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