There’s nothing quite like on-the-job training. At QC, we try to prepare our students for a time when they’ll be working with clients and vendors, but try as we might there’s no way we can prepare you for every single scenario. Most will agree that the first year in any business is the toughest: when you’ll make most of your mistakes, and where you’ll also learn most about yourself. This is especially true for wedding planners.
Understand, a bride hires you as a wedding planner to help bring her vision to reality for the most important day of her life. She’d love to do it all herself, but has bigger fish to fry and trusts that you’re WAY more qualified to do the job right.
So you fly in with your inspiration boards and list of vendors (maybe you’re wearing a cape), ready to make her dreams come true… Only to find yourself buried in mounds of emails and 3 a.m. phone calls for the next 12 months.
“How in the world did I get here!?” you might ask
Likely you made the same mistake that a lot of wedding planners have made before you. In trying to be accommodating, you forgot to establish clear boundaries with the bride-to-be. This can lead to disastrous results.
While you’ll never be able to fully eliminate the possibility of a bride going off a deep end, setting clear expectations through a contract or the initial consultation can be a lifesaver! Here are a few points you’ll want to cover with your clients up-front.
#1: You’re her wedding planner, not her friend.
This is a tough one. Over the course of planning you’ll get to know the bride very well, and you’ll come to care for her deeply. Likely she’ll feel the same way, and she might end up seeing you as her “wedding therapist”.
Obviously you’ll want to approach this in a very delicate way, but the bride does need to understand that she has bridesmaids and family to talk to, cry with, and get her through whatever stress, doubt, or anxiety she may be feeling. You need to focus on making sure everything with the event runs smoothly… for her sake!
#2: Set a clear communication schedule, and stick to it!
When you agree to work with a bride, one of the first things you’ll want to do is explain the dos and don’ts of communicating with you. Give her a schedule she can follow.
Example: You’ll speak with her on the phone twice a week for 1 hour per call, you’ll meet with her in person on X, Y, and Z dates, and you’ll be in touch with her via email regarding all other topics, between times A and B.
Make sure you set clear expectations here. Take the time to walk the bride through this schedule, 1-on-1. She needs to understand that while this is your career and you’ll work very hard for her, you have a home to go to at night and friends and/or a family of your own to care for.
A quick note on giving a bride your cell phone number: Try to avoid this until you get to know your client a little better. You want to be friendly and obliging, yes, and be available in case of a wedding planning emergency, but unfortunately the definition of “emergency” is different for every person. Once you’ve worked a little with the bride and you’re confident she’ll respect your space, then you can give her your number and trust her to use it under extreme circumstances only.
#3: On the big day, you’re still there to work.
At the actual event, many brides will want you to join them and share in the festivities. From their point of view you can understand: they’re having a great time, they’re grateful for your services, and they want you to benefit from what you’ve spent months planning.
You’ll want to explain to the bride that your job doesn’t stop when the wedding starts. Quite the contrary, actually! While she’s having a wonderful time dining and dancing, you’ll be busy coordinating with the caterer or keeping the band on queue.
Just make sure she understands that if you don’t sit down for dinner or enjoy a drink with the wedding party before the ceremony, it’s not because you don’t care about her!
#4: Screen your clients carefully
Ok, this should actually be step zero.
When a bride goes to you for a consultation, she’s interviewing you. She wants to see if you’ve got what it takes to pull off planning her wedding. This is where you put your best foot forward and pull out all the stops, but it’s also a chance to interview her and decide if she’s a client you want to take on!
There’s nothing wrong with refusing a client if you don’t believe you’re a compatible match. I know it’s tough to refuse a job… but if she doesn’t seem like the type of client you’ll be able to work with for whatever reason, it’s better for everyone if you take a step back right away. Consider referring her to another wedding planner, if you know any, who might be better suited for her needs or her personality.
In the end, you’ll likely have to cut the bride some slack on a few of these points. The truth is most brides are wonderful to work with and are extremely respectful of their wedding planner. She KNOWS she could never do it without you!
