Ask Debbie 392

LIVE! Family discounts, Certification angst, Customer follow-up – WFAL392

It's time to answer a few of your wedding planner questions.

Each question and answer is listed below, however, you'll gain lots more info if you listen to the entire episode (it's 38 minutes long).

Listen to the Episode – #392

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The Family & Friends Wedding Planning Discount

It's inevitable that those closest to you will ask for your help with their social events. Tailor'd Events would like to know:

How do you help family and friends with their weddings without losing money or being taken for granted?

Here's what I suggest:

Send your  family and friends a Wedding Business announcement letter — think new baby announcement but, instead, of sharing newborn vital statistics, make this announcement all about your new wedding business.  Include your web address, details about your specialty, a picture of your office, a copy of your most popular article…all the stuff that you're proud of and can't wait to share.

This heartfelt communication lets each recipient know that you have transitioned from wedding hobbyist to entrepreneur.  Doing this should curb some of those ‘free' requests that you're resentful about.

It's also a good move to create a policy for what you will and won't do or discount for family and friends.  If you decide to discount your services, make sure you cover your expenses.

And then of course, you have to stick to your guns and walk the walk!  This means making sure that each wedding and special event that you work on is handled professionally:  by being upfront about your fees (discounted or otherwise), using a professional wedding planner contract, preparing (and sticking to) a budget, keeping track of your time and all the other tasks that separate the wedding planning dabblers from the true hustlers.

How to Follow-up with Potential Clients

The magic is in the follow-up.  Ever heard that?  Thien asked me:

How many times should you follow-up with a prospect?  Is there some sort of system that should be in place?

Here's what I do:

If after meeting with potential clients for the very first time I learn that they are not ready to sign a contract, I suggest that the prospect contact me a few days later at specific time.  This way the pressure is on them, not me and I don't feel like I'm hounding anyone for a sale.

But my communication with a prospect doesn't end there.

  1. I immediately send my potential clients a hand-written thank-you note – In an envelope. With a stamp. In the mail. Regardless of how well (or not) the meeting went, each prospect gets one of these.
  2. In a few days, when/if the prospect contacts me as planned, we either move forward with a contract/deposit (yay!) or if they opt not to hire me, I thank them for the opportunity and for taking the time to let me know and I wish them well.If I don't hear from the prospect as planned, it's on to step #3
  3. I send a short, no-pressure, follow-up email letting them know that I'm still ‘here to help' if they need me and then I direct them to helpful wedding planning content – articles, podcast episodes, newsletter, etc. – ideally with a local slant and created by yours truly.  I also make sure to let prospects know about any current promotions or discounts for services or items that they have expressed an interested in.

And, that's it.

Once I've had a face-to-face meeting with a couple who have expressed an interest in what I do, hopefully there's a connection  and I'm the one (the wedding planner, that is) for them.  But, that may not be the case  for any number of reasons.

Remember as a business owner, no one owes you a thing.  Nothing.  Zip. Nada. Not even an explanation.

So worry less about the fact that you're not the one.  Learn from it (if that even applies) and keep it moving. And besides, we all make the decision to ‘buy' at different times; not when the seller (i.e. you) thinks it should happen.  It's quite possible that what you thought was a closed door may reopen later on.  Life's funny that way. 🙂

This is why it's so important to have free, need-to-know wedding planning content that's readily available for your potential and existing clients to absorb.  Each time your ideal customer sees something from or about you, the relationship strengthens and the likelihood of them doing business with you or sending clients your way increases.

When you're not Certified

You know you're a top-notch wedding professional, but…

What if your potential clients expect you to be a certified wedding planner, and you're not?

That's the question that Aaron posed.

