Category Archives: Event Planner

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!)

Event Planners: How to Deal when things get Personal

By | Consultant, Corporate Events, Event Planner, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

As a wedding planner, I learned more about diplomacy than a degree in international politics probably ever could!  What helped me deal with situations with extraordinarily irrational elements was developing empathy and being a consummate professional, and event planners can do so easily with a little forethought. Here’s how.

1.  Try to Figure out What’s Going On.

No need to actually ask the person what their problem is (unless you feel it’s appropriate!) – but perhaps you overheard the bride talking about her deceased father, or the party host talk about being laid off recently.  Something could be going on in their lives that while it doesn’t excuse their behavior, it allows you to give them a pass so you don’t overreact.

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This is the end result you want to get for your clients – all smiles after a great evening. You can get there the easy way, or the hard way, depending on how well you set boundaries.

2. Event Planners need to Be Kind but Firm when things get Personal.

For wedding planners especially, it’s important to remember while your clients are in an emotional space, you are not.  You are at work, being a professional. It’s no different than a bank teller or a financial planner – you wouldn’t expose them to the latest fight with your mom or cry on their shoulder, would you?  So your clients should treat you professionalism as well.  It’s as easy as saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but my job is to create and run a beautiful wedding day.  When you have resolved your personal issues, let me know what your final decision is.  Let’s talk now about the dessert table (change the subject.)

3.  Be Clear in your Legal Agreements about Services.

If a client wants you to research 15 photographers when 5 would suffice, there should be a limitation in your contract where you reserve the right to charge additional when their needs go over and above reasonable limits.  This should be clearly stated BEFORE they hire you, too.

For more information about consultation and education for event planners, click here.  Happy Planning!

Setting Boundaries with Wedding Clients

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Difficult Clients and Vendors, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding | No Comments

An unexpected thing happened when I started wedding planning:  People lower their guard with wedding planners, and suddenly you’re treated like a therapist – or punching bag.  Some of the sharply worded, irritable, or just plain mean treatment totally blew me away, or highly reactive behavior – like the bride who called me at 11pm on a Saturday night to tell me the photo of the prototype of her bouquet made her cry (after she tried to tell the florist the exact recipe to use, which of course wouldn’t look right because the bride wasn’t a florist!).  Clearly, I needed to set boundaries with some brides, grooms, and family members and friends. Here’s how I did it.

Smogshoppe Wedding Boundaries clients

Photo by Marble Rye Photography

Set Boundaries from the Beginning

The best way to do this is to set expectations and boundaries from the beginning – I mean from before the clients even hire you.  You must set a sense of authority and expertise, and be clear that there are ground rules for communication, including office hours and a general good attitude when talking.  I was a bride and I know how stressful it can be – but we’re not saving lives here: There’s no need to have an anxiety attack over whether or not the quartet can learn the exact arrangement of the pop song you want playing as you walk down the aisle.

Peony Boutonnierre Peony Boutonierre  Boundaries wedding clients Mulberry Row florist Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding peonies

Photo by Iris and Light

Pick the Right Clients.

If potential clients don’t like your no-nonsense (but kind) attitude, they aren’t a good fit. You’re not a non-stop ‘yes man,’ you’re a voice of reason. If they want an enabler, they can go somewhere else.

Make it Legal!

Then, be sure your contract supports your boundaries, and lays in place parameters for how you communicate.

Once you start establishing your authority, your life will change, and your work will be more joyous, and your clients will be grateful for your support.  To learn more about boundaries, email me at dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!

Hiring the Best Wedding Vendors

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Event Planner, Facebook, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist, Wedding Vendor Negotiation | No Comments

By Dee Gaubert | Owner, No Worries

Every year as the holidays roll around, the wedding industry clamors about “engagement season”- and yeah, this is the time, from December through January, where we get super busy taking incoming inquiries and generally book up to 60% of our dates for the coming year.  It’s appropos then to share some insight about booking wedding vendors.

