Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dress Shop Secrets by Brandi

This weekend I had the most exciting chance to "work" at a local dress shop, A Perfect Bride, in Rocky River, Ohio.  I had previously filmed a news special at the shop and after a glimpse behind the scenes, I wanted to know more.  Thankfully the owner of the shop, Cathy Kuhn, was open to the idea of having me come in, phew, and I had a great time.  Now that I've seen the other side, I've got some tips for you before you go dress shopping and even some behind the scenes "secrets" that I'm going to share!
Here we go-

Tip #1- Get pretty! Wear makeup and do your hair for your dress shopping trip.  You will be so much happier seeing yourself "sparkle" in your dress.  Wedding dresses are overwhelming and without a little extra going out, the dress will drown you out.  The girls that came in, that were styled, had the most fun trying on dresses.

Tip #2- Answer the questions. Things to immediately tell the sales associate when you walk into the store, not because it matters to them one way or another, but because it will make your shopping experience easier and more enjoyable.
-Your budget.  They don't mind if it is low or high (they really don't) just let them know so they can find you the right dresses.  They really do not want to have you try on a dress you can't afford and then be disappointed with the dresses that fit in your budget.

-What style you like.  They can get to the racks and start pulling ideas for you.  Bring in pictures and have a style that you can start with, but don't be afraid to try on different ones as well, but if they have an initial idea it will get the ball rolling.
-When you are getting married.  This will help them move along the process and to know whether to help you finish the sale or to know that you'll be moving along to more dress shops after this trip. (and truthfully, they expect you to go to other shops) Some dresses take longer to get in, some might not be available after a certain date, that way you don't get stuck loving a dress you can't get. 
-If you are planning to buy today or not.  I know, I know, everyone wants to just say they are "just looking" when they walk into a shop but if you KNOW you are not buying, let them know.  If you can't buy without your mom around, then you know you aren't buying today, just tell them.  That way they will avoid trying to close the sale and the experience will be more casual then if you are set on buying a dress that day.  Also, if you aren't planning on buying that day, then try to limit the time you spend with them.  It isn't fair, to take up four hours of an associates time, if you KNOW you are not going to buy. 

Tip #3- Tell them all the dresses you are looking for. Let them know if you are buying bridesmaid dresses and a wedding dress.  They offer discounts if you buy all your dresses at the same time!

Tip #4- Schedule an appointment.  This way you'll have someone ready and waiting for your arrival.  If you walk into the shop without an appointment, you may get stuck waiting a bit for a dressing room or for an associate to help you.  You can always change, delay or cancel the appointment, but if you at least set one up, you'll get in quicker and get more personal attention. 

Tip #5- Tell everyone what to expect.  Wwhen your bridesmaids, family and friends come in, they will be doing a whole lot of sitting, staring and waiting.  Make sure they are prepared and are expecting this.  Nothing is worse than people complaining about being bored, or having somewhere to go.  The typical dress appointment takes anywhere from 2-3 hours.  It isn't easy to get in and out of those dresses, and if you find a few you like, you'll want to try them on more than once.

Tip #6- Tll them how "shy" you are.  If you are not comfortable having an associate in the room, assisting you in and out of dresses, just let them know ahead of time.  They plan and are used to being in the room to assist you, so if you aren't sure, just let them in and know that it is what they do everyday with clients and it shouldn't be too uncomfortable for either of you.

Tip #7- Wear comfortable clothes.  You aren't going to spend much time in what you came into the shop in so be cozy.  Wear things that are easy to get off and on and try to bring some undergarments that will work with the dress style you like and that cover enough of your body that you are comfortable in them.  Try to bring in heels as well so you can see what it will look like and how you will feel. 

Tip #8- Be open to new ideas.  The sales associates will bring in dresses that you like and dresses that meet your style and they might also find a few that they thing might work, be open to those.  You never know what will work on you and sometimes they will pick up on details/styles that you never even thought of. 

Tip #9- Be open to coming back.  Quite a few clients that came in, decided to head over to lunch to think it over.  Every one of them came back for the dress.  Just because you walk out the door, doesn't mean you won't walk back in.  The sales associates know that this is a big decision so they won't be offended if you need time to think. 

