We live in a society that upon meeting someone, the very first thing we ask is, “what do you do?” When I respond, “I’m a wedding planner”, their answer is almost always, “Oh that must be so much fun! I would love to do that. Is it just like that J. Lo movie?” I always answer, “Yes that is some of it, but we don’t steal the fiancés.” It would be impossible to quickly explain all that we as wedding planners do, we wear so many different hats, but that is what makes our profession so interesting to others. So, what does a wedding planner do?
The quick answer would be wedding planners are responsible for assisting couples plan their wedding and any wedding-related activities. We do this through planning the event logistics, negotiating with vendors, developing the chosen theme, and then being on-site to manage the wedding and ensure that everything runs smoothly. That sounds great and all, but it’s not very specific. So really, what does a wedding planner do? How do they do it?
The best way to explain the many roles and responsibilities of a wedding planner would be to break it down into: “A Day in the Life of a Wedding Planner”, “Roles Before the Wedding”, and “Roles and Responsibilities at the Wedding”.
A Day in the Life of a Wedding Planner:
Most wedding planners are also business owners, or else they are independent contractors for other wedding planners. This means that a professional wedding planner’s time is more than likely split between 80% running a business and 20% planning weddings. Here is what wedding planners work on day to day:
- Marketing: posting and interacting on social media, updating their blog, creating online and magazine ads, reinforcing their brand
- Managing their business: sorting their expenses (receivables, payables, taxes, etc.), developing contracts, managing client files
- Getting new clients: answering enquiries, following up with prospects
- Continuing learning: attending workshops, courses, conferences, and webinars
- Keeping current with what is popular in weddings and events
- Creating and managing timetables and checklists
- Making appointments with venues and vendors (and clients)
- Networking with other wedding professionals
- Attending Wedding Industry events and Open Houses
Wedding Planning, Roles Before the Wedding
Now we will talk about the fun stuff. A wedding planner is just that, the wedding planner. They will work with the couple to help plan every aspect of the wedding and any associated events such as the Rehearsal and follow-up Wedding Brunch. Some of the many things the wedding planner will do are:
- Hold Initial Meeting and meet with new couple
- Finalize the contact and initial payment, set up monthly payment schedule
- Create initial budget or budget projections with the clients
- Tour & book ceremony and reception venues and negotiate contracts
- Have a Wedding Design meeting with clients-Review Pinterest folder together, create inspiration boards, finalize the overall style and color palette
- Source and refer decorator, rentals, lighting, furniture and plant rentals as needed
- Help clients choose and send save-the-date cards, if needed
- Consult, guide and inform the couple of wedding etiquette
- Make vendor recommendations, book meetings
- Ensure contracts are signed and secured for everything they have booked so far
- Recommend that clients create a wedding website for travel information and details
- Ensure contracts are signed and secured for everything they have booked so far
- Invitations will need to be sourced and ordered
- Block off guest rooms or obtain group discounts at hotels for wedding guests
- Tastings with caterers and wedding cake designers
- Assist and suggest items for guest hotel welcome bags
- Assist with rehearsal dinner recommendations and planning
- Assist with post wedding brunch recommendations and planning
- Recommend and source personalized wedding detail items such as aisle runners, unity candles or alternate ideas, cake and knife set, pens, toasting flutes, etc.
- Recommend and source wedding favors
- If couple is providing their own alcohol and bar, have them order the license and insurance
- Schedule hair and make-up trials as needed
- Suggest and secure child entertainment/babysitting services, if required
- Remind couple to apply for Marriage License
- Create a first draft of the Wedding Day Schedule to review with the couple
- Recommend and assist with ordering Wedding Day Stationery
- Schedule and perform final walk-through of venues
- Create Room diagrams
- Confirm final payments for wedding professionals and provide a list of final payment dates to the couple
- Confirm rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch plans
- Obtain final guest count and seating plan from couple
- Confirm final numbers with the caterer/venue
- Confirm final numbers of centerpieces with decorator/florist
- Adjust linen and rental orders, as per final numbers
- Update all timelines for the wedding
- Create and prepare the Wedding Day Checklist for the and their team
- Estimate gratuities for wedding professionals and advise clients as to the amounts
- Send timelines to all vendors/professionals and confirm timing and details.
