“So, What Do You Do, And How Much Do You Charge”

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you  that you might have thought or said the same phrase a hundred times when reading thourgh marketing material and speaking with potential wedding services. It’s a fair question for sure, but not necessarily an easy one to answer in a quick manner as one might think.

Case in point: The “Incoming inquiry” might include a sentence letting me know who or what location has recommended my coordinating service, then  swiftly want to know the obvious answer to what I do and how much I charge? Most of the inquires that are worded like this are for “day of” coordination package. Some folks wish  I could step onto a property the day of the wedding and magically make everything run smoothly without any preparation other than the ceremony rehearsal the day before. Eventhough there are basic time structures to wedding ceremonies and receptions, every family has their own family culture and customs which need to be addressed and honored. It really does take a considerable amount of time to get to know what the Bride and Groom want or in some cases needs to be educated about their own religious practices.

Admittedly, I have graduated over these many years to a clientele with high expectations, even for a “day of ” service package. My observations and experiences have shown me that every bride wants to feel special on her wedding day.  When I started out over twenty years ago, wedding coordinators were a rare find. Most brides didn’t  think about hiring someone to review contracts, set up a schedule of events for the wedding day, and handle any delicate family issues like divorced parents etc.  Most brides thought they just needed someone to get them down the aisle and for some, that was all they needed. Slowly as my brides personal and professional lives became even more busy with obligations and complications of travel and possibly second marriages with children and extended family, cultural, and religious differences, more people skills, problem solving techniques were needed, along with more time to take care of the growing amount of details with higher expectations. Please find below a typical scenario to describe a wedding day enactment of the tasks and duties for me and my staff to greater understand what it takes to give my clients a wonderful smooth running event as possible.

So here we go!………grab a cup of Joe, and put up your feet; and read awhile to find out what goes on at a large hotel property on the wedding day.

Location: Large hotel property with multiple meeting and event spaces

Size of guest list: 150 to 200 guests

Decor: Standard hotel chairs, dance floor, staging (might rent linens and some event lighting)

3 Separate sites on the same property spread out among several acres of hotel rooms and areas for ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner reception

Staff needed: 1 lead coordinator for 12 hours, and 2 to 3 assistants for 6 hours each of service time

The scenario:

You are greeted by the lead coordinator (That’s me) during the last phase of arranging your hair and make up prior to you dressing. If your dress is not hanging out of the bag, I usually take the dress and put it near good light so the photographer who will arrive shortly, will have the dress ready to go for photos. I fuss over the dress a little to make sure there are no dangling threads or loose beads etc. Your undergarments, shoes, veil, jewelry and later your bouquet will be placed close by for establishing shots as well. Extra stuffing in the dress and the train, if pinned up is removed, and the train is  opened to let the dress breathe. aaaaaaaaah.

While keeping an eye on the timing for the rest of the women in the bridal party for hair and make up, my assistant #1 arrives with the florist and flowers for the women. The flowers  are check over and put in a safe place in the bride’s room. While my assistant is checking the flowers, I’m checking on the bridesmaids dresses to see if there are any little fixes or adjustments needed with a needle and thread or to cut off those pesky dress hanger  ribbons that get in the way later. There may even  be a few touch up needed with an iron for the bridesmaids dresses. Most hotel rooms include the ironing board and iron thankfully!

Photographer and Video camera persons arrive (I’ve phoned them ahead of time to tell them your room number earlier in the day). If your groom is dressing in another room in the hotel, my assistant #1 will go there with the lapel flowers for the groom and groomsmen. If you have two photographers, great, they can capture both of you getting ready around the same time, if only one shooter for both photography and video, we just adjust the order and get the men a little before you and come back when you are ready to get into your dress. Here’s where having pro radios helps among the wedding services. We talk to eachother on radio (I provide them) so we all know where we are, especially at a large piece of property.

Now it’s time for you to get dressed. Many brides like to have all the bridesmaids together and enjoy the ritual of helping you get into your dress, even if it’s just for a photo op. I’m usually in the background  helping you step into your dress and once you are in it, Mom or Maid of honor takes over to zip or button you in for photos. With bridesmaids looking on and helping with your shoes, garter (?), and veil…it’s nice to have someone checking to make sure you all have the right jewelry, shoes, etc. on and are ready for that first glance with your groom. While all this is going on, my assistant #2 is in the ballroom to make sure the basic floor plan and the number of tables and where they are placed is according to the floor plan pre approved a couple of weeks prior to the wedding day. The florist is also bringing in the centerpieces and is placing them on the floor in a safe corner until all the linen is down and before the dishes and all are placed. Sometimes we don’t have that perfect timing, but it’s appreciated when it happens.

