My experience as a wedding planner has been nothing short of miraculous. By our second year, we had tripled our bookings and year three is primed to get close to the goal I actually set for 5 years. So many people ask me my secret to how this happened so fast for me and I have to preface a few factors that have aided in the success before I explain what I think the most defining factor is.
First, I wasn’t a total stranger to the industry. I had a fairly established business as an officiant, with several great relationships with local vendors and venues before I added on our wedding planning services. Next, in addition to becoming certified through an eight week course, I took advantage of multiple free business classes offered by my local SBA and I obtained multiple mentors to obtain both wedding planning and business advice from more experienced business owners and veteran wedding planners. I spent a week mapping out my goals with post-ids on a blank wall and I placed visuals and affirmations to motivate me. Finally, I consumed as much information about the trade as I could get by reading, watching and studying what has already been done and then I spent countless hours making it my own. I still adhere to this practice as I am a firm believer that you should never stop honing your trade. My hunger for betterment is insatiable. I work on something wedding-related seven days a week sometimes for 12 consecutive hours and sometimes longer.
While all of these are contributing factors my business did not start to boom until it became a case of word of mouth. Do you need to advertise online, have a social media presence and build a brand? Yes. But will it ever trump word of mouth? No. So what sets me apart sparking former clients to recommend me to new clients? It boils down to something I learned when I was a teacher. The secret is: building relationships. This connection can not be contrived, it is not salesly and gimmicky but it is an embodiment where the client is assured that you genuinely love and care for them. By the time their wedding rolls around, they know me enough to rest-easy that I am aware of the dreams that they have for that day and that I will be executing their wishes with integrity and passion because that is what they have seen consistently from me in the weeks, and months leading up to that day.
The art of building relationships is equal parts effort, listening, and personability. Is my ability to build a timeline with them important? Yes. But it pales in comparison to the fact that I have taken the time to know them and humanize them and I have invited them to know and humanize me. This art is something you cannot learn in a class, or read in a book, and it is not something you can fake. It’s something you have to buy into wholly and it is something evidenced every single meeting, every single conversation and it must supersede whatever service you are providing.
Weddings are on the surface linens and florals and coordinated dresses, and ritualistic rites of passage with a mounting pressure to be timely, perfect and engaging. While all that matters and is addressed weddings are also a future groom’s scary cancer diagnosis with less than a year to go, a grandfather’s palpable absence the day of a ceremony as his health swiftly declines, a tumultuous divorce between the father of the bride and woman who raised the bride mere weeks from the big “I dos”. A wedding is paying homage to a mother whose passing has never quite healed even after years have gone by; it’s the anticipation of waiting another year because even though the doctors said you couldn’t get pregnant the little one moonlighting as flower girl had other plans , and weddings are two people who have been to hell and back because life can be relentless but they have proved that love can be more resilient.
All of the above situations are true and they were shared with me by my friends: those that many refer to as clients. A wedding in itself is already beautifully symbolic, important and sacred. When you factor in all the pain, the happiness, the surprises, the suffering and the human sacrifice that comprises this occasion you can’t help but be humbled to even be invited and to witness such a guttural exchange of love and submission. I know and genuinely love every single person I serve because I take the time to know their story.
Surprisingly, this even applies to the one’s some may coin as “bridezillas”. In all honesty, these clients aren’t actually bad people with poor attitudes, they are reactionary people to some obstacle, or trauma that is masked by defenses. The day that you realize that people are products of what they have been through then you can view them fully as people. Once people share with you what they have been through they can view you as allies. Finally, when people view you as allies they view you as part of their team and the two of you can move seamlessly towards a common goal and a shared interest having fully established connection and trust. People appreciate experts in their field. But people refer to people that they trust. You don’t have to be the most experienced or the most innovative wedding planner but you must be the most relatable and dogged in your efforts for them.
The secret to being a good wedding planner is the same as being a good teacher, CEO, taxi driver or gas station attendant. It is about the human experience over the sales experience. It’s exhibiting innately good traits and treating people like people not numbers. Take this advice to the heart because that is where it originates from.
Amanda Crystal Coast