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Siren StudiosUncategorizedWedding ConsultantWedding Coordinator

The Case for a Coordinator: War Stories from The Trenches

By June 25, 2013No Comments

I have had the unique opportunity to also work behind the scenes for two catering companies, and it’s opened my eyes even further about how complex even the ‘simplest’-seeming wedding can be, without a coordinator to tie all the pieces together. When working on the catering end, processing prep for a wedding without a coordinator takes a flurry of emails and much more time, compared to an event with a capable coordinator at the helm.  This also further illustrates the value of a coordinator as well.  Our company has been blessed enough to have established a solid client base and reputation, and our prices have been carefully crafted to represent this.  For more information on what goes into coordinator pricing, this blog post by Jeannie Ward says it all.

Pricing structures hold up when the coordinator or planner establishes their worth to their client.  It’s hard sometimes for couples to see the value of a coordinator (“don’t you just make a few phone calls and type a few notes into an excel spreadsheet?”) – until they’ve actually hired him or her and lived through the experience, and come out the other side more relaxed, happy, and thrilled with their event than they ever could have  imagined.  Many caterers (and lots of venues) now require clients to hire a coordinator (licensed and insured), or pay for a coordinator on their staff because so much additional work, not technically part of their jobs, fall into their laps otherwise.

Now that I’ve been in the trenches with my catering colleagues, I can attest to how the event can suffer without a coordinator. Tales from the dark side:

  • – I worked for a caterer for a 300 person cocktail party earlier this year.  The client was doing all the prep without help.  The client forgot to order trash cans (required in the contract by the venue – a breach of contract could have impacted their security deposit) – we had to scramble for trash bags.  The bartending company was sorely understaffed – and the caterer had to lend two of her servers to help.  And, the client forgot to order an electric deep fryer for the chef.  She ordered one last minute but ordered a butane-powered fryer; as it was being carried into the building (a high rise), the fire marshal promptly sent it back.  No butane or propane is allowed in highrises; it’s in the fire permit.  Had I been a part of the process all along, I would have a) made sure the rentals were locked in well before the event and the caterer had a chance to review the invoice, and b) that all aspects of the event were in compliance with restrictions and requirements of the city and the venue.  Oh -the cost of rushing out the deep fryer that had to be sent back?  $240!
  • – At a social event I recently managed, I arrived to find the waitstaff hanging around doing nothing – not their own fault – because the linens and napkins were nowhere to be found, having been delivered the day before. The site managers did a cursory look and came up nada – I made them unlock every door and we finally found them.  I started directing the staff on napkin fold so they could get started, otherwise we’d start late. (I usually verify table settings and napkin folds well ahead of time and translate to the caterer, at the latest, 3 days prior.)  The greenscreen photobooth arrived, and because no one coordinated a diagram several weeks prior, there was literally no where for them to go – and per their contract they required a 10×10 footprint.  We crammed them in a corner and access was constrained throughout the event, and the client had to be grabbed from an important aspect of the event to sort it out with them.  Finally, the DJ showed up late, so I dove in and started gaffing light cords, assisting with setup, etc., to speed up their process.  We weren’t quite ready when the ceremony ended, but by then we made sure music was playing and the guests didn’t seem to notice the final few minutes of prep.
  • I was prepping for a wedding for which the clients only hired a coordinator for literally the rehearsal and 6 hours on the day-of.  The coordinator could not do any prep work as the clients were apparently on a severe budget; thus, as a representative of the caterer, I did a thorough examination of their paperwork.     The champagne glasses were never on the order, so they were added.   The groom had to pick up desserts that morning and drop off decor and signage to the property, tasks we would have performed as part of our standard services so he could have relaxed and enjoy his day.  Groomsmen also had to drive over the rest of decor and unload (again, if decor is a reasonable, standard amount, we do this.)  They also did not secure parking shuttle for their staff as advised by the venue contract; I had to shuttle the servers and then walk 1/4 mile down Pacific Coast Hwy with my kit. (Good times! – and possibly a liability issue for the clients.)  Last but not least, with only 5.5 hours of active event time (vs the typical 6), we ran 1/2 hour late.    In events, time is money.  Some things we cannot control, of course; but a good coordinator can generally keep crucial aspects of the event running within 15 minutes of the timeline.  The overall budget for this wedding was easily above the national average of $25k.  For about 4% of their overall budget, I would have insured full enjoyment of their event as well as likely saving them that half hour of lost time of dinner and dancing.

These are just a few major issues that can be totally handled well before the wedding day.  Basically, putting together a wedding or event takes knowledge of permits (do you know how Pasadena’s fire permit process differs that Santa Monica, which differs from Los Angeles?  Don’t buy your votives till you do!), table placement (there is an allowance in between exits and tables/chairs that must be complied with at a venue), and all sorts of other logistics. We are part director, producer, electrician, and, gasp! – plumber (I have used the word “septic cleaning” more than once).  We are incisive about targeting future issues and solving them before they cost you sanity and money.

For this wedding at Siren Studios, we pulled a Special Use permit from Building and Safety.

I haven’t even mentioned the value of our vendor referrals – one client has even posted on our reviews that the best vendors were the ones we referred to her, and she wished she’d have hired all of our referrals! (The photographer in this case left without telling me – missing the grand exit, and…her tip!)

Before taking the plunge, we always offer a complimentary consultation, where couples can get a feel for our work and our thought process – and get a close-up view of how we can save the day.  Call or email us anytime: or 310-562-3306!