But a wedding is a stressful event for anyone, and even the most well-tempered bride can lose her nerve once or twice leading up to the big day. Following these guidelines will hopefully make the planning process a little less stressful… for all involved!
Booklovers are facing some new facts of life.
It’s not breaking news, Virginia, but the printed book may well be on the way out, replaced by its oh so efficient e-book cousin.
How do you feel about this transition? Is it inevitable? People who love the feel, the heft and the artistry of the printed book mourn the process. E-book lovers on the other hand, talk disparagingly about, “dead tree books” and explain that all change is in the name of progress.
Will libraries of the future be completely digital? Well, probably yes. Even the most rare editions of antique books can even now be easily viewed free on Google Books.
Yet libraries remain deep in our consciousness as beautiful and satisfying places. Perhaps in the future we will think of them as cathedrals to be visited and enjoyed just like other ancient monuments.
Some of the most beautiful recent paper books are devoted to detailing the loveliest libraries in the world.
In their, “The Library: A World History” author James W P Campbell and architectural photographer Will Pryce spent three years together travelling the world and photographing these monuments to the written word. Their book is a sumptuous love letter to the library.
Jacques Bossier and photographer Guillaume de Laubier pulled no punches with their title. “The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World,” gives the reader magnificent photographs of what the authors consider are the 20 most beautiful libraries in the whole world.
Looking for inspiration when writing? Perhaps you will find it in some of the wonderful interiors shown in these books.
I think the best part about doing a DIY wedding is the opportunity to create customized projects that really show off the personality of the couple. For my beach wedding last year, I decided to create DIY table numbers that complemented other beachy elements of my DIY décor. Read on to find out how I created these inexpensive table toppers.
What you’ll need:
– Tolsby frames from Ikea
– Hot glue gun
– An assortment of seashells
– Strands of plastic pearls in different sizes and colors
– Engagement photos
– Super glue
Let’s get crafty!
1. Unscrew the base of the frame and lay it down flat.
2. Arrange the seashells on one side of the frame. I found the best way to do this was to put larger seashells in the corners and then fill in the areas in between.
3. Glue down each shell with your hot glue gun. Don’t be afraid to use lots of glue!
4. Glue down seashells on the other three sides.
5. Use super glue to attach pearls to seashells.
6. Insert engagement photos into the frame.
7. Screw the base back onto the frame.
– If you wish, you can glue seashells to both sides of the frame.
– Consider making an extra frame to display a thank you message for your guests.
– You can spray paint the frames to match your wedding colors.
Want to learn more about event and wedding décor? Check our course outline here. You can also request a free brochure at any time.
At the beginning of April we launched our very first book club! You voted, and the chosen read was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. We read it, we loved it. Now we’re excited to hear what you thought of the book!
For today’s discussion we’re using the following list of book club questions from Random House. These questions are simply meant to offer a bit of guidance and to get you thinking, so please don’t feel pressured to answer each and every one. Simply pick one or two that you feel strongly about and share your thoughts in the comments.
- What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has difficulty seeing in herself?
- While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished throughout the majority of her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her. Why do you think that is?
- Victoria and Elizabeth both struggle with the idea of being part of a family. What does it mean to you to be part of a family? What defines family?
- Why do you think Elizabeth waits so long before trying to patch things up with her long-lost sister Catherine?
- The first week after her daughter’s birth goes surprisingly well for Victoria. Why does Victoria feel unable to care for her child after the week ends? What is it that allows her to rejoin her family?
- One of the major themes in The Language of Flowers is forgiveness and second chances – do you think Victoria deserves one after the things she did (both as a child and as an adult)? What about Catherine and Elizabeth?
- What did you think of the structure of the book – the alternating chapters of past and present? In what ways did the two storylines parallel each other, and how did they diverge?
- The novel touches on many different themes (love, family, forgiveness, second chances). Which do you think is the most important? And what did you think was ultimately the lesson?
