Posts tagged wedding planners
Things Always Go Wrong.
I can't claim to have just learned this in 2010 but I definitely found out that no matter how long you have to plan and no matter how many planning meetings you manage, something will always go wrong.  Once you accept that, it will make your life easier.  Brides, you'll be able to relax knowing that something that will go wrong, will be covered by your planner.  Planners, you'll stay on your toes, knowing that when something inevitably goes wrong, you'll be ready for it.  

Well, what could go wrong, you ask?  Anything.  There is a never ending list of things that can go wrong.  Different venues represent different complications.  Different vendors mean different personalities to work with, which means LOTS of different things.  Different Brides will always mean new styles of planning, different levels of planning and different needs from your planning process.  While all of that information doesn't help you to KNOW what will go wrong, it at least lets you know that there are SO many areas you have to cover when working on a wedding, so you have to be detailed to be safe.  

For new wedding planners, this is where you lack based only on not having the experience with all of the different people, places and things but it still doesn't mean you can't do a good job, you just have to be even more detailed and more prepared.  

For experienced wedding planners it means that you always have to be prepared and there is no such thing as being totally certain of how to run any wedding.  You'll always have issues, but the more experience you have the easier things are to handle, the more likely you are to expect things and the calmer you'll be, when things do come up.

During this year, things came up that I can say I just found to come from out of left field.  After almost 10 years in the event industry, you'd think that I'd expect anything but that's just not possible.  You'll never be able to expect everything.  You can be prepared for anything but being "ready" for everything is unrealistic.  If you are hiring a planner that is claiming to know it all/done it all and they are insisting your event will be PERFECT, you might want to reconsider this person as they clearly have never worked a wedding.  

However, as a planner my job is to make it "seem" like the event went perfect.  The greatest comment that client's leave (and you'll find this type of comment on any good planners feedback page) is saying that "if anything did go wrong, they didn't know."  You never want them to know, you never want to stop any part of their day to seek them out for help, assistance or questions.  A good planner has to know that and be prepared to handle anything.  That's why you always want to have plenty of planning meetings as well as lots of documentation that review all of your details, timeline, setup and expectations.  

Okay, so you've been waiting for examples and I'll give you a few.

My classic example from one of my earlier weddings was hands down the best example I have when I'm asked about fixing a difficult situation.

A May wedding was being planned and due to the amount of rain, I asked the tent vendors to setup the tent a week early so we were sure that the reception ground had time to dry.  They setup the tent and we had a long week of time that the reception area should have been drying.  Well, when we went to setup the wedding, the staff was setting up tables and hurrying along to get the chairs up, linens on and settings out before the florist arrived.  Halfway through setup, we realized half the tables were "crooked" and I asked the staff to go back and setup again.  Well, come to find out that the week of drying, hadn't really dried anything out.  The ground was soaked, wet and mushy and the tables were sinking into the ground.  There was NO indoor space available so we had to work with the outdoor swamp space.  We ended up having spare wood planks for the  fire-pit that we had at an even the night before.  We broke them up and used them under each leg, of each table to stop the sinking.  The tables stayed up, but halfway through the event, everyone was covered in mud. Thankfully, it was a great group and most of them ended up barefoot and dancing through the night.  The bride had no idea the tables were sinking, that they had sunk into the ground at one point and she just enjoyed her time. 

There was really no way to be ready for that and had the wood not been in the truck, I'm not exactly sure what we would have done but now I know.  If this were to happen again, we'd know what to do.  Hopefully, it doesn't happen again.  Hopefully and now I know that a week isn't long enough to dry out a field.  Lesson learned.  

Other, shorter examples.
Problem- DJ not showing up (this situation proved that you should always take your planners recommendations, NOT use someone that you "found" that is "cheap)
Solution- Call vendors in the are and find a DJ available that evening, offer to pay them LOTS of money and have them show up, on time and ready to play the music that is on the music list that the planner SHOULD have on hand.  

Problem- Bride realizes the garter she had is lost and now she has nothing for the garter removal ceremony.
Solution- This is an easy one as you should always have a backup for everything in your "wedding emergency kit."

Problem- Limo service leaves hotel with all of your wedding guests, except Great Grandma and Grandpa.  

So, those are just a few, but the list is endless.  There is usually something that happens at each wedding that makes you, the planner, realize how lucky the bride was to have you there.  Sometimes, they never know, but that's the point.  

Happy Planning!  
Your Site Manager ISN'T Your Wedding Planner.
I enjoy this industry (if you haven't been able to tell) and I enjoy all the wonderful people that I get to meet.  So, I try not to be too disappointed of how some people view Wedding Planners.  We get a pretty bad rap, especially here in the Cleveland area.  I don't mind so much because, as you'll see from any planner's reviews the clients that do work with us, LOVE us.  As well they should, we help make their most stressful/anxiety-filled day calm and magical.  Who wouldn't love that?  Well the answer, sadly, is not everyone.

