the one to keep your timeline on your wedding day, telling you when to start and when to stop. And most importantly they are your friend! You should be able to trust your planner and work side-by-side to execute a flawless event.” -Laurie Lupcho, owner and wedding planner with Core Concepts

What are the Main Responsibilities of a Venue Coordinator?

“A venue coordinator, in some locations, is referred to as a Catering Sales Manager, which is a very accurate description. They are an employee of the venue. Their responsibility is to the venue, this can include selling catering, package upgrades, and room blocks. They also assist in coordinating activities on-site.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner with Special Moments Event Planning

“A venue site coordinator is charged with selling a memorable experience and working hand-in-hand with the wedding planner. As a coordinator, I am with the couple through the duration of their planning process and their special day. I serve as a liaison between the venue, planner, and couple. I get the opportunity to understand the couple’s dream and work with the planner to meet their needs.” -Andrea Paulet, Catering Sales Manager at Postcard Inn on the Beach

“A venue coordinator’s role is to make sure the venue is set properly, manage food service (if that’s included), run and manage any AV equipment that’s included in the venue, adjust lighting, and anything else that has to do with your venue. They can help manage logistics with regard to vendor load-in and set-up as well.” -Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events

“A venue coordinator’s job includes highlighting the venue, providing a preferred vendors list, assisting with the room layout, providing a list of in-house items to be used the day of, formalizing catering needs, and processing the final invoice.” -Kelsey DiMisa, Associate Planner with Parties A’La Carte

“A venue coordinator helps with designing your floor plan and determining your food menu if catering is done in-house. This person will make sure the room is prepared with everything the venue provides so that your vendors will have a smooth setup process. They often will host several tours of the space that day since potential couples prefer to see the venue when it’s being set for a wedding rather than sitting empty.” -Heather Lorenz, Event Coordinator at The Birchwood

“There is a lot of confusion with couples who treat their venue coordinator as their planner. They are not! They are typically more on the sales side and effectively relaying any dos and don’t of the venue’s policies and procedures on behalf of the owners or the business. They are not your planner, though they often get treated as such, and it can put the venue coordinator in a very awkward position. The venue coordinator needs to set that expectation by letting couples know what their role is and isn’t.” -Laurie Lupcho, owner and wedding planner with Core Concepts

“Venue coordinators are there to work with vendors to make sure they are where they are supposed to be and to make sure that the set up is how it should be and all of the details of the wedding are correct.” -Karissa DiPillo, Event and Community Partnership Coordinator of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

Tropical Elegant Wedding Ceremony, Bride and Groom Exchanging Vows Under Arch with Monstera Palm Tree Leaves, Pink Ginger Florals | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner Special Moments Event Planning | Clearwater Beach Opal Sands Resort

Revery Company | Special Moments Event Planning | Tropical Hawaiian-Inspired Clearwater Beach Wedding

What Does a Wedding Planner Do that a Venue Coordinator Does Not?

“The venue coordinator helps ensure that the services provided by the venue are planned and executed to their standard, while a wedding planner helps couples with all of the other details that are not provided by the venue, including overall budget consultation, event design, and assistance with stationary, flora, entertainment, specialty rentals, transportation, lodging, photography and videography, favors, hair and makeup, and more! Not to mention the expert support through any challenges and answering any questions during the entire process.” -Christi Winsor, wedding planner and owner of Winsor Event Studio

“There are a lot of things that a wedding planner does that a venue coordinator does not. Mainly the execution of every detail of your timeline, running your rehearsal schedule, bustling your dress, (many carry an emergency kit that has all sorts of fixes a venue coordinator does not do), line up your wedding party, pin on flowers, fluff your dress before you go down the aisle, set out all of your personal items as well as pack them up at the end of the event, ensure that all vendors are running on time and are following the timeline, the list really is endless. These are truly two separate roles and should remain separate in the execution of a wedding. You can absolutely get vendor recommendations from your venue coordinator (and should, because they know the vendors that know the space well), but you should not expect your venue coordinator to be your wedding planner.” -Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events

