Which Wedding Planning Service Do You Really Need?

Photo by  April + Galina .

Photo by April + Galina.

New York Wedding Planner Allison Davis Is Here to Help You Make Sense of Wedding Planner Terminology and Packages.

Trying to make sense of the world of weddings is rough for anyone who’s making their first attempt. Our industry is big on beautiful imagery, but finding information to help you make real decisions is hard. That’s part of the reason why it helps to have a wedding planner — we’ve done this many times before, and can save you time, costly mistakes, and possibly some tears of frustration. Aside from all of the savings, it’s nice to have someone you can talk to about wedding things who isn’t on anyone’s “side,” but instead just invested in making sure that your day is as great as it can be. We can be pretty helpful along the way, and are invaluable in those final weeks — and on the wedding day itself — when communication and anticipation go through the roof. We’re fielding those calls and emails, giving you pep talks, and making sure you don’t forget to any of the things you’ve planned on doing. Even if I wasn’t a wedding planner myself, I’d hire one for help with my own wedding.

So you’re sold on the idea of wedding planners as a valuable asset, and you’ve started trying to find one based on your location, personal style, and budget. But how do you figure out who to hire beyond asking about their experience and packages? How do you make sense of the different terms they use? Is a planner the same thing as a coordinator? There is a consistent behind-the-scenes effort by our community to align on terminology, but there are still a lot of different terms you’ll see to describe who we are and what we do.

Here are 4 Terms You Need to Know Before You Hire a Wedding Planner

1. “Day-of Coordination” aka “Month-of Coordination” aka “Wedding Management”

You’ll probably see these terms used relatively interchangeably on wedding planner websites, but make sure to review a description. Essentially, this is short-term coordination: they typically don’t plan with you, but instead they coordinate your plans, so I’ll continue to refer to them as coordinators. In the most basic capacity, you’d work with this person to act as a kind of stage manager for your wedding (which you need!). They’ll likely take the work you’ve already done, organize it in a way that they know to be most effective, and act as point person for all of your vendors leading up to the wedding and on the wedding day. Lots of coordinators have started to increase the offerings within this service, and will offer you advice here and there long before your wedding.

Many venues require coordinators, which may inspire you to start looking for one right away, even a year or two away for your wedding. It may be tough to find someone to commit that early, as many planners offer longer-term planning options, as well. Be prepared to wait until around six to eight months before your wedding date before you can receive a contract.

Pink Wedding at Greenpoint Loft.  Photo by One Night Cereus .

Pink Wedding at Greenpoint Loft. Photo by One Night Cereus.

2. “Partial Planning”

The grey area of wedding planning is partial planning. The parameters change depending on the company/service provider, but ultimately this is exactly what it sounds like: your planner does part of the planning, and you do the rest. How that “part” is determined is what varies. Some planners will match you with partial planning services if you’ve already booked several vendors (usually your venue and caterer at least), and others if you are planning to book certain vendors on your own but haven’t done so yet. It may seem like a good way to cut costs, but reach out to a planner who inspires trust and listen to their suggestions for the right level of service. Marking yourself as an ideal candidate for partial planning is risky, because you may end up in over your head (and less receptive to hearing how full planning works).

3. “Full (Service) Planning”

“Full service” seems self-explanatory at first, but there’s still variety within this category! If you have no interest in DIY wedding planning or combing through the internet to teach yourself how to do it yourself, full planning is your jam. But what if you’ve booked a venue that you love and have a Pinterest board, but nothing else? You’re probably a good candidate for full planning, too.

Partnering with a planner early on and signing up with their full package of services means that you have a guide. As I like to tell my clients, we lead you up the wedding planning mountain. That means you don’t have to figure out how anything works on your own — just ask your planner and they’ll tell you.

Depending on the planner, you can be extremely hands-on with your planning and get into every detail, or you can be entirely hands-off and just tell them your budget, guest count, and a few keywords to describe your personal style. The areas where you’ll find the most variance are the number of meetings or calls you’re offered, whether they’ll mail invitations or receive RSVP cards, and how many hours you’re allotted on the wedding day. Some planners will go with you to choose a wedding gown. Others won’t. If you’re early in your wedding planning process, start out by asking about full planning and see if it meets your needs.

Sophisticated Wedding at Brooklyn Greenpoint Loft.  Photo by Katie Osgood .

Sophisticated Wedding at Brooklyn Greenpoint Loft. Photo by Katie Osgood.

4. “Guided Wedding Planning” or “Virtual Wedding Planning”

Not all planners offer this, but it’s a good option if you feel like you need something in between coordination and a direct relationship throughout your planning process. Many guided wedding planning programs offer you a timeline of planning milestones (sometimes they’re customized!) and a series of check-ins to keep you on track. Don’t underestimate the power of that regular check-in! Having an accountability buddy means you’re much less likely to put off DJ research! If you’re organized and relatively confident about the vendors you’ll need, this could be a good option. Keep in mind, though, that this often does not include the presence of a planner at the wedding, and you likely really, really want to have that.

Still Not Sure Which Planner Is Right for You? Talk to Them!

Find planners that come off as interesting to you, and ask them questions! We know that you’re not an expert on our service offerings, and we don’t mind explaining how it all works. When you find the right planner for you, wedding planning stops feeling so daunting. That peace of mind is totally worth it.


Allison Davis is the founder of Davis Row, a creative wedding and event planning company. Allison approaches everything with a friendly-yet-calm demeanor, quick sense of humor, and sometimes-overwhelming empathy. She lives in New York City.

Photo by Corey Torpie