As a professional wedding planner, after communicating with bridal leads via email or over the telephone, the next step should be to arrange a face-to-face bridal consultation. Prepare yourself for this very important meeting as though it were a first date.
Here are a few tips:
Location! Location! Location!
–Entertain them. If you are meeting the couple at your home office be prepared to be the best host ever and ‘entertain' them the moment they arrive (even if your office is limited in size.) Promote your professionalism and show them you are serious about weddings. Display bridal magazines, play wedding music in the background.
–Show them how creative you are. If space permits, why not show off your wedding planner creativity and arrange with your local rental company to showcase a table decorated with linens, flatware, a centerpiece…the full works. You want them to leave your studio with the feeling that, if they hire you, every last detail will be thought of.
–Provide a few refreshments. Water, juices, sodas, snacks, and fruit are all good suggestions. Your clients will be especially grateful for something to munch on if they're meeting with you right after work.
–Get there first. If you have agreed to meet at another location, plan on arriving before your potential clients; at least 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting time. If you are meeting at a local coffee shop, arrive in enough time to find a quiet area where you can have a discussion without too many distractions.
–Foot the bill. Be willing to pay for your prospect's beverages and possibly a light snack. Now is not the time to penny-pinch.
–-For meetings at the reception site, think ahead. Contact the venue staff as soon as you have confirmed the meeting date and time with your prospects and ask the venue if they are able set aside a table and a few chairs for your meeting. Try to use your wedding planner negotiating skills to secure a few appetizers or snacks if they have their own catering staff.
Dress to Impress
Remember the old adage, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression'. Think ‘first date'.
–Make it your goal to look as stylish, chic and professional as possible. A suit is always a safe bet. For female wedding planners a bridal consultation is also the perfect excuse to wear a dress. Show your creativity with accessories that complement your outfit. Make sure your nails are clean and manicured, that your hair is neat and that your breath is fresh. (And don't think for a moment that the missing button on your jacket will go unnoticed!)
–Let your clients do most of the talking. Once everyone has a beverage and is comfortable, resist the temptation to launch into your spiel of all the wonderful bridal things you have to offer. For this meeting, the couple should really be doing the majority of the talking. As much as this is a meeting for them to get to know you, take this opportunity to learn everything you possibly can about what this couple wants for their big day. Ask lots of open-ended questions.
–Really Listen. Let the couple know that you will be taking notes as they respond to your questions and that hopefully your note-taking won't affect their flow of conversation. And then listen…really, really listen! Becoming a good listener is an art and a science. Clear your mind, completely and forget all your preconceived notions based on appearances or what you think the couple wants.
–Confirm what you heard. Once the couple has described their style and what they want, it's time for you to verify what you just heard. For example, if they have a love for the outdoors, fine food and prefer an event that includes just close family and friends, you might say something like:”So, Jenny and Bob, it sounds to me like the two of you would like to host an intimate event that reflects your love for the outdoors with an unforgettable menu. Am I close?” If you've been listening attentively, you should be right on target, and hear a resounding ‘yes' from both of them. (A good sign!)
–Describe your wedding planning services. Wait until the end of the discussion to share details about you, your company and the wedding planning services you provide. Don't ramble on. Hand them a printed package of information (I refer to mine as a Wedding Idea Kit). Remember presentation is everything; so make sure your packaging is consistent and looks professional.
–Keep track of time. Keep in mind that this is not a bridal consultation where the couple gets all the information and ideas from you that they need to plan the wedding themselves. This initial ‘getting-to-know-you' session really should not last more than one hour, so try not to let things drag on.
Once the initial bridal consultation is over, be sure to follow up with the couple. Send a personalized thank you note as soon as this meeting is over, while the details are still fresh in your mind. Let them know how much you enjoyed the meeting and reiterate your desire to work with them in planning their wedding.