Whats the difference between a wedding planner and wedding stylist?

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That age old question of "Wedding Planner or Wedding Stylist" comes up often in my conversation with clients as they struggle to work out where to start in planning their wedding day - "do we need both, or either one, heck what is the difference?". Most couples are limited to partying at a wedding, once al the sweat and tears have been shed. So coming into planning their own wedding it's often a daunting experience of "where do we start?".

Certainly the spotlight shown on the industry through social media and search engines make the process more accessible - but I still come across plans that have holes in the gap or aspects that haven't been factored in. Case in point, a recent family hired an iconic venue and assumed their external wedding caterer would provide the necessary cutlery, wait staff and furnishings, you know all those pretty things that are vital for any event to happen. Except this particular caterer traditionally doesn't provide these products and service. Imagine arriving to the wedding without any of things in place? It'll be a very tribal outback style gathering! Thankfully while doing their final styling session it came out of conversation and I've been able to put all the plans and furnishings in place. 

So it brings me to the question at hand of the difference of having a Wedding Planner vs Wedding Stylist. The keyword Planner and Stylist does speak mountains of what the differences are, but let's break it down based on responsibilities.

What Does a Wedding Planner Do?

Essentially the Project Manager for an event or wedding these meticulous members of the industry are the organisers and process driven maître d' that pulls everything together. They are the networker amongst industry peers who tap relationships with like-minded-and-gifted vendors to create the wedding in the vision that's been set out by the client - you. This provides you with the ultimate in negotiations and paperwork filing! 

To the core of their responsibilities is being able to structure the planning process to be effortlessly logical and within the wedding budgets set out during the initial engagement. We often hear couples don't tend to strictly stick to their budgets after all it's easy to go all out when there's little visibility. Combined with planning the logistics of your wedding day to ensure the wedding reception is set correctly and your vendors deliver your dream perfectly - it's one of those truly crucial roles, I feel, that is often overlooked in Sydney.

Sure we Sydneysiders are well informed and are jacked into social media, so putting together a list of amazing wedding vendors is the easy part (for some). The true value of a wedding planner is ensuring all accountability and plans are conformed to with all the possible perfection, and any risk of changes or deviations are factored in. Take my example above with the family not knowing the full extent of what their external wedding caterer provides. 

 Serena Nguyen, Wedding Planner + Coordinator

Serena Nguyen, Wedding Planner + Coordinator

Take Serena Nguyen she's one of those wedding planner extraordinaire that has been instrumental to pulling all the plans and paperwork together on some of the most amazing marquee weddings we've put together. Marquee weddings in Sydney are an amazing structure to work with, particularly the clear span variants. Imagine having your most favourite people in the world with you under a star-speckled night and the popup venue is ambiently lit and gorgeous styling.

The duties of a Wedding Planner

I'll risk being controversial by listing some of the duties that a wedding planner is picked for. This may be an incomplete list because there are nuances amongst different Sydney wedding planners, or any general one for that matter. 

  • Develops a budgeting plan for all aspects of the wedding.

  • Creates a timeline for when things need to be done by.

  • Negotiates and manages the contracts and communications with your wedding vendors.

  • Organise travel requirements and timings on the day.

  • Ensures the itinerary of your wedding day and reception venue is created in conjunction with the wedding venue coordinator and Master of Ceremonies.

  • Attends vendor and wedding reception related meetings.

  • Works on a floor plan that maximises the space, politics and VIPs.

All this, plus other fine things wedding planners do, are all aimed at relieving the stress component of having a wedding. Unless you're a thrill seeker of stress or are super organised and have the 100 - 200+ hours free that gets put into doing things right - leave it to the professional stress managers I say! 

On to the other pillar of the wedding - the super duper creative Wedding Stylists, the other pea in the pod that makes things all beautiful and amazing. The stage setter of an amazing experience. Whilst a wedding planner is very logical and is amongst the popular crowd their work deals a lot with structure, planning and hours and hours of paperwork, emails and phone calls. With such a structured profession how would a wedding planner be able to take care of the visual style of your wedding?

So the Wedding stylist does what?

In short the wedding stylist makes all things pretty. He or she sets the visual tone of the event for you based on what you both have envisioned. But it's more than just choosing cutleries, types of chairs or a flower centrepiece. The true wedding stylist is the art director of your wedding story who specialises in design. Design of the decor, the settings, the mood of lighting, floor plans, how the visual palette works with the reception venue and down to the intricate embellishments. All this requires an artistic eye rather than logical mind.

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Sure couples are involved in setting this visual style so you might think "why would I need a wedding stylist when they're working on my instructions anyway?". For the simple fact that everything should flow naturally and consistently, so it's not a mixed match of styles that end up being an over-the-top eyesore rather than beautiful and amazing. There will be things you've fallen in love with, there are colours you favour and visual elements you've insta-obssessed over and can't wait to pull it all together. And that's ok because it could work but having a professional wedding stylist ensures those aspects truly meld beautifully. 

The duties of a Wedding Stylist

As before these are the core responsibilities of the wedding stylist that some say is in the realms of a florist, but there's more to it than creating centrepieces or a bridal table with a runner of flowers.

  • Creates a visual style for your entire event.

  • Sources flowers, props and decorative elements that fulfil the style guide.

  • Engages florists, decorators, lighting and production vendors.

  • Manages the budget set for the decorations, and if necessary handles the negotiations.

  • Advises on creative elements that work best for your vision.

Now that's what a traditional wedding stylist does, they set a brief and outsource the creative work whilst keeping an eye out on the visual cues and creative vendors.  

Here's where the lines are blurred and, in a later post, I'll discuss this aspect of how my team at ANNA WANG falls in place. If you were to ask me, we're somewhat of a hybrid between the two whilst still being hands on.