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More of Your Wedding Planner Questions, Answered – WFAL395

If you've got questions about being a professional wedding planner, then, Weddings For a Living has answers.  This episode is a replay of part two of a live broadcast in response to several of your listener wedding planner questions.  (You can catch part 1 of the broadcast, here.)

LISTEN TO EPISODE #395

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Questions and answers in this episode include:

What are the top 5 things to do to become a wedding planner?

What is the best form of advertising for a wedding planner?

How old is too old to start as a wedding planner?

I've been asked to coordinate a same-sex wedding. I'm clueless, what should I do?

Where do I go to get wedding planner training?

I can't afford to hire additional staff for my wedding business, what should I do?

My clients are going against my professional advice (in this instance, it's about a Save-the-Date) what should I do?

How else can I make money without having to plan weddings?

What are the top 5 things to do to become a wedding planner?

Dynisha asked for a rundown of the top five (5) things to do as a wedding planner.  Here's my take (thanks, Dynisha!)

1. Get hands-on experience planning weddings for others – make sure this is something you truly enjoy doing. Work alongside a few local wedding vendors and professional.
2. Talk to and spend some time with professional wedding vendors already in the wedding industry
3. Make sure there's a demand for professional wedding planner services in your market area
4. Consider a specialty or niche as a wedding planner
5. Develop a presence THE local wedding expert

What is the best form of advertising for a wedding planner?

Thank you Dawn for this question

First, no matter what type of advertising that you invest in, make sure you have a professional website for your wedding business that your advertising leads back to.

Print Ads – place in publications targeted to your ideal clients, especially a local one

Bridal Expo – if you can locate a smaller or niche wedding expo (like Pamela Noxon's Wedding Party – http://www.sandiegoweddingparty.com/about-us/) that your target clients are likely to attend, this may be a worthwhile advertising expense.

WORTH CHECKING OUT:

  • WeddingWire.com, TheKnot.com ,Thumbtack.com each offer advertising opportunities for wedding planners

How old is too old to start as a wedding planner?

Molly is concerned about ageism in the wedding planning industry – thanks Molly!

It's not a requirement to look like your potential clients.  What is important, however, is that as a wedding professional that you provide a solution to a problem that your client is experiencing.

Make sure you're not inventing ‘situations' for yourself as a business owner that don't really exist.  Your work and past events should speak volumes!

I've been asked to coordinate a same-sex wedding. I'm clueless, what should I do?

Valerie is being considered for same-sex wedding but isn't quite sure where to begin.  Thanks for writing, Valerie.

Whenever you're asked to plan a wedding that you're unfamiliar with, it's time to start digging around and conduct your own research.  Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, associations and social media are likely to divulge an avalanche of results.

Once you decide that this is  a topic that you're interested in pursuing (why bother if you're not jazzed by it), look for one or two books on the subject and spend the next 48 hours learning all that you can.

Believe it or not, with this focused approach of study you'll know way more about a wedding specialty than many of your colleagues.

WORTH CHECKING OUT:

Where do I go to get wedding planner training?

Ashley left a voice message about wedding planner training.  Thank you, Ashley!

No formal training is required to be a professional wedding planner.  But if you choose a structured learning approach, several wedding planner ‘certification' courses are available; a quick Google search results in pages and pages of options.

Self-paced independent study is also a training option to be a wedding planner (assuming you're disciplined enough to consistently learn all you can on your own).

Spending a morning or two shadowing someone in an industry that you've only had a fleeting glimpse of is priceless.

ADDITIONAL WEDDING PLANNER TRAINING EPISODES:

I can't afford to hire additional staff for my wedding business, what should I do?

Kay's low wedding planning fees are preventing her from hiring help. Oh no!  Here's my suggestion, Kay and thanks for writing!

Coming up with your wedding planner pricing involves calculating your baseline – the minimum amount you'll accept – beforehand.  Your expenses need to be incorporated into your fees.

