Archive for the ‘Wedding’ Category
In this article we get personal with Alexandra Slawek, one of QC Event School’s new tutors. She opens up about her career, her inspiration, and her recipe for success.
What made you decide to pursue a career as an event planner?
I’ve always had an interest in planning and organizing events. The first time I officially organized an event was when I was attending university, and I found I really enjoyed it. When my children had grown up, I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I got a job at the Wedding Pavilion, a one-stop shop wedding venue here in Calgary, as an event manager. I think that’s when I truly fell in love with working with brides and grooms and the whole wedding ambiance. I decided to become certified through QC Event School so I could be more knowledgeable in the field. A year later, I opened my own business!
Tell us about the early years. How did you get your name out there, find clients and hone your craft?
When you’re first starting out, you have to do a lot of trial and error experimenting in terms of what works and what doesn’t for your business. The first way I reached out with my business was hosting a booth at The Bridal Expo. It happens every September in Calgary. I also placed ads in local community magazines and in the Calgary Bridal Guide. I didn’t have a lot of success with these initial endeavors, so I started networking with other wedding industry vendors. That proved much more successful. I also attended many workshops and conferences to get better ideas on running my business. My website has attracted a number of clients, so making sure it is top-notch is very important. Finally, I became a member of the Calgary Bride Association, which has helped me get my name out there and connect with other wonderful wedding planners.
What was your “big break”?
I think my “break” happened when I befriended another wedding planner. She was incredibly supportive and hired me on several occasions to work her events. I got lots of exposure and experience that way. Last year, I took part in a wedding show, “A Spoonful of Vintage”, put on by a team of vendors that specialize in vintage décor, dresses and photography. I designed a Downton Abbey table and that particular piece put me “on the map”, so to speak.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am often inspired by my brides and their creative imaginations. I spend time on Pinterest and other social media sites watching for new trends. I also network with other wedding planners to share ideas and collaborate.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Any past career decisions you would change?
Yes, I would absolutely do it all over again! I really love it. The only thing I would change is the way I went about advertising at first. I’d put a lot more time into conducting research to determine what kind of advertising works for my target market. That way, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time or money on something that proved to be ineffective. It was an expensive learning experience, to say the least.
What are some “golden rules” you believe every single event planner should follow?
Here is a list of personal rules I follow:
- Always answer emails within 24-48 hours
- Return phone calls and texts ASAP
- Stand by your word. If I say I will do something for someone, I always do.
- Listen more to what other vendors have to say rather than talk about your own experiences. You can learn much more by listening!
- Maintain a solid reputation through integrity and honesty in business. I have found that having a good reputation is the key to other vendors promoting me.
Do you have any final words of wisdom for QC’s students?
To QC students: be passionate about your work! Clients love to work with people who are enthusiastic about their work and learn to trust in their passion. Be honest and have integrity in your work, and always be kind and respectful to other industry vendors.
Best of luck in your studies at QC!
Alex is a tutor in QC’s Event and Wedding Planning and Event Decor courses. For more information on these courses, head over to QC Event School.
The party is over. Everyone has agreed that it was fantastic. You were fantastic. They could not possibly have done it without you.
Wonderful. Any chance of any money, honey? Mostly, it’s no problem. Sometimes? Well. Not so fast.
People are funny. You might, in your innocence think that a client who praises you to the skies and back, would also be ready and willing to pay you in a reasonable way – on time and without quibbling. After all, they have just lauded you and recommended you to all their friends as the best in the business.
However, sometimes clients just don’t get that their wonderful family party, is also your business. You may be the best thing since sliced bread, but you also need to um, eat, and preferably better than sliced bread!
Over the years we have heard some hilarious stories with clients. There was the family who lived in a massive house, drove a Roll Royce and insisted on the most luxurious , the very, very best of everything for their event, who simply and shamelessly refused to pay a penny afterwards. Yes, they loved it all, but didn’t feel they should have to pay now. The party was well and truly over. Good thing, we had, a) insisted on getting a substantial deposit before the event, and b) were prepared to be quietly, professionally persistent, Eventually we got paid most of the money owed, but, boy were they offended by the indignity of being chased for payment. That family became a lost client, but on the other hand, we did not really relish the thought of ever working with them again. Rule Number One. Do a check on clients, no matter how richly they may seem to live. Sometimes they really do live in straw houses.