- At the end of the novel, Victoria learns that moss grows without roots. What does this mean, and why is it such a revelation for her?
- Based on your reading of the novel, what are your impressions of the foster care system in America? What could be improved?
- Knowing what you now know about the language of the flowers, to whom would you send a bouquet and what would you want it to say?
We’ll be monitoring this page throughout the day, so please feel welcome to post whenever is convenient for you. Hopefully we’ll get a good discussion going!
Location: Charlottesville, VA
A little bit about Cody…
Cody Grannis, a lifetime Virginian, is an award winning, certified International Event and Wedding Professional (IEWP), holding certificates in Non-Profit Management and Meeting and Event Planning from the University of Virginia. She has over 6 years of experience planning University events in Charlottesville and throughout the country.
Cody, the mother of four, is the founder of Amore Events by Cody, LLC. She has orchestrated many weddings in Charlottesville, Virginia and has an extensive network of reliable vendors in the region. You will find her to be extremely dedicated and always working hard to ensure that each bride receives the wedding of her dreams. Through Cody’s attention to detail and creativity, you can count on a wedding that will exceed your expectations.
Did you always see yourself becoming an event & wedding planner? What started the dream?
No, not at all! I started working at UVA in 2007 where my first job was an event planner in the Alumni Department. I had no idea that I would enjoy it so much! I had never traveled before, but for one of my first events at UVA, I was sent on a trip to Palm Beach to plan a small alumni gathering. I had so much fun on that trip, getting to meet new people and work in a new and exciting environment. After that trip, I knew that event planning was something I wanted to continue to do long term. A little while later, I switched jobs at UVA and starting planning much larger events ranging anywhere from 100-5,000 people. After a couple of years at UVA, I got tired of all of the red tape and bureaucracy, and decided that I wanted to do something more creative on my own. I did some research and decided to become a wedding planner! We are now going into our forth season as Amore Events and we cannot be anymore excited!
Can you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today?
I was a teenage mother of two little ones by the age of 19. And because of that I had to work extra hard to get where I am today. Knowing that I needed to provide for my family, I jumped head first into research on how to become an event planner, getting my certification from the QC School, and even took a course an event-planning course at UVA. When I applied for my job at UVA, I wrote them a letter and told them how excited I was about the position and how I really felt that I could do the job. They trusted me and hired me even though I didn’t mean all of the qualifications because I showed them how I was a fast learner and knew that I would succeed in the position.
Let’s talk branding. It’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of starting a business, and we’re sure our students would love a little insight into how Amore Events became what it is today.
Branding is a daunting thought, especially when you haven’t done it before. One of my biggest regrets is including my name in my business because I can never sell it. It is possible to change the business name, but not without a lot of paperwork and paying a bunch of money. Another huge part of branding is a logo and website. One thing that is necessary is working with a graphic designer and working through lots of different options with them. Make sure you go see lots of different logo designs and website templates before you choose. Take your time with this part because it is going to cost a good bit of money and in the end, it should be exactly what you want. One thing to remember through all of it is to stay true to yourself and your own personal style. You want your logo and website and overall brand personality to reflect you and what you have to offer. It is okay to get inspiration from other planners or people in the industry, but in the end, your brand needs to be all about you. Something to remember is that you can always re-brand. That sounds crazy, but it is actually a big part of growing your business. You might re-brand when your style changes, or when you add different services to your packages, or even when you want to reach a different clientele. We are actually in the process of re-branding right now and it is already paying off.
In the event industry, making connections is key. When you were first starting out what was your approach to networking?
I started with just joining local event planning communities in the area. That is an amazing place to meet people, get your name out there and just make connections in the industry. A big thing I did that not a lot of other planners in the area did, was actually go meet with vendors face to face. I just wanted to get to know them and get to know their business better and really learn about how they like to work with planners.