Here are a few effective antidotes to the ‘but-I'm-not-certified' dilemma:

  • Great written testimonials from past clients and current professional wedding vendors,
  • Proof (i.e. photos) of past weddings that you've worked
  • Specific examples or case studies (but don't call them case studies) of situations and problems that you and your team handled and solved for bridal clients
  • Helpful, local wedding planning info – articles, video, blog posts – created by you
  • Your sheer confidence and professionalism –  Don't underestimate the power of this

We've discussed the wedding planner certification topic several times on WeddingsforaLiving.com; specifically in episode #374 Do Clients Care if you're Certified? and again on episode #386 Does Wedding Planner Certification Make Sense?  and it's the focus of the article, Wedding Planner Certification, is it Required?

I personally haven't found wedding planner certification to be a hot topic when I meet with my prospects. Yet it almost always comes up as a concern when a group of wedding planners get together.  Why is that?

I'd love to hear from you. Has not being certified been a concern with your potential clients?  Please, let me know in the comments, below.

Wedding Day Emergency Kit Essentials

Providing access to a wedding day emergency kit is almost a given for a professional wedding planner.  Emily asks:

What are the essentials  for the emergency wedding day kit?

Personally, I rely on two (2) types of emergency kits; the client emergency kit and the wedding planner emergency kit.

The client emergency kit consists of a variety of inexpensive, go-to items – safety pins, double-sided tape, scissors, mini sewing kit, deodorant, etc. – housed in an easy-t0-see organizer and it remains in the main changing room where the couple's wedding party is getting dressed before the wedding ceremony.

The wedding planner emergency kit is also available for anyone who needs access to its contents on my client's wedding day, but, as a rule, it stays with me or in my car.  The primary items in this ‘heavy-duty' kit include a portable car battery charger (I refer to mine as a ‘power pack'), a tool kit (I got mine from IKEA), a giant wedding parasol, a variety of extension cords and  an audio adapter cable for an mp3 player or iPod.

What's in your wedding day emergency kit?  Please let me know.

A HUGE thank you to Tailor'd Events, Thien, Aaron and Emily for the really great questions that made this episode possible.

If you're struggling with a wedding planner situation, please give me a call on +1 202-681-2126 or send me a message.  I'll do my best to help.

HAPPY PLANNING!

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This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. As a Wedding Planner, I always carry my own “Bride’s Emergency Kit” and I replenish it after every wedding. However, I always give a recommended “Bride’s Emergency Kit List” to each of my bride’s and I recommend that their mother or MOH put one together for them. I think it is essential for a bride to have the kit with her the entire wedding weekend. Sometimes the wedding planner is NOT with the bride the entire time, so I highly recommend my bride’s have their own Bride’s Emergency Kit and assign maybe the MOH to be in charge of it.

    I always recommend the bride have a needle threaded, ready-to-go, with the color thread of her bridal gown. You just never know when you may need to sew up that gown during the wedding and you will need that needled threaded, because nerves get the best of anyone at a wedding! 🙂

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Clearly, you’re on point! Love the idea of providing couples with a list. Doing so takes some of the pressure of you, the wedding planner. And of course by merely making the suggestions, you’re confirming just how much of a professional you are. Thinking ahead is what we have to do and you’re living proof of that.

      Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

      — Debbie

  2. Very much informative
    Could I have a get together with friends and family at home and to let them know what I am about by showing them what I can do to try yo sell myself where I give them my call cards to let them know what I do. You see I am teacher and I fid my course and I have my papers because I need yo leave teaching. What do you think. Magda

    1. Hello Magda,

      How original! I think that’s an outstanding idea! What a perfect way to showcase your wedding planning skills. I love that.

      Please let us know how this works for you.

  3. I’m just starting a wedding planning business and not certified, yet. I’m looking into it only because when I look at “Questions to ask a Wedding Planner” it mentions being certified and/or part of an organization.
    Personally, no one has made it an issue. From my research I have found, customers want proof of what you can do( pictures of weddings planned, letters of recommendation etc).

    Great information about following up with potential customers. The hand written note, mailed is awesome.

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, Heather. I’m with you 100%! Happy you found the information helpful.

      — Debbie 🙂