There was the dentist who decided out of the blue that rather than pay his invoice, he would simply offer annual dental examinations and cleaning instead. No negotiation, no discussion. He assumed everyone would be thrilled. Only, not so much.
The divorced couple who were paying half each for their daughter’s wedding? She was in business for herself, understood the demands of cash flow and paid her invoice precisely as agreed. He was chased for his share for, well, let’s just say a very long time. It did not help that he was driving around town in a white convertible Mercedes, which he called his, “Babe Machine.” Lovely guy.
How about the husband who left his wife, and all his supposed fiscal responsibilities the morning after his daughter’s lavish wedding? “Well,” he plaintively said when asked for payment, “I want to start a new life!”
You are an Event Planner. That means that you are a People Organizer. Sometimes organizing people is like trying to herd chickens. But, you can do it!
Your ideal scenario is to get paid promptly and fully, and to keep your client for future occasions.
Discuss money and your terms right up front, before the event. Your clients should understand your payment expectations very clearly at the beginning of the process of building your relationship. At an early planning meeting, show the client your contract form and explain how payment terms are set up. You can be as friendly as you like. Always remember, however, that the foundation of a client relationship is built on professionalism. Professionals require to be paid.
So. Design your contract so that payment terms are clear to all. Explain how those payment terms are to be met. An early deposit is a great sign of commitment and an indicator of willingness to pay. Do not be embarrassed. Go for it.
Many planners now ask their client to bring their payment check to the event so that terms can be immediately settled. That might seem a little brusque, but these actions are made by the planner who has learned from unfortunate harsh experience.
If vendors are to be paid separately by the client, work with them. Explain to the client that the band will expect to be paid on the night before they start the two hour drive home.
Offer a discount for pre payment. People love a bargain. Even people who have just spent $100,000 on their celebration. You can afford to offer a 2% discount to ensure that your cash flow is healthy.
Make the terms of your invoice a little unusual. Most people’s eyes glaze right over the standard, “30 days net” payment terms. If you say, “Payment is due immediately when invoice is presented.” Or “Full payment is due 17 days from date of invoice,” clients are likely to pause, consider, and pay up. They recognize you mean real business.
Mostly, your job is creative, artistic and fun. Mostly, getting paid is a rewarding dynamic too. When it’s a difficult element, be prepared to chase the money in an organized, friendly way without getting too stressed.
After all, as the old Yorkshire expression says, “There’s nowt as queer as folks!”
Do you have any client horror stories? Share with us below! And if you’re thinking of a career as an event planner, QC’s event & wedding planning courses come with our Achieving Business Success series that helps you prepare for these uncomfortable situations!
Name: Jess Adlington
Location: Emu Plains, Sydney, Australia
Program: Event & Wedding Planning
When Jess Adlington decided to plan her own wedding, she set out to create something unique and truly memorable. Well, she definitely succeeded at that! Her DIY wedding set off quite a stir, even getting her featured on i-do.com!
After the wedding, Jess decided to make a career out of event and wedding planning. She found QC, and has since graduated from the Event and Wedding Planning program. With her newly acquired business acumen and industry expertise, along with the passion she exhibited in planning her own nuptials, we expect to see great things of Jess in the near future!
We caught up with Jess to find out just how she pulled off such a beautiful and fun event on her own!
1: Your wedding was just beautiful! Have you always wanted to plan your own wedding? What made you decide to go down that path?
Thank you. I wanted to plan something that everyone would remember. I decided to do it myself because I made the decorations to give it my own personal touch. Planning my own wedding was something I wanted to do. I love themed events. Our housewarming was dress-up (heroes and villains) and our engagement party was dress-up as well. I’m currently planning my 30th and throwing an 80’s themed party. So planning a theme wedding was the way to go for us.
2: The Mad Hatter theme is absolutely brilliant! How did you come up with that? Did you have any difficulties when it came to executing on the theme?
I went looking on the net trying to find something different and fun. I found Alice in Wonderland and decided on The Mad Hatter (to be different). I found a lot of ideas on the internet and started buying one of each of the decorations. I would pull them apart when they arrived to see how they were made and would make them myself. I had no difficulties finding or coming up with ideas for it.
3: What did you enjoy the most about planning the wedding?
