Posts Tagged ‘wedding planning’

how early should i order my wedding dress

Planning a wedding involves many different timelines, and can get a little chaotic if the timelines aren’t closely followed and deadlines met. In this post, we’re answering a common question brides come to their planners with: How early should I order my wedding dress?

Most wedding planners recommend ordering your wedding dress six months prior to your wedding. This may seem very early to you, but you likely aren’t considering all the different steps involved with finding the perfect gown and ensuring its exact fit. The process is much longer, and more detailed, than simply choosing a dress off the rack and being ready to walk down the aisle. Of course, there are some brides who opt for off-the-rack dresses to save both time and money, but it’s not the most common choice since most brides won’t be able to find their proper size in the style they want using that method.

To ensure you are able to wear the dress of your dreams on your wedding day, you should go shopping 9-10 months in advance of your wedding. This gives you 1-2 months to shop around and try on as many dresses as you wish before you actually place your order six months before the wedding. Most bridal gowns take up to six months for the manufacturer to create them in the ordered size and deliver them, although some can have a dress ready much quicker – especially if your size has already been made and is sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

Once you receive your dress, it’s time to take it in for alterations. Most dresses need to be altered, as most people aren’t the same “dress size” in their bust, waist, and hips. Alterations can take 1-3 months depending on the number and complexity of alterations needed. Before you know it, the wedding will be here and you’ll need to slip into your dress and walk down the aisle. Most seamstresses will do 1-2 rounds of alterations and a final fitting, at which point you’ll sign off on the changes and leave with your dress.

To learn more about wedding planning, check out our Wedding Planning course. To learn more about bridal styling, check out our Personal Styling course. Be sure to leave us a comment sharing your thoughts on our proposed timeline, too!

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May 2, 2013 4:11 pm

Our Wedding Picks of the Day

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to add a special touch to the special day. Some of my wedding picks turn into major trends down the road (for example mason jars, although adorable, have been used a little too much in the last couple years in my opinion). Other great ideas never quite catch on, even if they are stylish and unique.

Wedding Picks of the DayHere are a few special touches that pleasantly surprised me today…

Cotton Bouquet

Image via iloveswmag.com

This bouquet looks lighter than air. We’ve seen a lot of unique bouquet ideas this season (paper flowers, brooches, etc). The cotton is my favorite version by far. It would look like the bride is carrying a cloud!

Typewriter guest book

Image via www.stylemepretty.com

Not only would this antique typewriter be a lovely decoration for a vintage-chic wedding, but think how special it would be for your guests to type out their well-wishes on its keys. The finished pages could be bound to make a great keepsake.

Lavender toss

Image via www.stylemepretty.com

Instead of confetti or rice, consider giving your guests lavender to toss at the newlyweds as they exit the ceremony. It’s better for the environment and the birds, and it will leave the air with a wonderful scent.

Couple stamp

Image via bridalmusings.com

This might be my favorite idea of the day. A personalized stamp of the couple’s faces is just too sweet for words. It would be such a cute little additional on invitations or thank-you cards.

Flower bar

Image via bridalmusings.com

This bride created a special flower bar for her bridesmaids to choose from. They were able to create their own bouquets, arrangements, and headpieces. I’m a big fan of the bride giving her bridesmaids a big of freedom and creative control over their overall looks. That’s why I think this idea would be not only a lot of fun, but also a great way for the bridesmaids to show their individuality.

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April 26, 2013 11:00 am

10 Great First Dance Songs for Weddings

Choosing a first dance song can seem like a daunting task, particularly if you don’t have “a song”. I know I certainly didn’t! There are so many to choose from, and you want to pick something that a) you don’t feel has been overplayed b) fits you and your partner-to-be and c) isn’t too long – anything longer than 5 minutes can get a little tiresome for both the dancers and the spectators. We went on the hunt for some great first dance songs for weddings and…

We’ve compiled a list of ten first dance songs we think are beautiful, work for almost anyone, and aren’t so long that you’re left dizzy from all the circles you’ve been dancing.

  1. A Sunday Kind of Love – Etta Jamesbest first dance songs for weddings
  2. Birds of a Feather – The Civil Wars
  3. Halo – The Cure
  4. I’m so Glad – Royal Wood
  5. My Love For You Is Real – Ryan Adams
  6. Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones
  7. Your Rocky Spine – Great Lake Swimmers
  8. If I Were A Carpenter – Johnny Cash & June Carter
  9. Got To Get You Into My Life – The Beatles
  10. All I Want Is You – U2

 

We think the above songs are a good starting point for any couple or wedding planner looking for a little inspiration. We’d love to hear what you have to say about our list, and know of any recommendations you have for adding to it. Leave us a comment and be sure to share this post using the buttons below. Until next time!

