From Our Guide: Wedding Planners, Designers, Managers: What Do They Do?

Use this glossary to determine what vendor type and services are best for you.

iStock image

We get a lot of questions from couples about the different titles of wedding planners and designers, etc., so a couple of years ago, we set out to break it all down. The following outline runs alongside the vendor and venue guide in many of our print issues.

Wedding Planners, Designers, Managers: What Do They Do?

Note: these titles are not mutually exclusive. Many wedding planners also function as designers (or lead the design team), and many designers offer full-service planning. “The planners I know at the top level design as an integral part of planning,” says planner Elizabeth Duncan. “While some now offer design-only services, it’s rarely that limited.” Here’s our handy guide from Danielle Couick of Magnolia Bluebird Design & Events.

Vendor Titles


Organized, efficient, and good with logistics, a planner manages budgets, timelines, floor plans, contracts, deadlines, and production schedules. Planners recommend, procure, and manage the wedding vendor team and are on-site from start to finish.


This person is a creative type. After assessing the logistical parameters of a wedding, visiting the venue, and understanding the couple’s budget and vision, designers develop a cohesive style and the wedding’s overall aesthetic.


With the point of view of a camera lens or magazine spread, stylists may work independently or with a planner or designer. On-site they stage a couple’s attire and accessories, invitation suite, place settings, and more for the most polished photographic results.

Coordinator or Event Manager

Well-organized and focused on logistics, these pros step in closer to wedding day. They may review final vendor contracts and payments, conduct the final walk-through, finalize the timeline and floor plan, manage the vendor team and gratuity distribution, and oversee the rehearsal and wedding day.

Planning Services


Consulting on the aesthetic of the wedding, or day-of details. Styling can be limited to on-site visual styling or involve full-scale creative design.

Month-of Coordination

Sometimes referred to as day-of or event management, this usually starts four to eight weeks before the wedding. Once a couple has hired vendors and planned the details, the coordinator will finalize outstanding elements, troubleshoot, and oversee the rehearsal and wedding day.

Partial Service

This works one of two ways: (1) The couple contracts vendors recommended by the planner, who provides design support and then supervises on-site. (2) The couple hires a planner to manage a subset of tasks, such as food and beverage, the band, and welcome bags.

Full Service

Help with everything from start to finish for the wedding day or weekend; it includes budget development and tracking, event design, timeline planning and management, vendor and venue selection, contract negotiation and review, guest-list management, floor plans, etiquette, and on-site management.

Special thanks to planners Pamela Barefoot, Aimee Dominick, Elizabeth Duncan, and Laura Ritchie for their collaboration on this guide.

Amy Moeller
Editor, Washingtonian Weddings

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.