I also joined free websites to market my business. The main ones I used in the beginning were Wedding Wire and The Knot. They were a big help in getting my name out in the industry and getting seen when couples search for wedding planners in Charlottesville. I also started requesting reviews from my brides. These reviews could be seen on both Facebook and Wedding Wire. This is a beneficial tool because I can use it to send to people who are inquiring about hiring me.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
I just love working with my brides. I love taking care of them and being such a big part of making their special day as perfect as I can. My favorite part of the wedding day is getting to steal my couples away for a few minutes and show them that every little detail we planner together has come together in the most beautiful day for them!
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
The biggest step in my career so far has been getting a studio space! It is a place that we have where brides came come and meet with us and can see all of our décor laid out. Something else that is huge for us with this space is being able to create a full mock-up of their reception tables. With all of our décor displayed in the studio, it is easy for us to walk around together, pick up things they like, try them on the table and really decide what they love. That is something we have never been able to do before, but it really adds an amazing touch to the experience for our brides.
A huge highlight of my career so far has been seeing our weddings and styled shoots on different national blogs, like Style Me Pretty, Southern Weddings and, Wedding Sparrow, and being published in Barn Weddings, a book by Maggie Lord. To see all of our hard work and our beautiful brides featured in these amazing places is really special.
As you know, many of our students have dreams of owning their own businesses. Do you have any advice for those who are just starting out in the event industry?
Some quick snippets of advice I would give are take your time with starting, really do your research about the industry and the market you are entering, have patience and kindness with both your brides and your vendors, be quick and assertive, learn how to say no, figure out your own personal design style, but also make sure you are keeping up with the trends.
You’ve been featured on sites like The Knot and Style Me Pretty. That’s something to brag about! What do you think the future holds for Amore Events?
Amore Events is really taking off and I couldn’t be more proud! One thing that I would really love to do sometime in the future is open up a wedding venue. I would also love to make more connections outside of Charlottesville. It is a dream to work with vendors in California and New York and even in another country. There is so much inspiration in the world that I don’t get to see, so I would just love to experience and learn about other styles and bring it all back to Charlottesville.
“Writing is a lovely, creative, artistic endeavor. It can also be an absolute pain.”
Every writer has days when the words and ideas simply will not flow. Learn to value those days even if you do not enjoy them. Work through them. They are the best training ground for turning you into a real writer – a pro. Professionals write on good days and bad. They write when the ideas flow and when they do not. They write when the sentences seem effortlessly to form themselves. They write when words refuse to come. They keep on writing when they are suffering through days when their minds seem to be full of hot air.
On those bad days, turn to your own experiences and memories to get the wheels of your mind turning more freely. In other words, give your readers – quite literally – a piece of your mind. It’s quite a gift!
Read the short story here. It was written on a bad writing day when no ideas came easily. The writer called on real memories to turn a non productive day into a “good” one.
Christmas in October
A bathroom. A small, spare room of the early 1950s, far removed from the glamour of the voluptuous marble spas of today. Bath, sink, medicine chest, linoleum floor. A three-legged stool on which sat the small girl, earnestly watching her father.
A slow bead of condensate coursed its leisurely way down the heavily misted window. The pebbled glass, trembling in its blue metal frame, allowed a thin, grey light to soften the glare of the one fluorescent fixture.
So began a daily, valued ritual between father and daughter, a time of quiet before the panic of the family breakfast, and the rush to school and work. He stood at the sink, trousers slack around his waist, braces hanging in generous loops to his knees. His white cotton vest, woven in a lattice of diamond shapes, bright against the dark of his skin. She sat behind him on her stool, watching for his reflection in the cabinet mirror. He wiped the glass, the reflection of his face appeared, exchanged a smile with her, and then disassembled in the quickly clouding surface.
He smoothed the shaving cream from its tube into a small, stone bowl. He added a drop of water. He ran his thumb across the silver tipped bristles of the shaving brush and plunged the brush into the ointment of cream and water. As he beat the cream into foam, the delicious sound of the slurping of the foam against the bristles, and the muted knocking of the wooden brush handle against the stone sides of the bowl, combined into a heady music. In later years, she would only be able to recreate that sound by stirring thick chocolate milk in a china cup. That sound always returned her to the bathroom of her childhood, and its daily morning rite as the warm, moist air of the room became scented by the perfume of the shaving cream.