The most enjoyable part was seeing everything come together. It’s one thing to put it together in your head but when it starts to come together towards the end it makes all the stressfully days’ worth it.
4: What was the most stressful part of planning this wedding? If you had to do it again, would you change anything?
Table plan and place cards, I can’t say how many times this was changed. I just wanted to scream. Each table had their own place cards, so when we moved people around at the last minute I had to re-print them to make sure they had the correct character on them for the tables.
The wedding invitations would also be in this group as well. The invitations had 7 parts to be cut out for each invitation, plus everyone got a map to find the place. Everything was hand cut and put together.
I would still do it all over again because the end result was worth it.
5: Your wedding got quite a bit of attention! How did you manage to get featured on i-do.com and other high-prestige sites?
I was very lucky. I have a friend who works for the people who run the site. They wanted to do something on themed weddings and my friend mentioned mine. I was so excited because I spent 16 months putting it together, and for it to be featured on Australia’s leading wedding site I felt so privileged and grateful this has happened to me.
6: What would you tell future brides who are thinking of planning their own nuptials?
If you can dream it, plan it. Have the wedding you want, not the wedding others want you to have. Remember, you’re paying for it and they will be your memories to look back on. I wouldn’t change a thing about my wedding because I know everyone had a great time and still talk about it.
Are you looking to expand your knowledge and launch an exciting career in event and wedding planning? Check out QC Event School’s Free Brochure for more information on the programs offered.
PART 4: Forging Business Relationships
So your business is off the ground. You have a good reputation, an online presence, and have acquired a few clients. Now’s the time to think about partnering with vendors and venues to get greater discounts and traffic to your company.
The more partnerships you can forge with vendors, the less you’ll have to spend on traditional forms of advertising in the long run.
Here’s the catch: You need to get the vendor’s attention first!
Before we discuss methods, let’s turn the tables a little: Imagine you’re running a successful, profitable, busy event planning business. A caterer comes to you and says “Could you give my clients a discount on your services?”
Your answer would probably be “maybe, but what will I get in return?”
Now imagine if that same caterer came to you and said “I have 50 businesses who regularly come to me for catering services and I’d love to recommend your planning services to them, could we form an mutually beneficial arrangement?”
Then your answer would likely be “YOU BET!”
I think you can see where I’m going. It’s all about your approach. If you’re approaching a vendor looking for a hand out, you’re most likely to encounter a closed door. Whereas if you come to them with an offer that benefits them, you’ll have their attention.
Here are a few easy offers you could make to vendors:
- The simplest is a straight-up exchange: You recommend their business to your clients, and they do the same. But, you can go further.
- Feature their services as a preferred or executive vendor on your website and social media platforms.
- Offer to use and promote their services as part of your next staged event.
- Hold a contest or some other promotion for your clients, where you give away a gift card from this vendor.
- Arrange an exclusive arrangement whereby your company will ONLY use their services (be careful with this however… you wouldn’t want to drive customers away by limiting their choices)
- Offer a referral program, where you pay the vendor for every customer they send your way. (Note, there can be some ethical controversy around this one. Make sure to do your research and only associate with highly trustworthy people if you go down this road.)
How to get noticed by Vendors
So this is where the rubber hits the road. How can you get a vendor’s attention long enough to present your offer?
Use Social Media
Odds are whatever business you’re targeting has a social media account. Start off slowly by following them on their social media page and commenting on their posts. Engage in discussions with their followers and offer your opinions where appropriate. This will help you learn about the company’s values and you might just get noticed by the business owners, too. If they do notice your participation, they may remember you when you come to them with an offer, and will be more receptive at that point.
Have a face-to-face meeting
There’s nothing like a direct meeting with the owner of a company. A face-to-face meeting will allow you to observe their reaction to your proposal first-hand and modify your offer to suit their specific preferences or needs. You can either call the business first and arrange a meeting, or just drop by. Calling first is a more professional approach, while dropping by has more chance of succeeding in securing a meeting. You can try both and see what works best for you.
Emails and phone calls
Unless you’re dealing with a bigger corporation, I’d stay away from emails for this type of venture. Just think about the amount of junkmail you receive every day as a small business: your carefully crafted email message has a real chance of being deleted without ever having been read.