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April 22, 2013 6:54 pm

Spring Means Outdoor Weddings

It’s that glorious time of year again! The snow is melting, the days are getting longer, and everyone is coming to life after a five-month hibernation. The sun is so warm this week I can hardly contain myself. I’m excited for what’s to come: the Spring/Summer season. Because I almost always think with my wedding planning brain, I can’t help but associate these seasons with outdoor ceremonies and receptions. Outdoor weddings are a lot of work, made even more difficult with the ever-changing weather. However, it’s undeniable that a ceremony by the lake on a sunny day is about as lovely as lovely can be, which is why they continue to be in the dreams of many a bride.

You might not think planning an outdoor wedding is that big of a deal. Just order a tent in case it rains, and it’s fine. Yes, securing some sort of structure to keep guests dry during inclement weather is a wise move. It seems obvious to us in the profession, but I have to tell you I’ve met more than a handful of brides who had no rain plan at all. Yikes! But what other considerations are there when planning an outdoor wedding ceremony?

Heat and Sun

Even with a short, 20-30 minute civil ceremony, guests can be out in the sun for quite a while. Most of your guests will arrive early, sometimes the ceremony starts late, will take half an hour to complete, and then with a casual meet and greet to follow, you’ve already reached about two hours in the blazing heat. Often there’s a cocktail hour afterward on the lawn, adding another hour, and suddenly it’s becoming quite the afternoon! There are many things we can do to help keep guests comfortable in the heat:

  • Parasols and hats for guests can provide welcome shade and reduce the temperature by a few degrees. Offering inexpensive wraps for women can be a wonderful gesture to protect their shoulders from the sun’s rays.
  • A tent can act not only as a rain plan, but also as a hot weather plan in order to keep guests cool and away from the hot sun.
  • Host a lemonade/punch station so guests can have a cool drink as they’re waiting for the ceremony to get underway. Even just a couple tubs of bottled water on ice can do the trick!
  • Fans for female guests can help to create a breeze. The bonus is that they can be fashioned to reflect the decor of the day!
  • Try to plan the ceremony site under a large tree so that the foliage creates some shade over the congregation.
  • Pay attention to the type of chairs you use. There’s nothing worse than sticking to a sweaty chair cushion when you go to stand up!
  • Keep the length of the ceremony in mind. It might not be a great idea to include three readings and two performances. With a short ceremony, everyone will stay comfortable.
  • There’s nothing lovelier than bridesmaids carrying bouquets of hydrangea, but in 95 degree temperatures, they’ll wilt before you can blink an eye. Keep flowers fresh with a periodic water spray, including the bouquets.
  • Have sunscreen on hand, and set up an essentials table for your guests. You can also include little spritz bottles and cool, wet cloths to provide relief when the temperatures start to rise. I don’t know about you, but heat can give me a horrible headache, so keep pain relievers in your emergency kit. I rarely get through an event without someone asking for one!
  • As you’re planning the ceremony, pay close attention to where the sun will be at the appointed hour. Make sure your guests and your wedding party aren’t facing the sun.
  • Above all, inform your guests what they should expect BEFORE the wedding on the invitation or the wedding website. If they know ceremony is going to be outdoors, they will prepare accordingly.

Once you’ve attended to your guests’ comfort, don’t forget about the bride and groom, the wedding party, and the vendors. Whether it’s during setup, photo sessions, or the ceremony itself, keep them fresh and happy even in the worst temperatures. Build break times into your itinerary for those with demanding schedules that day. Nothing feels better to your clients and your supplier team than being able to take 10 in the shade with a cold bottle of water and a refreshing snack. I always pack water and fruit snacks in my vehicle so that I can attend to those people while they’re on the move. You’ll be the hero when you walk over to the wedding party during photos with an armload of cold water and a basket of energizing snacks – especially the men in layered tuxedos!

 

Wind

Wind wasn’t one of the things I considered when I first started planning for outdoor wedding ceremonies. But all you need is one windy day to learn what not to do! Here are a few things to think about in advance:

  • When the wind catches them, linens can be sent flying through the air. As the linens set sail, flowers can be sent flying, and marriage licenses can float to the ground. Unless you secure your linens in an outdoor ceremony, the likelihood of their staying put is slim at best! Use table clips or weights to keep linens in place. You can also use decor as a weight, but beware – it better be heavy. I once thought vases with flowers would be enough to hold the linens down, and boy was I wrong. One gust of wind and the vases came crashing onto the patio stones below! Avoiding linens completely is an easy solution if you use beautiful wood tables that don’t require covering.
  • There’s nothing like a gust of wind to mess up even the most beautiful hairdo!  Hair stylists do use a ton of spray, sometimes enough to keep a hair helmet in the craziest of winds. In case they don’t, I pack personal items like combs, a mirror, bobby pins, elastics, and hair spray in my emergency kit.
  • Make sure your tent is well secured to handle strong winds. I’ve seen tent walls that were not properly tied to the poles resulting in flaps fluttering in the wind, and knocking things down in the process!
  • Remind your clients to keep wind in mind when choosing the bride’s gown. Very light fabrics such as chiffon and light silks can become revealing if caught by a gust at the altar.
  • Secure anything and everything that might be caught by a breeze. This might include the aisle runner, musicians’ sheet music, programs, marriage license, & serviettes.

