If you’re a wedding planner, you know how to manage the three H’s inherent in putting together every magical wedding: happiness, hysteria and high-stress.
But even the most Zen wedding planners struggle with some pretty unavoidable challenges. Here are seven of the most common roadblocks and strategies to overcome them.
1. Bridezillas and Groomzillas
Once upon a time, a bride used to be considered the controlling, emotional and demanding one of the pair. Hence being dubbed the word “bridezilla.” However these days, it’s almost just as likely to also include the groom. “Bridezillas want to be princesses,” writes Craig Bridger, author of Surviving Groomzilla, “But Groomzillas want to be gods.” Yikes. There are a few tips for handling the terrible twosome:
- Inspire trust by demonstrating the expertise you have. Peppering your conversations and correspondence with “Here’s how I usually handle this…” or “In my experience…” Remind them why they hired you so they understand and accept that you are the professional.
- Ask the bride and groom to be “in charge” of different details of the wedding. Maybe she chooses flowers and he chooses the cake. He does wedding favors; she does table settings. (You can sell it as a way to “surprise” one another—very romantic.) Bonus for you: you’re dealing with only one tyrant at a time.
- Try to maintain that unflappable demeanor that landed you into this high-pressure business in the first place. When the “complain train” begins, acknowledge what they may consider a disappointment, but distance yourself from the emotions associated with it. (In other words, don’t get caught up in their drama.) Hopefully, they’ll follow your professional lead and move forward.
- Don’t take abuse. You know better than anyone that weddings are high-emotion affairs and couples want the best of the best for their big days—which could lead to conflict. If you find yourself being berated, it’s important to point out that you work better when you are treated with respect—and solutions to problems that arise are that much easier when everyone is calm and less high-strung.
2. Unrealistic Clients
You’ve probably encountered clients who simply don’t know what to expect from a wedding planner—or how much value you bring to their event. It’s important to manage new client expectations by showing them the value of your services when you first meet.
Consider keeping your skills up-to-date by getting certified and joining industry trade associations in your community. You can share your credentials with your clients to further legitimize what you have to offer. You might even take on speaking engagements to share tips on wedding planning. Chances are, the thoroughness of your approach will make prospective clients realize they couldn’t ever pull it off as beautifully as a professional—and you don’t have to take that extra step of educating them about your awesomeness.
3. Working Amongst Inexperienced Competition
You can usually spot them a mile away. The “wedding planner” who’s apoplectic over a million tiny disasters on a wedding day. He or she usually has limited prior experience and brings undue stress for the couple and the other vendors. The only edge these fly by nighters have on professionals like you is that they charge less, which can lower the bar for real planners.
There’s little you can do to prevent someone inexperienced and less savvy at planning from doing business, but you can be sure to emphasize your training, certification, experience and testimonials from happy customers. If prospective clients balk at your well-earned rate, you can tactfully point out what you bring to the table that others cannot. Make sure you have a profile on sites like Wedding Wire, including glowing reviews, to further demonstrate how thorough your services are. Savvy clients can spot the difference. And those are the clients you want to work with.
4. Unreliable Vendors
Nothing makes you look worse than a vendor who doesn’t deliver. The simplest antidote to this problem is to only collaborate with vendors with sterling reputations—but staying within the financial means of the couple. If your clients want to hire their third cousin’s son to DJ the wedding, you’ll need to be firm about telling them there’s a chance they won’t deliver.
Some planners insist on only working with pre-vetted vendors to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. If you’ve been in the business for a while, you probably have a great list of go-to vendors. There are lots of advantages of partnering with reliable companies that share your high standards.
5. Staying on Budget
No matter the size of the wedding or the net worth of the couple, budget is always a concern. You want to make sure your clients get value for their investment but also deliver something spectacular. Here’s where it helps to have a huge list of contacts you can tap into for everything from food to clothes to travel. When you’re not actively working on a wedding, it pays to be widening your net. Many wedding planners and vendors partner together to cross-promote their services and offer discounts they won’t find anywhere else.
6. Staying On Top of Trends
Every couple wants their wedding to be one-of-a-kind and successful wedding planners know how to make sure each one gets its own spin. It’s critical to stay on top of trends in the business so you can deliver a fresh new service every time. It pays to attend wedding planner conventions like the ones that Wedding MBA or The Event Planners Lounge host every year to stay ahead of what’s current and to bring to your clients in an exciting, new way. Whether it’s cool new wedding themes, creative floor plans, interesting lighting or charming wedding favors, you want to be the one that’s offering the cutting edge.
Related: Top Trends in Party Decoration
7. Managing Work/Life Balance
Long and unpredictable hours. Work on evenings and weekends. Inconsistent paychecks. Physical and mental exhaustion. While there are lots of amazing perks to being a wedding planner, there are just as many challenges to navigate. You’ve probably developed your own systems for managing the drawbacks, but here are a few tips we’ve gathered:
- An online organizer or calendar is everything. Invest some time into finding one that is perfect for your needs.
- Budget your fluctuating income for 12 months of the year, rather than spending it as it comes. You’ll appreciate a smaller, steadier income during the lean months.
- Schedule time to focus on you. During high season, it’s easy to fill every moment of your schedule. Give yourself some downtime to eat, relax and step away from work every now and again.
- Use your off-season wisely. When the season is over, that’s when you can go into training, organizing and customer outreach mode. Consider refreshing your website, expanding your social media reach, taking training courses and organizing your contacts. You might even invest in a customer relationship management system.
It’s not an easy business, but it is an exhilarating and rewarding one. Take some time to think through the challenges and find smart ways to solve them when you’re in the heat of the moment. Remember, at the end of the night, you had a hand in making that couple’s big day extra special.
About the Author: Heather Hudson is an accomplished freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto. She writes for a number of publishing, corporate and agency clients who depend on her to deliver high-quality, on-brand content and journalism with a fresh perspective. Learn more about her work at heatherhudson.ca.