Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What do Wedding Planners really do?

I can't tell you how many times people tell me how fabulous my job must be.  Of course I think it's fabulous otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.  But truth be told it's not all rainbows, butterflies and ponies.

Like any profession there's good and bad.  Take for example flight attendants...Sure it seems fabulous flying around the world getting to see things you otherwise wouldn't normally get to.  Truth be told it's a hard job with odd hours, crazy requests, and demanding ungrateful people.

The same can be said of wedding planners.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of "want to be" wedding planners at a college in the south. The professor asked that I give the reality of what it's like to be a wedding planner.  You see these kids (I can say that, as I now hit 40...) were all dreamy eyed, thinking planning weddings is like opening a box of Lucky Charms, Magically Delicious.

The reality, wedding planning is a hard job filled with many misconceptions.  So what do wedding planners really do?

First, let's get one things straight, 99% of wedding planners are small businesses.  This means that in reality, even when successful, they have to work their butts off to cover their overhead which includes insurance, rent, electric, employees, phone bills, transportation, PR, IT and the list goes on and on. 

Second, for many like myself, doing what we do is the only source of income.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have a spouse pick up the financial slack when times aren't plush and rosy.  So when I hear potential clients say I had no idea a wedding planner could be so expensive.  I remind them we may only take 10 weddings a year due to the hours demanded to plan each wedding.  If you take what a wedding planner charges for that one wedding and divide that by 12 months, then divide that by 4 weeks and then divide that by 30 days you begin to understand that planners charge what they do because it's their living.

Which brings me to my next point, how many hours we actually do work? So often potential clients truly don't understand the amount of work that goes into planning a wedding.  The planning process is normally anywhere from 10 to 13 months or more.  In that time a planner can easily write over a 1,000 emails that coincide with one particular wedding.  They can log about 48 hours or more of phone time and about two weeks straight full of meetings, all for one wedding.  We often work from the moment we wake usually about 5:30 / 6:00am until we go to bed by about 10:00 / 11:00pm.  And we do this on average 6 to 7 days a week depending on the season.  And let's not forget the amount of hours logged on the wedding week and day.

It's true that we play many roles wedding planner, negotiator, therapist, just to name a few.  All that comes with experience of the trials and tribulations of what we've learned over the course of many years of planning.  So when we sometimes say that a thought or proposal won't work or it isn't a good idea it's most likely because we've learned lessons the hard way or we've seen our clients learn lessons the hard way.  We are full of sound advice and don't recommend something just because we feel like it.

Courtesy of Fifth Avenue Digital
The amount of logistics that go into planning a wedding are mind numbing.  We have to think of every little detail and how that detail has consequences that could effect other details.  Take for example setting up the band near the dance floor.  A good planner knows to work with the band to make sure they don't spread out too much otherwise there might not be enough room for the Hora. A good planner will scan the room and make sure no spots are left in the dark, like the middle of the dance floor where dad is giving his tear filled speech.  A good planner will know enough to cross check the photographers contract to make sure they capture every moment and don't leave before the cake cutting.  So the reality is we create agendas, timelines and everything in between to make sure nothing is forgotten.

For each wedding we probably do as much research as one would do for their senior thesis in college. Looking into venues for your wedding can take up to as much as a weeks worth of emails and phone calls.  Then arranging the site visits can take another full day or two.  And then the negotiation of the contract can take another few days.  And this is all before looking for a photographer, band, caterer, hotel rooms for guests and much more.  And we do all this while balancing other clients expectations.

Speaking of expectations, I can't tell you how many times I hear from a family member how important this day is.  Not to be snarky, but do you really think we don't know this.  We know we have one shot to get this right. We have one shot to make a lasting impression to not only our client, but to 200 people attending the wedding. We know each and every wedding is as important as the next.

Courtesy of Lindsay Flanagan Photography
And finally, we do what we do because we love it.  We don't do it to get rich, we do it for the joy we bring each client and for the joy each client brings us.  I truly love what I do. I love the logistics and research.  I love that each client has different thoughts on how they want their wedding to be and I love that after the wedding I remain friends with them for years to come.

Courtesy of Michael Dade photography

This post merely scratches the surface of what planners do, but I think it gives you a better idea that to be a good wedding planner it requires us to have a passion for what we do.

Until next time...


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