 

Sound

 

Have you ever been to an outdoor ceremony where you can’t hear a darn thing? There can be so many competing sounds that it’s near impossible to hear readings, vows, or music. You may want to consider:

  • Microphones for musicians, the officiant, the groom, and the readers so even the guests at the back hear everything clearly.
  • At your rehearsal, have your participants practice speaking louder than usual and more slowly than they normally would.
  • When scouting out possible ceremony locations, consider noise level carefully. Are you near a street where traffic might be an issue? Or near a busy waterway where boating or swimming might compete? Tourist areas are popular for weddings since they’re often in beautiful, manicured settings. But with that comes increased foot traffic, so taking into account sounds like competing voices is a really good idea.
  • Then there are the extra considerations like whether or not there will be a jet flight overhead at the exact time that the ceremony is to take place. Will there be motor boats whizzing by? Maybe the wedding is hosted in the backyard and Neighbor Joe decides that the perfect weather dictates finishing that deck. Hammer, hammer! You can’t cover for every possible noise during the planning process, but you sure can minimize the risk by considering many of the possible scenarios.

Pests

Our beloved crawly guys can be a pain at your outdoor ceremony location. Mosquitoes, bees, wasps, ants, flies, you name it, they’re coming to enjoy your flowers, your sweet drinks, and your guests! So think about how to combat them in advance:

  • Provide bug repellant spray on that lovely little essentials table you’ve set up. Carry some in your emergency kit, too!
  • Citronella candles may help if mosquitoes are the top concern.
  • When choosing the ceremony location, try to avoid thick wooded areas and boggy/marshy locations where mosquitoes are going to fly rampant.
  • Keep your sweet sticky beverages (and foods) well enclosed so Mr. Ant and Mrs. Bee can’t get at them. Trash cans for plastic glassware should be placed away from guests since they will attract pests looking for leftovers.
  • Consider the time of day when pests might be the biggest issue when choosing your ceremony time.
  • Stay away from lilies and other bell shaped, highly fragrant flowers for the bouquets.

 

Location

When choosing the ceremony location, there are hundreds of things you’ll need to consider. Sometimes the location is already dictated, such as your client’s family cottage, so you have to work with what has been given to you. But even within a pre-determined setting, you can often move things in order to make the ceremony site as guest friendly as possible. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Ground slope is a huge one. Have you ever tried to set up chairs on uneven, sloping ground? It’s no fun! You also don’t want grandma’s chair tumbling over by seating her on sloping terrain.
  • Try to find a space of lawn that is fairly bump free. It makes setting up much easier, and it is also a lot kinder to female guests in high-heel shoes!
  • Clear any debris away from the site before setting up. Sticks and rocks present a hazard to your guests and garbage is just plain ugly.
  • Look for obstructions when choosing your location. Stand at the back of the space looking toward where the altar will be placed. Is there anything obstructing views? Reconfigure your angles until every guest is going to get a great view of the happy couple!
  • As pretty as that perennial garden is, do you really want to set up within inches of it? Allergies (bring those antihistamines with you!) and pests might become more of an issue than they would have had you set up further away from the garden.
  • Nothing is nicer than a unique, out-of-the-way spot for the ceremony. But is it easy to find and accessible to your guests, or are they going to get lost trying to find you? Post signs along the road, and provide guests with a map to make navigation easier.
  • A final consideration is parking. Make sure there’s enough space for all of your guests.

I hope this helps you give your clients and guests the beautiful experience they deserve. Remember that even when you plan for everything you can possibly foresee, now and then something totally random will come in and wreak havoc on your plans. Back in August 2009, a hurricane system decided to roll into Ottawa on the day of my clients’ outdoor ceremony. We had covered all the angles we could in advance. Even though the resulting monsoon made for a VERY wet day, it was still a beautiful ceremony that my clients and guests talked about for month.

Be prepared, and enjoy to the fullest. Happy planning!

Wedding planner Lynn LeeWritten by Lynn Lee
www.weddingsunveiled.ca

Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.

 

Image 1 via forme-foryou.com
Image 2 via i.ivillage.com
Image 3 via veronicavaros.com
Image 4 via www.all-about-india.com
Image 5 via inthefingerlakes.com

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Long before I owned a business, I had heard the term “networking” hundreds of times. The value of networking was always touted as the way to get ahead; it’s a way to give your brand an identifiable face within the sea of competition. I always thought it sounded gruesome. I could just picture it, walking up to a stranger with a swagger of confidence, name badge swaying as I moved. With a firm hand shake and a warm yet professional smile I would say, “Hi, my name is Lynn Lee. I’m a wedding planner. And you are?”