If you're thinking of hiring an intern as a way to get cheap or free labor, think again.  Interns expect to and should be trained,  receive valuable work experience plus be privy to a few behind-the-scenes tips provided by yours truly.

Take an honest look at your wedding company?  Does your brand support the prices you are charging?

Don't know where to start when it comes to pricing?  Aim for the top third of fees being charged in your area.

My clients are going against my professional advice (in this instance, it's about a Save-the-Date) what should I do?

Geraldine's clients are not heeding her professional advice.  Thank you, Geraldine

Advising your clients on the ins and outs of what happens at a wedding is a key role for a professional wedding planner.  But, occasionally, clients will go against your advice (it's there wedding, right?).

When or if this happens, as long as their decisions don't have drastic effects on the their big day or your professional reputation, there isn't much you can do.

Pick your battles and if you discover you're experiencing way too many of them (battles, that is), it may be an indicator that the working relationship may need to end.  But, hopefully that isn't the case.

Just remember that when it comes to weddings, emotions are usually at an all-time high.  Your professionalism, diplomacy and tact are required in HUGE doses.

“How do I handle a controlling mother who is paying for the wedding?”

Celestine asked for help with a ‘Mother of the Bride (MOB) vs. the Bride' situation.

When working with more than one client, you don't want to be sandwiched in the middle of family drama dynamics.   Early on in the planning process (or before they become your clients), you must determine who's calling the shots.  Typically it's the person who is directly paying your fee.

Correction [I mistakenly said the ‘bride' is paying for this event; Celestine clearly says the ‘mother' is paying.  Sorry for my mistake.]

“Do you have to be certified to be a wedding planner?”

Carol submitted this frequently-asked question about being certified:

Certification is not requirement to be a professional wedding planner.  And as mentioned in the earlier question about training, independent study is one of the most affordable ways to get the wedding planning training that you need.

As part of your independent wedding planner studies, connect with local professional wedding vendors so that you can begin to develop a shortlist of local favorites that your future clients will pay to have access to and to get much-needed hands-on experience by shadowing other established wedding vendors.

What's the best way to price your services as a wedding planner?

Siji asked for help with pricing:

Most professional wedding planners use one of these options to bill for their services:

  • Charge an hourly rate
  • Charging a flat fee for an event/wedding
  • Charging a percentage of the wedding's budget
  • Collecting a commission or flat recurring fee from select wedding vendors (a rather non-traditional business model)

Remember that whatever you charge, your business expenses should be covered.  Your income should exceed what you're spending.

ADDITIONAL WEDDING PLANNING PRICING EPISODES:

“How else can I make money without having to plan weddings?”

Kiondria wants to know how else she can make money with weddings

If you're looking for alternatives to being a traditional wedding planner, here are a few ideas:

  • Selling wedding accessories and/or invitations – help engaged couples select their wedding stationery and accessories
  • Wedding Design – create the look and design of the big day for
  • Wedding Planning Studio – a wedding vendor referral company; your fees are paid by the represented wedding vendors.
  • Wedding Officiant/Celebrant – focus on preceding over a wedding ceremony
  • Pop-up Weddings – you book/find the site, style it for a wedding and then accept wedding bookings for various time slots for the same date
Feel free to ask a question and/or leave a comment on the listener talkback line: 202-681-2126 (I love hearing from you!).

Your Turn!

Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section on this page.

HAPPY PLANNING!

 

 

 

This Post Has 14 Comments
  1. Re: Age of a Wedding Planner Episode
    LOL! I am 57 years old and my recent bride who signed a contract with me, said she wanted someone “older,” and I did not take offense to that. She wanted more of a mother figure, and not a “young” or “younger than her” wedding planner!!! I was happy to hear that!

    Kathleen from Weddings by Kathleen

    1. LOL! Love that! Thank you, Kathleen. Many engaged couples want to work with someone who is more mature. Don’t let your age stop you from doing what you desire.

