Managing Expectations with Event and Wedding Planning Clients

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Contract Verbiage for Wedding Planners, Contracts for Wedding Planners, Manage Expectations, Profitable Wedding Planning Business, Stress Relief, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t please everyone.”  So true. And yet, as wedding planners, we want to so badly.  Or, we are tired of having these expectations thrust upon us but wearily try to do so anyways; regardless, what needs to be done in these situations is to manage expectations. And that means from the very beginning.

Have a rock solid contract to help manage expectations from the start

I know it’s pricey to hire a lawyer to write your contract, but DO IT!  Not only does it manage expectations, it can save you from negative reviews and even foolhardy attempts at litigation. And compare notes with other planners and wedding vendors, too!  Be sure you know what pitfalls you need to pre-empt, what verbiage is appropriate, and what lingo is required in your state.  (And while I’ll give some contractual advice here in the blog, always run everything past a legal expert first!)

Manage expectations wedding planning couples clients event professionalEnsure your duties are listed clearly

In your proposal, enumerate EXACTLY what you do.  For example, a moderately priced full wedding planner should not be going to every single wedding dress shopping trip – that could take days!  I noted on my proposal that I attended one FITTING to learn how to bustle the dress.  Be as crisp as possible, and discuss with your prospective clients so you can get off on the right foot from before they even book you.

Don’t let Pinterest highjack your work

In your contract and in person, discuss with clients how fantastical and ornate design vignettes they see on Pinterest can take hours to setup.  In your contract, you’ll have verbiage that states you handle standard set up only – and list them: “escort cards, ceremony programs, and guest book” – finite, crisp, clear.  Do they have a few family photos they want set out? Fine.  What about menus at each table setting?  Maybe – possibly the caterer can do it, one way or another, you can figure that out.  But set up multiple levels, platters, and 5 different desserts? Nope!  In your contract (I’ve done this – but again, check with your lawyer), you can alert the couple that you reserve the right to elect to bring on board another assistant or designer to implement their setup if you decide it’s beyond your contracted duties.

Remember, you’re not all things to all people…You’re providing ONE service and can’t stretch like Elastigirl to do the jobs of many!  Having crisp paperwork to set the tone will easily manage expectations.

Need a sounding board?  Have a difficult situation on your hands? Struggling with cash flow? I can help with all these issues and more and provide a complementary 20-minute intake call.  Contact me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com!

The Low Wedding Budget: Just Say No

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Budget, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Cost, Wedding Decor | No Comments

I’m sure this title is controversial – and I’m sure it’ll anger some brides and grooms reading this. And trust me, I get very miffed when I see just how much it costs to have a wedding. But I also know how much it costs to run a business, pay for labor, and provide goods and services (at least, in dense, pricey cities like my home of L.A.).  Couples see a lot of DIY blogs online and think they can beat the system – and sometimes, a lower wedding budget can work, if thoughtful, methodical choices are made (I.e. food truck instead of 4 course dinner; rent a city park versus a luxury hotel). But I have ran into potential clients that want to pay an unrealistically low amount for a super lavish wedding; and the dots just don’t connect.

And when you as a wedding vendor sit down with a potential client and they want to have a bargain basement budget, it’s best to politely decline if the following occur:

An avoidance of reality: “I can make my wedding budget work – even if you say I can’t!”

Some clients listen, and agree that they need to re-calibrate their budgets. Others refuse to listen to reality. “But my cousin can provide the tequila and our best friend can bartend!” If there’s an insistence a first class wedding can happen on a bargain basement budget, you will never be able to convince them otherwise, and there will be too much time taken out of your schedule to try to convince them.

Smogshoppe wedding decor flamingo decor runners table wedding budget

Choosing a venue that has a unique look, like SmogShoppe here, can reduce the need for significant amount of decor. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography.

Cutting YOUR corners.

“You can use our extra speakers!” No, a DJ should use his/her own. “My housekeeper can wash your dishes!” No, a caterer should bring enough staff to do EVERYTHING.  “Our groomsmen can set up the decor for you!” No, a planner should always have their own staff.  A client that wants you to understaff or under-prepare beyond best and standard practices, so they can cut their budget, is penny wise, pound foolish.  Just say no.

