Appointing a DIY wedding coordinator

The other day, I penned a quick article about the unforeseen difficulties of wedding planning. I’ll do a separate article on styling soon, as that depends on how detailed your wedding is, what kind of venue you’re having and a whole host of other factors.

But for now, I thought I’d help you out with what to do if you can’t afford a professional wedding coordinator – and what instructions you should give the person you’ve appointed.

Appointing a coordinator / MC

Earlier this year, I realised I’d hit a flaw in the plan. While after a particularly bad early planning experience, having nearly ended up in a venue with overly controlling staff, I was desperate not to repeat that mistake.

Having gone to the other extreme with a totally blank canvas venue, however, I knew I’d need to quickly find someone to ensure the day ran smoothly. So I sent out a message to my closest friends and my lovely friend Alfie responded without hesitation.

Now, before I say any more, it’s really worth mentioning that the coordinator / MC job is not an easy one. You need a friend who’s:

- Really really organised and able to work to a tight time scale.
– A confident and authoritative speaker.
– A team leader.
– A close enough friend to be ready to really work on the day, as well as being a guest.

In return you’ll need to provide them with:

The most detailed running order you could possibly imagine this includes:

- A comprehensive list of suppliers, complete with contact numbers and planned delivery / arrival times.

- A list of the wedding party, with pictures, and who’s offered to help out with what.

- A list of all of your key guests, with pictures, that need to be looked after (for example, special seating for elderly or disabled guests), watched out for (I’m sure everyone has a relative that’s likely to get drunk and need subduing) and guests that need to be called for photos etc.

- Timings of the day. I’m not just talking about general timings, such as what time the ceremony starts and when everyone needs to be ushered in for the meal. I’m talking timings of everything, from the moment you arrive at the venue, to walking down the aisle, to when the first drinks and canapes need to be served, to when the food needs to be brought out, when the band need to come on etc. etc. This is no mean feat and all eventualities need to be considered.

- His / her role in all of this. For example, I’m not having a caterer so we’re hiring local waiters to help out for the day. The coordinator will need to be in charge of letting them know what needs to be heated or defrosted and when, what needs to be brought out and at what time. Almost all of the styling responsibilities, however, fall to someone else so Alfie won’t need to worry about that apart from liaising with the stylist and helping her put together a team.

- Your wet weather plan – in just as much detail as your dry weather plan.

A tour and map of the venue

I don’t mean a tour of the venue to show your coordinator how pretty it is. Do this quite soon before the wedding and bring your plan with and a pen and paper, so you can scribble down anything you might not have thought of. It will also help your coordinator to visualise where things will be happening on the day.

A great team

It’s totally unfair to expect one of your friends to be running around like a headless chicken the whole day. He / she is still your friend and would love to really be present at your wedding. He / she also can’t be everywhere at once. So you’ll need a team of people, bridesmaids, suppliers, groomsmen, ushers and other enthusiastic friends, to delegate smaller tasks to. That way the tasks really will seem minute when divided amongst everyone, and nobody, including the coordinator, will really have too much to do. Every venue and plan is different, but my team will include:

- A stylist and team. We have a relatively small set up time for the amount of detail that’s going into this wedding so I’ve hired a professional stylist to execute this quickly and properly on the day. My stylist knows all the tricks of the trade and how to get things done . A few of my friends have volunteered to act as pairs of hands for her on the wedding morning. This takes a whole host of pressure off of Alfie as he can then leave her to get on with her work. If you do have more time to prepare, however, and less detail, assign a creative friend to lead the venue styling team when you can’t be available (because you’re getting ready etc.).

- A kitchen coordinator. Someone to go and oversee the waiting staff and food and drinks preparation and make sure it’s all out on time.

- An entertainment manager. Someone to make sure the band is set up and ready and that all the equipment is on site and tested. They’ll also be responsible for calling the band up.

- Ushers. To do just that – usher people out of the ceremony, towards the drinks, into the main meal etc.

Equipment

Make the wedding coordinator job a really fun and easy one. I’m talking walkie talkies, headsets, clipboards, the works. Think Monica coordinating Phoebe’s wedding, or Franc from Father of the Bride!

An amazing thank you present

Just because your friend isn’t expecting payment doesn’t mean you should take them for granted. Show them your appreciation by getting them a lovely, personal gift to say thank you for all their hard work.

If you don’t have a friend you’d trust with the running of your day, I’d suggest hiring an on-the-day coordinator, but having everyone you love be involved, each in a small way, can be a really great way to include everyone you love in the day. One thing I will say is, don’t leave the running of your wedding to chance – make sure you’ve made plans, whether it be with an in-house or external coordinator or with a dear friend.

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