Manage the Crazy—5 Tips For Wedding Planners to Keep Their Sanity!

Article originally appeared in Wedding Planner Magazine – March 4, 2016: http://weddingplannermag.com/2016/03/manage-the-crazy-5-tips-for-wedding-planners-to-keep-their-sanity/

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No doubt about it, wedding planning is hectic and harried. How can you keep your cool and carry on? Read on.

The rose pedals have been scattered, the music has been cued, and the groom stands ready to receive his beloved as she slowly walks down the aisle. The guests are watching through the screens of their cell phones and trying to get a selfie with the bride as she comes down the aisle—signs of a modern wedding! You take a breath at the back of the church as you watch your clients profess their undying love to each other in front of their friends and family. While the vows and rings are exchanged, your team has already scattered and your assistant is flying across town to make sure the reception site is flawless for the announcement of the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. If even one leaf is out of place or a crumb has fallen from the cake, your overstuffed event kit will allow your assistant to MacGyver a solution out of the mobile tool box you have on wheels. You are wearing your superhero cape—you are Super Wedding Planner!

Having been in the event industry for 18 years, I applaud myself for keeping my sanity. During my tenure I have produced events as small as an intimate cocktail party to as large as Olympic programs. Sprinkled amongst the pages of my portfolio are a handful of weddings. Why so few, you might ask? The brash answer is that I don’t take on projects that I think will come with a big bag of crazy. I screen hardcore when I meet a couple. If, for a minute, I sniff out any loony in the room, I end the meeting without apology. My schedule suddenly “fills up,” and I’m not able to take on the project. With an apology for my overbooked schedule, I’m happy to let the couple go back out to fish in the planner pool.

For the couples who make it through my screening process, I implement five tips for keeping my sanity and keeping the couple from losing it.

1. Have the couple complete a thorough questionnaire. As part of the introduction and orientation to working with me and my team, I request all couples complete a comprehensive form, which tells me their vision for the wedding, the budget, any red flags, and helps me to get to know their personality. The questionnaire also identifies who will be involved with the planning and, more importantly, who will be writing the checks. Finally, I ask the couple to provide their expectations for their wedding planner. I want to hear, from them, what they believe my role is and how they believes we will interact. Tweet me @henleyco if you would like a copy of my form or click here:

Client Intake Form (Wedding)

2. Bring them back to reality. As we know, Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse. Little does the couple realize, when they are pinning away that the wedding they are creating will really cost $1.2 million. An experienced planner will take the vision from Pinterest and turn it into something the couple can afford. Educating couples about what items, services and products really cost is crucial. We have a very direct conversation early in the planning so we can manage expectations on both sides.

3. Get the details on everyone involved. In an attempt to herd the wedding party and family, I ask all couples to complete a spreadsheet with the names, role, and contact information for all VIPs. This allows me to communicate directly with the wedding party, key family members, and friends, which has eliminated any confusion, and the “I didn’t realize we had a rehearsal” comments. Everyone on this spreadsheet receives a timeline and production schedule, which starts with his or her arrival into town and continues until the wheels are up on their airplane ride home. The couple has enough to think about; we see it as our role to be the portal for communication. This has been a game changer!

4. Set boundaries—it will make all the difference to your business! Just because the client wants to email, text, or call you every five minutes, doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately. We train clients on how we want them to treat us. If we jump every time they wail, we are going to become a pogo stick. I set an appointment time for each of my brides, once per month (by phone or in-person), which then increases as the wedding day nears. I explain to the couple that I am happy to receive their emails when they have a thought or question but that I will respond during their dedicated appointment. It’s amazing how productive this has made the relationship.

5. Don’t leave money on the table. Regardless of whether you charge a flat rate or a combined rate (flat rate and mark-up), it’s important to look for ways to increase your profit. The decision to add concierge services to our business has allowed us to have a more comprehensive relationship with our clients long after their wedding is over. They come back to us for their travel coordination, household management, and in-home entertaining. Weddings should be the opening for you to manage other projects for the client—not just a one and done experience.

Clients look to us for guidance and expertise. We won’t be good at our craft if we let Bridezilla run the show. Setting boundaries is key for your own state of mind—which, in turn, attracts the clients we really want to serve. I now pronounce you a wedding planner with sanity intact. Go wear your Super Planner cape with pride! WPM

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Nicole Matthews, The Henley Company, San Diego, Calif.