In summary…

Being honest and kind in your discussion with couples is valuable in that you can bow out gracefully, and also help guide them to a successful event, regardless if you are involved.  Just remember that when you cut corners just to book that next job, it may cost you more mentally, and even financially, than it’s worth.

Questions? Email me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com, and meantime, happy planning!

Profit First | Tips for a Profitable Wedding Planning Business

By | Blush and Pink Wedding, Blush Wedding, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Profitable Wedding Planning Business | No Comments

It can be tricky to build a profitable wedding planning business. Too often, I find wedding planners focusing on volume.  The more events they book a year, the better.  While you do need to market yourself in such a way that once you fill your calendar comfortable, you are turning down potential new business, what’s more important is what you’re profiting per event –  not how many events.

Also, there are a lot of hidden costs to running an event planning business – the last minute additional staffing needs when a wedding becomes a bit more complex than originally planned, or your bookkeeper needs to untangle a few unique expenses and bill you more money.

Here are two tips to built a profitable wedding planning business:

Strategize the Right Mix of Events

Loading up on coordination jobs makes you less money than booking a few less in number of full planning, for example.  Look ahead and decide how many coordination, partial planning, and full you want to book in the coming year, and then develop marketing strategies to do just that. Write the goals down and check in weekly.

White Lilac large wedding Persian wedding blush Terranea wedding Large ballroom profitable wedding planning business

Large weddings like this one at Terranea, featuring over 500 guests, require lots of staffing; I factored this into my proposal from the beginning. Photo by John Solano, design and florals by White Lilac.

Protect Against Last Minute Costs

Client needs you to pick up their alcohol at the last minute – 1 hour from your office?  Oops! Cousin Freddy invited his 50 friends, and the guest count shot up?  Then the client has to pay more money in your direction.  Have ‘change in scope’ and ‘additional services and fee menu’ sections in your contract.  Mileage and staffing are hard costs and must be covered; also, your time is potentially a soft cost, but VALUABLE.  These ‘little’ fees add up hugely, and can kill your profit or keep you from building a profitable wedding planning business till it’s too late.

I’m here to help you build a profitable wedding planning business!

Don’t hesitate to email me to share your thoughts, or pick my brain – I mean it! I offer a 20 minute consultation “discovery” call with anyone needing some insight or curious about consultation services – or just to chat!  Absolutely no obligation. I’ve learned things the hard way and eager to share my hard knocks to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

Best wishes for a profitable enterprise.   Happy planning!

Wedding MBA 2018 Recap: Top Tips for Improving your Wedding Business

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

How has it been 4 years already that I’ve been able to speak and attend at the Wedding MBA? Time is flying! As usual, I had an incredible time meeting old friends and new at the conference as we all learned how to continually improve our wedding business.  Here are some highlights:

Amazing Exhibits from Wedding Vendors

First, I got to talk to the insurance pros at RV Nuccio about a unique situation at the venue where I now work.  They were super helpful (and as always had mints for the taking…thanks guys!)

As far as amazing presentation goes, check out this display from Fifty Flowers.  Incredible!

Chuppah with fruit and orchids from fifty flowers

lush fruit orchid chuppah rustic fifty flowers

Actionable Content from Industry Leaders and Wedding Business Owners

Fellow wedding business owners and executives shared key insight that you just can’t find anywhere else.  Sonny Ganguly, the CMO from Wedding Wire, basically gave a beyond-101-level class on enhancing SEO. He shared critical information from WeddingWire’s huge trove of research. Frankly this would be worth the price of admission alone.  Instagram is still the leader in reaching brides, and he gave some eye-opening examples of how to grab their attention on IG, as well as via other portals.

I sat in on several venue presentations, including wedding expert and founder of Carl House, BB Webb, who advised attendees to take cues from first-class venues on how to treat prospective clients.  Bending over backwards to make them feel special is the key.