“Don’t get me wrong, I love venue coordinators, and they have helped me more often than not. A venue coordinator is looking out for the venue’s best interest, while wedding planners are looking out for the couple’s best interest. A wedding planner is typically the first vendor to arrive, besides hair and makeup, and stays by your side throughout the day and night. A wedding planner is there to tell you when things will be occurring throughout the night, such as the intros into the reception, toasts, cake cutting, etc. They are the ones who help when a groomsman rips his pants or if you need your dress steamed last minute. Our team stays until the very end of the wedding. A venue coordinator typically stays through cake cutting and then leaves for the evening.” -Riley Gersch, owner and wedding planner with Elegant Affairs by Design

“A professional wedding planner looks at the big picture. We work with the couple to break down their entire wedding budget based on their preferences and needs. The venue, catering, and rooms may be part of that, but it extends to more than a dozen planning areas. Too many times, a venue coordinator makes referrals of other vendors based on their experiences with them on-site. Venue coordinators don’t take the time to look at vendors who fit the couple’s budget or personality. Additionally, if your wedding ceremony isn’t at the venue, it usually doesn’t involve the venue coordinator. The same is likely to apply to getting ready or room blocks, the venue coordinator only handles what happens at their site. A lot of essential services and moving parts of a wedding day can happen before you arrive at the wedding venue, and a professional wedding planner is there to oversee those pieces. Unfortunately, as many couples saw during COVID-19, venues furloughed many of their employees. This left couples with no one to answer their questions or couples were shifted to someone who knew nothing about their wedding. Professional wedding planners are there to advocate for our clients and help them navigate the issues they encounter.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner with Special Moments Event Planning

“A wedding planner manages your full event through and through. We manage your budget, help with vendor selection, review all your contracts, create a detailed timeline, remain in contact with your full vendor team, and more! The venue coordinator’s main focus is that the venue is prepped and ready on the day of the event. If any items are being used from the venue’s inventory they make sure their team knows what is being utilized and that it is in place the day of for the other vendors to come in and set the space. On top of inventory items, they help with anything related to food and beverage being provided through the venue.” -Kelsey DiMisa, Associate Planner with Parties A’La Carte

“The wedding planner will set up things such as meal indicator cards, a memory table, gift table, wedding favors, etc. They will ensure that all flowers and decor are being set up properly and make any necessary adjustments as needed. Your wedding planner is also available to help with any last-minute needs/requests from the couple and bridal party while getting ready. This could include helping to bustle the dress, making adjustments to the assigned seating, providing safety pins if there is a wardrobe malfunction, and providing solutions for any issues that pop up! Most importantly, the wedding planner will coordinate the ceremony (if it’s taking place at the venue) and lead the rehearsal to ensure everything runs smoothly! If you truly feel comfortable with moving forward without hiring a planner, please ensure that you designate a ‘day of’ contact in case any issues arise from a venue/vendor standpoint. That way, your venue coordinator has a go-to person to ask questions rather than bothering the couple during the wedding.” -Heather Lorenz, Event Coordinator at The Birchwood

“We help with all the vendors beforehand, while the venue coordinator just works on the venue side. We start helping at least 60 days beforehand with all vendors. We are your eyes and ears for every portion of the event, including the venue. We help with basic setup and breakdown and go even more in-depth depending on your planning package. We help with all vendors and make sure your vision is executed. We check on you at the start of the day, depending on the package, whereas the venue coordinator starts once you arrive at the venue. If you have a wedding off-site we would help you there as well. Your wedding planner stays until the very end, does all of the cleanup, and makes sure everything has been given to a family member or moved up into your room.” -Katy Turchich-Martin, owner and wedding planner with Coastal Coordinating

What is an Example When a Couple Doesn’t Need a Planner and Can Rely on the Venue Coordinator?