Promptly after this dashing opener, I imagined the conversation becoming more and more strained as the moments passed, as we both struggled to get to know one another when neither of us really cared. The entire evening of my networking dream played out this way with dozens of empty, fake conversations until I was able to plan my escape home to bed, thankful that it was all over. It might have been a bad attitude, but it was the truth. The whole concept sent shivers down my spine. I was all about real relationships, not pretending I connected with someone just to get myself ahead.

Then came the launch of Weddings Unveiled. For the first time I was faced with establishing myself in a new market, and I don’t have to tell you what that meant: NETWORKING! I had a leg-up on some new planners in that I was already coordinating weddings for a local venue, so I already knew some people within the industry. It was imperative that I connect with these people to let them know I was now hanging my own shingle as an independent business owner.

I promptly set up meetings to chat about how I could refer their businesses to my clients. The meetings were pleasant as I connected with business owners whose work I knew and respected. These were people with whom I had come to know, chat, laugh, and share stories. I was pleased to be connecting in a very real, genuine way. Once those meetings were over however, I was faced with the daunting task of connecting with those companies with whom I had no prior relationship, but whose work I admired. I had to get to know their services so I could offer my future clients the breadth of knowledge that they deserved. What’s worse, there were so many of them!

The following weeks saw cold calls by the dozen. Every time I picked up the phone to call someone new, I dreaded it like a visit to the dentist. Were they going to be welcoming, or were they going to quickly inform me that they didn’t have time to chat with a newbie who was more of a nuisance than a benefit? I have to tell you, I was surprised how things played out. Nearly every time I was met with warmth and general interest. I spent days and days running around the city, meeting with anyone and everyone I could. The conversations were much easier than I anticipated and I made some real connections with people I still work with today. About three months into launching my business I had swallowed up all the knowledge I could about my local industry and felt that I could go out in the wedding world and represent my clients to the best of my ability. Networking wasn’t nearly as excruciating as I thought.

Today I continue to attend networking events on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s in an attempt to get to know a new service provider. Other times it’s in support or celebration of someone with whom I am already familiar. Regardless of the occasion, there is always someone at those events I haven’t yet met, and I am constantly faced with networking in its truest form.

Even today, there’s still an initial moment where my hands sweat in anxiety as I see a new face coming toward me. I still feel stressed at the thought of having to make conversation with someone I don’t know – will it be comfortable or will it be awkward? But 99.9% of the time, as soon as the other person opens their mouth and starts speaking, I realize that all is well. We always seem to find something to talk about and sometimes that relationship is one that ends up being really valuable either to my business or to me personally. I actually love going to most networking events now. In fact, there is one coming up in three weeks that I would never miss. They provide me with an opportunity to connect with suppliers away from weddings and events where we are always too busy to chat. They allow us to laugh over a glass of wine and reminisce about past clients. We pump each other up and we provide an ear when someone needs feedback. We are each other’s greatest supporters; in fact, many suppliers have become friends outside of regular work days.

Although the truest form of networking still provides me with a tinge of anxiety, I realize that I wouldn’t have the business I do today, nor have the friends that I’ve made, if it wasn’t for networking events. Networking helped me to establish my company at the outset, and today allows me to remain connected. Without it, I would be an unknown in an industry where being known for your work is everything.

So next time you’re faced with a networking opportunity, just remember that the person on the other side of the conversation is just like you. Someone whose hands are probably starting to sweat, just like yours, as you approach. Someone who, like you, just wants their business to succeed. Someone who probably doesn’t know much more than you do, and is just looking for support. Someone with their own personal demands, flaws, accomplishments, and fears. Someone who eats, sleeps, and celebrates bad days and good days, just like you. That’s why it’s simply not warranted to be intimidated by meeting someone new. Connecting with others is one of the greatest joys of being a business owner. Without it, I would be left staring at my laptop all day in a cave of loneliness. Welcome networking and all that it will provide you. I promise you won’t regret it!

Till next time, happy planning!

Wedding planner Lynn LeeWritten by Lynn Lee
www.weddingsunveiled.ca

Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.

 

 

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I come from the school of comparative quoting – I was always taught to get three quotes when hiring someone for a given service. So when I opened my company, I continued this practice on behalf of my clients. I always thought that was the right thing to do until I ran into a problem, which is why I’m sharing this story with you today. This incident is the only negative dealing I’ve experienced within the event and wedding planning industry. Maybe that’s why it bothers me so much!

