Before I delve into the details, YES there is a difference!
A little bit of history on my part. When I graduated from the Event Management program at Algonquin College, my first job was a Event Coordinator for a local venue, and believe me when I say "I can work a food and beverage budget like nobody's business!". I also know all the back-end tricks venues use to make money as well as the true cost of the food your paying for before inflation. Don't ask me, you don't want to know!
So naturally when I hear brides-to-be saying "Oh I don't need a planner the venue provides one." I tend to shudder. Because if you think a "venue coordinator" is a planner then you'll be quite upset with the lack of help on your wedding day.
Here is the reality. Venue coordinators are responsible for any and all information which relates to directly doing their job and their job only. This means that they will do you floor plans, food & beverage orders and sometimes include very basic timing details. That's it. Anti climatic isn't it! On the Saturday of your wedding, the Coordinator will be on hand but will also be taking meeting with prospective clients while giving them tours of the venue before your guests begin arriving. So really, their not available to your beck and call. Let me break it down for you.
VENUE COORDINATORS DO NOT
Provide you with advice on planning your wedding or negotiate with vendors on your behalf
Attend key vendor appointments or style weddings
Create your wedding day itinerary
Follow up with all your vendors to make sure they know when to arrive and where to set-up
Keep you on time throughout the day
Wont have a bridal emergency kit on hand to re-sew your broken bustle or provide your bridal party with advil, fresh pairs of stockings, granola bars, tide sticks and bandaids because the heels you bought for the wedding must have been purchased one size too small ;)
Will not receive vendors as they arrive onsite ensuring quality control nor cross reference rentals to make sure all contractual agreements have been fulfilled
Will not trouble shoot or resolve problems which are not related to the venue. So if your napkins come in the wrong color and your rented chivary chairs are falling apart...too bad!
They do not normally set out any decor on behalf of clients (favors, placecards, seating charts, signing table items etc)
Oh and they leave at 5pm before your event starts....
Do not cue speeches or attend to you guests needs. Nor will they get Uncle Sam a rum & coke even though the bar is closed during dinner or check and make sure the father of the bride's steak is served well done.
They also most certainly do not pack everything into your vehicles at the end of the night!
Now with this being said, there are some venues that have amazing coordinators that will go above and beyond the call of duty. And these coordinators will tell you that even though they may do more then the average, hiring a Wedding Planner will be the best money you will even spend.
Truth be told, we don't want you to be one of those brides that say "I wish we had a planner". And we all know one of those girls!
Photo Credit: Andrew Geddes of Union 11