I pride myself on being an easy-going, even - tempered person, but being mother of the bride two years ago stripped away that calm.
For weeks before the wedding, getting a night’s sleep became a dream, as visions of disaster---the band wouldn’t know when to switch from Jewish music to Top 40, my dress wouldn’t be ready in time, there would be awkward pauses in the evening with nothing to do---dominated my thoughts.
That is, until six weeks before the big day, when I contracted a “day of” wedding planner, Fran Berger.
I like to think of Ms. Berger, who has been in the party planning business for 22 years, and other “day of” coordinators as Valium in human form. By handling the myriad of details required to have receptions go smoothly and remedying the inevitable last minute glitches they free their clients to just enjoy the Simcha: and all that with no side effects!
Day of coordinators are a fairly recent addition to the billion-dollar wedding industry. In contrast to wedding planners, who work with clients from the beginning of the planning process, helping them choose a caterer, the band, and photographer, the day of coordinator comes in about six to eight weeks before the wedding, after those vendors have been selected.
From that point forward, the day of coordinator serves as a kind of general contractor for the client. She develops a schedule for the reception and then shares it with the vendors to ensure that it meets their needs and they can all work together harmoniously. The coordinator may also develop a floor plan as well.
On the day of, she arrives early, ensuring that everything is set up properly; she helps the wedding party don their attire and flowers, and cutes the procession down the aisle. During the event, she makes sure everything runs according to schedule, working with the vendors on the clients behalf.
That cut-and-dried job description does not do justice to the many roles that the day of coordinator may play. As Ms. Berger notes “I can become your best friend, therapist, seamstress and dresser.
“So much of what I do is intuitive, and my role changes with each wedding. But I always try to put myself in the clients’ shoes, to give them the wedding that they would want”.
This is just some of what Ms. Berger did at my daughter’s wedding (although I learned about most of this after the fact, because I was too busy enjoying myself that evening). Before the ceremony, she got down on the floor with the groom’s three year-old sister, calming her nerves so she could fulfill her role as flower girl with aplomb. She educated the non-Jewish photographer about Orthodox Jewish wedding rituals. After the ceremony, she organized the dismantling and moving of the Chuppah. She rounded up members of the family for photographs. She performed a repair of the bride’s up-do. She made sure that the vegetarians and vegans got the appropriate meals. She gave me the thumbs-up sign periodically to reassure me that everything was going according to plan.
Emergency kits are an essential part of the coordinator’s equipment. Ms. Berger’s kit, ever expanding based on years of experience with wedding glitches, includes stain remover for wine that inevitably spills on the wedding dress, and a sewing kit to mend that dress torn in an exuberant hora, extra place cards, bobby pins, makeup and even smelling salts.
Emergencies do happen. At a recent wedding, Diana Venditto had to call 911 when a guest had a stroke, but the ceremony was able to proceed without interruption.
That epitomizes the mandate of a day of coordinator: to address problems before they disrupt the flow or atmosphere of the simcha, while remaining in the background.
My daughter, who is in the prime wedding demographic and attends many wedding of her friends, can now recognize which ones have a “day of” coordinator on the scene and which ones do not.
Talia Abbott Chalew recalls “Our ‘day of’ coordinator kept everything running so smoothly. Instead of worrying about keeping things moving, where people were and things would start, I was able to relax and really enjoy our special day”.
My husband has learned that one key component of our other daughters’ weddings, whenever they may occur, will be a “day of” coordinator if only to keep me sane and relaxed.