He opened the door of the medicine chest and from it took the plastic case, a jewel of a case, luminous, transparent, elegant. Its lid sprang open to reveal the shiny, silver razor, sitting proud on its clear foundation. She could fill that case with treasures if it were her’s. Marbles would glitter and gleam. The rusty aroma of acorn shells would complement the industrial tang of the plastic. Her collection of coloured wooden beads would glint in the reflection of light travelling through the clear, ice-like walls.
“I love that case, Dad,” she said, “I could keep so many important things in it. Could I have it when you’re finished with it?” She longed for that case as only a little girl with a highly colored imagination and an idea, set gem-like in her heart, could desire.
Her father turned to her, his dimples apparent in the unshaven bristles of his face. “You want this?” he asked in surprise. “Ooh, yes, please, Dad.” Gallantly the father bowed to his daughter, presented the box to her, and turned back to the sink. She caught his eye in the mirror, and he winked.
Her voice caught in her throat, “Oh dad,” she murmured, “Christmas in October.”
And it was.
Share your thoughts on the following in the comments:
1 Did you enjoy this story? Yes or No
2) Does it “ring true?” Yes or No
3) Do you think the story captured some of the deeper elements of the relationship between the father and daughter? If so, how would you describe their relationship?
Planning and coordinating an event is a stressful job! Whether experienced or novice, most event planners will make a mistake or two throughout their careers. Here is a quick list of the most common event planning mistakes made, and our tips on how to get around them.
1. Doing it all yourself
Jack of all trades = master of none. Do-it-all event planners will handle the guest list, all the finances, the decorations, the technical elements, the food… the list goes on. Having so many balls in the air yourself is almost a guarantee that you’re going to drop one or two.
The solution: As an event planner, your job is to coordinate all the elements of an event, not to execute on all the different pieces that come together on the big day. Instead of tackling everything yourself, consider contracting out an event decorator, a bookkeeper, a caterer, etc. who can work with you to make sure your event is a great success!
2. Leaving it to the last minute
Whether “it” is a door prize, promotion, or equipment rentals, leaving anything to the last minute is a sure fire path to chaos, sooner or later.
The solution: Most events take months to plan. If you’re well organized and stick to a concrete plan, you should have all the pieces secured (including backup plans) at least 4 weeks away from the event… though we recommend 8-12 weeks to be safe!
3. Miscalculating the size of the event
This is a double-edged sword. You want to make sure the size of the venue is adequate for the number of guests, but you also want to ensure the guest list is adequate for the venue! Too many guests for a small space will lead to a very crowded and unworkable event. You might also run out of materials or food. Too few guests for a large event will give the event an air of emptiness.
The solution: Confirm the guest list as early as possible, and give a final head count to your vendors as soon as you can. This will give everyone the chance to adjust the plan based on the number of attendees. Also, if you’re unsure of the guest list, make sure you pick a venue that offers options for different group sizes and vendors who offer flexible services according to a finalized guest list.
4. Not allowing enough time for setup
Imagine setting up decorations as the guests are entering an event, or finding out you’re missing a power cord 10 minutes before your keynote speaker is supposed to go on stage. This nightmare is faced by many event planners and coordinators at least once during their careers.
The solution: Plan out the event setup well in advance, and make sure to hire enough people to complete all tasks before the event starts! If it’s possible to have everything set up a day or two in advance, do it! If not, a well laid out plan (planned down to the minute), can make a difference between a success and a disaster!
5. Keeping clients in the dark
This is a nightmare for planners and their clients alike. Phones and emails are the standard communication these days, but that can lead to confusion or misunderstanding down the road. You don’t want your client to see the venue for the first time on the big day, and be disappointed in all the hard work you’ve accomplished because it’s not what they envisioned.