Win a Copy!

Email editor@weddingplannermag.com, with your name, business, and complete address, by Thursday, March 31, for your chance to win a copy of Nicole Matthews’ book, Permission – Stop Competing & Start Creating The Life You Want to Live, published by Archway Publishing. Be sure to put “Book Contest” in the subject line. The book champions the power of “leaning on” others to help create the life you want to live. Simon T. Baily, CEO of the Brilliance Institute, says about the book: “WOW…this book is brilliant! Nicole walks next to us as a personal concierge who woos us with her riveting storytelling and painful truth.” The book is also available on Amazon.

You’re Engaged…Plan Accordingly

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Congrats!

If you are one of the 26% of couples to get engaged over the holidays, two things are happening:

  1. You can’t stop flashing your diamond (“Oh what, this new thing?”) and telling your engagement story to anyone who will listen. And…
  2. You’re now back to work and you aren’t doing anything at your desk this week besides building your wedding board on Pinterest!

I get that you are totally excited, and you want to start your venue tours, cake tastings and dress shopping, stat! I get it; you’ve probably thought about this moment your entire life. Not to burst your bubble, princess…but first thing you should be doing is booking your planner! I know, it doesn’t seem as fun to think about your wedding planner as it is to dream about lace, bridesmaids and honeymoon destinations, but your planner is going to set you up for success so all those dreams come true!

Here’s 5 things you should consider when selecting your planner…

  1. Understand the difference between a “Day-of Coordinator” and a “Full Service Planner.” In the industry, the “day-of coordinator” doesn’t really exist. Any of us true professionals will tell you that we would never show up at a wedding the day-of and just wing it. “Day-of” really is “month-of” coordination because it’s important we reach out to all of your vendors and to create a timeline and production schedule so that the day runs smoothly. Realize of course that “day-of” coordinators are not full service planners, so PLEASE do not think you are paying for day-of and expecting full-service.  In contrast, a full-service planner is going to be your partner in your planning. We work with clients to create a vision, budget, design and coordinate the affair.
  2. Does the planner have insurance, a business license and a legit business? Is your planner a member of a professional event industry association and/or certified? If you can answer no to any of these questions, you need to sprint away from the planner. They are not a professional…move on!
  3. You get what you pay for…see #2. If you find a planner that is offering to charge you an insanely small amount to coordinate, you should be hesitant of their professionalism. The average day-of coordinator should be charging at least $1500 given the amount of time they put in month-of and on the wedding day. The cost will be more if they have an assistant (given the size of your wedding). A professional planner is bringing their experience, resources and vendor team to the table. This comes with a cost.
  4. Be realistic with your budget! Trying to dodge the budget question with your planner is just going to end in tears. Your Pinterest wedding board probably will cost you $10 million. If you don’t have that in your budget, let your planner help you to prioritize your resources. Planners are not in the business of spending every penny you’ve ever made in your life. Tell us what you have in the budget, and we will tell you the best way to spend it to gain value.
  5. The relationship between the planner and the couple is paramount. You have to like each other! Be sure the planner you select feels like a partner, a confidant and your cheerleader. You should not be afraid of your planner!

Need even more tips for working with a wedding planner? Jump over to our previous blog, “A Letter to the Bride, Love Your Wedding Planner.”

 

Nicole R. Matthews, CSEP, is Founder & Lifestyle Architect of The Henley Company, LLC. a global event, travel and lifestyle concierge firm. With the belief that life should be experienced in a big way, Nicole set out to create a company focused on helping clients to live the life they want and to produce the experiences they want to remember!

The Henley Company offers comprehensive event production, as well as manages the busy lives of executives and their families. Her recent international projects include the 2012 London Olympics, the 2013 Super Bowl & FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil, and most recently the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Nicole’s first book, Permission – Stop Competing & Start Creating The Life You Want to Live is now available on Amazon. Follow her antics on Twitter at @henleyco.

 

 

La Jolla Real Wedding: Lauren & Keaton | Exquisite Weddings

Henley Co. clients Lauren & Keaton were featured today on Exquisite Weddings Magazine! We adored working with this beautiful, Canadian couple on their destination wedding in La Jolla!