Tip #10- RELAX.  Don't be intimidated by the store or the associates.  They are happy to help you, happy to find you a dress and happy to be there for whatever you need.  They do this each and every day and they are doing it because they LOVE it, so have fun with them.  Let them help you in any way you need and don't be afraid to ask questions or to give your opinion.  HAVE FUN!!!!

Side Tip #11- If you aren't comfortable or aren't enjoying experience at the store, leave.  Don't try to make it work, don't make excuses for people that are being rude to you, just get your stuff and go.  One of the most enjoyable experiences during the wedding planning process is dress shopping, don't let ANYONE ruin that for you!

I had an amazing time at the store and it was really exciting to see a different side of the wedding experience.  I think I might be there again, maybe we can combine wedding planning sessions with dress sessions at The Perfect Bride.

Happy Planning,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Secrets Behind DJ/Entertainment Company

This is one of the very first interviews that, when requested, I received back in under 24 hours.  If that doesn't say something about their service, follow up and ability, than nothing will.  I have followed them on Facebook and have had the opportunity to learn more about what an amazing company they are through their blog and emails.  I'm so excited to present secrets behind DJ/Entertainment by Something New Entertainment.
Here is a little bit on Something New Entertainment-
"At Something New Entertainment, we know that your event is special. We know that like each couple, each wedding is unique, and we want to help you make your celebration your own while ensuring that your reception runs smoothly. We eliminate the worries so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the party of your dreams!"

And a special thanks to AJ9 for all of the prompt responses to my request for an interview!  Here is a little bit about her!

AJ9 has worked professionally as a theatrical wardrobe and makeup mistress, shouldering many of the personal needs of theatrical stars from unwrapping cough drops and wiping noses to assisting with quick changes and solving wardrobe malfunctions in a pinch. She compares the high energy environment backstage to that of a wedding reception. "Your bride and your groom are like your leading lady and leading man. It's our job to make sure their evening goes smoothly by helping however we can while selecting music to keep the party going!"

And now for the interview you have all been waiting for!

Q: What is the biggest misconception about your industry?

A: That we play music, or, rather that we "just" play music. That's not to say we don't play music (of course we do!), but rather that there are so many more elements to a great disc jockey and master of ceremonies than pressing "play" or "making a few announcements." A great DJ/MC knows how to bring life to the party without becoming the center of attention, knows how to "read" the crowd to keep playing songs they'll love to keep your dance floor packed all night, has a professional, carefully-crafted microphone presence, and will take the time to make planning meetings to get to know you, your fiance, and your musical tastes in order to do all this with the music you love.

Q: What are a few mistakes brides make when choosing a DJ?

A: Oooh -- for me, this is the Apples to Apples question. Like many aspects of their wedding, most brides and grooms have never hired a DJ before, and they may never again. The service that we provide to them is just that -- a service and only a service. We don't give them a cake like their cakery, flowers like their florist, or images like their photographer (though we do hope to contribute to really, really great photos!). What we deliver is this amorphous thing that they can't see or touch, so sometimes it's difficult for brides and grooms to figure out how to compare us, so they turn to price-shopping. Unfortunately, we're not all the same -- it's not like buying a toaster. There are BIG, BIG differences from company to company, as well as from individual DJ to DJ, and it's just as important to consider the same elements used in hiring a cakery, florist, or photographer when hiring a DJ, considerations like experience, quality, knowledge, and style. Price should be the last thing on your mind, especially since many companies have packages at several different price points. Though of course it's important whether the price is right, in the end, it's much more important whether the DJ is right, and a professional company will definitely not be your lowest bidder.
Q: What things should a bride look for when hiring a DJ?

A: A bride and groom should look for someone who is able to help them crystallize and execute a vision based on them -- not whatever the "standard" is or whatever they "usually" play. It's your day, and it should be about you, but we know it's hard to come up with the right questions to ask yourself to get there! That's where we come in. Last year, I heard some wedding guests whisper to each other as they were leaving "that was so much fun, and it was so Jim and Kate!" Best compliment I have ever received!
Q: What is one of the worst things that can happen when booking a DJ?

