Did you know that over 2 million weddings take place in the U.S. every year? Thanks to these and other wedding statistics, we know that being a wedding planner can be both financially and emotionally rewarding. Whether you have one or a dozen weddings on your schedule this year, here are some wedding planning tips all professional event organizers and wedding planners can use to make the most out of their clients’ special days!
1. Expand your wedding related skill set.
Learn wedding design, photography, and cake making so you know the difference between what’s good and what’s truly great. You can also offer those services in a package along with your planning. It takes some time but this is one wedding planning tip that event planners can use at every single wedding they do.
In addition to being a big help for the happy couple, it’s also smart business sense. Adding these skills to your roster can help you stand out from your competition. It’ll also help you upsell services and make more money than you would if you limited your work to just the planning.
2. Organize an initial wedding planning meeting.
Initial planning meetings set the foundation of success for the wedding in all aspects. First you’ll need to set and manage expectations in accordance with budgets, dates, and other major wedding event components.
You’ll also want to spend this time reviewing your contract. More specifically, what the contract does or does not include. If panicked late night calls in the months before the big day aren’t welcome, let them know that if they email you they will always get a response by 10am the next day.
The next thing you’ll need to cover is preferences. What ideas do they already have? Do those ideas fit a cohesive theme? How can you expand on them in a creative and budget friendly way to make their wedding extra unique and special? Brainstorm together to fill in the gaps.
Oh and make sure you follow up the meeting with written documentation of everything you’ve discussed. Things might change along the way but it’s good to make sure you’re all on the same page now so that there are no surprises.
3. Remember that clients get the final say.
Even if they have bad taste. What matters most is that the couple is happy with all the choices they’ve made. If you, their families, their bridal party, or whoever else doesn’t like it, that’s just too bad. It’s their special day so they should have the right to veto whatever they want.
That being said, a lot of newbie wedding planners end up getting bowled over by more assertive couples who love the idea but hate it in execution. This is where you’ll need to balance your wedding planning experience with your customer service skills. If their idea is impossible or not likely to be successful, it’s your job to make sure you suggest one or more ways to help them achieve their goal and still actually pull it off.
4. Form relationships with your favorite wedding vendors.
It’s important to remember this even when you’re just starting out. All wedding event planners bring their own expertise, style, and experience to the table. But a wedding planner who also brings an army of uber talented, tried-and-true vendors along with them? Now that’s above and beyond.
Make sure you have a wide variety of vendors on your list that fit every budget and style. You never know what a client might request! You may even come to define your own personal wedding planning style. If that’s the case, you’ll want to select categories of vendors who, no matter which brands are chosen, can work together well both in terms of vibe and communication.
Assemble your dream teams early on and make friends with the most talented vendors you can find.
5. Have a backup plan for all major wedding components.
According to the Bridal Guide, the most common wedding mishaps include:
- Red wine or food staining the bridal gown.
- A wedding guest getting too drunk and making a scene.
- Unexpected weather changes mid event.
- A bride, groom, or guest faints.
- Your event staff is late or someone called out sick.
As you read through that list, did you already have ideas in mind for how you’d handle the situation while keeping the guests comfortable and upbeat? If not, it’s time to start planning.
But don’t tell your clients about these plans until you need to use them. Yes, they should feel at ease when they hire you, since they know you’ll be there to run interference on all of these issues and more.
However, if you show them the many (and we mean many) things that can go wrong at even the simplest weddings, they can quickly get overwhelmed. So let them know you’ve got them covered but don’t worry them with the details. And when the time comes, they’ll just be that much more impressed with your super hero skills as you save their wedding day from near disaster.
6. Streamline wedding paperwork.
Paperwork is an absolute necessity when wedding planning. But it’s better to keep these piles of contracts, vendor agreements, and proposals organized and out of sight until needed. Which is why having a system for paperwork intake, signature retrieval, and record keeping is so important. Making sure everyone is paid and on the same page at all times is so important, so make your documentation collaborative and easy for all invested parties to access when needed!