La Jolla Real Wedding: Lauren & Keaton

Lauren & Keaton’s love story began in 2011, while Keaton, a professional hockey player in the NHL, returned home to Kelowna, British Columbia during the off-season. Shortly thereafter, he met a quiet, dark-haired beauty named Lauren; an equestrian show jumper. It wasn’t long before Keaton was “conveniently” showing up at Lauren’s work. Later that Summer, Keaton returned to Florida for his season with the Florida Panthers. Lauren soon followed.

In 2012, Keaton was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and their love affair with Southern California soon began. Although hockey eventually took Keaton to Winnipeg to play with the Jets, he and Lauren visited California often to reconnect with the landscape and friends they had come to love.

With the help of her wedding planner, Nicole Matthews of The Henley Co., Lauren soon selected The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California as the venue for the wedding weekend. Overlooking the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is the ultimate location for an outdoor wedding that could combine the rustic features of Canada with the breathtaking landscape of San Diego County.

Lauren and Keaton wanted a wedding that was rustic yet elegant, with touches of gold, white and light pink as highlights throughout the design elements. Being lovers of the outdoors, they opted to let the beauty of the view on the Arroyo Terrace (location of the ceremony) to be the focus, with beautiful accents provided by Camellia Wedding Flowers. When you host a reception for Canadian guests, the evening would not be complete without serving poutine, a Canadian delicacy that consists of french fries, gravy and cheese curd. The guests enjoyed a late night snack of poutine and sliders, which were welcomed after the dinner and dancing.

Source: La Jolla Real Wedding: Lauren & Keaton | Exquisite Weddings

The Season for Engagements…

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As we dive head first into the craziness of the holiday season, there is a subset of men who are starting to get nervous about popping the question. While the focus is on holiday decor, shopping, gift wrapping and holiday parties for most of us, these men are thinking about the when, where and how they are going to pledge their love while presenting a sparkling ring! Cue the nerves and insecurity!

November and December account for 26 percent of marriage proposals so we are full-fledged into the World Series of engagements! If you have the “big ask” in your immediate plans, here are 5 ways to make it a memory worthy moment!

  1. KNOW YOUR BELOVED – Before you set out to create the ultimate proposal, stop and think about her personality. Just because you think asking her via a scoreboard and the kiss cam screams romance, it might be far too public for her. More than likely, your love will want something more private or romantic. Think about where you shared your first kiss, date or a fun memory as a couple. You’ll score far more points on the romance scale if you put some thought into the special places reminiscent of your relationship.
  2. ASK PERMISSION – I realize that women are waving the feminist flag these days and the tradition of asking for her hand in marriage seems outdated, but there is something very special about asking her father or family for her hand. Even if she comes from a Jerry Springer dysfunctional family, or she is a fiercely independent woman, more than likely she has someone in her life that she would like you to commiserate with. Ask her sister, her brother, that special uncle or even her best friend; going through the motions of declaring your intentions will create a memory she will cherish. It also shows that you understand you marry a family; not just the girl.
  3. SPARKLE – Choosing the right ring can be very stressful because budget can have a huge impact on the cut, color, clarity, and carat. When deciding on which sparkler you will purchase, reach out to her inner circle. This is where calling on her sister or best friend is crucial. More than likely she has told her girls what style of ring she would want; she might have even said that she doesn’t want anything flashy because she would want the two of you to use that money to travel the world.  And when it comes time to make the purchase, realize that someone in your inner circle has a contact at the diamond mart or with a broker; so don’t be shy about asking!
  4. CAPTURE THE MOMENT – Whether you are planning an over-the-top proposal or are going to surprise her during a walk on the beach, invest in a photographer to capture the moments. Your girl will LOVE that you thought enough about the proposal and hired a photographer. Many photographers are well skilled in proposals, so they can be discreet as you build up to the big ask! Give her the gift of something other than the selfie is bound to take 5 microseconds after you slip the ring on her finger!
  5. BE IN THE MOMENT – No doubt you will be rehearsing the exact lines you want to say as you go down on bended knee. It’s great to give this important moment lots of thought, but don’t forget you are a human! Being a rehearsed robot, will not make the moment authentic. It’s perfectly fine if you forget a line, or you stumble. Realize, ff you start crying, you are no less of a man! All that matters is that she knows you love her, and you have chosen her for the rest of your life! So be you, and be completely in the moment!

An engagement concierge can help you put the final touches on this very special day! Email us at hello@thehenleycompany.com to say “yes” to planning!

A Letter to the Bride, Love Your Wedding Planner!