- Make sure couple has sourced and created the guest hotel welcome bags and that a “Room Drop” has been arranged at the hotel
- Facilitate and/or manage wedding rehearsal
- Obtain wedding items from couple such as flutes, serving set, unity candles, favors, escort or place cards, guest book, etc.
- Obtain final payment for vendors or gratuities to distribute them
- Remind couple to drop off guest bags at hotel and alcohol to venue, if providing their own bar
- Update and finalize all lists and timelines for the wedding day, send out to appropriate people
- Update, finalize and print Wedding Day Checklist for planner and their team
- Assemble and organize Wedding Day Clipboard or Binder
- Make sure Wedding Day Emergency Kits are stocked
Roles and Responsibilities at the Wedding
First and foremost, the Wedding Planner is the Director, the Producer, and the main Point Person of the wedding. They are the person who has planned all of the event logistics, and suggested and created the team to carry out those logistics. Weddings in the United States end around 11pm, and weddings in Canada don’t end until 1-2am, so you will be working for 8-10 hours on the wedding day in the US, and 12-14 hours in Canada. It’s always fun to check your steps counter at the end of the day, because it’s like you ran a marathon.
- The Wedding Planner and their team is to be on-site at the wedding to manage all deliveries and setup of the ceremony and reception spaces
- Some couples feel better if the wedding planner or their assistants start the day with them as they are getting ready
- Planner will manage the wedding party, their families, guests and be the point of contact for all of the wedding professionals involved in the execution of the day
- Distribute all wedding flowers and pin on corsages and boutonnieres
- Facilitate the First Look if the couple is having one
- Ensure the ceremony is set up properly, check on the musicians, double check the sound, make sure the signing pen is out, set up any unity ceremony items, check on the décor
- Give the Marriage license to the officiant if they do not have it already
- Line up the wedding party for entry in the ceremony, straightening and fixing, reminding them of cues and sometimes even collecting the gum from their mouths! lol Planner will count in a cue the wedding party and open and close the doors if they are at a religious site.
- Planner will direct any last minute/late guests to empty seats at the back and keep them from interrupting the ceremony
- After the ceremony, the planner and team may be helping to distribute champagne or they will usher the couple to where they need to go and begin tear-down of the ceremony site and transfer any items to the reception site
- The Planner’s assistant will accompany the couple and their wedding party to photos and help that run seamlessly
- The Planner will go to the reception site to manage the setup and check on absolutely EVERYTHING to do with the reception, including: set-up, place-settings, deliveries, place cards, escort cards, favors, seating, allergy cards, centerpieces, condition of glassware (spots) and linens (stains or holes), high chairs, rental chairs, card box, and any welcome tables, etc.
- Liaise with all vendors for the reception, and go over timing and roles, make sure entertainment has everything they need to perform as per their riders
- Manage the cocktail reception
- Arrange the receiving line and welcome table if the couple is having one.
- The Planner and their assistants will help guests find their seats
- The Planner and a trusted member of the family will secure gifts and card box
- Liaise with and cue MC
- Line up wedding party for entrance and introductions
- Assistant usually goes home unless there are a lot more elements to the evening
- Oversee meal service and make sure those with dietary restrictions and allergies are being taken care of
- Make sure couple is being tended to
- Prepare and cue speakers
- Cue any entertainers
- Oversee and manage the rest of the reception and any elements such as: cake cutting, entertainers, bouquet/garter toss, games, special dances, special food coming out, fireworks or sparklers, couple send -off, etc
- Oversee tear-down/striking at the end of the night
As you can see, a wedding planner has many roles and responsibilities, and there is way more than what I have listed above. Thank goodness The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada teaches you everything you need to know to be able to fulfill these roles and be the expert that your clients deserve from a Certified Wedding Planner!
by Danielle Andrews, President of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada Inc.
Danielle has been a certified, professional wedding planner since 2000, and has been sharing her knowledge and expertise about wedding planning since 2003, when she and Tracey Manailescu, co-founded The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada Inc. Since that time they have trained and certified over 9000 planners in 32 different countries.