7. Form relationships with wedding event venues.
Wedding venues are a competitive world, especially if you’re a wedding planner in a big city with high demand spaces or a small town where options are delightful but limited during high season. Teaming up with wedding venues helps both you and your clients out. If you’re a joy to work with, wedding event venues will love having you back in their space in the future. They may even recommend you to couples looking for a talented local wedding planner.
And if you have a couple whose entire wedding dream centers around a particular venue that’s usually in high demand, you can let them know you have a pre existing relationship with it’s management team. If you can get priority booking, that’s great! But even if that’s not a possibility, simply knowing you have worked with that venue in the past is an excellent selling point for new customers as they scope out your business website.
8. Have a meltdown plan.
We’ve already discussed how important it is to have a backup plan for wedding activities or components that go wrong the day of. But what about a plan for if handling your clients’ emotions leading up to the big event? If someone has a meltdown, it’ll be your job to make sure the issue is resolved and, more importantly, the individual is made to feel relaxed, happy, and even excited again.
These issues might even go beyond the scope of what you can control, especially if it involves interpersonal conflicts. As their wedding planner you will only benefit from having a systematic method for helping to cheer them up in place ahead of time. Thinking on your feet is one of your best qualities as a wedding planner. And having a meltdown plan will make that much easier!
9. Create a detailed portfolio site.
Wedding portfolio sites are great for your business. It helps you get discovered online, neatly organizes your relevant experiences, and lays out what you can offer your clients. But it’s also great for your clients too! You might have pictures from similar weddings, past lookbooks, or blogs about behind the scenes stories you can share to inspire their own event.
When constructing your portfolio site, make sure to include each of the following:
- A detailed list of services you provide and approximate cost of each package.
- Your wedding planning philosophy and an explanation of how you work with clients.
- Pictures from past events along with descriptions of what you did to make it so perfect.
- A selection of vetted references new clients are welcome to check in with.
- Any relevant professional awards, memberships, or education that adds credibility to your wedding planning skills.
Along with the rest of the items in your wedding planning toolkit, you’ll want to make sure you have
10. Use one or more wedding planning tools to manage multiple projects at once.
Planning multiple weddings at once? Then you’ll really need to be on top of your organization game to keep it all straight. Luckily for you there are lots of tools that are free (or affordable), easy to use, and cover a wide range of wedding planning tasks. We’ve listed some of our wedding planning tools here.
You can use wedding planning apps, tools, and websites to complete and organize tasks like:
- Wedding diagramming tools to help organize your wedding and share relevant details your caterers, entertainers, and other vendors will need. Give free 3D wedding design software a try.
- Paperless post apps that sync up with your digital guest list to automatically send out email reminders, invitations, and RSVPs at designated intervals.
- A curated list of local vendors and venues with real wedding examples to help narrow down your search.
Basically for any wedding related thing you need to do, there’s an app for that.
Main takeaways: Tips for professional wedding planners
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve got a few years of wedding planning experience under your belt, it’s always good to get fresh ideas for how to improve. If you remember anything from this article, keep these key ideas in mind:
- There is no such thing as over planning. From meltdown plans to event diagramming apps, having as many tools and plans at your disposal as possible will always be helpful!
- Invest in self-improvement. Adding on new skills or perfecting your event website helps both you and your wedding clients. So pay for that class, seating chart tool, or professional association membership. It’ll be worth it.
- Focus on your relationships. Clients, vendors, event space managers. They’re all important people who help make up your business and your life. Make sure you spend time cultivating personal relationships with these very important people.
At the end of the day, you’re making dreams come true. Really! And as long as you do your best and follow tips like these, every wedding you plan will be a success. Ready to learn more about wedding planning? Check out 15 simple steps to creating the best wedding seating chart.
Maria is a freelance writer specializing in B2B SaaS, technology, and events.