In my experience, there is a lot of confusion among brides-to-be about the differences between wedding planners and venue coordinators. I have been planning weddings in Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco for many years, and one of my most irritating pet-peeves is when a venue tries to sell their internal coordinator as an experienced and creative wedding planner. It seems that unless you work in the wedding industry, the advantages of an independent wedding planner versus an in-house coordinator are not commonly known.

About five years ago, I remember getting a frantic phone call from a bride whose wedding was only a week away. She booked her venue 8 months ago and was assured their in-house coordinator would take care of ALL the details. She was told hiring an outside wedding planner would be a bad idea and a waste of money.

The bride had been working with the in-house coordinator for months on planning details, but had just received an email that her coordinator would not be there on her wedding day. Luckily, I was able to step in and make the wedding magic happen for her.

Today we put together a list of key differences between a wedding planner and a venue coordinator:

1. Vendors:

Venue coordinator – depending on the venue, the coordinator will likely give you a list of venue-preferred vendors and nothing more.

Wedding planner – You wedding planner becomes the central point of contact for all of your vendors. They will attend (and schedule if needed) all vendor meetings. If a vendor is running late, they will contact your wedding planner, who will quickly and efficiently put out the fire. Your wedding planner provides you with vendors they have worked with before and have an established relationship built on trust and cooperation. Finally, your wedding planner will negotiate all contracts for you and often save you money in the process.

2. Venue:

Venue Coordinator – your venue coordinator is often responsible for anything within their venue. Think of things like tables, chairs, food, etc. Venues also sometimes provide catering services, so your wedding coordinator will ensure the wait staff and kitchen are all on-task and on-time.

Wedding Planner – your wedding planner assumes responsibility for making certain the venue is prepared and ready for your wedding. This includes making sure all of the vendors know their timing and responsibilities. Finally, your wedding planner will determine the color and style of the linens to match your chosen wedding theme.

3. Timeline:

Venue Coordinator – hotels and wineries will create a timeline for their catering staff, but it will be solely based on when the food will be served. End of story.

Wedding Planner – your wedding planner will create a detailed timeline that encompasses all aspects of your big day. In my timelines, for instance, they start the moment the bride wakes to the moment the last vendor leaves the property. I schedule arrival and departure time for all of your vendors and coordinate with your photographer so you will get the best possible shots of your wedding. I also schedule which songs should be played for particular dances, when the cake will be cut, and where the send-off will take place. In other words, we do it ALL.

4. Accessibility:

Venue Coordinator – Although they might not tell you, they likely are juggling the details of 50-100 other weddings and you are really just a note in their calendar. Because they are so busy, it can be a challenge to talk with them about crucial details, and they keep business hours only.

Wedding Planner – I am available to my clients 24×7, with few exceptions. So if you just need to clarify a detail or have an outright emergency, I am only a phone call away.

5. Design.

Venue Coordinator – They’re just not designing your wedding. Period.

Wedding Planner – Your wedding planner will take great care to design your ceremony and reception according to your vision. We will choose your flowers, linens, color scheme, tabletop design, etc.


Brides, do not allow yourself to be deceived. A venue coordinator is not a wedding planner – planners play a drastically more important role in your wedding. Don’t be the bride who finds out in the middle of planning that she really needed a planner, not a venue coordinator.