When you’re new to an industry you’re bound to make a few mistakes. You don’t know what you don’t know. And with no shortage of available online information, the endless options can be confusing.
For a newbie wedding planner it is no different.
In this episode I shed some light on some of the mistakes that I have made so you can avoid making them too.
Listen to the Episode – #397
Podcast: Play in new window
MISTAKE #1: Not thinking like a business owner
For the most part, planning weddings for a living means almost no recurring income; PLUS hiring a professional wedding planner is not a service that is in-demand (yet).
What also tends to be the case is that most professional wedding planners spend lots of hours planning a wedding but do not bill for the actual amount of time spent working.
This means that wedding planning tends to be a labor of love instead of a HUGE money generator. Keep this in mind!
MISTAKE #2: Not creating a business plan
You may not need a traditional 25-page document to start your wedding planning business, but at the very least, you must be prepared to answer some important questions:
- How much do you charge?
- What type of wedding planner services do you offer?
- Are you in tune with the local wedding scene?
- Do you have an office? Where will you meet clients?
- Are you certified? Do you even need to be?
- How much money do you need to make each month?
- What is my core marketing strategy?
- How will I balance my business with my job?
- Are you comfortable asking for the sale?
MISTAKE #3: Not being local enough
If you’re actively planning weddings, do you know:
- How many weddings are happening in your area, locally?
- How much couples spending on local weddings?
- Who are the top 3 planners in your area? How much do they charge?
Do your research before launching your wedding planning company.
TIP: Survey local brides – ask them about their wedding experience
TIP: Commit to being the local wedding guru; start a blog, a local YT channel
MISTAKE #4: Underestimating the emotional side of weddings
Weddings are emotional. This means your emotions PLUS the client’s emotions are likely to be affected.
As a professional wedding planner, you MUST ‘click’ with your clients. But you must also be prepared to set boundaries and establish standards to increase the likelihood of a great working relationship.
Not everyone will welcome you as a wedding planner; get used to it!
No one owes you a thing as a business owner; not even a reply or common courtesy.
MISTAKE #5: Not creating systems
Document your professional wedding planning process (here’s the process I use). Planning each wedding the same way – more or less – will save you time and allow you to grow.
Create and implement telephone and email scripts, write down your planning procedures, use checklists and templates instead of having to repeatedly explain your processes to others.
TIP: You need to implement systems for your wedding business
MISTAKE #6: Not being accountable
This is important for all entrepreneurs, even if wedding planning is your side gig. You have no excuses as a business owner. Find ways to run your business effectively and figure out how you will provide your customers with the service they have paid you for!
MISTAKE #7: Not discussing my business with my family
Planning weddings affects your family and those closest to you. You’ll likely forfeit your weekends and evenings; running a business affects your money and your mood. Talk to your family and discuss what they should expect.
MISTAKE #8: Not being different enough
Why should someone hire you as a professional wedding planner instead of the planner located a few blocks away?
Don’t be scared to specialize! It won’t limit you. Being different is good!
When you’re no different from other area wedding planners, the only thing separating you is price; there’s nothing else. Be bold enough to specialize as a wedding planner (you’ll make more money!).
MISTAKE #9: Thinking that I could survive planning weddings full-time
Planning weddings only didn’t do it for me. I had to vary my income in order to reach my money goals.
Don’t believe all the hype you hear and read about ‘successful’ wedding planners. Their successes may not match up with what you want. Find ways to mix things up.
Each one of these mistakes was a great learning lesson for me. Avoid them if you can.
Very good advice Debbie!
My business is in the ‘retired portion’ and after the past 3 seasons of back to back wedding weekends, I am cutting back to approximately 2 weddings a month moving into 2017. But — I am 65, fully retired and now have grandbabies 🙂 It IS an ALL consuming industry and you gotta love it! Fortunately I have reached the point where I can be very selective about the weddings/events I choose to take on – interviews with your clients is VERY important — listen to your gut instinct. We are not here to make every bride happy; and I do encourage the client to interview all of their vendors – after all, they are going to make her day run smoothly (or not).
I had a bride tell me after 6 months of work that she really didn’t like me! Really? after 6 months….2 days later I backed out of contract (which I have also amended after that episode – so keep your contracts in check!). It was 3 months before her wedding and if she wasn’t happy with me now, she sure as heck isn’t going to be happy with me on her wedding day! They had been a difficult couple all along – even at the first meeting (arguing, snide remarks – no affection shown) — I picked up on these things but didn’t listen to myself! Big mistake.