Destination weddings presentation wedding MBA speaker Dee Gaubert

Listening, learning, and sharing at my Thursday morning session on Destination Weddings

Interactive, Supportive Attendees

At my “Into the Storm” presentation, about setting boundaries, vendors and planners shared stories they had with – interesting – issues they kept running into; the nods of recognition, the words of support, and the laughter of camaraderie illustrated to me what an incredible community of dynamic, caring professionals we’re all a part of.  It was so great to see!

If you attended, I hope you had an incredible time! If not, check out next year’s info and be sure to sign up.  Hope to see you there in 2019!

(Did you attend my seminars and have questions?  Want to pick my brain about the best the conference had to offer? Don’t be shy – email me at dee@noworriesep.com!)

Bookkeeping for Event Planners: 3 Tips

By | Bookkeeping for Event Planners, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Consulting for Creatives, Business Development, How do I hire a Bookkeeper | No Comments

We all know as business owners that keeping track of expenses, saving for taxes, and making sure your books are balanced is so important.  But bookkeeping for event planners is not an easy thing at first, because of the unpredictable schedule of being a planner – working in the service industry means a lot of time on the road, in the field, and away from your administrative, desk-based tasks.  Here’s how I tackled tightening up my bookkeeping processes.

Hire a bookkeeper!

Hire a pro! They do not need to be full time.  I hired a bookkeeper for an initial analysis and software recommendations; quarterly checkins; and end of year profit-and-loss and tax prep.  It did not cost a fortune and truly worth every penny.

Bookkeeping for event planners calclutor accounting for creatives

Invoice online.

If you can’t afford taking credit cards – and if your revenue is unsteady or you are in the first 2-3 years of your business, that’s a smart call – see if there are any cloud-based, bookkeeping and invoicing systems that use ACH deposits to take from your clients.  Try to find something that schedules invoicing so you don’t have to think about it – clients get regular invoices on time, so that they are well aware of when their next payment is due.  Then as the cash comes in, the software keeps track of it, and balancing the books just got a lot easier.

Automate your tax savings.

This can be a super tough aspect of bookkeeping for event planners (I speak from experience!). What helped me was having my CPA give me tax projections in Q1 of every year.  Then, I could set aside – or at least manage expectations – of what my taxes would be. I got quite accurate at planning ahead and it saved me a lot of stress and sleepless nights.  Schedule quarterly or monthly allocations to a separate bank account for taxes, and plot reminders in your calendar throughout the year to send your payments to the IRS.  Or you can also ask your bookkeeper consultant to do this, and they can remind you.

***

Don’t be afraid to hire a pro to help you manage this process – a little professional guidance means big time savings in stress, and possibly business fees and tax penalties.  Being organized = peak efficiency in all levels of your business!  And, I can’t recommend enough this book: Accounting for the Numberphobic.  It has outstanding small business advice and is actually pretty fun to read, too. Find it here – and happy planning!

Setting your Employees Up for Success

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Employee, Employee Tips for Event Planners, Independent Contractors | No Comments

I have had the experience of not only overseeing my own employees, but being a new employee at a couple different corporate settings in the past year or so.  I’ve learned a lot from both sides (the corporate on-boarding experience has certainly changed a lot, I’ll say that).  A bad start can have ripple affects that can hurt your business.  These key tips will make your new contractor or employee feel secure, so they can start kicking butt for you – and have fun doing it!

Give your employees the basics.

At a 5-star hotel I worked at recently, I was personally introduced to the entire corporate staff and as much of the banquet staff as possible. It was incredible – sure, I couldn’t recommend everyone’s name right away, but it gave me a solid sense of how the company worked, and also made me feel less shy when I saw new people in the hallways.  I was also shown every single common area, bathroom, and other important spaces.  No wonder people stay at that property for years!  The culture left a lasting impression on me.

Don’t feel you are pandering to someone or wasting time by methodically showing them around to all relevant colleagues in your organization, and showing them every nook and cranny of the space that they will be using.  They will feel like a stranger in a strange land, otherwise, and struggle to interact with people at first. It also makes them feel ignored or cast aside. Not a good start.

