The Roles of the Wedding Planner & Coordinator, Catering Manager, and Banquet Manager

This has been an excellent week at the Catersource/Event Solutions Conference and Tradeshow.  Caterers and event professionals around the world have gathered at the Las Vegas Hilton this week to continue their education in this field and learn about new trends and products in this ever changing industry. There were so many excellent classes including Andy Ebon's "Exploring New Social Media" and Mark Kingsdorf's session on "Building Business Relationships Between Event Planners and Caterers for Mutual Profit".   Mark is owner of  The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia and happens to be a classically trained chef with a background in catering.

I wanted to discuss the misconceptions of all the different roles in weddings because I'm a wedding planner.  I've also been on the catering and banquets side of the business in hotels and country clubs so I feel somewhat qualified to discuss this. People seem to use the terms "Banquet Manager", "Catering Manager", and "Wedding Coordinator" interchangeably.  They are NOT the same!!  Sure, some catering managers may take on the role of a wedding coordinator on the wedding day, but I can assure you that they are not going to be able to assist you on a few essential details that are naturally part of a wedding coordinator's job description.  At the same time, wedding planners cannot act as catering managers either.  We are not there to supervise the banquet and kitchen staff to make sure the food comes out on time.   I have many catering manager friends and they tell me that certain tasks are just not in their job description! In fact, they cringe at the thought of being called a wedding planner because of all the implications that come with that title.

Here are some terms I've put together:

Banquet Event Order – Also called “BEO” or function sheet; a BEO provides detailed instructions for a particular event including all times, room set up, menu, and beverage.

Banquet Server – Serves food and beverage to banquet guests. Sets the room according to the BEO.

Banquet Captain - Works with client only on the actual event/banquet day. Executes the event by overseeing the set up, service, and clean up of the event.  This person’s main role is to oversee the timing of events as it pertains to food service.  Supervises the banquet servers. Usually one step below Banquet Manager; this title can be used interchangeably with Banquet Manager.

Banquet Manager – Works with client only on the actual event/banquet day.  Manages banquet functions and supervises staff. May be responsible for banquet staffing.

Catering Sales Manager/Director (Sometimes called Event Sales Manager) – sells and plans events as it relates to the venue, works directly with client and chef to create menus for event.  This person will not know if the wrong flowers are delivered because they will not have your contract or floral order.  A Catering Manager creates a BEO for the event for the kitchen and the banquet staff to follow. They have more important things to worry about like making sure the food comes out on time and looks and tastes great!  The wedding planner will work with the catering manager to ensure that the timing is right for the wedding day.

On Site Event Coordinator - This individual represents the venue and will coordinate the details for everything that happens at the venue.  This person is not the person to contact to make your appointment with your hair stylist or to help you with selecting your wedding invitations.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator (independent) – Plans events directly with the client and will work with not only the client’s venue but with their vendors as well.  This person can return your tuxedo to the tux shop the day after your wedding and talk to you in depth about the type of favor or flower to use in your bouquet as well as about your wedding vows.  This person will assist in budget management and designing your event.  Besides the obvious (planning your wedding), they will confirm details with your vendors before your wedding, create a detailed timeline, provide you with an emergency kit, bustle your dress, and be that person that you can talk to when you’re angry, scared, nervous, or happy!

I’m hoping that at least the individuals in the industry will utilize the correct verbiage because it frustrates me to no end that a catering manager would be called the “wedding planner”.   We all play different roles (each equally important and essential) and it's time people understand that they shouldn’t call the catering manager at a hotel their "wedding coordinator".