Remember, there is no real barrier to entry for most wedding vendors.

A DJ has to have specific technical skills, sure, but has he or she practiced mc’g in front of large crowds?  A florist doesn’t necessarily need to be formally trained to start his or her own business. And wedding planners and coordinators need really NO technical training, nor does there seem to be any formal qualifications and standards set by a leading organization to follow. (Corporate planners can get their certified meeting planner designation, which is respected as definitive by the industry, but in the wedding world there are a variety of certification programs by competing organizations for weddings and none of them are considered “the” one to get.)

So when you interview a prospective vendor, it’s good to see how they are viewed in the industry. Do numerous venues sing their praises?  Is their Yelp page full of 100s of reviews? (Remember, Yelp isn’t the end-all be-all of legitimacy, but it is a good indicator that a business has been around for a bit.)  They don’t need to have graduated from “DJ School,” but they should have a solid level of experience and savvy in what they do.

Tray passed appetizers wedding vendors Los Angeles Wedding Jenna Janelle Rose Wedding photography cost of wedding catering

Your wedding: Not the time to go cheap on food. Tray passed appetizers here are by Huntington Catering Company, Photo by Jenna Rose (JennaJanelleRose.Com)

Benchmark prices carefully.

I know weddings aren’t cheap these days, and it’s a struggle couples go through. But if you go cheap on a vendor, you’ll pay a price.  I’ve had weddings where, to the person, the vendors that were charging below-market price were the ones with which we had significant issues – including a florist that was sloppy and left damage at a venue that would have cost the client hundreds to thousands in their security deposit. (The florist came back later and managed to fix the damage.)

First, put together a solid, cohesive budget.  Then, carefully compare prices from competitors in a variety of categories.  If there is a vendor that is significantly less expensive, there are a few reasons why:  1.  They may have another job, which isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s important to make sure they will uphold reasonable work ethic and response times, which is easy to check by calling a few references; 2.  They may be just starting out – so it’s important to see what prior experience they have, since anyone can pretty much get a business license for performing work in the wedding industry; and/or 3. They do a very high volume of work for very low prices.  I speak from experience when I say this means you will get a longer response time and less of a personal touch from these vendors, nearly every single time. For a wedding cake, maybe (maybe) this is no problem. For a photographer or DJ, you will want a more intensive flow of communication.

Norris photo los angeles church wedding vendor

A church wedding ceremony can be cost effective, support the community, and provide a gorgeous setting for your wedding. Photo by Don Norris (Norrisphoto.com)

 

A good wedding vendor sets boundaries.

My life changed a few years ago, when I added office hours to my contract.  A good vendor has good boundaries, and ultimately they help the client.  It’s important to know when wedding vendors are usually available (this blog post is helpful as to what is typical in the industry), and to understand that if a vendor can compartmentalize when and how they work for you, they can manage your event better because they are focused on pre-set, efficient work hours and deadlines and can be super productive in the times they devote to your project.

Does that mean I haven’t squealed with delight and texted right back to a client who shot me a photo of her dream dress at 7pm on a Monday night?  Or that I haven’t suggested a Skype at 8pm with an out-of-state client that works 60 hour weeks, or a weekend walkthrough of a venue? Of course, I am flexible and meet clients halfway whenever possible with my time. But be aware, and respectful, of wedding vendors, and ask ahead about when they usually take appointments and correspond with clients.

For more solid, realistic advice, my guide the Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths will steer you well; and hang around our Facebook page to learn when we’ve posted a new article on the blog.  Happy Planning!

Calamigos Malibu Wedding:Bright + Beautiful

By | Calamigos Malibu Weddings, Catering, Event Planner, Rustic Wedding, Vox DJS, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

I had the true pleasure of working with this couple for their wedding last year, and I can’t believe it’s been that long!  they chose Calamigos Malibu for their wedding, and their colors were bright and vibrant, as brought to life by McCann Florist.  They were a fun and playful duo, and they and their families and friends made for a heartfelt evening full of stories and levity.  They also provided classy, rustic wood elements such as signage and escort ‘cards’ (of thin wood slices).