I bring great vision to my clients about what their event will look like, having a graphic arts background for 40 plus years. I know color – spatial design – what blends and this is my perk! My specialty — offering decor/florals along with Coordinating and Planning — makes for a great one stop shop. But – it is a HUGE responsibility on the day of an event to pull all together, so having a great and dedicated staff behind me that also loves what we do, is very important. I have never just been a Day Of Coordinator — once they see my decor – they see the benefits of one-stop-shop. And – my shop is on our property since we live out of city limits.
I have gained enough ‘notice’, word of mouth, my Etsy store and instagram followers, that this will be the first year I am choosing not to go to bridal vendor shows. I am currently booked thru July, 2017 and working on the fall….and there is enough business out there for everyone.
MAKE YOUR MARK 🙂
I kept nodding my head as I read your comments; thank you. You’re right, weddings can be all-consuming and it’s great when you get to the word-of-mouth stage. We HAVE to be selective about our working relationships and following that initial gut instinct is key.
I appreciate everything that you’ve shared. Very helpful. Again, thank you.
Thank you for being truthful.That is a strength
Have just discovered that i was also caught up in some of your mistakes and will now start trying to walk out of theses one way or the other.
Have combined wedding planning with hiring of bridal clothes and accesories and its wotking out quite well
Kathy…thank you for sharing your expertise.You are doing great
Hello Peggy. Thank you for your comment and kind words. I actually did a few consignment bridal gowns when I had my commercial space (I know it’s not quite the same thing that you’re working on) which helped to generate more foot traffic. It took a lot more energy than I imagined but was a great learning experience. Hiring a wedding gown and accessories is a cool angle. How are brides in your area responding to that concept?
Absolutely love your personality and talk show.. Good points on mistakes made. I am just about to mention that from my observation and history of my city (Dubai) if you position your company/yourself right out there, you can make enough of money doing wedding planning business full time. It can be a very profitable business, and the lesson I’ve learnt is to be selective with your clients and not to sell myself cheap, even if it means few months without profit, it will pay back eventually. I’d rather do two worthy big weddings a month than 10 small weddings that pay peanuts. So tapping the right clientele is important success factor.
Excellent points, Olga! We have to be selective (which is why I’m a HUGE advocate of specializing).
The thing is, the idea of making money is so subjective, isn’t it? What exactly is ‘enough’ for an individual? We each have different needs and goals.
And if we as newbies take more time to research our local market, we’ll be in a better position to determine whether or not a wedding planning (or any) business is viable and whether or not the projected income is indeed ‘enough’.
Thank you so much for sharing much-needed advice.
Great episode Debbie! I feel reinvigorated and I’m ready to go to task.
I have a great niche, I’ve studied the industry, gained valuable work experience, documented my processes, have attractive-looking promotional materials and have visited vendors BUT I overlooked a very important detail…I need to take some business classes! I can’t believe I didn’t give that much thought before starting my business.
Thank you so much for pointing out the obvious because I NEEDED THAT INFO!
It’s always a pleasure to listen to you talk!
Thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like you’re ready to go! Just remember, it’s never THE perfect time to get started. Sign-up for a class or two, but do whatever you can to get some firsthand experience until your classes begin, okay? Keep going. 🙂
Thank you so much, so helpful, I am new to this business and so excited to get going on this adventure. I really liked what you said about specialising and maybe I can do this to keep myself above others. I have a Bachelor of Fine Art and love all things macramé and I have designed Wedding backdrops, hanging chandeliers which look great for outdoor or beach events. I realise this will be slow in getting established but will go around locally and give my business cards out or advertise locally to attract local business, Thank you for this great web site too, I will revisit often for more advice, Rhonda.
Great hearing from you! Wonderful to hear that you’re finding the information helpful. Remember wedding planning is a very personal service. Make sure the people in your area know who You are. Be sure to project your personality in all of your marketing efforts.
Great advices. I would be interested to know more about what systems and processes you put together for wedding planning. Especially when you have staff and you want them to be able to plan weddings by themselves with the same level of expertise.
Thank you for your feedback. The basis for any staff training is my operations manual that details just about every process involved when planning a client’s wedding: from email and telephone scripts to the dress code of my staff on the clients wedding day. If you make documenting everything you do a priority in your capacity as a professional wedding planner, right from the beginning, it helps when/if you’re ready to grow your wedding team.