Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Friendly Competition

I've have decided to dive right back into the market and get to know all of my "competition" in the area. I'd like to use the term competition as loosely as possible as I don't consider this to be an industry or a profession where you can actually have serious competition between wedding planners.

When you become a planner, you do so, because you love what you do. The money might seem great to an outsider, but when you calculate all the the time you dedicate to a wedding, to a bride and her family, and all the manual labor you end up doing, it basically just covers your expenses. When you love something that much, it is hard to think anyone is "better" than you are, just different.

Experience will set each apart, of course. I'm lucky to have so much, while others are in different positions and just learning. That is the path of any career though. People with less experience will learn and people with more will get better, but I never think of them as competing. They are just a different points in their career.

When someone books a wedding planner it is rarely based on anything other than the fact that you just "clicked" with your client. So, that really means that people are either going to want to work with you, because of who you are, or they won't. There is not way to compete with that. Some people might not want my style and personality. You can't help but think that it is better that they make that decision so you only get the very best clients for your business.

Pricing may be an issue to some while to others it is no matter. I don't plan on lowering my price to work with brides with lower end budgets, because those aren't the weddings I enjoy doing. I also don't want to raise my pricing so high that I can only work with a select few clients, I enjoy working more often than not. If you search around the industry for wedding planners you will find that most of them are priced exactly where they should be for what they offer, their experience and their abilities.

All that being said, I'm leaving out that there are just bad planners. People who decide that they want to be a "wedding planner" because they watched the movie over and over again and the job seems like "fun." Well, those people, you can't consider competition. It takes so much time, energy, heart and dedication to be a planner that the people that enter the business for the "glamor" quickly fall off the radar. No competition there and shame on a bride who doesn't check a planner out first to realize they don't have the experience or background for planning.

I think that becoming a wedding planner puts you in a wonderful category with other wonderful people who enjoy what you do. I've enjoyed meeting other planners who can share stories, ideas and tips. If you are good, no one can steal your business. If you aren't good, people being able to steal your business should make you work harder to become better. Period.

So, fellow wedding planners, go and give another planner a hug!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Art of "Un" Selling

Given the option between booking a great wedding with someone who isn't sure that they really need your services and booking an okay wedding with someone who will appreciate you to the fullest extent, the "okay" will always get my vote.

I have the opportunity to decide what clients really need and want, when we sit down for our initial consultation. During this time I can figure out how much they REALLY need a planner, how much they will understand the services of a planner and whether or not they would actually be a good fit with my planning style. Most of the time they are a perfect fit, sometimes though, they aren't.

Financially, it certainly doesn't make sense to "turn down" business. However, as a coordinator who is interested in working in the industry, long-term, I think it is always wise to realize your strengths and weaknesses.

I recently received a lead for a traditional Indian wedding. While I would be thrilled to work with this event and to learn more about the Indian culture, I didn't think it would be fair for the bride to have to "teach" me along the way. I made her aware that I wasn't totally familiar with the traditions of the wedding, but I would be willing to learn all of them if she was so inclined to book me. If not, I could get her in touch with an actual Indian coordinator. Well, needless to say, she was absolutely interested in working with someone who really would "get" what she needed on her special day and I sent her along her way.

Did I just lose a large sum of money, sure. A potential client, yes. However, in the long run, I think I made the smart decision based more on her needs for that day, than on my bank account. She emailed me a few days later to tell me that she was thrilled with her "new" planner and that she was grateful that I got them in touch. While that won't pay the bills, it does make, what I do, seem totally worth it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The "Wedding" Economy

I think that with all the talk about the bad economy it is important to mention that being a Wedding Planner hasn't taken much of a hit. The reasoning behind this is very simple. Clients are now taking on MORE responsibility with their weddings. They are learning to make their own favors, design their own centerpieces, hire less experienced vendors at a cheaper rate. All of this leads to the need for someone to oversee everyone and everything.

It isn't much fun to make your own centerpieces and then spend your entire wedding day setting them up and I can assure you that no Mother of the Bride wants to spend her day doing that either. That's where I come in handy. You can save all the money you want being creative and trying new things but in the end all of that is a pretty scary venture if you don't at least pay someone to oversee it.

Client's have hired "friends" or "relatives" to do their music, cake, etc...while you can absolutely save money doing this, these are the people that need the most assistance in their services. Again, that's how I can help my clients SAVE money by SPENDING money on me! I think this post seems to be more of a commercial for my services, but really I just think the idea is important to understand. Taking the less expensive route is only safe when you have someone to make sure it turns out like you have planned. Of course, you can always have a relative/friend do that but the 2 things to consider are this-

1- Do you want to lose that special time with your mom, sister, aunt on your wedding day because they are running around like crazy trying to setup your wedding in time?

