Defining Roles Within The Wedding Industry

defining roles within the wedding industry

There is a lot of terminology out there in the wedding industry for the various roles and services couples can choose from. It can be really difficult for Brides and Grooms (and their families) to understand who does what, and to know what the best option for them might be. In this blog post, I'm looking at wedding planning ... or coordination, or whatever term you use for this role/position/job.

Let's look at the list ... we have:

Wedding Planner
Wedding Designer
Wedding Coordinator
Event Planner
Day-of Coordinator, or Day-of Planner
Event Management
Creative Director
Venue Coordinator
Wedding Stylist

How do we define these roles?

Here at The Graceful Host, I really consider myself to be a Creative Director. However, since this isn't a very common term in this particular industry (at least not yet), using it exclusively might confuse couples - and I honestly only want to make things easier for others to understand what it is that I do. So, I refer myself a "Wedding Planner + Designer" for ease.

A wedding planner is a person who focus' on the planning and logistics. They are responsible for managing all vendors, communication is streamlined. provide structure to wedding planning, and ensure all logistics are executed to perfection.

A wedding designer is a person who creates the overall design and vision. They conceptualize the design and communicate that with all the vendors. The designer relies on the vendors to execute the look, given his or her direction.

A creative director shares a very similar role with a wedding designer, but takes it one step further. Not only will the creative director conceptualize the design of the event and communicate those plans to the vendors, but they'll also direct the vendors through the creation of the design. This means working very closely with the vendor team to make sure all pieces of the puzzle are carefully planned and coordinated so that the event design is executed as it was conceptualized.

What about the other roles? 

There is so much overlap and many similarities between all of the roles listed above. In many cases one title will encompass another - for example, a wedding planner will also serve as a "day-of coordinator". Let's take a closer look at defining these roles, as well:

Let me start out by saying that this one drives me nuts because there are way too many terms for this role. A wedding coordinator is the same thing as a day-of coordinator, or a day-of planner, or event management, or month-of coordination, or month-of planning. This person is focused on the coordination of the wedding or event planned. They typically step in around the 3-month mark to begin the transition and take over from there. This is why the term "event management" has come about in recent years. There is no such thing as a planner who can successfully handle just the "day-of" or the "month-of". And if someone does promote services that begin with just under a month before the wedding day ... run. They don't know what they're doing! The bride would have been responsible for all planning and booking of vendors up until the event manager steps in. This person will spend a lot of hours combing through your notes, communicating with your vendor team, and making sure your event day is set-up for success. As you can see, their jobs begin well before the wedding day.

It might be confusing to couples why some people call themselves an event planner vs a wedding planner. But it's really an easy explanation - events implies that the person handles more than just weddings. Events include things like birthday parties, showers, rehearsal dinners ... gatherings of any kind. While most wedding planners offer additional services like rehearsal dinner planning, welcome party gatherings, bridal showers, etc., they might only offer them to their existing wedding clientele vs. it being a standalone service, like an event planner would.

This one also deserves some in-depth explanation because it can cause confusion for couples when they are considering hiring vendors. A venue coordinator (or any individual that works for a venue and serves as your point of contact for the venue) is not the same as any of the roles above. They do not preform the same duties as a wedding planner, or a wedding designer, or a wedding coordinator. This person is simply the events manager at the venue you've chosen to host your wedding or event. Their responsibility pertains to all things related to your venue - not the entire wedding. Which means, your venue coordinator will not help you find your photographer (they might have a vendor referral list, but that list is not curated to reflect your style needs, budget, event goals, etc. That list is a recommendation of wedding professionals that the venue enjoys working with). They will not help you create a wedding day timeline, or deal with the logistics of your wedding day. They will not communicate with your vendor team on your behalf. They will not help you book vendors, or read through contracts making sure everything you need/are expecting is accounted for. They will not go with you to your floral meeting. They will not help you with the design of your wedding. Now, they might help you plan a menu - if the caterer is considered in-house for that venue. An example of this is with hotels and country club venues that do not permit outside catering. The reason you receive assistance is because catering is part of the venue. Another example: a venue coordinator might offer linen samples to choose from and/or chair choices that come with your rental package. This is not the same as what a wedding designer does or assisting with creating a wedding design plan. They are simply showing you what is available through their rental partner(s) because certain amenities (might) come with your rental package. Wedding planners are responsible for every facet of your planning process, with special attention to logistics. Planners are focused on the wholistic view of the planning process and the actual wedding day. Wedding designers are responsible for bringing your vision to life, and like planners, look at the bigger picture rather than one piece of the puzzle.

A wedding stylist focuses on the styling of your event. They likely are not involved in the planning and concept creation of your event. But on the day-of your wedding or event they are there to make sure each detail planned looks as it should - from fashion to tablescapes to paper details. The role of a stylist overlaps with many other roles listed here, such as wedding designer and creative director, who also (usually) take on the role of stylist, ensuring their concept is executed to perfection.

Where should a couple begin?

You might be wondering how to know what the best choice is for you when it comes to hiring a planner (or designer, or coordinator!). A lot of couples begin the wedding planning process unsure of how much support and guidance they'll need. It's normal! So if you can relate to that - don't worry. It's not like planning for a complex event, like a wedding, is something you do every day. Some start out thinking Event Management will be sufficient, but they find out that they really need more help ensuring everything is crossed of their list - so a wedding planner would be a much better fit for their needs. Others might find out that they need more assistance creating a design plan and someone to help them better execute their vision because it's become too overwhelming of a task for them to do it alone - so hiring someone who is also a wedding designer is important in this case.

In many cases wedding planners offer design services to their clients. But you'll find that some are more focused on design than others. For example, The Graceful Host is focused on wedding design. The planning and logistics side is to things are still very, very important - but my brides seek out my services because of the design expertise that I offer. If design isn't that important to you, then you might not be a good fit for The Graceful Host. And that's okay! It just means that you'd be a perfect fit for another planner who's focus is more on the logistics side.

Before you dive into wedding planning of any kind, take some time to figure out what you truly need and why you might want to hire someone to help you, in whatever capacity. And be honest with yourself. Planning a wedding, even a small wedding (50-75 guests), can take a lot of time and energy! Then search for the right fit making sure you are working with someone who can provide a solution for your needs and problems, who will be a good personality fit for you to work with, and someone who you can trust. (That last one is a biggie!) You'll find that experience levels will differ, and services will differ from company to company - pay attention to that and to the language they use when describing their services. A company that has been in business for 6 years cannot easily be compared to a company who's been in business for 2 years. You'll see that difference in experience reflected in their service offerings and fees, as well as in how they operate.

A message to my fellow vendors ...

At the end of the day, planning a wedding takes a village. It's team work, y'all! A whole lot of coordinated team work. Each vendor needs to work closely together in order for the magic to happen. And our clients might not see everything we're doing behind the scenes - why should they, though? We need to listen to each other, respect each others needs and set each other up for success. We have to keep our clients wishes in mind and do what is in their best interest, as well as guide them in our area of expertise as the professional. Each and every vendor serves a purpose and fills a piece of the puzzle when it comes to a wedding or event. We all rely on each other when it comes to serving our clients well and providing an amazing final product. So, let's give credit where it's due (I'm looking at you social media and blogging!) and support each others craft.

Have anything to add to this conversation? I'd love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts.