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.

Getting Ahead By Giving Back…

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight two amazing organizations I have the pleasure of serving. Last year, I realized I was missing the “giving back” piece to my business, so I set out to engage in the community with organizations that would allow me to truly get entrenched with their mission, and service to others.  It has been life changing to be involved with both Voices for Children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and the San Diego Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team.

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As a CASA, I have been assigned a sibling group of four dynamic young women who have been in and out of the foster care system. My role as the CASA is to interact with these girls and to advocate on their behalf to the judge and attorneys assigned to their case. So often, when kids enter the foster care system, adults make all of the decisions, but little attention is paid to what is best or the true desire of the child. CASA’s are solely focused on the children. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these four girls and to help them to navigate the foster and court system. Far too many children become lost in the foster care system, due to their parents inability to truly parent. It’s a system that is very broken and often impersonal due to heavy case loads for the social workers and the attorneys. As the “grown ups” spend hours trying to come to a settlement in the case, I have the fortune of engaging with the girls on a very personal level. I visit with them monthly, and check in on them frequently. In our outings we enjoy lunch, shopping or even a visit to the dog park. The outings don’t have to be fancy; they just have to be interactive so I can get to really know the girls. When children are showered with love, they bloom in very dynamic and wonderful ways. To learn more about Voices for Children, please visit http://www.SpeakUpNow.org.

As a Crisis Interventionist with the San Diego Police Department, I have been exposed to a wonderful community of dedicated volunteers who are the silent heroes in our neighborhoods. A Crisis Interventionist is requested by a police officer when he or she arrives on a scene and finds a trauma. Most often this is due to a death, missing child or natural disaster. The officer will ask the family or victims if they could benefit from additional support and resources in the midst of the crisis. An Interventionist is dispatched and we arrive on scene to provide resources and emotional support to the victims. We often encounter the deceased on scene, and help the family to navigate the process of selecting a mortuary, notifying other relatives, and offering resources. The work can be very emotional because you are meeting people in their most vulnerable moments, but it is also incredibly rewarding because you are bringing sanity to a situation that makes no sense. The SDPD pioneered that CI program over 20 years ago, and it is now recognized as a model across the country. Research shows that victims are able to heal quicker when they receive immediate support from an interventionist.

I often get asked “how can you see so many dead bodies and not get bothered?” and the answer is quite simple. The deceased is not our focus; instead we are there to support the family and to help them with the overwhelming logistics that ensue when a loved one dies. I leave every scene grateful for my own family, and for the privilege of being welcomed into the home of strangers in their weakest moments. To learn more about the SDPD Crisis Interventionist program, please visit…http://www.sandiego.gov/police/recruiting/volunteer.shtml#crisis and watch: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Volunteers-Sought-for-San-Diego-Police-Department-Crisis-Intervention-Team-SDPD-288609021.html

Where are you volunteering? Drop your comment below!

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.

 

 

6 Things Wedding Planners Wish Brides Would Stop Obsessing About

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We were delighted to be included in the Brides Magazine article, “6 Things Wedding Planners Wish Brides Would Stop Obsessing About.” http://www.brides.com/blogs/aisle-say/2015/04/things-wedding-planners-wish-brides-would-stop-worrying-about.html – article written by Elizabeth Mitchell.

 

Brides, did you know that the more control you try to exert over your big day, the less in control you’ll actually feel? That’s because certain aspects, such as the weather, are simply out of your hands and nothing, we repeat, nothing is perfect, despite you and your wedding vendors’ best intentions! Instead of setting yourself up to fail, take the advice of these wedding planners, who’ve witnessed firsthand the unhappiness obsessing over things like flowers and colors causes brides.

The Flowers
“Many brides have a tendency to obsess about the flowers, when in actuality, the colors and types available are dictated at the whim of Mother Nature. For example, who would have thought that temperatures on the West Coast would reach record highs in early March of 90 degrees? Those growers hit by the drought may have some damaged crops, and flowers that are shipped from all over the world may not come in the quantities that were originally planned for your wedding. Thus, changes will be necessary.” — Greg Jenkins, founder of Bravo Productions

The Day-Of Details
“I’ve seen far too many brides obsess about perfection, to the point where they make themselves miserable on the one day that they should be their happiest. Just like no relationship is perfect, so too are weddings and wedding vendors. Keeping in mind that you are marrying the man of your dreams and having your friends and family there to be a part of that is what the day is really all about. If the timing is a little bit off or if something that isn’t of critical importance should go missing, don’t harp on it. Take everything in stride, and you’ll not only feel the love and admiration of those all around you, but you’ll also be that much happier and healthier.” — Aviva Samuels, founder of Kiss the Planner

See More: 5 Most Common Wedding DIY Mishaps

The Color Scheme
“In my experience, a lot of brides get fixated on needing to pick specific wedding colors. The idea of designing a wedding around one or two random colors is odd to me. I think it’s much better to think of the big picture atmosphere you’re trying to create at your wedding. And then you can start thinking about an overall color palette that supports this look and feel.” — Amy Kaneko, owner of Amy Kaneko Special Events

The Wedding World’s Expectations
“I think brides obsess too much about what the wedding ‘should’ be like versus designing a wedding that authentically represents the couple. They so easily get caught up in every wedding blog, magazine or vendor website. This causes paralysis by analysis. I ask my couples to make a list of what is hugely important to both of them. We focus on the priorities and then supplement where needed. There is no cookie cutter recipe for what a wedding should look like. Brides and grooms should embrace that they have the freedom to design the day they both want.” — Nicole R. Matthews, Founder of The Henley Company

The Weather
“As the wedding nears, brides are often very concerned with the weather and start checking the forecast obsessively. As a planner, I’ve worked on weddings where it rained, where there’s been an unexpected heat wave (108 degrees!) and everything in between. When you book your venue, be sure there’s a backup plan in case of rain, then let whatever happens happen. At my own wedding we moved the ceremony indoors at the last minute due to rain and it was every bit as wonderful as it would have been outside, even though I’d initially hoped for an outdoors wedding.” — Samantha Spector, founder of Milk & Honey Special Events

The Timeline
“More specifically, the bridal party and guests being on time! Remember though, even if everyone’s doing their best, you can’t always account for traffic jams or mixed up directions. We always expect that people will show up late. Real event pros take this into consideration and pad the timeline accordingly so a few ceremony stragglers or slightly tardy groomsmen won’t throw the whole schedule off.” — Erica Taylor, co-founder of Tinsel & Twine