Ritz Carlton Ocean View wedding OrangeCounty Dana Point Employee

Photo by Studio Purdy.  I was based in L.A.; this event in Dana Point required me to work with Orange-County based contractors that I found via my network of high quality fellow event planners.  Making sure I sent these new contractors my manual ensured consistent service to my clients, despite the fact I hadn’t worked with them frequently before.

Have collaborative docs ready to go.

Be sure to do your homework and set up collaborative docs and systems before they arrive (google docs, Aisle Planner, etc).  It takes some time to delegate – if it’s your first-ever associate, you need to do the hard work of which assignments to give them, and how you two will use your shared systems.  But it only takes a couple days to get someone indoctrinated into most online project managers and documents – once you’re in, it’ll flow. But you absolutely have to do the carving up of assignments and adjustments of your systems before they arrive – otherwise, they may not have enough to do at first, and start off with confusion. This could lead to mistakes and wasted time – things no business can afford.

Write an employee manual.

If you work with ICs, this can be a contractor manual. Your payroll company or lawyer can advise on exactly how to work on this – but it’s super important for all employees to read and sign off on this. For event planners in particular, you need to lay down some ground rules, such as: No chewing gum, no social media sharing of events during event (or after, if client does not give permission), dress code, etc.

About to hire your first employee or contractor?  Need advice?  I’m here to help! Email me at dee@noworriesep.com!

 

A Pretty Pastel Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding

By | Blush and Pink Wedding, Blush Wedding, Malibu, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding, Malibu Wedding, Sally Pinera | No Comments

A Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding is always one for the books. For good reason:  the vistas on display at this property always take my breath away.  This is the reason why the venue has become so legendary here in Los Angeles – and dare I say, the world over.  There is nothing like it!

The bride and groom, Emma and Michel, lived in France for the initial part of planning, then moved to San Francisco.  Wisely, they booked me over a year in advance, and had ample time to carefully curate and construct their dream day. They had many guests flying internationally, and were able to have their wedding on a weekday, which made things even more seamless to plan.

The Wedding Vendors

The florist, Plenty of Petals, nailed the romantic, vineyard-inspired florals, Signature Party Rentals provided the chairs and tables, napkins were by La Tavola, and Bright rentals provided the rose gold silverware.  Other vendors included Vox DJs, Jacob Jurado (officiant), Tim and Co videography, Jamie Cakes, and Silver Service Catering.  The vibe was soft blush, rich organic greens, and French country furniture with rich wood texture.

The Planning Process- a Weekday Wedding!

While Emma and Michel lived abroad and then in San Francisco, we stayed in close touch.  Because many guests were flying in from outside of L.A., this was a destination wedding for many of them, and the couple chose to have the event on a weekday.  Not my first, actually – they’re a lot of fun!  Also, some vendors and venues have cost-effective pricing for weekday events.  They made sure guests knew well ahead of time when the event would take place, so they couljd request vacation days, book flights, and make overall “life” arrangements for the event.

Enjoy photos below, by Sally Pinera!

 

Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding floral backdrop border ceremony greenery blush

Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding floral backdrop border ceremony greenery blush

Rustic rose gold silverware malibu rocky oaks wood table napkin treatment olive branch

Lush bouquet dahlias greenery blush pink burgundy

Bridesmaids Blush bridesmaid gowns greenery rustic bouquets

Floral greenery wedding table runner figs grapes

altar floral border malibu rocky oaks greenery roses blush ivory

French country crossback chairs rustic malibu rocky oaks signature rentals

Destination Weddings | Paris

By | Destination Wedding, Paris, Paris Destination Weddings, Paris Wedding Photography, Paris Wedding Planner, Wedding Design, Wedding MBA, Wedding Planner, Yann Audic | No Comments

I’m heading to the Wedding MBA again this year (4th year in a row!) and hosting a Q&A on destination weddings. My preparation got me to taking a stroll down memory lane, looking at old documents and photos of the weddings, and I just had to share some of my favorites here; this post showcases stunning florals and venues from past Paris weddings.