I help you down from your hotel room(holding your flowers and checking your train to keep it away from being soiled),  to the spot where the photographer wants you to be for the first glance.   Assistant #1 has gone to get your groom and brings him toward you once you are in position. Once you are taking photos together I’m off to the ceremony area where assistant #3 is going over the ceremony set up and handling any last minute adjustments needed for sound, receiving tables, and arrangement of chairs for family and guests. Assistant #1 stays with you and your groom with water and other emergency items to oversee the photography and direct bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family to you as needed. Once I hear from assistant #1 that it’s time  for the bridal party to join you and your groom for photos, I knock on doors and round up the groomsmen to make sure all the wedding party members are on their way to you both.

While assistant #2 is in the ballroom, I go check on the progress of the ballroom and talk to the musicians that are delivering the sound equipment into the ballroom and making sure the sound equipment isn’t in the pathway of the servers later and if we need to leave room for flowers being transferred later from the ceremony area, there is room for them on the stage or in front of the stage making sure the room allocated by the diagram (floor plan ) is still working or needs adjustment. Assistant #2 is there to alert me to any changes needed and to let me know when the catering captain is in the ballroom to talk through the service timing for the event a little later in the day. During this time, assistant #2 is checking the linens, napkin fold, putting down menus, favors, and attending to any other details inside the ballroom until I have a chance to converse with the catering captain for the evening.

Then it’s time to check on the layout of the cocktail area. Since this area is outside many times, care needs to be given to the escort card table to make sure the cards are secure if a wind should come up suddenly. Once Assistant #3 has finished up in the ceremony area, the cocktail area needs to be looked at for placement of tables, chairs, musicians, sound, bar set up, and placement of escort cards and sign in book if brought to cocktail area after ceremony. Flower arrangements and or candles will need to be placed as well as linen if rented. Any lighting needed depending on time of day will also need to be checked. While assistant #3 is finishing up the cocktail hour, I check back with family and bridal party to make sure we have all the extended family members for photos needed and get ready for a break before the ceremony to sign the marriage license or any other documents and participate in any other pre ceremony customs. I greet the officiate and escort the officiate to the room set aside to gather the wedding party prior to ceremony. I make sure there are beverages and any food ordered  for the  signing  is ready. The photographer and video camera shooter are present. Just prior to guest arrival, assistant # 3 returns to the ceremony to act as a greeter or help with gift registry, pass out programs, and oversees the seating of guests with the help of assistant #2 whether there are ushers or not.

Upon completion of the document signing, I escort the entire wedding party to the ceremony area for the processional. Once the music cues are given and the ceremony is under way, I head back to the cocktail area and ballroom to go over last minute details and cue catering  staff for food and beverage service for cocktail hour.Assistant #’s 1 and 3 remain in the ceremony area to assist with retrieving any ceremony accessories and directing guests to the cocktail area, as well as staying with the gifts until a hotel staffer can assist them in moving the gifts to the bride and grooms evening room or other designated location. At the conclusion of the ceremony I return to the ceremony area to escort you and your husband to a private room or your hotel room so you can have some food and beverages and a little quiet time to yourselves before you join your guests for cocktails. This is also a good time to bustle your dress, check your veil and transfer any luggage needed from the room your groom used during the day to your room for the night.

Assistant #2 is now in the cocktail area greeting your guests while I’m with you briefly. Once the ceremony area is picked up and any musicians have moved from the ceremony area, after taking a quick check, I return to the ballroom to go over any last minute changes and cues for band leader or DJ before guests come into the ballroom. Once the cocktail hour is over, assistant #1 is relieved of duty, and assistant #2 and 3 assist guests leaving the cocktail area and direct them to their seats in the ballroom as well as checking any escort cards that might be left or any  guests that show up unexpectedly. I take you and your husband out of the cocktail area to get ready for the grand entrance. Sometimes brides and grooms like to practice their first dance quickly before they are introduced. If your wedding party is going to be introduced just prior to your entrance, my assistant # 2 and I line you up and cue the DJ or band that we are ready to go. Once you are introduced and dancing your first dance, assistant #2 is relieved of their duty and we are into dancing, followed possibly by welcome by parents, initial toasts and dinner. Most of the time assistant #3 will stay until the third hour of the dinner reception when we cut the cake to make sure that all wedding party members have transferred any of their daytime gear and street clothes are taken out of the changing rooms and your room is cleaned up. I remain until after the event is concluded and any remaining accessories like the cake knife and  toasting goblets are collected and the services have returned to pick up any rentals and flower props at the end of the event.

When you add up the 30 hours of service of coordinator and staff for the wedding day, the rehearsal, final calls to services and wedding site/s to make sure everyone is on the same page, meeting with clients to go over final contracts and create a final schedule of events, possible meeting with catering manager and final floral/decor samples, it’s easy to see how the hours add up. Typically, there are dozens of emails that pass between client and coordinator, and between coordinator and other wedding services for a total of over 60 hours of service. My service packages begin at $2,500 and up depending on the level of service needed.