A: We have fairly-frequent requests for brides and grooms to have a "swing-by" where they stop in to another event to see their DJ in action. Just remember -- if you get a swing-by to someone's event where the DJ's time and attention is divided between you and the wedding he or she is working -- it's likely that someone or maybe more than one someones will be stopping by your reception for the same. We host periodic public performances (and of course you're always welcome to visit us on the Goodtime III) so that couples can have the opportunity to see us in action.
Q: What is the worst story you have heard about a mistake someone in your industry has made, anyone, ever?
A: Of course straight-up not showing up, not bringing any equipment, wearing a tuxedo T-shirt or something equally inappropriate, doing something tacky to call unnecessary attention to him or herself, playing songs off the "do-not-play" list I'm sure are all on the "biggest fears" list for most brides and grooms, but all of these problems stem from a greater problem: preparation. The biggest mistake any company can make is in not adequately training their staff to learn to avoid these situations to begin with and to troubleshoot if they do occur. Something New has an Apprentice training program to seek out an nurture new talent. Successful Apprentices advance to Assistant DJs, and successful Assistant DJs advance to full DJ/MCs. I come from a teaching background, so we actually use a written curriculum that I produced which emphasizes vocal tone, diction, timing, musical styles and history, sound theory, mood, crowd-reading, electrical/equipment design and setup, etc. sound theory hands on shadowing
Q: If a client had endless funds what unique idea/service or products would you offer them?

A: Lighting, and specifically uplighting, hands down. Oh my gosh, I love uplighting! It is just the ultimate eye-candy, as far as I'm concerned! We do have smaller packages starting out with just a few fixtures to add accents around the head table or in another key location, but a full-coverage design can transform a space in ways that are really and truly amazing. Justin has worked professionally as a lighting designer and technician for some pretty big-time stuff, too -- at venues like Blossom, Tower City (or whatever it's called this year, ha ha), and the late Carousel Dinner Theatre, and he's quite an artist with the lights. All of our lighting is cutting-edge, technology-wise, and uses light emitting diodes (commonly known as LEDs). They look fantastic, and they're "green;" they use dramatically less energy themselves, plus, they don't get hot, so additional energy is saved on the venue's air conditioning system, too. This also eliminates the very real risk of dangerous burns and fire that the cheaper, older lights that are available to DIYers, which are very, very hot. Another advantage of our uplighting serviceis that we have the capability to create amazing intelligent lighting designs for you using advanced computerized DMX technology -- meaning that the specific colors and intensity of the lights can change over the course of the evening. For example: one of my favorite effects is to simulate the sunset within the room. Over the course of Cocktail Hour and Dinner, as the sun sets, the lighting changes smoothly and gradually from orange or yellow to blush, to maroon, to mulberry, and to finally to purple, just like the sky! A very subtle effect, but powerful.
Q: What is the one thing bridal clients should Review in contracts with their DJ?

A: The basic stuff, of course -- when, where, and how much -- but, also, if you've requested a specific person, any additional services you've requested, and any additional costs. A contract is a promise made to protect you, so know your recourse if the terms of the contract are not met, and make sure to get a copy with the signature of the company representative (preferably the owner) for your own records.
Q: What is the one thing you wish all of your clients knew when working with you?

A: Did you know St. Louis Bride and Groom Magazine conducted a poll and that more than 80% of wedding guests surveyed said that what they remembered most about a wedding was the entertainment? That's how important your DJ is, and we're ready and eager to live up to that demanding role. I think it's easy to underestimate the amount of time your DJ puts in to your event. It's not just the five hours your reception lasts, it's also an hour setting up, and hour tearing down, probably an hour or more travelling to and fro, an hour making special preparations with regard to grooming and dress including drycleaning, ironing, etc. Multiply all of those by two to count for the Assistant DJ, as well., plus the DJ/MC also holds at least two planning meetings and conducts several hours of music research to prepare a library of selections that fit into the bride and groom's stated musical preferences.
Well, that interview says it all!  They are incredible and obviously very passionate about what they do.  If that's what you look for in your DJ, then go on over and book Something New Entertainment for your wedding.

In the meantime,
Happy Planning,