As you’ve probably gathered, honoring my relationships with other vendors and planners is paramount. I work hard to juggle respect for both my clients and my suppliers, being very careful to act in both parties’ best interests. Which brings me to Salina and Shawn’s wedding back in 2008. I was looking for a florist for this couple – it was my second season as an independent planner and I was still getting to know the various vendors in the area. I had sent some past clients to “Florist A,” so I decided to go to her again to get a quote for my couple’s floral requirements. We had a pretty good idea what we wanted for centerpieces, and we knew exactly what we wanted for bouquets and boutonnieres, so I wasn’t looking for much creative input – just a good price. Florist A’s quote came back at about what I had expected; but then again, being a newbie business owner, I didn’t fully know what to expect.

Once I had the first quote, it was time to seek out the other two. But I wasn’t sure where to go next. The few florists with whom I had worked just weren’t my cup of tea. They were either out-of-date or had personalities that I knew were not the right fit for me, Salina, and Shawn. Then I found “Florist B.” She had recently left Florist A’s business to manage another shop. She had a great personality, and was very talented. I thought it would be a great fit. I knew I could trust either florist with this lovely wedding. And since both had been good to my clients in the past, there were no two other ladies to whom I would rather give business. I wanted to play fair – I decided if Florist A got this contract, I would make sure the Florist B got the next one, or vice versa. I thought it was a win-win situation.

Florist B sent me her quote for the exact same order. The quotes were very close, but hers was just a tad under. I presented both quotes to Salina and Shawn and they were pleased with the numbers; they told me that a third quote would not be necessary. They asked me who they should hire, and I told them I had no preference. Because her quote was slightly less, they ended up hiring Florist B. After all, you might as well save a few dollars! Like a good little planner, I thanked Florist A for her time and told her that my clients had decided to go another route. All was good.

You might chuckle at the next part of the story (or maybe you’ll kick me for being so foolish!). I remember it like it was yesterday. I was blow drying my hair, getting ready for a networking affair, and a thought came over me like a hot flash. What if Florist A and Florist B talk between themselves, and think I was playing one against the other?

I felt like I was going to faint. I called my husband in and spilled all of my concerns. I told him how I wanted the business to go to either of them, which was why I chose both in the first place. I knew they might chat, but I thought they would be pleased that I was trying to give them both business. At that moment, I could see the other side. What if they weren’t as fond of my rationale as I had originally thought? What if they thought I was trying to undercut them? I felt sick to my stomach. My husband, lovely as he is, tried to comfort me, but felt I could no longer go to the networking event. I picked up the phone…

I called Florist A – no answer. Then I called Florist B. I explained exactly what I had done and my rationale for doing so. She was so great! She assured me that everything was okay. She appreciated my wanting to give her business, and didn’t seem concerned that I had asked her former boss to quote on the same project. After all, as I explained to her, I was just doing my planner job by getting more than one quote. She told me to go to the function and enjoy myself, and not to worry about Florist A; she was sure her reaction would be the same. So off I went, not totally at ease, but feeling encouraged that my paranoia was probably unwarranted.

The next morning I called Florist A once again to be totally honest with her about why I acted as I did. Just in case there was any chatting between the two ladies, I wanted there to be no confusion whether my intentions were honorable. I remember speaking into the phone with Florist A and the air feeling heavier and heavier as I babbled on nervously. When I finally stopped to allow her to speak, her reaction was everything I had feared and more. My heart sank and I just wanted to cry. It was a horrible conversation, and it was pretty clear to me as I hung up that the relationship had been permanently altered. I feared that our working together in the future would be so uncomfortable for both of us that I chose to avoid it, and have never stepped foot into her shop since.

You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to share this story with you today. What does this have to do with you and your business? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps you are of the mind that multiple quotes are important and it’s our prerogative to source them. Maybe you agree with obtaining more than one quote, but would have been smarter than I on who to approach. Or maybe you just think I was a nutball and should have known better. Either way, I wanted to tell you about this in hopes that it might help even one of you from making the same mistake. Now looking back from my sixth year of business, I can see how short-sighted I was.

The event and wedding planning industry in my city is very small, and almost everyone knows everyone else. Everyone talks and compares, and your successes and failures are all too well known. It’s also a woman-dominated industry where communication is very open and feelings get hurt very easily. I’m not sure if a male vendor would have been as upset as Florist A was, but I am sure of one thing – if I knew then what I know now, I would have tread much more carefully. If I really wanted to get more than one quote for the job, I should have gone to two businesses who had no relationship and no direct contact. Or I could have better educated myself on floral pricing when I first launched my business. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t have even needed more than one quote. I would have known that my industry is one of personalities, not just cold corporations. I would have seen all the instances where hurt feelings had ruined relationships in the past, and disallowed people from ever working together again. My hometown wedding industry is full of such examples. If only I knew then what I know now!

