Friday, March 16, 2012

Wedding Industry Experts

A few weeks ago I was asked to be on an on-line panel of Wedding Industry Experts (along with some people that I really admire!) answering questions about various aspects of being a wedding planner. I decided I'll start posting my weekly answers in my blog, so stay tuned weekly!


QUESTION # 3
 
Q. Before you built your reputation as a leading Wedding Planner or Designer, how did couples find out about your service and how did you land your first paying client?


A. I was serious about paying my dues in this industry before I printed up a business card and started taking on guinea pigs brides. I worked for a florist to learn a bit about the floral world (NOW I know why "just 12 peonies" are so expensive. Labor & overhead, y'all), worked as a cater server on the weekends to understand the food & beverage flow of an event, and also interned for veteran wedding planners to learn their secrets.

I earned the reputation as a good assistant and an intelligent person. That was nice. So when my mentors were sent referrals that had budgets that were too low, my mentors sent them to me. I got paid $500 for my first wedding and I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. One of my mentors actually came and worked as my assistant that day to make sure I had the backup I needed. It is still one of the toughest weddings I've done.
    
  



QUESTION # 2

Q. What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a Wedding Event Planner? 

A. Besides telling them to become a photographer instead? Well, I'd tell them: you have to get access to the wedding community. Just calling or emailing a wedding planner saying, “Weddings are my passion!!!!! Can I have a job?” will get you nowhere 99.99% of the time. I recommend joining an association, taking their certification courses, and finding out how and where the wedding industry networks. Courses and seminars are fine and dandy, but until you spend some time in the trenches getting dirty, you don’t know squat about weddings. I don’t care if you planned your own wedding: attending a wedding as a guest or a bride is nowhere near the reality of working as a planner. Trust me.

Once you find out where we planners network, you come network with us. Networking is crucial in this industry, so you better get used to and get good at it. Coming to network with us takes guts, and we recognize that, and so we’re open to talking with you just because of this. I don’t recommend coming in with a business card with your new company name on it though, because you need to be honest and tell us what experience you have. If you have zero to little experience, please please please don’t take on a bride and use her as your guinea pig. You could inadvertently ruin her wedding day and tarnish the respect that professional coordinators work so hard to obtain in this industry.

Once you have found a potential mentor, you intern until we trust you enough to start scheduling you as an assistant. Because our reputations are always on the line and our staff reflects us, we rarely give second chances. So if you show up dressed in a cocktail dress and heels when my intern agreement states to wear black pants and comfy shoes, you won’t be working with me again. All of this takes guts, time, and commitment, but when word starts to get around that you are smart AND hardworking you start to get paid to work weddings and you start to become seasoned.

Once you feel like you have trained enough and can start taking on your own clients, you have to start building your business: branding, website, portfolio, marketing, etc. I recommend working with a business coach in order to start up correctly and get your policies and procedures in order. Then you have to start finding clients. And if you find the magic answer to that question, let me know, will you? In my case it is a mixture of networking, advertising, and optimism. Be prepared to get turned down a lot—it’s part of the gig.
  
QUESTION # 1

Q. Why did you become a Wedding Planner?

A. For the money, duh! (note: anyone who is a wedding planner just spit their coffee out laughing at that one) Truly though, since I was a 13 year old I knew I wanted to own my own company and what better job for a bossy, opinionated, manipulative persuasive, creative, organized, and funny girl to have than that of a wedding planner? Thankfully, I'm good at it. And I like it. A lot. I truly enjoy being a part of the birth of a new family. Sometimes it's messy, crazy, and stressful but I thrive on it. 


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