Wedding Coordinators What Is Their Job?

This subject is very relevant to brides, grooms and their families getting married at the Notre Dame Basilica! Getting married at the Basilica is a magical experience for any Notre Dame Alumni and if you are lucky enough to get a date  Basilica Day, then congratulations! So that the day flows smoothly and is as magical as you have dreamed of and the planning process is as painless as it can be, we here at Notre Dame Weddings strongly recommend hiring a wedding coordinator to assist you with the wedding.

A wedding coordinator, wedding planner or wedding producer do many things. During the time leading up to the wedding they maintain your budgets, recommend vendors that fit your personality, offer advice, impart their knowledge and experience, advise and so much more. During the day they are there to ride herd on your vendors (and be the heavy if needed so the bride is can enjoy herself), assure that you are where you need to be on time and handle the little problems that may crop up during the day and implement back up plans if need be. They are there to make sure that your wedding day experience is as stress free and magical as you imagined it to be.  But not all planners are equal and hopefully with the example we have found our readers can learn and be better prepared to find a wedding coordinator that will meet all their needs.

As anyone who has had experience with Notre Dame, you know that Notre Dame has it’s rules period. Live with them or leave is usually your only choice. That is no more true than for a Saturday Wedding in the Notre Dame Basilica. You must abide by the rules at the Basilica and so must your vendors, with four weddings a Saturday going through there, there are no excuses!

A Wedding Coordinators, if knowledgeable and trained can see and anticipate potential problems that may crop up and not only head them off but save you stress and raw emotion. They also know the vendors they have worked with before and can recommend ones that will be team players and more concerned with you the customer than their own egos. Especially in a destination situation that is Notre Dame, listening to your wedding coordinator about who they recommend as vendors is very important. You need someone who works within the restrictions and as will be shown below vendors outside of the area may not ” get it” .

Our example:  This morning I was doing my regular twitter wedding surfing when I found a link to this blog post . Honestly I am in shock! Shocked! I read this blog entry as a complete failure on this coordinator’s part to do her job properly and to have the proper planning in place!

Let’s look at a couple of the major points: poo-pooed the timeline and kept insisting to the bride that she didn’t need any timeline; she was the bride and they could not start the ceremony without her.

Here is where a local vendor that the coordinator knew and was aware of the situation that is the Basilica would have been a good send. But since the customer was set on their favorite out of town vendor there are things that can be done.

I see this as the first breakdown of communication between the hair stylist and the wedding coordinator.  At this point, when the attitude of this hair stylist first was on display the coordinator should have immediately taken steps to firmly point out that it was not a question of when the bride would arrive, it was a question of if she would even get married, if she was late. The coordinator’s job is to do what the bride or family otherwise would have to do, be the heavy! I have heard of coordinators picking up the hair spray, and brush and shooing the entire lot into the limo for completion at the destination. They stylist may have an ego but the coordinator’s job is to ride herd on the vendors, to make sure everything gets done properly and on time.

However, I can’t shake the question, why did it reach this point in the middle of the preparations ? Why wasn’t this attitude and the need to be on time made clear long before the day of the wedding to this stylist and not the day of! That is part of the wedding coordinator’s job, inform vendors of problems they may face or requirements they need to meet before they even step foot in the door!

When I got firm with the hairdresser insisting that he needed to hurry, I got the same “poo-poo” and the same ‘they can’t start the ceremony without her’. There is a very good answer to this: No they won’t start without her, they will cancel it and she won’t be getting married. Obviously firm wasn’t firm enough. I was in a wedding once where the coordinator kicked the groom and his groomsmen into the limo in their underwear to get them to the church on time. The men weren’t happy about it but after the wedding my friend the bride, was very thankful for her guidance!

Also, where was the backup plan!?! Shouldn’t it have been kicking in as soon as it was obvious that things were heading to a melt down. You hire a coordinator for their knowledge and trouble shooting abilities, none are displayed in this tale. To me this is where a backup plan should have been kicking in. Call in a local, pull the stylist out of the room and read them the riot act. Do what needs to be done to get the bride where she needs to be, now! Why is this coordinator complaining that her time line wasn’t being followed by the client, when she wasn’t doing her job! “Timelines aren’t in place to make you miserable, they are there so that your wedding takes place the way you (and your venue) had planned.” That is wrong! The coordinator is there to enforce and execute the preplanning and handle problems that may crop up, not to beg the bride that she needs to follow the time line. Sometimes a firm hand is needed with the customer too. In the end they’ll be thankful for it, it is after all what they are paying for, to make sure their money doesn’t go to waste.

I find this the saddest. but not before the bride was in tears, her mother was visibly upset . Such a sad situation. Over the few years I have been involved with this industry I have spoken to a lot of wedding coordinators. Lou Barry, Cynthia Basker, Weddings Inc in Chicago and many others, all top notch wedding planners and coordinators. The one common thing they all agree on, if the bride ends up in emotional distress on the wedding day that isn’t a product of her own doing and is due to vendors then they have failed in their jobs. Wedding coordination is not easy, in fact it is very difficult. One Chicago coordinator once told me they are the shrink, the financial planner, the creative designer, the fountain of knowledge, the trouble shooter, the time watch, the heavy and so on. The biggest job of the coordinator is to deal with the problems that crop up behind the scenes, get them handled and never let the happy couple and their families even know that there was a problem if possible.

It is About Communication!

I see several failures in this blog entry. The first, the belief that a time line is some sort of answer all. Time lines are really only a backup for faulty memories, a planning tool handed out days ahead of time so everyone is on the same  page the day of. Something that fixes in place all the planning that had gone on before. Trial runs, meetings and phone conferences are much more important than time lines! It is the wedding coordinator’s job to make sure the time line is followed.

Make requirements known ahead of time in the planning. Obviously it was not made clear to the stylist ahead of time, at least not enough to sink in, how important it was to get the bride to the church on time. If the poo-pooh attitude had been displayed, in the planning process, then steps could have been taken to head it off before the wedding day. But this should have been headed off long before it became a day of problem!

Failure to plan properly: My assumption is there was only one stylist and from the blog entry that is impression, in the planning process this should have been fixed!  Cynthia Basker of Celebrate Events recommends what she calls a bridal stylist for the bride only . Occasionally this bridal stylist will work on the mom or a flower girl, but his or her main purpose is to get the bride styled to perfection and only the bride so that she is on time.  Depending on the needs of the rest of the bridal party one stylist to every two women is a good ratio. Obviously if there was only one stylist for the whole bridal party as this blog entry implies then failure for proper planning was the problem!

Don’t stress out the client, needlessly. The bride shouldn’t have been in tears if this had been planned out properly by the coordinator ahead of time, but at the same time the coordinator should have done everything possible to handle this as discretely as possible. But with the begging that a time line is your friend in the post, to the brides, I have a feeling the coordinator was in over her head.

A time line on paper is not a substitute to proper planning and communication!

Our recommendation at Notre Dame Weddings, hire a coordinator knowledgeable about weddings in the Basilica. Interview them! Find out how firm they are with vendors and how they run the day (note: they don’t just hand out a time line and then complain about the vendor or client not following it). Ask them what they would do if faced with the situation portrayed by this wedding coordinator.

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