Wedding planner – the hard questions
It has taken me a year to write this post. Yes, I’ve been busy…but really, I wanted to accumulate my experiences to write a post that is based on my journey and learnings. The real stories. Here I’ve written it into some of the common hard questions I get asked when I see clients for the first time.
Enjoy and I hope through this you understand a little more about me and about wedding planners in general and it may assist you in your process of finding the right planner for you.
There are thousands of wedding planners…what’s the difference?
Yes, the wedding planning industry is highly saturated. Just google or Facebook search and you’ll find hundreds in your local area alone. We all claim to be experienced, creative, save you money, connect you with excellent suppliers, be your friend, so on and so on…
Assuming the above are all true, to me, the difference is in the personality and character of your wedding planner. It’s how I connect with you, your situation, your values, your vision, your ideas, your ways of working, your energy…
VP & TP – time poor business owners with big visions for their grand wedding. They are the loveliest couple, hard working, incredibly smart, talented and family is their core value. I work with VP’s style, when she’s available, which is anywhere between 9pm to midnight. We spend more time talking about our families and sharing stories about growing up, love, life compared to the time we discussed the decisions for the wedding. That is because we’ve connected, bonded and clicked in a way that I knew what is important to her, her partner and their family. I knew the 30 kids at the wedding are just as important as the elders and so suggested a children’s entertainer. It was a hit. On another occasion, I was invited to visit the families for the first time and was introduced to at least 40 people that night, from young to old. Everyone was bubbling with excitement for the wedding and naturally wanted a part to play on the day. I knew that this would actually make my job much harder but I went with it and navigated the many situations…one of which was spending hours helping out in the kitchen. Because at the end of the day I’m a part of the wedding, a part of the family for the time being and getting the job done is what matters.
So it’s just a couple of examples how the right wedding planner, with the right personality and attitude is important for you.
Does your client have trust in you and your plans
Trust is critical and key to the success of the wedding day and is the foundation for the relationship between a wedding planner and their client.
Like any relationship, trust is earned and demonstrated through actions. It’s about having open conversations and being transparent about what I’m doing for the wedding, about myself, my life and so on. I invest time in building relationship, sharing and keeping my client informed. This is the basis for trust and is far better than the various wedding planning documents I create. When my client trust me, they often don’t even read or review the documents I send them. They trust that I have their best interest at heart…and that I do. Every client and every wedding that I work on, I care for it like my little babies. I don’t take it lightly because I get one shot at it and I gotta give it my best and my all. With this commitment, it shows in my work and in what I do. So far every single one of my clients have believed and trusted me.
VP & TP – Trust is when your client brings you into their family circle and announced “this is my wedding planner, she will organise and take care of everything” then turns to you to say “this is my family, you just tell us what you need us to do”.
Trust is when my beautiful clients refer me to their friends. Trust is when my client’s parents ring after the wedding to personally thank me for my help. Trust is when client relationship becomes friendships after the wedding.
Do you have the experience?
A year isn’t a long time to call myself an experienced wedding planner. But when I reflect on a year that has been, I can celebrate a few achievements. Those are accolades I can attribute towards my so call “experience”. 7 weddings that I have planned/coordinated , 2 bridal expos, 2 bridal editorial photoshoots and a handful of non wedding related events.
Yes, those numbers may just be enough to impress you. However experience is far better demonstrated through my knowledge, network and supplier relationships…
It’s far better demonstrated through the many years I volunteered, managed, lead, planned and organised countless events for community groups. It is perhaps demonstrated through the work experiences I did with some of the best well known wedding industry experts.
Or perhaps it is…
Daniel & Cindy’s pre wedding celebration we planned, organized, designed, styled and coordinated in less than 5 weeks, for 120 guests. Experience allowed us to be quick, agile and efficient. We negotiated and successfully brought external Asian catering for the first time to a venue that has never previously allowed it before. Experience is dealing with last minute crisis when we got asked to fix the wedding cake and we bravely sliced off the entire top to re-decorate it with fresh flowers.
What’s your style?
I like details, plans, creating visions, thinking outside the box, finding solutions…a little OCD on the planning…and honestly not creative enough to call myself a maker of anything. Let’s be real here, a planners job is to project manage, problem solved, advise, consult, find the most effective and suitable vendors for you, keep you on budget, create list, schedules and more lists. A planner’s job is to execute the plan, to lead, to coordinate and to keep calm in all situations. A planners job is to deal with crisis, make difficult decisions, weigh up the options…
Planners implement their client’s vision and has a team of creative doers to back them up. That is my style. Teamwork! I work with you to find inspiration, to discover your vision, to be excited by your dreams and together with a team (big or small), we make it happen.