Oh-so French Florals

Peonies featured big time in many of our weddings, particularly in the spring, when Paris is literally full of them! Florals by Estelle Preston – you cannot do better than hire her for your big day in Paris!

Photo by Yann Audic / www.Lifestorieswedding.com

Photo by Yann Audic / Lifestorieswedding.com

 

Perfect Paris Settings

You don’t have to have your wedding at the Versailles to have a truly stunning backdrop. Many cafes inhabit beautiful ornate buildings; very little decor is needed.

Top Two photos by Yann Audic;bottom photo by Olivier Lalin.

A Wedding Planning Podcast for Planners + Couples

By | Event Professional Podcast, Podcast, Wedding Planning Podcast | No Comments

My regular webinars for event pros have turned into podcasts!  At this link, you’ll find a wedding planner podcast have small but mighty nuggets of wisdom will get you through the toughest issues event pros encounter on a regular basis.

 

Soon (and based on a rather chaotic summer I just had on a personal level, I’m estimating “soon” is Winter 2018), I’ll have podcasts for couples as well, to help manage the wedding planning process as a consumer.

My concept for a wedding planning podcast was to share the struggles I’ve had, and how I overcame them – thus, in these podcasts, I’m offering actionable, concise, and real-world tested solutions and procedures you can easily repeat and use on your own.  From not standing your ground with a difficult client to selling your services at profitable pricing, I have lots to talk about. But, if you’re a wedding planner, you’re probably crazy busy and don’t have time to listen to a long podcast.  These are short podcasts, easy to listen to, and full of content, not empty chatter.

See podcasts here at the Aisle Survive website.
Enjoy, and email any thoughts, comments, or input at dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!

Be A More Assertive Event Planner : Practice Makes Perfect

By | Corporate Event Coordinator, Corporate Event Planner, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Event Planning Workshops, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

Have you ever worked at venue, and heard from management that you the most calm event planner (or one of) that they’ve worked with? When I’ve asked what they’ve experienced from other planners, I’ve heard stories of drunk planners, planners that have caused major drama, got into fights with vendors, etc.  Now mind you, I have a wide network of planners here in L.A. and know none of my compadres would ever act like this, but, as the years wore on and I bore the brunt of bad behavior from clients, guests and vendors, I could understand why planners get aggressive, reactive, and, well, un-calm.

I never let myself ‘lose it,’ but one thing I learned to do was be more assertive. I.e., stay calm, but not passive.  A couple times, I even raised my voice, but only when necessary. I do think that it’s great to be calm, but it can’t be at the expense of your well-being and the quality of your client’s event or of your business (when a client needs some boundaries set).  I will say, it gets easier the more you practice. Here’s some tips.

Call a company and negotiate, even if it’s not as an event planner.

Why not? It can be your wifi, your office rent lease renewal, or shoot, just call your credit card company and ask for a better APR. Use measured approach and validate it with a good reason (“I did some research, and an office building next door is charging less than what I’m paying now – so my rent needs to stay the same for the next year.”). These lower-level negotiations will prepare you to be tougher in more tense situations.

Strengthen your contract and stick to it.

If I had a nickel for every time a client innocently started involving me in rehearsal dinner plans (when I’ve been clearly hired just to work the wedding)…  I finally added in italics that these events are clearly additional services, just to reinforce what exactly my contract covered. Then I felt more comfortable telling the client they’d have to pay extra for these services.  The first time, I had butterflies in my stomach; after that, I didn’t blink.  And the clients were grateful for my honesty, and some even hired me to help with their additional events.

Let ‘er rip – when you really need to.

I’ve only raised my voice 3 times in nearly 200 events. Twice, it was towards staff or vendors’ staff that were not listening. I politely and firmly asked for something several times – no response. (Was it because I was a *female* event planner? I wonder.). Finally, I raised my voice a shout.  And it worked! I know we shouldn’t have to do it, but a) if there are no guests around and b) it’s a vital, time sensitive issue, than IMO, it’s okay to raise your voice.  (The third time was to an inebriated, aggressive guest who was harassing me – raising my voice stunned him so much, he scurried away!)