Wedding Coordinator vs. Planner vs. Designer

Wedding Coordinator vs. Planner vs. Designer

There is a wealth of information to research and understand about planning a wedding. It's like any new thing in life you just don’t know much about it, and to be in the know, well you gotta educate yourself on the topic. Its especially true for weddings though, because the couple is creating an event that represents them. They are visionaries, looking for professionals to bring that vision to life.

One question that I hear on the regular is “What’s the difference between a coordinator, a planner and a designer?” It’s a great question, and actually one that most people can’t answer. So this blog is all about that great question.

Coordinator, Planner, Designer: 3 Separate Roles

How Designer Planners and Coordinators are Related

The services of a wedding coordinator, designer, or planner are not the same. These are 3 separate roles. Sometimes you can find one person who is good at all 3 of these things.  But that is rare, because the skills, gifts, and tools of a designer are different from the skills, gifts, and tools that a coordinator has, and those are also different from a planner.  Maybe you need to hire people to do all 3 of these jobs for you, or maybe you are going to do some of it yourself, and hire 1 or 2 of these.

Planning a Wedding is like Building a House

Planning a wedding is like building a house

Let me compare this to something that may be more familiar.  If you were to build a house. You may hire an architect to design your plans, then you’d hire a general contractor to hire subcontractors (framing, plumbing, electricity, etc.) to put those house plans together.  Then that contractor would hire a foreman to be onsite to coordinate the skilled professionals into one team.

Together these 3 put deliver the finished product. Some people draw their own house plans.  Some people contract their subcontractors themselves.  Some people stay on-site at the house build to make sure everything is coming along as planned. Other people hire professionals for one or all these tasks.

For a wedding, you can hire a designer to create a concept for your wedding.  She may draw pictures, create a design board, develop layouts and plans. You might hire a planner to contract your wedding pros to execute the wedding design or concept.  Then your planner or you might hire a coordinator to make sure that the design and plans are executed by those professionals according to your specifications. And again, some couples choose to do some or all of those jobs without the help of a professional.

The comparison is meant to illuminate that these professionals, while linked, are not the same. Keep reading for an in-depth description of each of these jobs and what to look for in hiring for each role.

Job Descriptions

Now let's work from designer to planner, to coordinator. Because you’d reasonably need to accomplish design elements first, then planning, then coordinating.


The wedding designer creates a look and vibe for the wedding. They will provide sketches, floor plans, and suggestions for colors, lighting, and other aesthetic elements. A great wedding designer can create a unique atmosphere that intimately matches the clients’ desires, personalities, and even their relationship. The design process begins with developing initial ideas with the client. She finds out exactly what the client wants and the specifics of the wedding. Then she creates the actual design.

What to Look for in a WEDDING DESIGNER

When searching for a designer, look for diversity in their wedding portfolio.  Unless you are looking for a carbon copy of another wedding, you want to find someone that will create a concept specific to you. Also look for someone that has both an eye for design and an ability to translate those ideas onto paper.


Once you have a wedding design, concept, or vision, you may consider bringing on a planner to develop the plans for that concept.  Like a general contractor would for a new house build, the planner is responsible for selecting all materials, equipment and professional services necessary for the execution of the wedding design. Additionally, she will manage a budget and timeline for the project.

What to Look for in a WEDDING PLANNER

When selecting a planner, more than any other professional you might hire for your wedding, you need to search for experience. If you want a great planner, she needs experience in every area of wedding planning. Though she will hire other professionals like a florist, photographer, caterer, etc. she still needs a well-rounded understanding of the work each professional provides. You’ll want a planner that you trust to act responsibly with your finances as well.  And perhaps the most important quality is that the experienced and trustworthy planner is also flexible and accommodating to the client’s wishes.


If you have the design, and plans covered, you may only need the services of a wedding coordinator. The wedding coordinator is your boots on the ground.  Her job is to coordinate all the moving pieces required to execute the wedding plan.

You can book your coordinator as soon as you get engaged but the work she does really begins around the 6 weeks or 1 month prior to your wedding mark.  The coordinator does not plan the wedding but instead works with the client or planner to execute the wedding plan.

Then she gathers wedding details, reviews contracts, confirms details with the pros, develop a day-of timeline, and reviews the setup and flow of the wedding with the planner (and that planner may be the bride). In the week of the wedding, she’ll collect items for setup, walk through the venue with the client, run the rehearsal and implement the wedding day timeline. She is the point person for the wedding pro team.

What to Look for in a WEDDING COORDINATOR

To do this job well, a coordinator should be an excellent listener. She should take the time to understand the client’s vision for the wedding day. She is very organized and clearly communicates the wedding plans to the entire wedding team.  A coordinator is skilled at making decisions under pressure and maintaining flexibility.  She has a servant leadership mentality, in that her role is first to serve the client, but also to serve the professionals the client has hired so that each pro can provide their best work.

Who Do Most People Hire

Over time, these roles have become more defined. And this new understanding of the differences between a designer, planner, and coordinator allows clients to book the person that best fits their specific needs.

Wedding Coordination vs. Planning vs. Design

I imagine the need for these services like a triangle.  Whereat the bottom is wedding coordination, a service I believe every bride should enlist. Many if not most people will decide to design and plan their own wedding and then hand the baton to someone else in the final weeks. 

A lesser but still large amount of people will be interested and excited about creating a wedding design but want an experienced professional to manage the project. Those will make the investment in a planner.

The smallest group will hire a wedding designer as well.  This is the group that values the heightened style, design and overall concept that a professional designer can bring.

Hire the Right Pro

Some firms have all these specialists within their staff. In this case, you could feasibly use the same firm for all three.  Other companies will specialize in just one of these roles.

Don’t Hire a Planner When You Want a Coordinator

Just as you wouldn’t hire the best general contractor in town to be your foreman, you don’t want to hire the best planner to be your coordinator. If you have a general contractor, he selects the foreman for your project. A planner may also hire your coordinator. If you are contracting your own home, you’ve got to find a foreman yourself.  And if you are planning your own wedding, you’ve also got to select your own coordinator. You want the best foreman and you want the best coordinator. 

An Architect is Different from a General Contractor

The same goes for design, if it's really important to you, then you won’t want a planner or coordinator to draw up your design. I know general contractors that have model home plans that they can build at a lower cost than the personalized housed plans that an architect draws up for a specific client. And when those model plans are chosen, the client is saying “ok these plans work for me, I am choosing to forgo the design expertise of the architect.”

A Wedding Designer is Different from a Planner or Coordinator

The same goes for weddings.  You can do a more typical design for a lower cost by forgoing the designer, hiring someone who is not trained as a designer to design your wedding, or designing it yourself. So it all boils down to what’s the most important thing? Is it design, is it cost, is it time, stress relief? Once you know what you want to prioritize, you know whether you need a coordinator, planner, designer or some combo of the three.

Coordinator, Planner, Designer…What’s Right for You?

I hope this explanation will help you choose the professional that best fits your needs. If you do that, you’ll be most satisfied and happiest with the service they provide. When I talk to wedding pros, their favorite clients are the ones that understand what they do and appreciate the value it adds to their wedding. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about these professions and be an informed consumer!

Check out our YouTube video on this same topic!


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