Wedding Planners - How to find a great one!

Dancing on the clouds

Dancing on the clouds

Wedding Planners - How to find a great one!

By Adrian Cavlan - 

Ahhh, wedding coordinators… what a profession! So glamorous from the outside and yet sometimes, anything but from the inside.In the best case scenario, they are the single most important and respected professional on the entire vendor team, and in a worst case scenario, the single biggest obstacle to the overall success of an event.

In my professional opinion, the two biggest factors that influence the final result are attitude and knowledge. And, let me state for the record that I’ll take a positive and team-oriented attitude over depth of knowledge any day of the week.

Me? Heck, I’m just the DJ : ) So I figured maybe we should let the coordinators and a couple of great facility people tell you in their own words what they think are the biggest things to look for when trying to hire a great wedding coordinator. Let’s meet our panelists:

Mandi Nack, owner of A Sparkling Event & newly-elected President of MBWEP

Crystal Lequang, owner of Amazae Events

Sarah Greathouse, owner of A Paper Flower Wedding

Jenn Dunbar, events manager at Kennolyn

Caitlin Arnold, owner of Caitlin Arnold Weddings and Events

The main points they hit on all fell into a few different categories, so I tried to group them as they related to both the business and the individual. Let’s take a look!

Knowledge & Training - 

  • Mandi: Being certified through reputable wedding coordination training program. It’s not a necessity but it shows the planner is dedicated to their career in continued education. And not just the lead planner, but ideally all on their team. Your planner should know the industry and all of its components but especially should be well versed in the local market particularly.

  • Jenn: Be willing to voice your opinion. Although we all want brides to have the best day (as they envision it), a good coordinator must be willing to respectfully speak up if she/he feels something is off or logistics are not operating as they intend it to.

Experience & Reputation -  

  • Crystal: You want to find a wedding planner that is experienced and has an experienced team, not just looks experienced online and on social media (i.e. buys followers), and hires inexperienced free labor. And, finding a wedding planner that has a good reputation in the field with his/her peers, as well as clients, says a lot.

  • Caitlin: Do you want to be the wedding your coordinator learns from or "gains experience" from?

  • Mandi: The planner should have several highly rated reviews on any platform with consistent comments about their personality and services provided. They should also be current to show they have experience and are actively continuing their business.

  • Jenn: Your wedding planner must deliver! At the end of the day a lot of promises are made, and the coordinator MUST deliver what she has been selling them for the last year… to perfection!

Having Creativity & Taste -

  • Jenn: A great wedding coordinator should have a eye for décor, taste, style and be able to help guide their clients to solutions that will not only absolutely love but that will also fit their budget.

  • Mandi: Some coordinators have been doing business in the industry for years but as we all know, the trends and times change almost annually. The clientele is different than 20 years ago and we need to be open minded to new traditions, trends, and clients who are not afraid to think outside the box.

  • Caitlin: I think a good coordinator cares more about you as the couple than the wedding itself: While all coordinators love to build our portfolios, we choose our clients because they're people we want to work with, want to have an amazing, special wedding day and will love the process of getting there and creating it together. The most successful weddings are the ones where the couple and the coordinator click and feed off each other in creating the vision, whether or not that's the coordinator's favorite style or favorite venue/design/etc.

Being Cheerful & Kind -

  • Crystal: Being personable is very important. In some cases you are working with this person for over a year, so you want to make sure you have a great time planning with them.

  • Sarah: This is definitely #1 for me. A calming and upbeat personality is key.

  • Jenn: It’s super important that the coordinator maintains a great relationship with you & your guests - the wedding isn’t just about getting to know the couple, but you must be willing to work well with family & friends.

  • Mandi: They should always stay neutral, be kind and respectful, and be the diplomat in any situation. We are therapists, we are security, we are managers, we are cheerleaders… and so much more.

Being Organized, Reliable & Responsive -

  • Jenn: We all appreciate coordinators who are willing to get back to you any time of the day if needed, and they need to be extremely organized and on top of it! It can be very challenging to be multi-tasking and wearing so many hats, and that organization skill will be a huge part of being successful in this area.

  • Mandi: A planner should be the one to logistically plan out the wedding meetings, work with vendors on details, and work with their couple the most. They should be on time to meetings as well as keep all scheduled meetings with their clients and vendors. Emergencies happen but for the most part, you want to know you can rely on them to be there when they say they will. Also, giving clients options to connect with what works best for them is key to a successful planning relationship. They should have a 24-48 hour timeframe for response to give their client a sense of ease during working business hours/weeks.

  • Caitlin: Professionalism is so important! This includes their attire, email writing skills, promptness (at replies and at meetings) and how they treat you. Too many coordinators out there are "hobbyists" and your wedding will take the hit. A coordinator who believes their job is their profession, and as important as any other "legitimate" profession such as a consultant, lawyer, etc. will treat you accordingly. And open, honest communication is key. There should always be an open line the entire planning process, regardless of the package size.

Being Flexible & Team-Oriented -

  • Sarah: A good coordinator must be able to adjust plans as things change, and it is SO important that the coordinator works respectfully with all other vendors. All vendors will work better when they are respected and feel heard.

  • Caitlin: The coordinator is not the boss and if they don't show up that day, the wedding can likely go forward, but they depend greatly on your vendors (a wedding isn't going to go well without a caterer, a DJ, an officiant, a photographer...). They need to be a team player who desires to work with great vendors (not just vendors who are their friends), and collaborate, recognizing each other's expertise and individual professions.

  • Jenn: It’s important for the coordinator to mold themselves to each individual couple. No two weddings are the same and you must treat each one with such detail and specialty.

Being a Creative Problem Solver -

  • Sarah: While a good coordinator will do their best to reduce potential 'issues' during the coordination process, it is impossible to foresee and prevent every possible 'issue' that may come up. It is important to be able to find creative solutions to potential challenges while remaining cool and collected.

  • Jenn: NO ONE should ever know you’re under so much stress. You must make everyone around you feel at ease.

Being Well Connected -

  • Mandi: Great working relationships with local wedding pros are key. Hiring wedding professionals that all work together, know each other, and have a great working relationship brings ease the wedding day for the pros and for the couples.

Being Passionate -

  • Caitlin: Someone passionate about their job will always go above and beyond - that goes for any profession! Wedding coordinators can become turn-key and jaded from doing lots and lots of weddings each year, but a good one will love and invest in each and every event and couple.

  • Mandi: Passion for weddings comes from deep down. We need to care for each client like it is our first wedding and we are honored to be hired for the most special day of their lives.

  • Sarah: It’s all about perspective and never forgetting the goal of the day. This is a wedding! It should be fun for all. A good coordinator never lets small details get in the way of the desired atmosphere.

Being Realistic -

  • Mandi: Remember I said we need to be open minded and flexible, you may think this contradicts that statement. However, we can absolutely do your first dance right after grand entrance rather than after dinner or have your pet serve as a ring bearer. We cannot fit 20 tables inside of a ballroom that only fits 15 with a dance floor, we can't tell you that if you get married in the winter you are guaranteed not to need a tent at your outdoor venue. We have to be realistic with budgets, layouts, logistics and everything that is involved with decisions for your big day for the best of the event.

  • Sarah: It is important to understand the 'crowd mentality' - Crowds think, and they think differently then a person. Often what makes perfectly logical sense for a single person will simply not work when dealing with a large group of people. A good coordinator understands 'crowd mentality' and how to manage it.

Adrian Cavlan