Today, I’m in a different place. My clients trust my judgment when I recommend them to a particular vendor and very rarely do I ever attend more than one vendor meeting per category, or get a second quote for the same job. I also know my own market so well that I can pretty much guess what a quote is going to be in advance, or at least provide an educated guess. I no longer adhere to the three-quote theory and do not feel that my clients are more poorly served as a result. I’m a smarter planner than I was four years ago, and I have worked very hard to develop trust and a good reputation within my industry. But I know that I will never have that trust again from Florist A, and for that I am very sorry. I learned my lesson the hard way, and I doubt I will ever forget it.

Till next time, happy planning!

Wedding planner Lynn LeeWritten by Lynn Lee
www.weddingsunveiled.ca

Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.

 

Image 1 via http://www.torontolife.com
Image 2 via http://mylifephilosphy.blogspot.ca
Image 3 via http://www.cidonline.org

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Today, I want to share with you something that has changed my business. But before I do that, let me give you some background that led to this big change. About a year ago, I was finding myself at a turning point. With five years under my belt as a business owner I was proud of what I had achieved and the reputation for which I had worked so hard. I really felt that my clients were receiving the highest level of support that I could give and the feedback I got from my couples was amazing and very gratifying. But it was also at this five year mark that I was experiencing feelings of burnout. I had been in the business for 10 years, and working 12-14 hour days had clearly paid its toll. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and would never change careers. But I couldn’t continue focusing on making everyone else’s lives perfect at the expense of my own. Something had to give!

This feeling of frustration didn’t come over me all of a sudden. It had been brewing for some time, and in talking to other planners I found I was not alone. It was time to stop whining about our lost lives and do something to fix them. I had already re-branded a year back and eliminated day-of management services in an attempt to reduce the number of weddings I had each year. By committing myself solely to full planning contracts, it meant less weddings but greater earnings: more bang for your buck, as some might say! This decision made a huge difference since the workload associated with 10 full planning contracts each year was more manageable than planning and coordinating 30. But even with that, I was still working longer hours than I should have been. It was time to find a way to work smarter than I had been, and this has remained my focus over the past several months.

I began investigating options. I had conversations with other professionals and planners to learn what could help. One of my efforts was to hire a successful planner to mentor me. This mentor helped me outline my personal and professional goals and guided me toward achieving them. I also wanted to learn from my mentor’s experience so I could benefit from the systems that she had already put into place to help with her own business. It was within this relationship that I discovered a tool she had been using as a possible solution for some of my efficiency problems. This tool had revolutionized the way she did things and was something that I needed to consider for Weddings Unveiled. The tool is a project management software called Basecamp.

Basecamp is just one of many project management programs available. It enables groups of people (teams) to work collectively on a given project to see it through to completion. Although not specifically designed for event planning, it certainly lends itself very well. In researching, I found several planners were touting its benefits to their own clients. Here’s how it works.

Prior to Basecamp, the majority of my correspondence with clients was via email. Consequently, I received tons of emails every day regarding the most minute details. Something as simple as choosing a table linen evolved into a solid string of emails back and forth debating texture, color, and size. Each email had to be saved to file so I could keep a record of our discussion. Every time I needed to refer to that discussion, I had to go back to that folder of emails to review what had been discussed to date. My clients had to do the same, which I’m sure was just as daunting to them, if not more so! Add to that all the saved documents that accumulated during the planning process, everything from contracts to inspiration pictures to vendor receipts. I had them all on file, and although my files and folders were pretty meticulously kept, it was I who possessed the records. I don’t think my clients ever felt completely in the loop since all those documents were not as readily available on their end. That is, unless they also kept the level of records that I did.

Basecamp solves these issues by providing each client with a workroom. Everything pertaining to their event happens within that workroom. I’ve included a few screen shots of one of my client’s workrooms here so you can see how it’s structured. In the example to the below, you’ll see our event planning critical path. Each “to do” has a date assigned and the person to whom it’s assigned. We have it set up so that the assigned person receives an email reminder when their task comes due, so nothing falls between the cracks. The critical path can be edited at any time with tasks added, deleted, and modified. At any given moment, any member of our team (both planner and client) can see where we stand in the planning process. I am no longer the sole monitor of the project; it has become a team effort, which is a very good thing!Time management tips

This screen shot shows another part of the client workroom: files. Here we are able to keep all the files associated with the event/wedding. You’ll see a contract, quote, and spreadsheet listed. You’ll also see our storyboard and inspiration picture. Basecamp just added a new feature a few months ago where the team can categorize each file with a label. This allows us to use the search tool on the right hand side of the screen to find a certain file. It comes in handy when the number of files uploaded gets pretty big!Time management 2