  2. I am an Event Planner/Coordinator/Florist and Decorator and I am 65. I started my company almost 8 years ago. I have brides from 20 to 56 – and can’t say that I lost a job due to ‘age’….. cost maybe 🙂

    I do feel that the more mature bride stands to gain and get more out of my services than the brides in the 20 – 26 age range – they just are not as mature in thinking or knowing what they really want (they just want it all).

    I take all my brides to heart – I do have the luxury at this age of ‘partial retirement’ , of being able to be very select about the weddings and events I choose to take on. Whereas in the beginning – I took on everything that came along. I also space out my events as the clients that come to me for planning or Day Of, always end up hiring me floral and decor ! So a lot more goes into my work than just coordinating and I need more time.

    The brides do need a connection with their coordinator/planner – you will hear a lot; sometimes more than you care to hear! But – in the long run, that bride wants to feel assured that you will have everything under control on HER day. I do believe this is a plus for the older Planner/Coordinator – especially if you have children (mine are grown and I now have grandbabies)…. there is a lot to be said for maturity – style and grace. And oddly enough – most of brides stay in touch with me and 3 are now part of my staff 🙂

    1. This is great feedback for Molly (the person who submitted the ageism question). Thank you.

  3. In response to “Kiondria” : As I was trying to start up my event business (mind you I was still working a 40 hour week – which I kept reducing my hours down to 30/wk until I finally took retirement)…. I opened my Etsy store….which is actually my bread and butter!

    Being a graphic artist and designer for 40+ years – creating bouquets and arrangements just came naturally to me. I was already creating arrangements for weddings – and moved into the bridal florals and then I started selling them on Etsy. My hottest selling item now is my ‘tutu pom wand’ for flower girls – can’t keep up!!! It/s a good thing / bad thing. I actually have to shut down production during Sept to Nov as that is high wedding season here in Texas.

    Brides LOVE that little extra touch of something unique that you can bring to their wedding. I also make all those cute little hand-painted wood signs and chalkboard everything. They love customized cake toppers – anything that is special to their wedding. And believe me – there is enough business to go around!

    Check out my store and follow me on instagram @kaartisticevents for the latest creations!

    I’m also on FB 🙂

  4. In response to fees: the hardest part of ANY package in my opinion. It took me about 4 years to really get this part down and stick to it. As you develop your business and it grows and you become known – it gets easier to be firm with your pricing. We all want bargains right ?

    You have to be competitive in your marketing area…find middle of the road once you have some experience under your belt. Hourly charges do not work for me — I spend a lot of time consulting with my brides – online, text, phone and here at my shop. I don’t change my pricing unless the event goes over 300 guests. it’s just that much more to deal with. However – my package perk for the bride is IF you hire me Floral/Decor — I discount the Planning or Day Of package significantly, as I remain on site with my decor (it is rented). So I am already there — having me as your coordinator is a plus… and one less person. One stop shop with vendors is a HUGE plus at any event. Fewer vendors makes for a smoother running event in my opinion.

    I have a set price where I do not walk out the door for less than $$$. Exception: weddings fewer than 75 people and no decor and no more than 4 hours of my time – I bring the price down. It doesn’t change the quality of service they get from me — it’s just way less time for me on their Day Of. That’s only happened once for me – as I said, they want my decor once they see 🙂

    I tried to track my hours in the beginning just to see how much time I actually spent….well — unless you have the $50k bride and up — good luck with that ! lol. I want happy, satisfied brides and I do whatever it takes. When I make them happy – makes me happy.

    You are in the business because you love it — it. is. stressful. But also very rewarding.

    1. Very helpful, Kathy. It’s clear that you value your time. And, yes, the longer you do this, the easier it gets to be firm about your fees. Good for you.

      The $50k bride, by the way, is the person who is much more likely to hire a full-service wedding planner. Too many of us shy away from these types of clients. We shouldn’t. If she exists in your area, go after her!

  5. Response to Geraldine: I just ‘backed out of contract’ with my first client (and got a horrible review in return — but MY stress level was suffering which affects health).