“If you’re hosting a corporate event or a rehearsal dinner, you don’t need a planner. Your venue coordinator is not and should not be your planner. Many venues offer this service as an add-on, however, it’s always best to get a separate planner that you contract with directly. If you think you don’t need a planner, you absolutely do. Hiccups and speed bumps are normal during the wedding weekend, and a planner is there to not only help you get through those but foresee them and solve the problems before anyone even notices. This is the largest event you will ever host as a couple with the most amount of moving parts; get a professional to help you pull it off flawlessly.” -Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events

“I never recommend relying on a venue coordinator only. They are not going to help the couple with all the details and decisions that go into planning a wedding and are not going to coordinate all the vendors. Without a wedding planner, the couple or a friend or family member will have to be responsible for managing the logistics of the wedding day rather than relaxing and having fun.” -Karen Cerboni, owner and lead planner of EventFull Weddings

“If you have a smaller wedding without a lot of moving parts with everything taking place at the venue, you might consider not using a wedding planner.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner with Special Moments Event Planning

“When the venue is the courthouse and the couple only wants to show up to exchange vows and receive their marriage license, then the couple does not need a wedding planner. If there are any other details or logistics involved, then a planner is an invaluable asset.” -Christi Winsor, wedding planner and owner of Winsor Event Studio

My Caterer also Offers “Day of” services. Is that an Affordable Substitute to a Wedding Planner?

“No, and the only reason I say no is because you want an advocate that works and contracts directly with you and not another company. Many of these add-on services only start when the caterers arrive on-site while a professional planner’s services start long before that.” -Leigh Wilson-Arwood, Events Manager at Red Mesa Events

“A wedding planner is often so much more than a day-of coordinator, providing services for many weeks or months leading up to the big day to ensure important details aren’t overlooked and everything runs smoothly. The beauty of a wedding planner is that their main purpose is to make sure all the other vendors have everything they need to succeed at their role that day and can focus on showcasing their talents instead of wearing multiple hats. While there are a scarce few caterers that have the team of staff and years of experience to offer day-of coordination that is on par with other wedding planners, most do not. Buyer beware: you get what you pay for, and if you pay for a service that is inferior and things go wrong, you’ve not only overpaid, but that’s now your lasting wedding memory.” -Christi Winsor, wedding planner and owner of Winsor Event Studio

“If your caterer also has a catering team that can execute the catering side without her/him being around then yes. I can act as my couple’s ‘day of’ for an additional fee and leave my chefs, catering team, and managers in charge of that side. It can be very beneficial to do both when coordinating needs, timelines, décor, etc.” -Laurie Lupcho, owner and wedding planner with Core Concepts

“Wedding coordination is so much more than a ‘day of’ job. There are multiple meetings beforehand to ensure the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. Your caterer and bartending company may be great at putting together a reception timeline, but who is going to be there to make sure that the wedding party is on time and in the right places, especially during the ceremony? Who is going to handle the last-minute emergency situations?” -Riley Gersch, owner and wedding planner with Elegant Affairs by Design

“Take a good look at whether those services include confirming all of the vendors and timing before the wedding day. You also want to know the specifics of their services. If your ceremony is at another location, such as a house of worship, sometimes those services are limited to the time of cocktail hour to the cake cutting.” -Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner with Special Moments Event Planning

“I think it’s important to look at packages as apples to apples what is included. Does that package include two planners as our packages do? Do they help 60 days out or just literally the day of? Will they correspond with all your vendors? Will they take calls from vendors the day of in case anything is not running as planned? Will they be there till the very end? Will they care about all the other details of the event as we care about each and every aspect?” -Katy Turchich-Martin, owner and wedding planner with Coastal Coordinating

“Much like a venue coordinator a caterer may offer a day of services but it’s more focused on the product they are providing like linens, tabletop items, and timing dinner service. Your caterer isn’t going to manage your entire day of timeline to ensure things like hair and makeup run smoothly, photographers stay on time, oversee the logistics of transportation to various locations, and get you down the aisle on time.” -Karen Cerboni, owner and lead planner of EventFull Weddings

MEET THE EDITOR

Marry Me Tampa Bay editor, Anna Coats, created Marry Me Tampa Bay in 2012 to showcase the area's best local weddings and vendors. She has been featured as a wedding expert on the national talkshow Daytime, Fox13, ABC Action News, Great Day Tampa Bay, and Bay News 9 (now Spectrum).

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