Do I need an Event Planner or Coordinator or Designer?

The first question you should ask yourself is…do I know the difference between an Event/Wedding Planner, Coordinator, and a Designer? Let’s look at each one first.

Event/Wedding Planner: A planner is the one that starts the process and creates the map and all the details of the event or wedding. They are responsible for negotiating contracts, finding vendors, determining what vendors are needed. They create the timeline and make sure every single detail is confirmed and documented. The Planner is the liaison between vendors and clients.

Event/Wedding Designer: Designers make everything look pretty! They receive the plan from the planner to come up with concepts to show the client. Once their ideas are approved they work with their team to create and set up the final design. The designer is just that…a designer. They do not deal with any of the planning or logistics. They are the artists. so they “art.” They are the ones that make your visions become a reality.

Event/Wedding Coordinator: The planner will give the coordinator the final Event/Wedding plan when it is complete. A coordinator makes sure that everything is carried out as the client would like. They make sure that vendors arrive on time and set up in the correct spot. Their main job is to make sure everyone has what they need and the day goes as smooth as possible. In larger organizations, Planners are assigned one or two Coordinators per event/wedding.

Venue Coordinator: Only deals with the venue. Does not confirm deliveries or payments. They make sure tables and chairs are set up and everything is in its proper place. They do not deal with anything having to do with the couple. And they often work with the couple’s planner to make sure everything within the venue boundaries is running smoothly.

Note in smaller organizations the Planner will take over the role of the Coordinator and the Designer.

Alright! Now we know who everyone is. What exactly do I need?

If you have all your vendors booked, your timeline set and you are having Friday evening girls nights for the next 23 weekends to create the decor for the event.  You probably just need someone to make sure all the vendors have the correct order and delivery information. You want someone there that will just make sure everything is set up and you don’t have to worry about anything. A Coordinator is what you are looking for.

If you only have your venue and you have no idea what other vendors you have to book. You don’t know where to start and you are a little overwhelmed. Pinterest is your world and are practically finished with all your decor. You are probably going to want to talk to a planner. A planner can recommend vendors and negotiate a contract and make sure everything is in order. They are going to create a timeline for you and make sure everything flows. Their job is to make sure you don’t forget anything! The plan makers!

So you totally booked all your vendors. You have your timeline and you know exactly what song will play by the minute. But you don’t think you have a creative bone in your body. You don’t know the first thing about color, texture, and mood.  This is where the Designer can help! They will give you ideas on colors, table settings, lighting, drapes, dancefloors and your overall mood. They are the artists. The maker of beautiful things.

So, okay. I need all of them! Well, you can go to a big organization and have a planning and design team of 3-4 people. And of course, you are going to pay a lot for all those people! But to be honest, it would be an amazing Wedding/Event!  But you don’t have an unlimited budget, you need it to be affordable. There are some very talented people that are all of these. These are going to be your smaller businesses.  These amazing people are awesome and create some fabulous events/weddings. But if you are going to go this route you need to do your homework and look around!

What do I look for?

Ashley Caitlin Photography @ashcaitphoto

I tell every person who contacts me for services to make sure they get at least 2 other quotes. Am I sabotaging my own business? Not sure, but part of what I need is for people to be happy with their decision. Not everyone gets along. And not every couple is compatible with every Planner/Coordinator/Designer. So, my first piece of advice, GET 3-4 quotes. Gather them. Most Planners are going to give you a few days to review the quote and contract. If they pressure you into making a decision right away, that may be a red flag.

Ask questions!

Write down at least 5 questions. This is an interview! They are applying for a job. Ask the questions. See if they actually know what they are talking about. Get to know them a bit. See if their personality and demeanor is in line with yours. You need to trust this person. You need to be confident and not worry if the planner is handling it. Get someone who can Olivia Pope it! “It’s Handled!” If they can’t answer a lot of questions and you aren’t getting that warm fuzzy feeling. Red flag!


I know everyone wants to just look at the price and choose the least expensive option. I’m trying to think of a not stupid analogy for this. But it’s not going well so…. You go to the grocery store and you need to buy some milk. There are a few different price points to choose from. The first is $1.00 a gallon. The second is $2.75/gallon and the last is $4.00/gallon.  Do you just grab the cheapest one and that’s that? Or do you look at them and try to figure out WHY they are priced so differently? Same with the Event/Wedding industry. You get what you pay for.

Now that’s the simplified statement. Yes and no. Sometimes you have Planners who have no experience at all. They have done a few things for family and friends. But their experience is very limited. But because the established event companies in town are charging at one point, this Planner with no experience is using their pricing model without really knowing what or why they are charging those prices. You also have some very experienced Planners who are not charging enough because they underestimate their worth. And then you have the inexperienced and experienced undercutting everyone.

Who are they?

Look at their About page. What does it tell you? Does it give you information that makes you feel like this person could really plan your Wedding/Event? Or do all they talk about is their favorite ice cream flavor and reality show? Next look at their professional profile on LinkedIn. Look them up on FaceBook. Google search them! Go to the Association of Bridal Consultants or Bridal Association of America (or other national association) and search them! If they belong to an association be it local, national or global they must uphold a certain code of ethics. It’s required! See if they are certified or have had other training. Look to see the events they have done. Am telling you to stalk them. Kind of yes….but not in a weird way. (do I really need to put a disclosure on this paragraph?)

Hint: best place to find vendors, including the planners, is your local association, chamber of commerce or other professional business groups.  In the Missoula area: Bitterroot Wedding AssociationMissoula Chamber of CommerceMissoula Businesswomen’s Network. In the Kalispell area My Montana Wedding. Just to name a few.

Okay, I have stalked everyone like you said, now what do I do?



OMG make sure you got a good vibe from them. You can get the most experienced and best price and have a miserable stressed time during the whole planning and execution. So go through your pile, and just set aside all the ones that you didn’t get a warm fuzzy from.


What are you getting for your money? Look at everything that is offered. Some Planners have packages that may seem high compared to others. Keep in mind that higher priced package is most likely getting you more bang for your buck in the long run and you most likely will save money.  Are you just getting a coordinator to show up for the day or are you getting a planner and coordinator that will help you the entire month or more? Are you getting planning and design that includes custom made items and discounts from vendors or are you just getting a timeline and a coordinator? LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE GETTING. And any Coordinator/Planner/Designer will work with you on payments. They can break them up to make it easier.


When you are looking at any vendor you are going to pay money to, you are expecting a certain level of service and expect that person you hire to be an expert. For this reason, you can not be afraid to ask questions. Ask how long and how many events they have done. Out of those events how many were Paid events? There are a lot of people who have never done an event for a paying client and have no idea how different it is than doing something for yourself or friends and family. You are hiring these people to make your day easier and stress-free, so you need to make sure they are going to be able to get the job done.

A tie?

Oh gosh. What if it comes down to two. You love them both. Same amount of experience, education, and training. Packages are comparable and the price is the same. What do you do!?  My answer will always be “DANCE OFF!” but that’s not realistic. (or is it?) Really take a closer look at everything. See if one has a strength you think would be more beneficial. Are they super good at the logistics and you have 9 vendors and a marching band parachuting in at exactly 2:00 pm? Or are you all about flowers, lighting, and draping and having everything look amazing…because you want that published in Rocky Mountain Bride!

If it’s still a complete toss-up….flip a coin!