12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Wedding Planner
You’re actually a personal assistant, pet sitter, and everything in between.
1. You need to understand what really goes into a wedding before you can plan one. When I started my business seven years ago, I got in touch with vendors that I either knew through school or through friends, and said, “Hey, I’m starting this business, would you mind if I would tag along one day to see what you do?” I spent a day with a DJ to see what he deals with, went to a couple of halls to make connections and to get an idea for layouts, watched a wedding from start to finish, and I followed a photographer around for the day. I wanted to learn what the vendors did so when I created a full timeline of a wedding weekend, it would help me estimate how much time would be needed for everything — how much time the DJ needs for the first dance, how long it takes for a venue to serve guests, how long it takes a photographer to take family photos. We can do flowers, decorations, linens, and the coordination and the planning aspect of weddings, so we need to be able to work well with outside vendors so they want to work with us.
2. Every wedding will be different, from the details to the time spent planning. When I’m meeting with a client, I’m constantly writing notes. If you miss that one little thing, like if a client says they want gold and you mark down silver, that’s a big difference. Or if they say they want off-white and not ivory, you call it off-white even though it’s the same thing. We have some clients who want us to plan from start to finish, and we have some clients who want us to just decorate a little bit and coordinate [things on the day]. If someone has us plan and coordinate their wedding, it’s probably 40 to 50 hours for the whole thing. But very few clients have us do everything. I think on average, our clients have us spend between 20 to 25 hours on their wedding. Some days I’m working on two or three weddings, and some days I’m working on 16, depending on what’s coming up.
3. On the wedding day, you will be a personal assistant, pet sitter, and everything in between. In between a ceremony and reception, I’ve had to go to a client’s house and let their dog out. For one client, I had to pick up the grandmother from the salon and take her to the church with me. I have had quite a few clients that have had their pets in their wedding, usually their dog, but there was a rabbit at one wedding. After that animal gets down the aisle, then it’s my responsibility to contain it until after the ceremony. There have been times that I have had to hold babies because Mom or Dad has to dance. There was a wedding I did where the bartender was an hour and a half late for the reception so I had to bartend.
4. People will think you’re making a lot of money doing easy work. Everybody always says, “Oh, you’re a wedding planner like Jennifer Lopez.” Absolutely not. I don’t know about other wedding planners, but we’re not enjoying the day. We’re on our feet from the time we start to the time we end. You’re constantly looking out for if the bride needs something, if her mom’s OK, if the groom is drunk and we have to find him. We’re lucky if we get to eat dinner, so you have to keeps snacks in your pocket.
5. Your hours are rarely 9 to 5. I have meetings as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 8:30 p.m. There might be a week that I’m working Monday through Sunday. In my eyes, you really can’t be closed. On the day of a wedding, I could work a 22-hour day.
6. Unless you schedule it, free time is nonexistent. I literally have to schedule nights out with my friends or my husband at least four to six weeks in advance. My husband always asks if I can schedule him in, and I tell him “after season,” which is usually mid-April to mid-October or November. My calendar is back-to-back with meetings, taking my kids to the sitter, appointments, traveling to see a client in a different city. Three weeks after one of my children was born, I traveled with her, my husband, and our 2-year-old to do a wedding. I do take vacations, but I usually work for most of it. I do tell my clients weeks in advance that I’m going on vacation and they’re usually fine with it. Unfortunately, I did have one client last year who was mad that I went on vacation, so I pretty much had to be at her beck and call for five days when I was gone.
7. You’ll need to stop family drama before it happens. Fortunately I’ve dealt with a lot of great families, but about 10 or 12 times a year, we get a family who is going through a bitter divorce, or somebody is remarried to a much younger wife or a much younger husband, or somebody has had multiple boyfriends or girlfriends. I ask my clients right away if they have any bad family history, if they have any relatives who are going to show up that they don’t want there, or if they have a bad experience with an ex that we need to look out for, since we don’t want them to come and ruin the wedding. If it’s an issue with the parents, I’ll approach the mother and the father at rehearsal, and tell them I’m there for their daughter, and I would really appreciate if they’re courteous to one another just for 24 hours.
