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Wedding Planners vs Designers Explained


Did you know that Wedding Planners and Wedding Designers can be two very different roles? This is far more common on the coasts than it is here in the Midwest, where more often than not it is expected that the same person or company will do both. 

Dana was part of a panel that talked about the difference between the two for an audience of newer Planners to help them decide which path seemed right for them. We thought it would be good to let people hear about parts of the internal discussions of the differences between the two services.

The panel was hosted at Linen Effects by their owner Jenna Culley, of Jenna Culley Events, who also moderated. On the panel was Rachelle Mazumdar from Style Architects, Krista Crawford from de Vasco’s Daughters, and Laine Palm from Laine Palm Events. These three represented the group that leans more heavily into design while Dana represented someone who leans more into the planning. 

The discussion started with introductions and then dived right into the main differences between being a Designer and a Planner. It should be noted that all three designers on the panel are great planners, but their passion is designing. While Dana would never call herself a designer, she can advise on a cohesive look and is great at connecting her clients with the right vendors to create an amazing design. Dana answered first and talked about how to her, a Designer is someone who will focus on all parts of the day, but particularly what the guests will see, feel, and experience with all of their senses. A Planner is going to focus on how things fit together logistically, how the flow is, does it makes sense, are there no weird time pauses, and whether the day doesn’t feel choppy. Both Designers and Planners want the weddings to be pretty and flow well, but the priorities of where we start might be different. 

Laine then responded with her take on things and how for her, it’s everything from what the couple and wedding party, and even parents, will be wearing to all of the printed pieces and making it all very cohesive. She wants to find ways to “wow” guests at every turn and brings vendors on board to make it happen. Laine said there are some designers in our market who will do the design and hand off to the client but that’s not how the three of them operate.

Rachelle added that an easy way to think about it is if you are a Planner who is helping the client with their design, then the Planner is executing what the client came to them with. Designers will push back a bit on client’s ideas to help work out if that’s really what they want or who they are and often where they start is not where they end up. Dana points out that the clients that they get are often scared of trying something different and have a harder time getting the client to embrace the new idea, whereas someone who is a Designer can get them there. 

Krista jumped in to add that she thinks it is about helping clients think outside of the box and seeing things that they never imagined but building off of their dreams. She said the design should be unique to the couple and tell their story from beginning to end. Laine says that a Designer will get to know the couple and how they live their life so you can bring in those pieces to their wedding. 

Later in the panel, Dana talked about the process for working with clients in more of a Planner capacity than a Designer. She talks about being involved in the design based on their package but it’s more about seeing the images and ideas that are inspiring to the couple and matching them up with the right vendors to execute them. While it is based a lot on the couple’s budget of what they can do, Dana leans into the experts at the floral and rental companies to help pull the design and look of their wedding together until we come up with something the client is happy with. If the budget is not there to make all of their Pinterest dreams come true, then it falls to a Planner to help the client focus on the areas that some money can be spent on, which tends to be the things that are photographed the most: the ceremony, the head table, and a bridal bouquet if there is one.

In consultations, Dana will ask the clients what’s important to them to spend their money on. If we are being honest, most of Keyed Up Events clients are not saying flowers, decor, or other large design pieces. They are talking about wanting not to be stressed, to have the day flow well, to being too busy to plan, and to have the best experience for their guests, those are our kind of clients! Of course, we will always try to get clients into floor-length linens at the very least 🙂

But it’s also important for Planners who are not designers to know enough about flowers, linens, decor, etc. to help their clients through the process. Keyed Up Events shares a space with Studio B Floral, and during that time we have learned SO much about flowers and how they are priced when they are in season, and all the work that goes into making those designs. It’s the same with knowing that a floor-length linen, even a simple one, can transform a room and help clients understand that. Planners, and even Designers, serve themselves and their clients better if they understand the inner workings of florists, rental companies, catering companies, etc. 

It’s still important for Planners to be involved in the final execution of the design because it’s up to us to confirm there are enough of the correct linens for everything and there is a plan for all the decor and flowers that are showing up. It comes down to so much communication toward the end between Planners, clients, and vendors providing those services. This is especially true for Management clients because we haven’t been as involved in some of those decisions but at the end of the day it will fall on us to execute the clients’ vision so we need to know what’s happening. 

Ultimately what it comes down to for you, the client that is trying to decide between a Designer, a Planner, or both, is your budget and your vision. If you have no idea what you want your wedding to look like or have a few inspirational photos you like but need help making it all look cohesive and to wow your guests a bit, then working with someone who can also design is likely the right way to go. But keep in mind that here in the Twin Cities, unless you are having a very small wedding, like 30 people or less, then your budget needs to be at least $70-80,000 to start to make those amazing designs come to life. 

If you are more focused on finding the best venue and vendors, not as stressed, and have some kind of idea of what you want but would trust a Planner to connect you with the right people to make it happen, then a Planner could be the way to go. It’s not that you don’t care about the flowers and aesthetic of the wedding, but it’s probably not as big of a focus as the guest experience or staying within a certain budget. 

Keyed Up Events planning clients have budgets anywhere between $20,000 to $100,000. Our services are not included in most of their main wedding budgets because they understand that having a Planner is a gift to themselves and an investment in their sanity. They don’t want planning their wedding to be another job when their main one is already so busy, and they don’t want to rely on family and friends to do a lot of the work either or don’t want their opinions coloring the process. 

If you want to do the bulk of the planning yourselves and want a trusted guide to be available to you along the way and to execute your vision, then having a Wedding Manager (or Day of Coordinator) is likely the right fit for you. We as an industry are trying to move away from the term Day of Coordinator because no one is going to work just one day for your wedding, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the DOC phrase on someone’s website.

Have more questions to see if Keyed Up Events is right for you? Schedule a free consult to hear more about our services or we have a paid consult if you want to get any advice you want because you aren’t ready to pull the trigger on a service yet but know you need guidance now. 

We are so thankful to Jenna for putting this panel together and being able to be alongside three amazing women and entrepreneurs Rachelle, Krista, and Laine. And a huge thanks to Dan from Summit Hill Studios for recording this on a very last-minute request and of giving us a top-notch edit we can share with all of you.

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