True Photography and First Look Films captured the best moments (and then some) and the team at Calamigos worked with Catering By Brenda, who provided the kosher meal.  Continental Bakery provided the delicious cake and Robert Corral of Vox DJs provided lighting and entertainment.

The space at Calamigos Malibu was the Redwood Room, a space that has been renovated in past years and reminds me of a mountain retreat with stone, wood, and other natural elements.

Rabbi Joe Menashe staged the ceremonial elements beautifully and performed a heartfelt ceremony, and La Folia provided classical music before, during, and after the wedding ceremony.

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Ceremony Malibu Calamigos Chair Aisle Decor

Ceremony Under Chuppah Calamigos Ranch

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Escort card table wood slices

Sushi Cocktail Appetizer Wedding

Jewish Wedding Ceremony Elements

Purple Orange Flowers White Wedding cake

Round Wood Wedding Signage

Calamigos Oak Room Ballroom Wedding

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Calamigos Ranch Oak Room Ballroom Wedding

Real Destination Wedding: La Quinta

By | Destination Wedding, Event Planner, Guest Books, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Palm Springs Wedding Planner | No Comments

This destination wedding was just pure joy – our music-loving, awesome couple hired a killer band, Entourage by DeBois, had charming decor, and a fabulous backdrop in the Merv Griffin Estate.

When choosing a venue, the couple wanted an estate that could also serve as home base for their bridal party and family for the weekend. The Merv Griffin Estate has room for around 20 people total, and is absolutely huge – there is a lake on the property! Yet, despite the glamorous grandeur, it had an open, welcoming feel, as well, and is impeccably kept and managed.

We secured room blocks at hotels nearby and also provided transportation for many guests to ensure they could fully enjoy the evening’s events.  The couple’s passion for music was reflected in a vinyl guest book – guests signed records with silver pens as a momento to keep forever.

Catering was by Modern Art Catering, paper goods by Paper Source and Sloane Harmony Design, flowers by Desert Blooming Events, Cake by Dot’s Cakes, videography by KS Photo and Film, photography by Michael Segal, rentals by Signature Party Rentals, and planning by yours truly.

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Program by Sloane Harmony Design

Program by Sloane Harmony Design

 

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Business Builders: What we can learn from Prince

By | Business Builders, Business Development, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Prince | No Comments

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Like most, I was shocked and saddened by Prince’s death last week.  Being obsessed with my business at any given time (as most self employed peeps tend to be), I immediately started thinking about his life insofar as how I could learn from it as a businessperson.  It wasn’t a stretch, at all.  He was a hardworking, honest, brilliant man and he had great business practices, too.

  1. He protected his best interests.  Prince changed his name to a symbol in order to get out of what he thought were overbearing contracts with his record company. He also always fought for pure artistic control. While it’s good to meet clients in the middle with their fair requests, it’s also important to make sure to protect your interests as a business if an unfair request is made.  If your gut is telling you something is amiss, listen closely, and act wisely.
  2. He supported and mentored others – especially women. Think of other artists, male or female, and what other artists they have helped succeed. I can’t think of any that match Prince.  From Sheena Easton to Sheila E to Wendy and Lisa, he has brought talented female artists to the forefront of pop, sharing his stage generously. I have so many outstanding relationships with fellow planners; it’s a wonderful community.  I hear from time to time there may be a propensity for cliquishness, though I have never experienced this. For me, sharing information and resources is great business and more importantly, reflects a passion for supporting our community, particularly the women working hard to be self reliant and successful.  And if this means grooming a contractor who works for you and then one day she/he starts their own business,that’s okay. I actually love working for, and with, my past employees! It’s fun, and we rely on each other to talk us through crazy days, share tips and crucial info, and overall it boosts the economy, and our industry, in both big and small ways.
  3. He innovated.  In a recent interview, quoted here, Questlove said, “Prince is probably the only artist who got to live the dream of constant innovation.”  He was constantly playing with new ways of developing music.  As event planners, we have to constantly watch for the next trend, next idea, next way to engage attendees with social media, etc.  We teach our clients Pinterest, get a business Dropbox account for sharing large files, and stay engaged on Instagram and track the ever changing algorithms of Facebook and Google. I’m always on the hunt for new educational seminars, webinars, and articles to help me see what’s on the horizon, and chatting with fellow planners is a great way to do this as well.
  4. He was multidisciplinary.  He once said, The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can. Prince played a bazillion instruments, and brilliantly.  As planners, we need to have a wide range of knowledge. I’ve taken classes with florists (with Flower Duet and Flour LA) to learn more about decor and florals; taken seminars on lighting; and floor managed for caterers, to give an example of my attempts to better educate myself so I can best learn to advocate for the best options for my clients – and to educate them, as well.

