I'm a Virginia wedding photographer based in Loudoun County and I spend my days photographing incredible couples in Virginia, D.C. and beyond. Explore some of my favorite sessions below!
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March 17, 2020
If there was ever a week to embrace getting a planner or a month of coordinator this is it! I have watched so many incredible coordinators advocating for their clients and going above and beyond this week as we face rescheduling and juggling calendars thanks to COVID-19. Today’s blog is written by Lauren Harbin, a planner with Chancey Charm, who also happens to be one of my favorite vendors to work with! She’s sharing an inside look at what month of coordinator’s role is and how they can ease your stress and be an advocate no matter what is happening in the weeks leading up to your wedding.
Congrats – you’re engaged! Everyone around you is playing it cool and then one day …BAM! … It hits you square in the face with what feels like your new diamond rock. You are suddenly inundated with advice and referrals about wedding vendors – whether you asked for it or not. Your co-workers, siblings, friends, and even parents (but of course not the husband, let’s be honest) all seem to have their own insight into what is important and what is considered an appropriate budget. While it is true that weddings run the gamut in terms of style and budget, there seems to be a misconception toward month-of coordinators and venue coordinators. We hear it all the time… “I’m super organized, I don’t need a planner”, “We just can’t afford one in our budget”, “I already know my color scheme and vendors…why do I need one?”, “Our venue has a planner, so we’re good”.
While responsibilities may vary between coordinators depending on their business, the reality is no friend, family member, or even maid-of-honor should bear the responsibility of troubleshooting when the actual day arrives. A month-of coordinator can alleviate vendor questions, coordinate for unexpected weather changes (take this from me, who got married in a Hurricane) and handle last minute stressors that are bound to occur for even the most organized bride. We can see how it can be confusing with terms like month-of coordinator, event management, day-of-coordinator, complete planning, partial planning, and wedding planner! At the end of the day, each wedding planning business will craft their packages slightly differently, but ultimately the verbiage regards how much hands-on assistance you will get throughout the planning process. Since many venues even require day-of (or month-of) coordinators, we are here to de-mystify their true responsibilities.
The frequency of conversations or access you have to a month-of coordinator may vary depending on the business, but generally, a coordinator will reach out to your vendors about 30-60 days prior to your wedding. This timeline ensures the vendors have you at the forefront of their priorities (any earlier and they are focused on other weddings) and allows ample time to discuss details, should any questions arise. In regards to client communication, the wedding coordinator may schedule set phone calls throughout the planning process to catch up or allow for emails whenever questions arise. Many packages set boundaries on what a month-of coordinator can and cannot do. Some examples of what may be included are contract reviews, vendor recommendations, a walkthrough of the venue with your caterer, a set number of in-person meetings, timelines, reception layout, and leading the rehearsal. Now, let’s jump into more details on timeline creation.
A month-of coordinator will create a detailed wedding day timeline. This will incorporate all conversations with the various wedding vendors regarding their arrival and departure times as well as requests from the couple. The coordinator will note the couple’s unique wedding day desires such as a group photo with their alma mater’s flag, attending part of the cocktail hour, or surprise moments for guests (a puppy ring bearer appearance perhaps?!). The wedding day timeline may also include the various family photo groupings so the coordinator or assistant can work with the photographer to efficiently complete extended family photos. The timeline provides an overview of the day and creates transparency and direction for all vendors to work together.
There is a good chance that someone in your wedding party has been in a wedding before, but for many others, this will be their first rodeo. It is good practice to have the ceremony rehearsal on-site if possible. Many venues will encourage you to book your rehearsal several months ahead of time to avoid any conflicts with other weddings or events. While at the rehearsal, the coordinator will introduce everyone and then facilitate when each bridal party member enters the aisle and where they stand at the altar (yes, it gets that detailed). The rehearsal is also a popular time for brides to drop off decor items for the venue or coordinator to take care of. The less a bride has to coordinate or think about on her actual wedding day – the better!
A month-of coordinator will most likely show up when the first vendor arrives, such as the hair and makeup artist (note: this is contingent on the coordinator’s contract). The coordinator can check in with the bride, her family, and her bridesmaids to gauge how everyone’s feeling. This is also an opportunity for the coordinator to gather gratuity envelopes to distribute to vendors later in the evening and collect any last minute decor items. If there are any mini-emergencies such as a bridesmaid forgetting an item or if someone is running late – this is also where the coordinator becomes the MVP in critical thinking and problem solving to save the bride any grey hairs in her perfectly groomed updo.
A month-of coordinator will be a photographer’s best friend! They can assist with wrangling family members for photos and calling off names for different photo groupings. During extended family photos, a coordinator or their assistant will be making sure the reception area is set prior to guests entering the space. Your month-of coordinator and team can field questions to guests during cocktail hour if someone needs to locate the guestbook, escort cards, or direction of the restroom. They are your point-person, your barrier, and your therapist to make sure all of these tasks are getting done seamlessly.
A month-of coordinator will be responsible for unpacking and setting up your decor items before guests arrive and while the bride and her troops are getting ready. These can range from the photos, place cards, centerpiece items, guest favors, and any sort of display separate from catering (candy bar, donuts, cookie tables, donuts, S’more station, did I mention donuts?…etc.)
If not most importantly, the month-of coordinator will be the one packing up items at the end of the evening while guests carry on with the ever-popular after party. A great coordinator will have a packing list that notes all items brought to the event to ensure nothing went missing or broke during the evening. They will also be the one to orchestrate any sort of newlywed exit at the end of the evening, whether this is a sparkler exit, bubbles, or confetti.
A month of coordinator will be the glue to your wedding day. When you are spending so much money on a once in a lifetime event, you want to have the peace of mind that someone understands your vision and is devoted to bringing it to life. They will communicate to your vendor team the specific moments that are important to you and will do everything in their power to ease any stressor that arises. Your month of coordinator’s website or Instagram may be pretty, but they are one percent covered in a little blood (hopefully minimal!), sweat (definitely!) and (happy!) tears on your wedding day ensuring your family, friends, and most importantly you are having a great time! Cheers to wedding planning!
Photo by e.losinio Photography
Lauren Harbin’s primary focus when working with couples is to give them an unmatched client experience. She keeps her couples on track so that no one feels overwhelmed by the planning process, and her calm, polished demeanor makes her brides feel at ease. Her attention to detail, knack for organization, creative eye, and love for people led her to a career in the wedding industry. She loves working in Loudoun County and weddings that include a surprise late night snack or pup in their ceremony (biased as a Bernedoodle mom). You can inquire with her here and find her on Instagram here.