Phone calls, on the other hand, are a nice way to casually break the ice. Practice a quick elevator pitch and be respectful of the other person’s time.
Flyers and Ads
This approach is useful if you’re targeting a large number of companies at the same time. You can create a beautiful and informative flyer or brochure advertising your services and partnership opportunities, and drop them off at local businesses.
The downside to flyers/ads is that you’re missing out on that personalized approach, and this option has the added disadvantage of costing you more than your time.
Whatever your method, remember these key points when approaching vendors:
- Have your numbers ready. Before a business owner agrees to a partnership, he/she will want to know your customer numbers, your reach on social media, etc.
- Have their numbers ready, too. If you’ve done your research, you should have an idea of what the business’ reach is as well. This will show them you’re serious and committed.
- Don’t beg. You have a great product and as long as you have an appealing offer, they should WANT to work with you.
- Don’t argue. If someone doesn’t want to work with you, be graceful and thank them for their time. Arguing their reasons is an easy way to damage your reputation in the business community.
- Stick to your values. It’s normal to want as many partnerships as possible, but associating with less-than-reputable or questionable vendors will only hurt you in the long run.
So what are you waiting for?
Getting your name out there isn’t easy. Like anything else it takes a lot of work, sweat, some tears, and most importantly, absolute determination!
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on marketing & promotion! Learn more here.
PART 3: Marketing to Clients
As an event/wedding planner, you’ll be involved on both sides of the marketing fence: Business to Customer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B). The first is your traditional marketing to clients. The second is marketing yourself to other businesses who can help you succeed (vendors, etc.)
Let’s start with marketing to clients.
B2C Marketing relies on knowing your target customers, inside and out. Once you understand who your target is and where he/she spends her time, you can start developing a marketing strategy. For example, most newspaper ads are obsolete… unless you’re trying to reach an audience who still goes to print for their primary source of information and entertainment. And the same can be said for the flip side: promoting yourself on social media is great, but make sure to focus on the websites where your clients will see your efforts!
As you go through this list of potential marketing mediums, ask yourself if they are right for your customers.
Paid Search (Digital)
This one is a no brainer. If your clients use the Internet, they probably use Google. Using Google Paid Advertising is an easy way to ensure your website shows up at the top of the list when a customer searches for your business name or the services you offer. You can easily set up a google AdWords account for free, and set a modest daily budget, targeting a few industry keywords to get the ball rolling.
Pros: You can get to the top of search listings without spending tons of time getting links to your website
Cons: Depending on which keywords you’re bidding on, Google can get pretty expensive.
Advertising in Newspapers or Magazines (Traditional)
You can buy ad space for your business in Newspapers or other print mediums. These spaces come in a variety of sizes and you can design your own ad to fit within the allotted space.
Pros: Most print ads have a high reach and can be relatively inexpensive
Cons: It is very difficult to gauge the effectiveness of print advertising; most readers have developed “ad blindness” and might not pay attention to your ads.
Printing out flyers or brochures to be sent to potential clients as promotional mail is a way to get many impressions. A well thought out campaign (you have to think outside the box) has potential to get noticed.
Pros: Reach thousands of people in one fell swoop; target individuals, businesses, or both.
Cons: In order for direct mail to work, it can be very expensive and take a fair amount of your time to get it right. It’s also very difficult to track results, outside of sending out discount offers which can end up cheapening your brand.
Get a writer’s attention
Probably a more effective way of getting your name into a newspaper, magazine, or influential blog is to attract the attention of a writer who’s interested in your business. This can be done in a few ways:
- Reach out to reporters or bloggers to feature a special event or aspect of your business (are you planning a unique event? Do you have a funny story to share? Another piece of content that could be useful to their readers?). Just make sure it’s not self-promoting. No reporter will write about a discount or sale, for example, but they might write about an event you’ve organized.
- Offer your services as an industry expert. There are many reporters or bloggers who are looking for reliable sources to feature in articles they’re already developing. Resources like “HelpAReporter.com” are great ways to get your name and your business featured in leading industry publications.
Pros: Doesn’t cost anything but your time; you can end up being featured in very prestigious publications (especially with option 2)
Cons: It does take a lot of time and you’ll face a lot of rejection. That’s part of the challenge.