I have a lot more work to do – it’ll never end, really – to constantly hone and refine my expertise as a planner, even though I’ve already come a long way; but thinking of all he accomplished is one way to encourage me to keep striving.  It’s a testament to who he was as an artist that he has that power – to inspire us!

How to Hire a Wedding Planner or Coordinator

By | Day of Coordinator, Event Planner, How to choose wedding vendors, Los Angeles Wedding Coordinator, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding | No Comments

I blogged about five questions to ask a coordinator or planner a few years ago, and I’m now writing today with a more in-depth article on how to find and choose one – reflecting the current needs of brides and grooms today.

 Consider exactly what service you want. The past two years, I’ve seen the number of wedding coordination bookings lessen, and surging ahead in popularity are my Partial Planning and custom consultation packages.  The reason is, people are strapped for time and need expertise given to them quickly and accurately.  These services save couples money in the long run; we often can pre-negotiate and warn clients of costly missteps when we are more intensively involved in the planning process. Also, having a life while you are planning your wedding is nice, too.

Weddings at private estates, like this intimate affair at Malibu Rocky Oaks Vineyard, take intensive time and labor to pull off flawlessly. Photo by Dave Richards Photography.

Weddings at private estates, like this intimate affair at Malibu Rocky Oaks Vineyard, take intensive time and labor to pull off flawlessly. Photo by Dave Richards Photography.

Do your research on pricing.  Comparable-quality vendors have similar price points.  If one or two are out of wack from the majority of quotes you are getting, ask them why.  Some vendors are newer and less expensive; be sure you can trust their work and check their references.  I also talk about this in a recent podcast, here – knowledge is power, and being educated will allow you to discuss pricing in a fair and effective manner with a potential vendor.

“Day of” Is a misnomer.  Every now and then I receive a call from a potential client who insists they only need a “day of coordinator” just to “run the day”.  I understand there may be some information or opinion floating about there in the universe that allows someone to think that a coordinator does not need to be involved till, say, a few days prior.  Many times I’ve stepped into an event 3-4 weeks prior and there are a significant amount of final elements left undone – like a proper timeline, linen count, final menu choices, etc. etc.   And certainly, there are also clients where at 2 months out, they are already rock solid with a lot of details. But consider a coordinator an agent of final due diligence and essential project management, speaking with all the vendors and passing info from to another, and correcting some things and adjusting others.  We can spot a disaster waiting to happen, too – a seemingly innocuous detail can cause serious issues on the day of, and we’ll hone in on those potential issues.  We’ll chase down info from vendors, and chase down info from the client FOR the vendors. The vendors don’t all talk to each other; they need someone to connect the dots.

All set and ready to go...starting a ceremony on time takes careful prep in the weeks prior to the big day. Photo by True Photography. Venue: Calamigos Malibu. Florals: McCann Florist.

All set and ready to go…starting a ceremony on time takes careful prep in the weeks prior to the big day. Photo by True Photography. Venue: Calamigos Malibu. Florals: McCann Florist.