Here is a shot of my Basecamp calendar. This complete calendar is only viewable by me while clients only have access to their own. Each project is color coded so I can look at any date and see that anything in blue, for example, belongs to Ashleigh & Mark’s wedding. I also input client/vendor meetings here and a handy-dandy email reminder lets us know a half hour prior that our meeting is shortly ahead. I still use my Outlook calendar to track my own appointments and to dos, but this calendar is an excellent complement!Time management 3

I can go into Basecamp and view the status of all my projects with one click of the mouse. This is great if you’ve been on vacation, or maybe in meetings all day, and you want to see what all of your clients have been up to while you’ve been absent. Instead of having to go into each separate workroom, you can just view this page to see all of the recent activity.Time management 4

As I’m sure you can imagine, these screen shots only zero in on some of the features offered by Basecamp. You can also live chat with your clients through their “discussion” feature. Any team member can create text documents where thoughts, reminders, strategies, you-name-it can be logged so they aren’t forgotten. It allows the entire team to access all of the information pertaining to their event in one place so everyone is in the loop and be active participants. No more searching through files for discussions and records. Everything is together and visible, making for a much more efficient planning process for your clients and for the team leader – you!

Basecamp is not perfect. There are things I wish it could do that it doesn’t. But they seem to be open to suggestions from their clients and are constantly adding features and making improvements. Seven months in, I’m very impressed, and most of my clients love it. Working through Basecamp has definitely improved my efficiency. I’m now taking fewer steps to complete a given task than I had previously. It’s still a work in progress while I continue to teach myself ways to effectively juggle professional and personal life, and I’m constantly learning new tricks and shortcuts within the software program. But a year later, I feel refreshed and refocused and that is in large part due to Basecamp. I encourage you to check it out!

Till next time, happy planning!

Wedding planner Lynn LeeWritten by Lynn Lee
www.weddingsunveiled.ca

Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.

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March 28, 2013 3:40 pm

Office Space vs. Home Office

When you first launch your wedding or event planning business, you will be faced with the decision of where to build your office. This is a question you’ll revisit several times throughout your business’ life, as your company grows and changes over the years. In this post, I’m weighing the pros and cons of these two career paths: office space vs home office.

As do many small businesses, most wedding and event planners launch their businesses from a home-based office. It’s a natural choice since it helps reduce the start-up costs of a new business, as well as the risks associated with establishing ourselves. Within my own market, all but three wedding planners continue to run their businesses out of their home, myself included! I have seen more than one planner move into formal office space without fully considering the costs versus benefits in doing so, just to have to up and move back home months later. I’m hoping by discussing this today, I might prevent you from finding yourself in the same situation!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating one option over the other. There is no doubt in my mind that I will never rent office space. It’s just not the right fit for me, both personally and professionally. But for many, getting in the car and driving to an office every morning is a necessary component of being a productive business owner. Being surrounded by personal things just doesn’t work for them, and I totally respect that. There are pros and cons of both situations and only you will be able to decide which suits you best. Here are just a few pros of setting up an office outside of your home environment:

  1. Getting away from temptations that can distract us from getting work done (e.g. refrigerator, TV, gardens, housework)
  2. Respect for our professional time. I can’t tell you how many “work” hours I lose each week dealing with questions from my children, or picking them up and driving them places,  just because I’m home and available. If I worked off-site, the respect for my work schedule would increase hugely
  3. Having a storefront can often increase your credibility as a business. It’s not viewed as a “side gig” all of a sudden
  4. Meeting clients is simplified with an office since they come to you, instead of your having to either travel to them or try to conduct business in a coffee shop. Plus the ability to host meetings within an office can increase your professionalism and credibility in your clients’ eyes
  5. You can take advantage of tax deductions associated with the costs involved in running an office
  6. When you leave your office at the end of the day, you are more likely to leave your stress there much more easily than if you were working from your home

Alternatively, there are also pros to working from a home-based office. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. It can be a great situation for women in particular, as they are able to remain available to their children and family better than they would be able if they were to work offsite
  2. You’re already paying your rent/mortgage anyway, so you don’t have to rent a separate space for your office, thereby reducing your costs
  3. A percentage of your lease/mortgage and home expenses can be used for tax deductions for your business
  4. Your productivity may be greater since more time is spent actually accomplishing work tasks and less time spent commuting to an office situation every day
  5. Some people love the flexibility in schedule. You can work sporadically through various periods of the day instead of having to maintain a more rigid 9-5 routine
  6. With less overhead, you are able to test out new ideas, change business direction, or scale down more easily since you don’t carry the same long-term commitments that you would leasing an office
  7. Many proponents for this style of office swear that it is less stressful and wonderfully free from office politics

There is no right or wrong option, just right or wrong for you! It’s important to consider all of the pros and cons before making your choice so that you can evaluate which is the best direction for your business. I do caution, however, that in addition to deciding which scenario is best, it’s as important to consider the timing of your decision. Here’s where the experience of my colleagues comes in.