Engagement Ring

Dear Blushing Bride,

First, congratulations on your engagement! Along with everyone you shared the big news with on social media, I’m equally as excited about your big day. (And your big ring, which you were so quick to share with a finger selfie along with the words, “I said yes!) I assume there is a wonderful man that indeed got down on bended knee to propose but somehow the diamond blocked out his face. I look forward to seeing the Ken to your Barbie in the wedding photos.

Now that you are officially off the market, and you are giddy with wedding excitement, there are a few things we should get straight, so follow me down the aisle as we have an honest chat.

  1. You hired a wedding planner because you wanted help to design what will arguably be the most important day of your life. But let’s get something very clear; I should be considered a partner in the planning. I’m not your slave, therapist, or Girl Friday that will jump at every wail you have when you think your wedding world is falling down around you. I’m a seasoned professional that is going to guide you, support you and to work feverishly on your behalf. Help me, help you, by treating me like the professional I am, and for appreciating the stripes I have earned through experience.
  2. If you want to sign contracts without running them by me, you will be put on restriction in the time out chair. I realize you are trying to be an independent woman but the reality is that there is a language within the event industry, and unless you are fluent in it (Rosetta Stone can’t help you), you should defer to the pros for translation and guidance. When you get confused between a final guarantee and an estimate, things can get expensive. Unless you want to confess to Daddy that you just cost him an extra $25,000 because you prematurely signed the contract without running it by your wedding planner, you might want to consult with me. Remember, you hired me to be your guide. Contract negotiations do not faze me.
  3. Please realize that the images you have pinned on Pinterest, will realistically cost you $1.8 million. Weddings are expensive. If you think your day won’t be complete without tuxedo-wearing doves and diamond confetti, Daddy is probably going to have to sell the vacation home. An excellent wedding planner will take your Pinterest inspiration and turn it into the event you can afford. Please don’t look at us with those puppy dog eyes, full of disappointment, when we tell you what things really cost. It’s the reality of an open market. Sorry to be the one to tell you no for the first time in your life.
  4. Lighting is like Spanx; it highlights what you want and camouflages what you don’t. When in doubt about what to cut out of the budget, never cut lighting. You are a pretty girl; be lit appropriately.
  5. Please don’t hire me as a “day of coordinator” and assume I’m going to be a full planning coordinator. First of all, there is nothing called a “day-of coordinator” in our industry. No good planner is ever going to just show up on site without coordinating with vendors. At a minimum, I would be a month-of planner but even that window is closing. Experience tells me a client asking for discounted services will always be a discounted client in terms of attitude, appreciation and our relationship. Don’t be that client.
  6. You are allowed one (and only one) complete meltdown during the planning process. Please plan accordingly. When we first met, you were a very mature, capable and right-minded woman. Let’s keep her front and center, shall we? If you want perfection, you shouldn’t be getting married. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  7. Whatever happens, remember to enjoy the experience. Share your story with your guests. Be authentic. Celebrate the fact that all the people you love are in one room, on one day, showering you with best wishes. Put way more thought into your marriage than your wedding day. I promise it will make all the difference in the world.

I hope I have made myself clear by laying the groundwork that is going to make our working relationship very successful. I realize you might be taken aback with my straight talk, and I could very well be the first person to take this tone with you, but if you are old enough to get married, you are old enough to hear the truth. Don’t forget, I’m here to be your biggest cheerleader, the bad cop to your good cop, your sounding board and your support system. However, that doesn’t mean we are going to allow crazy to creep in to the process. Promise you will keep your head on straight, your perspective in check, and your mind wide open to all possibilities. I, in turn, promise to be the planner worthy of your referral.

Cheers,

Your Wedding Planner

Image by fashion-kid.net

 

Nicole R. Matthews, CSEP, is Founder & Lifestyle Architect of The Henley Company, LLC. a global event, travel and lifestyle concierge firm. With the belief that life should be experienced in a big way, Nicole set out to create a company focused on helping clients to live the life they want and to produce the experiences they want to remember!

The Henley Company offers comprehensive event production, as well as manages the busy lives of executives and their families. Her recent international projects include the 2012 London Olympics, the 2013 Super Bowl & FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil, and most recently the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Nicole’s first book, Permission – Stop Competing & Start Creating The Life You Want to Live is now available on Amazon. Follow her antics on Twitter at @henleyco.