8. You’ll deal with controlling mothers more than bridezillas. We’ve really seen an upswing in mothers who don’t really care for us or just can’t understand that we’re there for the bride, and they should relax. So there are times that I just have to remind them that their daughter hired us. And if that doesn’t work, there are times when I may have to go to the father and ask him to pull her away from us, and the dad is usually like, “No problem, I can handle it.”
9. Being selective about the brides you work with will make your life so much easier. I think the reason we’ve only had one bridezilla this year is because I’ve gotten to the point where I sort of interview the clients before I book them. If we feel like they’re going to be a handful and they are going to be a bridezilla, we just politely tell them it isn’t going to work, and give them the names of other planners or coordinators in the area. We’ll turn them down if they have a bad reputation working with vendors or off their demeanor during the first meeting. I had a meeting where a woman came in drunk and her sister/maid of honor was drunk. Last year, we had just under a hundred weddings, and this year, having a little over 130, we can be a little more selective. I’ve learned from my personality what I can take during a wedding, and I’ve learned from my other coordinators what they can handle and what they can take.
10. You’ll need to become an expert at crisis management. I had a wedding cake almost fall over at a wedding. It was a four-tier cake, and the third layer pretty much smashed. Luckily I was there, so I scooped the entire third layer into the garbage abd put the second layer onto the fourth. There was a little bit of a difference, so I went to one of the centerpieces, grabbed a couple of flowers, and filled them in. The client never knew until the end of the night when I told her that I called her baker and she’ll have a full refund. Usually brides will tell me not to tell them if anything comes up the day of the wedding, just to take care of it. But if it’s something she has to know about, like a groomsman not showing up for the wedding, I don’t really give her a lot of options, I just [tell her] what’s best to do. If it’s a few days before the wedding, I arrange a face-to-face meeting or phone call as quickly as possible, and we go over a couple of options of what we can do. Usually it’s a problem with the vendor, so I’ll give her my recommendations and a few other options, and then ask her if she wants me to take over and do whatever I need to do, or if she wants to handle it.
11. Pinterest creates unrealistic expectations, and that can make your job harder. There are a lot of things on Pinterest that aren’t real and we just can’t do. Regardless of if we’re in Toledo or New York or California, it’s just not possible. But when you go to brides and say you can’t do their idea, they’re like, “Why not?” And I’m like, “This flower isn’t in season or this backdrop just isn’t possible.” Or maybe it’s not possible to do in the venue they chose. So unfortunately, I do probably shatter some dreams when people come in, but that’s the reality of it. People see a vase on Pinterest and say they have to have it and aren’t OK with something similar. Or they want peonies because every bride has a peony bouquet, but I can only get them for about six to eight weeks a year. Sometimes people want a flower wall because of Kim Kardashian, but why do you want to spend $6,000 for a 20-minute ceremony? I try to have them do something that’s more personal; otherwise people are going to walk into their wedding and go, “It’s a Pinterest wedding.” I’ve heard that many times.
12. You’ll like some weddings more than others, but each will be rewarding in its own way. I will say that at probably 90 percent of my weddings, I cry when the bride walks down the aisle. I still get caught up in that moment. Of course, there are weddings that I walk into where I’m like, I just did this same decor and look last week. But then there are weddings I walk into and I think to myself, This is mine, I really did this. I still get this feeling of amazement and accomplishment like, Wow, this is really what I do for a living. And at the end of the night when my clients are on the dance floor, smiling, laughing, having a great time, and throughout the day when they’re saying, “Thanks, April, we couldn’t have done it without you,” my tiredness and soreness just goes away.
April Gladieux is a wedding planner and owner of Your Perfect Day in Toledo, Ohio.
Original article found at: Cosmopolitan