During the evaluation process, you may decide that leasing is the way to go, as some of my colleagues have. But is it the right time to make this decision? When your business is just starting out, do you really want to obligate yourself to a long term financial commitment if you can avoid it? Maybe you don’t have the funds available to make it work. Or maybe you are wary of your newbie status and want to establish yourself prior to carrying unnecessary overhead costs. These are all good reasons to be cautious.

On the other hand, what if you’ve got a year or two under your belt? Maybe you’ve seen some success very quickly and are encouraged that your business will continue to thrive. That deserves some congratulations, and I can certainly understand the temptation to now grow into a formal space. Even I have considered it. This is exactly what happened to two of my colleagues.

Their first couple of years in business were very encouraging as they worked hard to establish their brands within the marketplace. Neither planner enjoyed working out of a home environment. They found it isolating and had difficulty staying motivated. So both women signed up for office space. They loved the new-found professional digs where they could meet clients and network with fellow professionals, all in very hip districts within our city. The move was probably viewed with envy by many other planners; I know I envied them. How wonderful would it be to enjoy increased visibility and gained credibility just by hanging your sign over a cobblestone walkway! But as I quietly envied, I also worried for these two women, wondering if they would be able to sustain such high overhead costs. I knew how hard I worked for my own income and how disappointing my earnings were given the hours of output. Were they really in that much better shape than I that they could spend thousands of dollars a year on formal space?

As it turns out, I’m not sure either were in much better shape than I was. That is my story of caution. The one planner in my market that is able to sustain office space and lofty financial commitments is also the planner who leads the market in sales. She has been in business for eight years and has a staff of four. Her ability to do multiple events each day is key. Her years of branding and networking allow her to enjoy a track record that helps predict future sales and growth, something a new planner wouldn’t have access to. Both of these colleagues saw a steady increase in the demand for their services. But I fear that both jumped the gun a bit and obligated themselves to office space before they had enough “earned” revenue to be able to pull it off.

The growth gave them hope that the next year was going to bring wild things, but when next year came, it was less than disappointing. All of a sudden, both realized that their growth had reached a bit of a plateau. Granted, the economy also played a role in decreased spending by their clients. The money they were shelling out to keep a roof over their business was so weighty that it prevented them from earning what they needed, and from allocating funds to marketing efforts that would have helped increase business. The jury is still out on my colleagues and whether or not they will be forced to move back “home” after the year’s commitment is up. Regardless of what they decide, I do know that each regrets jumping on the opportunity so quickly. If they had to do it again, they would take a more conservative approach.

I know what it’s like having your kids yelling at you when you’re trying to write an email. Having to schedule work appointments around picking up your kids from school. Trying to keep your focus when all you really want to do is sit out on the deck in the sun! But remember, it took great effort and discipline to build your business and that same effort and discipline can enable you to successfully work from home. Take a hard look at your business prior to committing yourself to any long-term commitments and take out your calculator while you’re doing it. You may be surprised at what you come up with.

Till next time, happy planning!

Wedding planner Lynn LeeWritten by Lynn Lee
www.weddingsunveiled.ca

Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.

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March 25, 2013 9:12 pm

Make Your Own Wedding Playlist

When it comes to weddings, it might just be the end of the Macarena.

That’s because more and more couples are opting to save money on DJs by creating their own wedding playlists. They also feel like choosing from their own iTunes collection adds an extra personal touch that a DJ simply cannot give.

It seems relatively easy – go through your iPod, choose a few hours’ worth of your favorite tunes, and you’re good to go! But creating a good reception playlist takes quite a bit of thought and careful planning if you want to pull it off successfully. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

People love to dance

People especially love to dance at weddings. If no one’s on the dance floor, you can bet that your guests will not have a positive lasting impression of your special day. Your very favorite songs just may not be the most danceable. If that’s the case, you have to let them go and opt for more poppy numbers that will have your guests grooving. But don’t forget the slow songs as well!

What’s the age range of your guests?

Try to be considerate when putting together your playlist, and include songs that can appeal to every generation. Personally, my grandma loves a good polka, and I would absolutely love to see her cutting a rug to an old polka tune on my wedding day. That’s what memories are made of.

It’s all about the flow

It will feel really strange to your guests if you follow up a modern pop song with 1970s rock. Instead, group songs into categories (like oldies, slow songs, and hip-hop), and send them out a few at a time. It will feel more natural, and people will stay on the dance floor for longer.

Have people heard this song?

If you’re the type of person to want to make your own playlist, you’re also probably the type of person to have an eclectic taste in music. That’s great! But this is not the time to introduce your guests to a new, unknown band. Play a wide variety of music, and choose songs that most people are sure to know.

We want to know: what songs must be played at a wedding reception? Leave us a comment below with your top picks for wedding songs!

Image via www.flickr.com