    Sometimes you DO just have to walk away, but be prepared for backlash. it happens to everyone at one time or another. I’ve had a perfect 8 year running streak and 5 star reviews across all my sites til a few weeks ago. And the thing is — they were false allegations; the bride just had to run someone in the ground and picked me. But — you should not (imo) start an email, text or online battle – it just adds more fuel to the fire.

    I looked up many site responses on how to handle this matter — ‘most’ said you should respond, short brief, and tactfully and apologize. Without going into detail about this couple – I removed myself after 6 months of working with them and 3 months before their wedding. ONLY AFTER the bride tells me that she is not happy with my services after all. My believe is ‘if you aren’t happy now, you aren’t going to be happy on your wedding day”….. and she left the review 3 days after her wedding… not 3 months prior when all this happened.

    I’ve been debating over leaving a response for 3 weeks now and have finally decided it’s not worth it. I know she is waiting for a response so she can keep the “as the bride turns'” soap opera churning… and probably wanting the last say. So I decided just a couple of days ago (as this was still keeping me in knots over what to say ‘tactfully and professionally”) to just let it go and let it be. My other reviews far outweigh hers.

    I will say — this couple fought and bickered at every consult with me — not with me, but with each other. I was in doubt about this little union to begin with – and probably should have never signed on with them. And FYI — this has prompted another change in my contract about client or me backing out of contract. Cover yourself thoroughly !

    I think I got off track — I have seen parents and daughters come to blows — you have to let them work it out. In cases like this, I usually make sure I copy bride/parent on all issues — esp anything pertaining to contract and cost. This typically happens with the younger brides (under 25).

    1. Hey Kathy,

      So sorry you’re going through this.

      You raise several good points in your comment.

      Public shaming is on the rise and when you’re running a business, some customers can’t wait to begin an online dispute with you. Like you, my instinct is to ignore those types of online comments (especially since I know the individual is anxiously waiting for me to ‘dig in’). But on the other hand, as business owners, I think we have a responsibility to address customer complaints. I suggest taking the conversation offline. keep your online response polite and offer to contact them directly by email or phone to discuss the specific details of their complaint. Keep it polite, keep it professional and keep it moving.

      The lesson here, is that we MUST pay attention to that gut feeling when we initially meet our prospects. Don’t ignore those red flags that continue to pop-up.

      Great feedback on interacting with parents and daughters, too. Thank you.

  6. Age as a wedding planner episode
    Was impressed by the way you responded to the question.Personally i do not see how age can affect ones service as a wedding planner.Have also noticed that young people ,given a choice would rather seek services from a mature person rather than someone youthful.
    Am 50 now and both young and older brides seek my services.I think the whole idea is not to take it personal but one has to be confident

    1. Hello Peggy,

      Thanks so much for writing. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

      – Debbie

  7. how do you protect the integrity of your business?

    i have a wedding team that i use who all have there own business .
    camera /video /catering the works.

    I also ues a selection of venues to suit.

    How do i protect my business from vendors taking the work that i bring.

    eg
    a villa that i have found for my clients is now supplying the food for the wedding as well as other optins which i was to deal.

    i have gone from running the wedding to working for the villa.

    1. Hello Duncan,

      Thanks for your comment. Based on what you described, I couldn’t determine who is paying each vendor and the venue? You or the couple?

      Either way, it’s important that you find a team of people whom you can trust. Make it crystal clear what your standards and policies are regarding the clients you work with….long before you introduce your clients to them. If a venue or vendor ‘doesn’t get it’, you don’t bring them anymore business. Period. Again, this requires you saying so upfront! This is not an occasion to be passive. Put something in writing if you have to.

      I’d also suggest that the you make your life easier and limit the number of venues that you use for your events. This way you’ll send them more business more often which means they’re less likely to undermine you and your business.

      Just know that you will likely change the vendors and venues with whom you work. It takes time to get the right fit. I hope this helps.