6 Ways NOT to Start Your Career as a Wedding Planner
Not many people actively try to be terrible at their job. However, sometimes being ignorant of best industry practices and standards can make you shockingly bad at what you consider to be a dream job.
Are you serious about becoming a wedding planner that clients will always remember—and not for reasons that you would like? Read our top 6 ways that event planners can sabotage their career in wedding planning before it even gets off the ground.
1. Do all your learning on the job
After dreaming about it for what seems like forever, you’ve finally decide to become a professional wedding planner. The décor, the buzz of excitement, being able to create the most special day for deserving couples, you love it all. But how do you transform what you love to do into a viable profession? You have such an eye for detail—the only way to learn is to jump right into planning your first wedding, right? But what about your legal status as an event planner? Do you have a business name? What will your clients expect of you?
Becoming the best event planner you can be is about training and preparation. Don’t make your first wedding event your first experience as an event planner. Have a plan and set realistic goals of what you can plan. In other words, practise due diligence as a wedding planner.
2. Be unsure of who your target market is
Time to develop your client base! Working with a client based on the other side of country is a non-issue if you have access to a private jet. Otherwise, you may want to look into narrowing down exactly what kind of demographic you’re aiming for. Checking your inbox every morning for messages from potential clients is exciting, until you realize that you actually have no idea who you want to work with. Do you know who you are as a wedding planner? Do you want to plan huge events with 6-digit price tags or are you more about a fusion between rustic and shabby chic?
While having a diverse style repertoire is fabulous, there is a huge difference between throwing Gatsby-esque luxury weddings and wanting to be a leading event planner in the green wedding movement. This obscurity is going to come across in your marketing as well; clients aren’t going to know if you are the right wedding planning for them. And the end result? A muddled (or non-existent) client base.
3. Guess at the wedding budget
Desperate to secure your client, you throw them the first figure that pops in your head when they ask for a bottom line. Yes, drawing from your experience with a similar type of event for a rough quote is appropriate—but past the initial consultation, you need to start talking firm numbers. Worse than pitching an unrealistic budget? Going in blind without a contract.
Part of knowing your target demographic is knowing what kind of event planning services you need to offer. This means knowing your own fee structure and including it in the budget! You may want to attract new clients, but always price your services appropriately. Don’t underprice yourself unless you want to set a risky precedent.
4. Pay for services out of pocket
A cardinal sin of wedding planning is paying for additional services for your clients with your own money. Negotiating with vendors is part of your job description. Absorbing wedding costs is most definitely not. Receive a retainer for your services upfront, and steer your clients toward the appropriate vendor, but then allow them to pay vendors directly.
That said, always confirm vendors booked by your client. You don’t want to find out on the day of the event that no one actually paid for a photographer to show up. Likewise, knowing how to price your services properly goes hand in hand with budgeting in terms of how you handle money with your client. Some couples assume that a wedding planner actually has her own team of people and that hiring a planner will include the services of her personal entourage. If you don’t make it clear that wedding planning is itself a valuable service, money will be a point of contention throughout the planning process.
5. Not have a wedding planning checklist
You have a couple weddings under your belt. At this point you feel comfortable knowing that you can plan an event and have it play out flawlessly. But don’t throw out your task calendar just yet. Organization is essential to every event, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned wedding planner or just about to work with your first paying client. The list of things a wedding planner needs to keep in mind is endless: venue, date, cake, dress, catering, guest list, photographer, rehearsal, and seating arrangements—it goes on and on.
Save yourself some sleep and any potential damage to your event planning reputation by having some type of planning system documented somewhere! Check off different tasks on the days leading up to and on the wedding. And make sure to prioritize!
6. Don’t know your bride
Have zero interest in the couple you are working with? While that’s a little odd for a wedding planner (you are planning what many people consider the biggest day of their lives, after all) not knowing your clients is a sure-fire way of making certain your clients won’t get what they want. How exactly do you intend to create a shortlist of suitable venues and vendors if you don’t ask the right questions?
Beyond budget— your client relationship is based on trust and compatibility, and the wedding is a joint effort: both of your professional eye as a wedding planner and the dream wedding your clients are envisioning. Before you disregard the need for emotional intelligence, know that not aiming for a balance between the business and human side of wedding planning is a pretty miserable way of starting off your career.