My current issue is Site Managers.  What that term means, in the sense that I'm using it, is the contact person you have at the facility you rent for your wedding location.  Either the Banquet Manager, Chef, Hall Coordinator, Site Director, etc..different names for people that run the facility. 

Now of course I don't mean ALL Site Managers, I just mean some, and it doesn't happen often but when it does it  is totally damaging to a coordinators ability to work at a facility.  Some Site Managers will go so far as to recommend that the bridal client DOES NOT hire a Wedding Planner.  Why, would anyone ever say this?  Well, the Site Manager will claim that they can handle all of the details that a Wedding Planner would normally handle.  They suggest that the Bridal client can save herself $1000's if she just doen't bother with a Wedding Planner who will "just get in the way of their staff" and "try to manage everyone/boss everyone around." 

There goes that client.  I've had a client tell me that she was reconsidering working with me after talking to her Site Manager because as the Site Manager put it she "really encourages her clients to NOT bring along a planner, as they don't like planners getting in the way" OUCH. 

Two things then. 
One, some of the fault of that impression will go to the "bad" and "inexperienced" planners in the area.  You get one planner who either things too highly of him/herself or another planner who doesn't have a clue what she's doing and I'm certain I'd tell people to stay away from Wedding Planners as well. 

The other thing is that we, as Wedding Planners, don't just come on the day of the wedding (at least I don't).  We have prior meetings, planning sessions, detail, layout and design meetings to get the entire day together.  There is no site coordinator who is going to come when you try on dresses, or come to the florist meetings or your tastings or organize your bridal party or help you pick out programs.  Yes, they manage on your wedding day, and they are familiar with the site, but without the proper planning and involvement, it won't matter what they know, since they don't know the details.  I would say that "Day Of" isn't hardly half of what I do.  You work with clients 6 months, 12 months, 18 months prior to their wedding day and you get to know all you need to know about the event, the bride, her family and her friends.  That is what you need to know, to make everything work. 
With all that being said, I was, at one point, one of those people who worked for a hotel and didn't really understand why a planner would come along, so I do have to admit, I understand. 

However, I would never have suggested to a client that they NOT hire a planner as no matter what they did, they always seemed to make my job easier and do some of the tiny detail work that I never seemed to have time for and in the worst case they would jump in and help with the HUGE work that we were running around trying to get done.  I guess I never ran into a "bad" planner while working as a Site Manager.  Maybe that's why I don't understand.  Maybe it is because, no matter how difficult someone is to work with, I would always respect their position in the industry and know that hindering their ability to work, to be successful and to do their best, isn't going to end up making anyone look bad, except, well me.  And, no one should want to look bad.  Right?

Any Site Managers want to chime in?  Any Planners have any stories of Site Managers that you have dealt with or are dealing with?  Love to hear your feedback

Happy Planning,
Everyone's a Wedding Planner....
So, you planned your own wedding, it was a success and now, well, of course, NOW you want to be a Wedding Planner.  Since you did plan your own wedding, you have plenty of experience in working in the wedding industry, so great, let's go! 

NO, no sorry to tell you, that isn't how it works.  I know that everyone who ever watched The Wedding Planner with Jennifer Lopez, has decided that just watching the movie, made them experienced enough to become a Wedding Planner, but I'm here to tell you it just isn't true.  I'll even go so far as to say that the people who spent that $500 to become "certified" as a planner, that doesn't always cut it either.

Before everyone gets worked up about the discussion (these days "New Planners" is a hot topic) let me review my thoughts.

So, you planned your own wedding...
The biggest issue here is that you were the BRIDE and you weren't involved in any part of the process that allowed you to see the major issues that a planner handles.  When working directly with the vendor it is a one time deal.  You do your meetings and find the person who you decided would work best for you.  That's not going to help everytime.  The vendor that worked best for you and with you, won't be the BEST vendor for  all of your clients.  The vendors you might not have liked, they might be the vendors that would work best with some of your clients.  So that part of your exeprience is thrown out the door.

Now onto the ceremony.  This might seem like a small part, but to a good planner, this is a BIG deal.  Handling the family, friends and bridal party through the ceremony is a scary process.  You want everyone to be on their best behavior, do the right thing but still have fun.  All the while you have this very limited timeline to get everything, exactly right.  All eyes are on the ceremony, if the music is off, the bridal party too slow or too fast or if the bride doesn't come out at just the right time, that's all on YOU.  When you were the bride, you were in that moment, YOU were the one walking down the aisle, ready to get married.  That left you out of a huge chunk of that stress/mess.  So there goes your ceremony experience.