 

I’ve seen massive holes left un-addressed and even if everything is locked up tight, I need to be prepared before the day of so I know how to manage everything. Otherwise, I’ll be constantly behind the curve and scrambling to keep up – and guess who will be to blame if anything goes wrong, that could have been fixed ahead of time? That’s right- the coordinator.

My value for showing up on one day – with no prep work – is at least several hundred dollars. My day rate for working for caterers as a floor manager, for example, is around $350 for 8 hours.  Add a few more hours of time at the event; and acknowledging I work 30 weekends a year usually so I have to make it worth my while; and, add the assistant I MUST have (no matter how big or small the wedding), you’re looking at almost 1k.   So, it makes sense to get the whole set of wedding coordination services for a little more money, and get way more value out of the caring hand-holding and resourcefulness of a coordinator working just for you.

My book The Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths has more must-have info about planning your wedding, and my door is always open at dee@noworriesep.com. Happy planning!

 

Grazing Tables for Weddings

By | Dessert Table for Weddings, event design, Event Design Tips for Weddings, Event Planner, Flowers, Grazing Table for Weddings, wedding flowers | No Comments

I am fortunate enough to work with a variety of cultures.  Many of them are focused on displays of abundance – to graciously offer delicious food and thus show hospitality to their guests.

My take on this is what is known as a Grazing Table.  I played with some ideas based on this ‘greige’ colored tablecloth by Luxe Linen, which triggered a design of earthy foods like nuts and whole fruit, classic crisp colors, and vintage serveware (crystal cut bowls, slightly tarnished silver pieces).  Our florals featured white hydrangeas and drapes of seeded eucalyptus, as well as sweet bud vases with vendella and sahara roses. (Photos kindly provided by the awesome Jillian Rose Kling of Jillian Rose Photography.)

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Not only does a beautifully styled table of food serve as a conversation starter, it also absorbs alcohol throughout the night (!) and offers a chance to display heirloom serveware, utilize a design theme, or otherwise show off your personality.

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Food can be customized to the couples’ taste or season – tea biscuits and pastries for a bride who loves to take her tea every afternoon, or perhaps luscious whole fruits and spa water for a summer wedding.

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When planning the table, it’s best to ensure your caterer handles the setup and refilling for health and safety purposes. Cheese and meats can only be set out for so long; these may be ideal for the cocktail hour, and then switched out for more temperature-stable foods for the rest of the night.

Regardless of what you do, grazing tables are another great opportunity for brides and grooms to show off their style, and please their guests. For more ideas about design, style, and wedding planning, sign up for our monthly newsletter here.  Happy planning!

Real Wedding: Party Animals at SmogShoppe

By | DIY, event design, Event Design Tips for Weddings, Event Planner, J Huffman Photography, king Protea wedding flower, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, SmogShoppe, Uncategorized | No Comments

When great ideas and great execution collide, you have the definition of successful event design.  We love taking our clients’ ideas and transforming them to tangible decor that has a purpose at their event.  In this case, for Hayley and Nick’s wedding, they wanted to implement the fabulous “Party Animal” theme with bright colors, flamingo figurines, and the playful shape of the king protea.  We created fun and stylish centerpieces, had a spray paint ‘clinic’ on how to class up the flamingos with an ivory and gold sheen, and weighed in on the selection of chic table runners from Luxe Linens.  The couple’s details – animal masks, menu and signage design, perfectly painted mini animals, and a station for advice givers – were so clever. Together we worked to create a cohesive design for a wedding that truly was a party!

Vendors and Venues:

Ceremony: St. Timothy’s

Venue: SmogShoppe

Photography – the awesome J Huffman Photography

Videography – George Street

Catering – Huntington Catering Company

Reception Music – DJ Swon from Red Shoe LA

Cocktail Hour Music – Jenny Luna and Alex Logan

Florals – No Worries

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