These two terms are very similar, and they often refer to the job position. However, these terms do not always mean the same thing in client contracts. Be sure to thoroughly read your contracts and make sure that you and your coordinator/planner have the same understanding of what these terms mean to each of you.
The main difference between planners and coordinators is what they actually plan. A wedding planner should help you actually plan the details of your wedding by choosing a theme, prioritizing your budget, calling vendors, etc. Whereas when you hire a coordinator, they are only responsible for what happens on the wedding day. You are responsible for contacting all of your vendors yourself.
How much work your planner or coordinator does usually determines when you will hire
them, or at least start meeting with them regularly. Wedding planners are usually long-term positions. They help you plan your event from beginning to end. So, you should hire a
planner at the beginning of your planning process and meet with them regularly throughout your engagement. Coordinators are usually hired closer to the wedding date. They are often called day-of coordinators but should really be month-of coordinator because they should meet with you about 3-5 weeks before the wedding to make sure everything is in place. Although most month-of coordinators can be hired just 3-5 weeks before the event it is still best to book your coordinator a few months in advance to make sure she has your date available.
So how do you know whether to hire a coordinator or a planner? This depends on how much of the planning you actually want to do and how much money you are willing to spend. If you enjoy making lists, setting up meetings, and want to do all of the planning yourself then you should just hire a month-of coordinator. The benefit of this is that month-of coordinators are usually more cost effective because you are not paying for a long-time commitment. Month-of coordinators are a great way to have an extra pair of hands, eyes, and ears, to make sure your wedding day goes smoothly without the cost of someone planning every aspect of your event.
Full wedding planners are more expensive but worth the investment if you do not have a lot of time to put into every detail of your wedding. They are also a great option for couples that have no idea where to start the wedding planning process. A wedding planner is going to be able to help you determine your priorities and budget and help you check off all of the items on your list in a timely manner.
In general, most wedding planners/coordinators are willing to do either full planning or month-of-coordination. Just be sure to thoroughly read your contract and make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them. And remember that it is entirely up to you and your fiancé to determine what position will best fit your needs. No matter what option you choose it should be someone who is completely committed to your vision and 100% there for you on your wedding day!