This week, we are dedicating our posts to the new people in the wedding industry. This week industry professionals will share with us 10 lessons for new florists, new invite designers, new wedding planners, and new photographers. Most of these tips will be helpful for any trade within the wedding industry, so take note!
New Wedding Planners… and even those of you with years of experience… take note! Emilie Duncan has some great lessons that apply to all. She sets the record straight: wedding planning is HARD work. I love her gumption and gusto. Take it away, Emilie…
10 lessons for new wedding planners…
by Emilie Duncan
Emilie Duncan Event Planning, Columbus OH
7 years in the biz
1. Get Educated
You don’t know what you are doing at first and that is okay. Get some education and make it well-rounded. There are plenty of programs out there that will give you the basics but the best way to learn this industry is by doing. Shadow an established wedding planner or get into an internship. The Association of Bridal Consultants has an internship program in place that members can take advantage of as do some experienced, well known planners. Also, don’t limit yourself to planning only – look into working for a caterer. Even as a wait staff, you can learn what really goes down at a wedding reception. Or, help a florist during their busy weekends or work at a dress shop. Take some photography, floral and cake design classes. We have to be knowledgeable in all aspects of weddings so we know how we can better help the other vendors do their jobs and take outstanding care of our clients.
2. Learn to Detach Your Preferences
Consider whether you can take your own opinions and likes and dislikes completely out of the picture. At some point, you will be called upon to plan a wedding that you just don’t like. Whether it is the colors, the style, the theme, whatever – you have to be able to put aside the fact that you think doves and cherubs are ridiculous and awful and make sure that the bride and groom have the exact wedding that they have always dreamed.
3. This is not a Glamorous Job
Don’t let the TV shows and movies fool you. This is HARD work and playing with linens and flowers and drinking champagne is only about 2% of the job. The rest is hard-core business: negotiating, following up with vendors, making sure that all the day to day details of running a business are in place and so on. You must have a head for business and head for design. If you don’t have the business head, have a partner who does.
4. Certification vs. Licenses
There is no legal licensing in the wedding planning industry. You may take classes or courses to become certified by that program. You are not licensed. Be careful how you present this title as it can be misleading. (Editorial Note: certain professions are licensed by the government. Lawyers, Accountants, Doctors all study and take tests to be licensed professionals. You do apply for your business license with your city or state to have a business. But, there is no official licensing in our industry.)
5. Do Your Research Carefully
When doing your market research, reach out to other planners through legitimate channels and they will be willing to help. Do NOT ‘secret shop’ other planners in your area. Attend networking events and grow into your industry. Find colleagues who will exchange information with you.
6. Be Patient
Everything takes time. It’ll be several years before you feel comfortable in your business. That’s OK. Start somewhere and tweak it. Don’t expect more experienced planners to hand you what they have worked so hard for. We are happy to share, but we aren’t going to give away our trade secrets.
7. Find Your Voice
Focus on something unique. Differentiate yourself. I actually highly suggest writing your website copy and package information in a creative bubble – write it after NOT looking at anyone else’s site for at least a week or two. That way your slate is clean and you are starting fresh. After all, you need to be able to define what you do and without influence from others.
8. Get Creative
If you have no pictures from events you have done because you haven’t done any events, do not use stock photos. If you use pictures of decor, you are implying that those pictures are your work. If they are stock photos, they aren’t. Find a way to do your own images until you can build your portfolio. Go buy some flowers, get a pretty linen and your best china and create your own tablescape in your dining room. Or, leave your gallery empty until you can fill it. Find a newer photographer who is also looking for exposure and stage some shots.
9. Pricing is a Balancing Act
Your prices should be less than someone who has been planning weddings for years but they should not be so low that you are under-cutting. If everyone else in town is charging $1500 for wedding weekend/day of coordination and you are charging $250 – you are so far under-priced that it hurts the industry and your business. Get an idea of what the market will bear and decide on your prices from there. And, be careful when clients ask for a discount. Negotiating is one of your jobs as a planner. If you lower your prices because someone asks you, all you are doing is saying that you weren’t worth what you were charging in the first place.
10. Trust Your Instinct
I absolutely believe that while there is a wedding planner out there for every couple who wants one, no one is the perfect fit for everyone. Some people are just not meant to be your client and while that is a hard lesson to learn when you are first starting out, it is a really important one. When you first start out, you want so badly to get experience and build your portfolio that it is tempting to take on any client who happens to call – even if they are not a good fit for you or your gut tells you to run as far away as possible. You must learn how to trust your gut when it tells you that someone isn’t a good fit for you. If the “this person is crazy” bells go off or you don’t like someone the moment you meet them, please know it isn’t going to get any better and it will likely get ugly down the road. Learning to turn away business is as important as learning how to find the business in the first place.