Reception issues/drama/problems, those you were either not paying attention to, drinking during or so personally involved in, that you didn't get to process them the way someone who is "working" an event does.  How a Wedding Planner handles your drunk brother is going to be different than how you, as the Bride, handle your drunk brother.  Learning to focus on weddings from a business standpoint and to take yourself out of the equation is the biggest part of being successful in the industry.  Your job, as a planner, is NOT to have an opinion or any emotional attachement to the situation, it is to make sure the wedding goes off as smoothly as possibly and that the Bride knows NOTHING of ANY issue.  As a Bride, you knew about all of it and didn't have to work through it because, well, you were the Bride.

The key is, you weren't working with a Bride, you WERE the Bride.    That's the point, that's what is the difference.

NOW, with that being said, everyone starts somewhere.  Every Wedding Planner that is giving you a hard time because you are a "new" wedding planner, started out as a "NEW" Wedding Planner.  No one starts out with 10 years of experience, that's just the black and white of it.  The issue isn't the experience, it is coming in without "knowing" enough, not having not done enough.What should you know- (write this down)
-Know that the people that plan weddings, take this very seriously.  This is a real career and they have invested money, time and their life into doing and being the absolute best.  If that isn't your interest, then maybe rethink becoming a Wedding Planner.
-Know that the people that plan weddings, dedicate their social time, personal time and "work" time, to wedding planning.  This isn't something they do in their "free" time, this is typically ALL they do with their time.  Ready for that aspect of planning?
-Know that pricing for planners is based on experience and experience is what matters.  It isn't to say that you can't be a good "new" planner but you should understand that trying to undercut other planners on pricing, isn't doing anyone any favors.  You are basically keeping the price expectations for a Wedding Planner down so low, that when you are ready to raise your pricing, you have setup a market to expect "cheap" pricing and now your stuck doing Day of for $300. 
-Know that (most) other wedding planners WILL help you along the way.  I'm more than happy to give advice, have meetings and give feedback on your process through becoming a planner.  You just have to be honest.  I would absolutely appreciate an email that said "I want to become a planner, can you help?" More than I would anything else.
-Know that "fibbing" to make yourself look better or more experienced is not okay, ever.  You are who you are right now and accept your level of experience and work with it.  Don't try to compare yourself to more experienced planners because you can't. 
-Know that being "sneaky" or getting a bad reputation with other wedding planners won't work out for you in the long run.  No one Wedding Planner has control of the market in any region but if enough people dislike you or don't trust you, you aren't going to get any assistance along the way and eventually that will hurt your ability to grow.
-Know that you will eventually be contacted by another "new" planner that wants to start Wedding Planning.  Think about what you would like them to say/do/be when talking with you.  How would you like your "new" competition to handle themselves?  Set the bar HIGH, so that it stays HIGH for all of us.

There is my feedback on "new" planners.  I think the more good planner the better the industry becomes.  I must seriously emphasize the word GOOD in reference to planners. 

What do you think?  "New" planners, how tired are you of hearing the gripes from experienced planners?  What do you wish everyone that is learning about your "new" interest in planning would know? 

Happy Planning!
Other Planners
I really have had the most wonderful client appointments lately.  I've also been given the great opportunity to hear more about my "competition" than most planners get to.  The best appointments are the ones where they tell me all about the other planners they met with but decide to go with me instead, for whatever reason.  Of course, that doesn't always happen, but it does happen more times than I'll admit. (for modesty's sake)

Truth be told, I like what I do, I've been doing it long enough to be very good at what I do and I'm very comfortable working with people.  That about sums up why someone would want to hire me.  Outside of that, I think that all planners have something "special" they offer to a bride.  There really is no way you can "steal" a client from another planner if the other planner is good at what they do.  The bridal clients always buys, YOU, they buy the person they are meeting, that they want to plan the most important day of their lives.

There is no sales course to teach you that technique, you either have it or you don't.  You are either a good fit for a client or you are not.  With that being said, I am referencing ONLY planners who are good at what they do, experienced and qualified to handle wedding events.  That is what will make the difference in how you view "competition" in this industry.

Tonight I had a meeting with a potential bridal client.  She was a wonderful women who I had a great time meeting.  When I asked who else she had met, she told me the name of the planner, she told me about their appointment, the pricing structure and where they stood with their planning process.  It seems to me, if I ask, brides will tell.  Sometimes, I'm surprised at how much they tell, but I'm always glad they tell.  I always wonder what a bridal client says about our appointment?!?  

Anyhow, I could tell that the bridal client liked the other planner and that she might actually still be leaning towards booking her.  I knew there wasn't much I could do beyond giving her the facts, the pricing, my experience and my abilities, to get her to book with me instead.  I could even tell in her style and personality that maybe the other planner was a better fit for her.  That's when I started thinking about the whole process of "sales" for a wedding planner and that's how this blog post came about.

I don't know who she will book with.  I sent her over all the information she requested as soon as I got to a computer, but I will definitely look forward to hearing her feedback on our meeting.  If she does end up booking with the other planner, I won't blame her, sometimes having a style and matching personality matter more than all the experience in the world.