On Making the Decision
After a series of pro/con lists, conversations with friends and colleagues, and (admittedly) some serious Pinterest-ing, a career as a wedding planner is something that I really want to do! And, despite being entirely enthralled at the prospect of having identified a potentially fulfilling career, I also knew that educating myself about the nuances of wedding planning would be absolutely necessary if I intended to succeed in this industry—especially as a complete newbie.
I didn't realize just how lucky I was when Jasmine Star connected me with Heather from LVL Academy. Heather was excited to speak with me and share insights about the industry. I was overwhelmed by her kindness and willingness to speak with me—a young woman from Canada with absolutely zero formal experience.
My conversation with Heather went better than I could have ever imagined! Heather identified the traits she looks for in upcoming planners, how to manage clients' expectations (including those tricky situations), and what steps I could take to get hands-on experience. I learned how crucial interning with event planners and networking with vendors in my area would be for my career. If I was going to be an excellent planner, then I needed to be familiar with the vendors I (and my prospective clients) would be working with.
I feel the most important part of my education process has been this—network, don't be afraid to ask the experts questions, learn your market, and get as much hands-on experience as you can. This, combined with some sort of formal event planning education, will most certainly equip any new event planner with the skills they need to be successful.
On Starting Your Own Business
I started Long Aisle Events in the summer of 2015 after working for another planner. I knew I had the drive, experience and personality to own a wedding planning business. This became so clear to me after a less-than-stellar experience working for someone else and 7+ years of working in the catering/events/bridal industries. A word of advice; If you want to be a wedding planner, start assisting in one of the industries related - bridal salon, florist, photographer, etc. Not only does it make you a more well rounded planner, you'll also look like an expert in your field to others.
Wedding planning businesses look like all fun and flowers, but it is still a business so there are some not as fun things to do when starting and in the first year.
Before I began my business and started taking clients I made sure to:
- Properly register the business (LLC, C- Corp S- Corp, etc.) and made sure I was compliant with required state forms (Annual reports, corporate minutes, registering Doing Business As name)
- Set up a business checking account
- Work with a branding coach and graphic designer to establish branding that clearly attracted my target client and to develop a website, logo and set up social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Have a lawyer draft up a legal contract outlining your services when clients hire you
In my first year of business I:
- Hired an accountant to do taxes
- Made sure I fully understood once money starts coming in how much goes to expenses, taxes, owners draws and profit
- Networked with industry professionals who I knew I wanted to work with in the future
- Took workshops, courses, and additional continuing education classes relevant to my business (does not have to be directly related to weddings- marketing, creative entrepreneurs, business development, etc.)
I attended LVL Academy (now Planner Life Academy) and was able to put what I already knew with what I had learned to move full speed ahead into my business. I still reference timelines and worksheets from LVL Academy. I am still growing, learning, and making mistakes. But, each mistake is an opportunity to do it better next time.
One thing I felt like I was missing out on when I first started my business was marketing on The Knot and Wedding Wire because they are expensive! When you first start your business you aren't going to have the marketing budget to advertise there yet - I didn't get a Wedding Wire account until I was more settled in my business because I wanted to have reviews availabe. It looks much better when you have substance to back your Wedding Wire profile. I am also constantly letting people know about my business. Whether they were in the wedding industry or not, brides, the people in my gym or doctor's office…they were going to know about my business! There's a way to casually bring it up in conversation without it being sales-y or pushy. Two of my best clients in my first year of business were people that knew I had been doing weddings since high school and remembered me!
On Building Relationships
“It’s all about who you know,” says…everyone. Overwhelmed? Don’t be! Building a business requires relationships, the inevitable factor. Relationships are necessary for the health and success of your new endeavor. Chances are that since you have already taken the leap to start your own wedding planning business, the relationship-building gene is already functioning! While people aren’t totally off base in saying “it’s all about who you know,” I’m a firm believer that building relationships in the wedding industry is far more about being genuine and making an effort to connect with people than it is getting your name out there to anyone and everyone. Throughout my time in the industry, I’ve found it so valuable and encouraging to connect with vendors beyond working a wedding together; vendors you can grab coffee with on a random weekday afternoon.
Whether you are new to the home of your budding business, a life-long resident, or somewhere in between; your business is going to thrive because of the relationships built, now and throughout the next few years. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can only or should only seek out those with the highest following on Instagram, or the one with the highest-ranking on Google and force a friendship on them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive that they are incredible vendors with lovely personalities to match; but often times we think that the “all about who you know” part means that we can only associate ourselves and our business with those that hold the number one, two or three spot. So not the case! Reach out to vendors who align with your style or aesthetic; you are more likely to refer those vendors to your target bride anyways! And if those happen to be vendors from those top spots on Google, then go get em’!
Any good wedding planning business probably started with a relationship; a business partner, a first bride, a vendor team that meshed really well. It all started somewhere. Give yourself grace and time to make those connections. Sometimes you make ten at once at an industry event and sometimes it’s a shot in the dark Instagram message. Reach out, because you never know what friendship or buisness partnership might come out of it!