Using your Social Media Channels
If you’ve been following this series, you now have a website and a few social media accounts that are ready to roll. Facebook and Twitter are the overlords of the Social Media industry. Instagram is also a great medium for wedding/event planners, since the business tends to yield plenty of gorgeous pictures.
A few tips to succeed at Social Media Marketing:
- Post regularly and consistently. Have a “social media schedule” and stick to it. There are many types of software out there that can help you schedule posts in advance. A few examples are buffer and hootsuite.
- Treat your social media like a time bomb. Be ready to quickly respond to comments on your posts or direct messages from potential clients. Social Media users aren’t patient. Taking too long to respond to a comment, question, or inquiry is a recipe for disaster.
- Don’t ask without giving back: follow your followers and participate on their social pages as well. They’ll return the favor.
- Ask your satisfied clients to post their event pictures and tag your business. Word-of-mouth from a happy customer is the best advertising you can ever ask for.
Here’s a social media secret not many small businesses understand: Your followers don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Posting a message about how great your business is, is sure to fail. Posting content that is useful to your follower will be liked and shared, thus promoting your brand. (“useful” can mean anything from funny to inspiring to solving a specific problem.)
Once you’ve set up your website and have a decent following on social media, consider launching a blog on your site. You can blog about anything related to your business, as long as you’re sensitive to your clients’ privacy.
A critical aspect of a blog is to keep updating it regularly: daily is best, but at a minimum once a week. Writing blog articles that are useful to your readers can attract new clients and help forge relationships with other industry professionals.
Which brings us to the final part of this series. Stay tuned for the upcoming fourth and final piece: Marketing yourself to Vendors.
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to market yourself effectively to clients! Learn more here.
Part 2: Building your Brand
You have an angle, and you have registered your business name. Now it’s time to get serious. Building your own brand can be tons of fun and can attract some real attention if done right.
Before diving into building your website, business cards, marketing collateral, etc., remember this one fundamental: CONSISTENCY!
When you’re building your brand, you’ll want all aspects of the business (from your website to your business card to your advertising) to have a consistent look and feel. Think about a logo that’s easy to use in different formats, images that are easily convertible from online to print, and a specific writing tone that helps clients identify with your brand.
It’s 2014, and there’s no excuse for a business not to have a website. You might not get a lot of traffic at first, but most clients won’t trust you if you don’t have some online presence.
You can easily find online templates that help you build a professional-looking website. I personally love squarespace.com: for a very inexpensive monthly subscription fee, you can build a professional website based on numerous templates, even if you don’t have any web design experience.
A few pointers when building your website:
– As previously mentioned, make sure the URL is somewhere along the lines of [your business name].com. The closer the domain is to your business name, the better.
– Unless you’re a web designer (or you hire one), stick with a proven template. It might be useful to spend a little time researching best practices for web page design to avoid making classic mistakes (i.e. avoid flash-based websites, etc.)
– Plan your site before getting started. On paper, write down the “wireframe” for your website: how many pages you need, what content will be on these pages, what the navigation will be like. At minimum, you’ll have:
1. A home page
2. A “products & services” page
3. An “about me/us” page
4. A “contact” page
– Research basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles and stick to them. This will help users find your website when they type your business name into Google.
– Be careful with the photographs or images you use on your site. Make sure you have the rights to use them in that context. Stock photography is an option, but if you have the time and resources to use your own photographs, there’s nothing better!
A note about email addresses: having an email address for your business hosted on a personal email provider looks amateur at best. It’s very easy and inexpensive to set up a business email account that can help you look infinitely more professional.
Your Business Cards
Business owners spend a lot of time designing and updating their business cards. It’s an important aspect of any business that deals with clients face-to-face, but at the same time a traditional business card can miss the mark if it doesn’t link your business image.
Before you get started, establish a budget for your business cards. Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on the design and production of your cards, and also figure out how many cards you’d realistically need. You’d be amazed how many people forget this crucial step and end up spending over 20 hours and thousands of dollars on business cards that are hardly ever used.
Business Card Basics:
– All Business Cards should contain the following:
1. The company name and logo
2. Your name and position
3. Your phone number and email address
4. The company website
– Keep it simple: avoid busy photo backgrounds or fancy, illegible fonts.
– Stay within standard business card dimensions. They are easier for clients to handle.
– Keep it consistent: try to use the same terminology, font, colors as you do on your website.