2- Anyone that you trust enough to handle your wedding will be someone will probably be someone that you want involved in your day, not involved in WORKING on your day.

Good things to think about when you are debating the cost of a coordinator. Don't make Aunt Jane miss out on your wedding over a few hundred dollars. Hire someone to work and let all you guests relax.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

First "All Events Planned" Wedding

We had our very first wedding this past weekend. For those of you that live in the Cleveland area, the wedding was on Saturday. Yes, the severe thunderstorm, down pouring rain, Saturday. We drove out in rain that was so bad, that the fastest speed on our wipers didn't even make a dent in the view out the front window. I got a bit nervous thinking that an outdoor wedding, on a grassy farm, was not going to be the HUGE success that it should be with all this rain. I text messaged the bride and she seemed very calm for such a giant storm on her wedding day. We stopped at Wal-Mart where we picked up 20 rain ponchos (just in case) and a few umbrellas for the wedding party. As we drove down towards Ashland, the closer we got, the nicer it got. It had only rained for 10 minutes there!! Phew.

Well, to my surprise the only thing worse then rain is very STRONG winds. So strong that it lifted up the tablecloths and knocked potted plants right off the table. (onto the ground, where they broke) It took 3 people to hold the tablecloths down JUST to get them on. Fortunately, I always carry pins with me so we pinned down the cloths, pinned down the runners and waited on putting down the flower pots again, until the wind died down.

After the wind, came sweltering sun and BUGS. After the downpour and the wind, I was thrilled to have the heat because it didn't interfere much with anything, other than my ability to move as quickly as I needed, without sweating, A LOT.

I will say that the bride and groom took it in stride! They were amazing to work with. They just enjoyed their time and had one of the happiest days I've seen. I, however, spent the day doing more manual labor than I have in my entire life. And every time the bride saw me covered in sweat and ready to pass out, she would ask, "Can't I help you or have someone help you?" My reply, always to every bride that ask this "No, thanks, I'm doing what you paid me to do and I'm happy to do it!" And I always am!

They hired a great band that was just INCREDIBLE. Not only were they an amazing band, but they were happy to work with me on the schedule, on the interruptions for toasts and anything else that popped up. Check them out if you enjoy Blue Grass

This was a very celebratory wedding, not so much a traditional or formal wedding but more of a honest to God, PARTY. I know people always say this is what they would have had for their celebration if they could have had something else, but these people really enjoyed themselves and had a GREAT time. Which, made every part of my job, pretty amazing. I love seeing people happy and knowing that they really appreciated what I did for them. I think these two are going to be a really happy pair and I wish them all the best of luck! (although I don't think either of them read this)

Wedding 1 (after 1 week in business) HUGE SUCCESS!!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The first week of Business

So, I've got the company up and running. Got the site going but it is absolutely a constant work in progress. I always find things that could be better, and the we change them and find something else. It is definitely an issue of knowing that 90% of my potential clients are going to judge me based solely on my website. I do the same thing as I'm going through looking for local vendors to work with. I know that isn't fair because some of the best people have the worst sites, but how else can you make that call when you don't know someone? With that thought process I am constantly trying to improve my site. If anyone ever has suggestions, I am always open to them. Since I know how important the site is and I also know that I am good at what I do, I need to make sure it all gets relayed to any potential clients as they click their way through my site.

Business cards have been designed and after a very long wait they have arrived. Might I say, they are pretty amazing. Once again, I believe what you present to your clients has to say everything about you, so the cards were also very important to me. They are very sleek and orderly, like I wanted them to be. I think the colors that I chose (for the site and for the cards) represent the "fun" that I want people to know they will have when working with me.

The biggest news is that I got my first client! That's right after a week in business I signed a contract with a client! It was the best feeling I've had in a long time and a really great way to get the ball rolling. Her wedding is July 11th and to be honest, she's quite possibly, the best 1st client I could have asked for. I feel like getting my first piece of business deserves more than just 3 lines but words just don't quite cut it.

I am now working on developing relationships with local vendors. Getting to know everyone that is out there and in the industry. I think it is SO important to really KNOW and TRUST the people that you refer. I am really big on having a real relationship with people so that I can depend on them. I can't just refer anyone I find in a listing, I need to see and know their work before I'll even consider it. I might be a little overly cautious but I will definitely stick with the mantra that it is "better to be safe than to be sorry." I've already come across some really amazing people that I look forward to having the opportunity to work with in these coming years.

Have a happy 4th of July! If you've got a party planned today, you should have hired me to coordinate it!