The solution: Schedule plenty of face-to-face time with your clients. Walk them through the venue, and show them samples of wardrobe, décor, food, etc. before making any final decisions. Keeping clients engaged throughout the planning process can save a lot of headaches down the road!
6. Forgetting it’s all about the guests!
This is actually a very easy mistake to make! You’re so concentrated on meeting the client’s needs and coordinating between the vendors, you forget about simple accommodations for the guests.
The solution: Make a checklist of guest accommodations for any event, and keep it in mind at all times. This list should at least include:
– having a parking plan
– coat check (for events in colder months or climates)
– signage leading guests to the venue (especially in confusing layouts!)
– having bathroom attendants (nothing like a dirty bathroom to kill an event!)
– making certain there are vegetarian/vegan food options available
– planning for inclement weather (tarps & umbrella stands)
Whatever your event, you should always remember Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong will go wrong. A successful event planner will take a cue from the boy scouts and be prepared for just about any situation can just save your event… and your reputation!
Have you made these types of mistakes planning an event? Share your story!
Starting a career in decorating, staging, or redesign can be a challenge. Although a professional certification isn’t required in these industries, most homeowners or realtors won’t give you the time of day if you can’t present them with a certification and a beautiful portfolio.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “How in the world am I supposed to build a design portfolio if I can’t get a job yet?”
Hopefully these tips will help!
Design & Stage your own home
Even though you might not have any paying clients right now, nothing’s stopping you from offering design services for free! Start off with your own home. Have you been dying to get your hands on that basement wreck room? Now’s a great time to start! Take before & after shots, and document your planning & inspiration for the design as well. All these pieces will look great in a portfolio.
Next, go to your best friend’s house and do the same thing there! And then visit more friends. And then your family. The more design experience you gain, the better.
Use your course work
If you’re thinking of getting into the design business, odds are you’re planning on taking a home decorating, staging, or professional organizing course. Many courses, whether in-class or online, will feature hands-on course assignments. Treat these assignments as professional opportunities. If you invest all you’ve got into developing your coursework, then you’ll end up with awesome pieces to add to your portfolio.
If your design course includes 1-on-1 feedback from a reputable tutor (ideally a professional in the industry), then you can include quotes of this feedback in your portfolio as well. Just make sure you have the tutor’s permission before doing so.
Build inspiration boards
An inspiration board can be a quick and inexpensive way to show your creative capabilities and your knowledge of design elements such as color theory. These can be physical or digital boards where you pair up various product samples according to a specific theme you’ve chosen. Build inspiration boards around:
– current trends
– sport teams
– popular movies
– a specific client’s personality
The sky’s the limit!
Here at QC, we’ve fallen in love with SampleBoard.com. So much that we’ve partnered up with them to offer our students a 65% lifetime discount on their online services. SampleBoards offers you a slick interface where you can quickly and easily build a digital inspiration board and either save it for your portfolio or share it with friends, clients, or coworkers at the push of a button!
Feature your DIY masterpieces
In our experience, design enthusiasts have a flair for arts & crafts, which results in a lot of DIY pieces around the house and yard.
Not everything in your portfolio has to be a grand undertaking. Examples of the coffee table you’ve transformed, or the wall art you created can show prospective clients your creative side and expose a bit of your own personality as well.
Portfolio Do’s and Don’ts
– Never take credit for someone else’s work.
– If a project was a joint effort with a colleague or friend, it’s OK to include it in your portfolio, but make sure you indicate which parts were yours. Be specific.
– Don’t throw just anything into your portfolio. It should only include your very best work. You should be proud of every single piece you present.
– Spelling or grammar mistakes in your portfolio is a sure fire way to make clients run for the hills. Proofread everything… twice!
– Keep your portfolio current. You should constantly be removing dated projects and replacing them with more recent ones.
– Presentation is important. Make sure your portfolio has a clean look and is easy to navigate.
– Invest a bit of time and create an online portfolio. You can easily find online templates to create a clean & professional online portfolio at very low cost. If this is over your head, consider hiring a hungry local web designer to give you hand!