– Consider alternatives to the standard paper card: Today you can find suppliers that will create business cards made of plastic, hardwood, lace… whatever you’d like! These types of cards are more expensive, but are more likely to be noticed (and used!) by customers. So if you have a healthy budget and need a limited amount of cards, this is a wonderful option to consider!
Your Social Media Pages
Along with your website, you’ll probably want to become an active presence on social media channels. This is an area to connect directly with your clients and other vendors.
We’ll discuss the intricacies of Social Media in part 3 of this series, but here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind when building any social media business account.
1. Surprise-surprise, you’ll want to keep consistent with the business image you’ve already developed on your website and business card. That means using the same colors, text and image styles, etc.
2. Make sure your logo is present on all your business pages, and link back to your website on all your accounts.
3. If your name is anywhere on your business’ social media accounts (and it should be), then pay attention to your personal profile as well. Make sure your own profile doesn’t contain any messages or pictures that could alienate or offend your clients.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Marketing to Clients
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a successful brand! Learn more here.
Event and wedding planning is a tough sell. You have to get noticed in order to get clients. Many new and aspiring event/wedding planners struggle with this area of the business… even more than the actual planning itself!
In this series, we’ll look at the different requirements to building a professional brand, marketing yourself to clients, and forging beneficial relationships with vendors.
Part 1: The Basics
Before you even think of marketing yourself, there’s a lot of work to be done. You wouldn’t sell a half-baked cake, would you? Nor should you rush into marketing before having all the pieces of your business squarely in place. If you fail at this first step, you’ll probably end up leaving clients with a bad taste for your business.
Before you can start selling to clients, you have to know what they want. Too many event/wedding planners try to corner a market that doesn’t exist. For example, selling beautifully elegant, extravagant and costly weddings to low-income rural communities probably doesn’t have a great chance of succeeding.
Do you work in a busy metropolitan or in a small close-knit community? Either way, you’ll want to research what your clientele wants in a wedding and event planner.
If you’re in a large city, there are probably many options for you to choose from. Your challenge will be how to stand out from your competition. Make a list of all event and wedding planners in your area, and what their marketing angles are. You might spot a gap in the market that clients would like filled. You can then survey the community and see what they think of your ideas.
Event/Wedding planners in small towns or rural areas have a different challenge. Residents in these areas probably aren’t used to the idea of hiring a wedding/event planner. In these cases, you might want to focus on a specific passion the community shares. For example, is the community particularly proud of a local sporting team? Is there an annual festival everyone participates in? Do all residents share a similar cultural or religious background? Becoming a community expert might be a fun way to break into the market and attract some outside attention as well.
What’s in a Name?
It’s amazing how much the name of your business matters. Making a mistake at this stage can alienate your clientele before they get a chance to know you.
You have two options: Market yourself as an individual (i.e. Jane Doe, IEWP™) or come up with a name for your business. Here are a few considerations:
– If you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, you should probably come up with a business name that’s easier on the tongue. It might be unfair, but some clients will avoid names they don’t understand, for fear of insulting you by mispronouncing it.
– If you come up with a business name, make sure it resonates with your target clientele.
– Your business name shouldn’t make people think. If you have to explain what it means, you risk confusing clients before they even walk through the door.
– If the business name is too long, shorten it. There’s nothing wrong with having different business names for legal vs. marketing use. Example: QC stands for “Quality of Course, Inc.” Which is the name of the parent company. Imagine if the school were called “Quality of Course Event Planning”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!
– Do your Research! Choose a business name that isn’t easily confused with a consumer product, another business, a competitor, etc. If you make a list of 10 possible business names, odds are 5-7 of them will be thrown out at this point.
– Make sure your business name can be registered, and that you can secure a domain name (website address) that makes sense. If you’re unable to buy [your business name].com (most are pretty cheap), then you’ll probably want to go back to the drawing board.
A quick note about websites: We’ll discuss “building your website” in the following section. But when choosing your business name, consider that easy and common “Keywords” in a business name (like “event planner” or “wedding planning” for example) will help clients remember you and easily find you online.
After you’ve settled on a solid business plan and a name for your business, then you’ll be ready to move on to part 2 of this series: building your brand. Tune in on Wednesday, May 21st for more business advice!
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to launch a successful business! Learn more here.
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!
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.
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.