Kate & Trac’s Wedding – these two love birds dreamt of a mid afternoon garden wedding ceremony in the summer that cruises into the evening reception with an ice cream cart, pre dinner drinks and canapés. It was a lovely dream and planned to a tee and it was to happen at the popular Rippon Lea Estate.
About 40 mins to start time, as we were setting up chairs for the garden ceremony, it started to spritz lightly with rain. It was so brief, 3 minutes maybe then it stopped. We were all a little surprised, looked up at the sky, saw some dark clouds in the horizon and wondered. At that moment, I opened up my trusted weather app, looked at the radar and saw big clouds coming in. It had stopped raining but I instructed the team to execute the wet weather plan. So like little ants, we carried all the chairs and decor into the pavilion. As this was happening, dear Kate rang me on the phone and said “I want to have the ceremony in the garden…please set it back”. I knew this was too big a big risk and walked over to her and explained the situation, the clouds, how the air felt moist and how we’ve already moved most of the chairs. She wasn’t too happy but I managed to convince her. So as guests arrived, 10 minutes before the bridal entrance, the heavens opened up and it didn’t just rain, it bucketed…and didn’t stop for the entire night!
It was a decision that was 60% based on observations and 40% luck. It was however the right decision in the circumstances, weighing up the risks and removing emotion from the decision making process. But that is what a wedding planner must deal with and I think it takes a certain style to do that well.
Who would use a wedding planner?
Let’s start with, do you know what a wedding planner does? Probably not. Most tend to confuse a wedding planner and a stylist. In short a wedding planner is your super organised personal secretary or PA that does whatever you need for your wedding. From little things to big things. A stylist is the person that looks after the visual aspect of your wedding. So, who uses a wedding planner?
1) Someone that understands the role of a wedding planner, leverages the planners’ skills and experience in order to have a stress free, worry free, relaxed wedding planning journey and wedding day.
2) Someone that has the vision and ideas on what they would like for their wedding but is feeling overwhelmed by google search results or is not quite sure how to bring their vision to life.
3) Someone that is time poor. Simply does not have the time or energy to organise the many aspects of a wedding. Why waste all the time to visit different venues when a planner can provide a short list that are a good fit for your requirements.
4) Someone that wants to ensure they are paying the right price for the various services coming together on their big day. A wedding planner knows the market, gets better prices through negotiations and relationships with suppliers, and can save you real money.
Do you make commissions or take referral incentives from wedding suppliers?
Traditionally, it is not uncommon for wedding planners to be incentivised to refer business to one another. However whilst this may still occur around the industry, it is now very easy through social media to discover supplier connections and determine if your planner is taking commissions.
I charge appropriately for my service and thus feel no need to take commissions. Any wholesale prices I can access is passed onto my clients as value added services. More importantly, I like to use the same suppliers because I know they have my back and because they are suppliers I trust to deliver what I’ve promised to my clients. As my reputation and work quality is at stake, it’s more important for me to refer back to suppliers I trust rather than making the extra buck here and there.
Alright I’ll be honest and say there are perks and occasionally I get a free meal or a bottle of wine at Christmas.
What do you charge?
It’s been a year, and the fact is, I’m still working out what is a reasonable charge for my service.
So far all my clients have been happy with what I charge versus what I deliver. I can say with certainty that all my clients received a lot more than they expected of my services.
My price structure is based on either of the below.
1) a flat service fee
2) % of the budget that I’m managing for you
It is reasonable to expect that a more extravagant wedding with a bigger budget will require more planning, organising, follow up, site visits, supplier meetings, documentations and so on…thus the planner’s job naturally requires more effort and time.
I encourage you to ask the hard questions when searching for and choosing your wedding planner. It’s important to find a planner that you have an instant connection, they can quickly tune into your your style/ideas and they have the right level of experience for your needs. You should feel comfortable in communicating with your planner and at the same time have confidence and trust in them.
Lastly, I leave you with a funny story from my very first wedding I coordinated.
V&S – First time solo on the job at an all Italian wedding, at an Italian venue in the inner northern suburb of Melbourne and this is how it happened. “Can you please follow me to the kitchen. We have a serious situation requiring your attention”. With my cool and calm face on, I followed the function manager into the kitchen where there were a circle of service staff surrounding the work bench. The head chef holding the biggest knife in his hand and everyone looked in my direction. Goodness, all sorts of scenarios came to mind as I took a big gulp and thought…”OMG, I hope someone knows of my whereabouts”…and the chef said “Look Betty, I’m about to serve the wedding cake, but it’s crumbling…what do you want us to do?”. Oooooh, the cake…right! That is a very serious situation. I was so relieved that my response was “Let see what it taste like”. Well, it tasted great despite crumbling around the edges. So we saved it, plated it and got it out to the guests. This is how I learnt to keep calm and eat cake!