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Nicole Hensley

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December 26, 2020

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What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming a Wedding Planner

Today I’m sharing what I wish I knew before starting my wedding planning business. 

And I’m going to pour myself a little wine for this. Because although there is a lot (and I mean a lot) of incredible experiences that come with being a wedding planner, there are also some contrasting experiences that just come with the territory. 

Okay, let’s just dive right on in.

If you would prefer to sit along side me while I chat through this on YouTube, you can find the video below:

Client’s Aren’t Always Honest

This first story begins in my second year of business. I had just had my first son and was eager to get back to work after my maternity leave.

I was working with a coordination client and everything was planned to a “T”. We had the entire Storybook Team on this one plus a few extra assistants. It was our first cultural wedding outside of our traditionally “American” weddings. But we weren’t too intimidated because our bride had given us all the in’s and out’s of what to expect.

When the bride and I first met over coffee to talk about her wedding plans, we knew to expect about 150 guests. Which was perfect – because that was the capacity for the ceremony and cocktail hour spaces.

At our final walkthrough the bride shared with the Venue Manager and I that the guest count was up to 250. The venue reminded her that the ceremony space could only accommodate the 150, but the bride reassured us that typically, we could expect the majority of guests to skip the ceremony and attend the reception.

So we prepped the catering orders to 250. 

The week of the wedding came. Guest count was upped to 350.

Needless to say, the venue manager and I were in constant contact about changes. We were hitting a limit and getting concerned about day-of expectations in that case of early guest arrival before the reception space opened. 

Wedding Day arrived and my team of five were downstairs in the ceremony/cocktail space. The ceremony chairs filled…and then the walls became lined, and soon enough we had to shut the doors. We hit capacity. 

The cocktail area eventually became filled with overflow guests. The ceremony began and people tried getting past me at the door. 

Cocktail was no easier. All 150 people from inside the ceremony space had no where to fill.

Eventually, the venue decided we could open the reception space early to accommodate the overflow. 

Because of the cultural traditions of the wedding, no seating charts were created.  There were too many variables for the bride to have wanted to create one. Well, out of all those variables it seems like the one unaccounted for was the outcome of ALL of her invited guests to arrive a lot earlier than anticipated

By the time the final guest made it upstairs to the reception, we had an additional 100 people lining the walls. No extra chairs, no extra tables. We had 450 people in attendance when we accommodated last minute for 350. 

So let me remind you. There will be some moments in your business that no matter how hard you plan. No matter how many meetings you have with your couple expecting them to tell you the absolute truth, that you may not always have the straight details. 

With this said, it taught me a lot on how to vet couples wanting to book me in the future. 

Honesty, Transparency and Respect go both ways. Make sure to do yourself a favor and make sure that each couple that is interest in booking you is going to be just as worthy of your time as you will be valuable to theirs.

The Wedding Industry is a lot like high school. It has it’s “cliques”.

If you were like me in high school and didn’t really feel like you fit in with the in crowd, I wish I could say that as an adult it will get better!

In the wedding industry specifically, I’ve seen first hand and heard comparable stories from others that the industry is super cliquey.

I promise, you will find your crowd. But I also don’t want you to hesitate to just be yourself, avoid the groups and build relationships with those that you enjoy being around.

With that said, don’t let that stop you from working with certain vendors. If you love their work and they are a perfect fit for your couple both financially and from a visual or design standpoint, then work with them.

We have so much to learn from one another and we share so many similar experiences that it would be nice to have each other to lean on during difficult times. 

But there are people out there who will and will always remain worried about competition. 

Here, I believe in Community Over Competition. I am here to empower you to design and strengthen a planning company of your own. The beauty of what we do is that our end goal may be the same, but the planner is incredibly unique. That is what should be the deciding factor for the client. 

If you experience difficulty when first entering the industry, don’t worry. Stay confident and reassured with yourself. You are doing big things. Don’t let the cliques or the feeling of which you fit into or not get you down. You’re too good to belong to one of those anyways. You are welcome here.

Overnight Success is a Myth

Aside from overnight success being an absolute myth. It’s equally just important to understand that It’s okay to grow slow. Things will come at its time. 

I know the feeling of being frustrated when your first couple months go by and you haven’t received any leads. Self doubt creeps in and you start to reconsider if this was a good decision. 

It was. I promise. 

This is where we need to get super honest and realistic with ourselves. 

Because overnight success doesn’t exist.

Hell, over a year success is even a tough one to achieve.

In my first year, I received $300 in income from Storybook. 

Year two that grew to $3,600

And in year three…. I made more money than I ever had at any corporate job I ever landed. And I was doing something I LOVED. 

Things take time. And that just it. 

What to Do During Slow Moments

During this time of slow growth, expand on your knowledge. Ask to shadow planners on wedding day to continue getting your feet wet in new venues.  Find your personal style by designing styled shoots. Meet vendors and begin curating your perfect vendor team. 

There is always a way to keep you busy during the slow times. 

Take the slow time to your advantage. Not only will it speed up the rate in which you reach your expectation of success, but it will make you a better planner in the mean time. AND!!! Relish in those moment, because the beauty of being slow is one that I now have to plan for.

If you would like to take advantage of the downtime, you should set some goals! Check out my post here on setting your goals for 2021! It’s time to make this year your best year ever.

SET YOUR 2021 GOALS

I’ll Never Be Employable Again

Lastly, the number one thing that I wish I knew before starting a wedding planning company is preparing myself for just how much much fun that I’d have that I’d never want to go back to doing anything else! 

You guys, as wedding planners we get to attend the most elite of the elite events (Covid is making us take a little break – but they’ll be back), we get to experience the most incredible food by talented chefs, attend sleepovers at the most incredible hotels with hundreds of our industry peers and we call that work!

When we are not out enjoying parties ourselves.. the other part of our jobs get to be picking our flowers, choosing color pallets, feeling luxurious velvet and silk linens to perfectly pair with our chargers and then we actually get to witness life long memories being made. 

We are the ones who gets to fluff my brides wedding dress before she gets to walk down the aisle. We’re the ones with the honor of assisting lgbtq+ couples navigate celebrating their marriage while creating new traditions that mean something to them.

But aside from the role we take, being a business owner means freedom. Yah, things aren’t always easy. But they are special. If we want, we get to work from home with our kids. If we only want them in day care a couple days a week and take off every monday to hang with them, we can. 

Cutting out early, setting doctors appointments without manager approval, Taking a vacation without having to hit a PTO threshold. Working for yourself equals freedom.

But with all that said, I will never again be employable! (and that’s a good thing!)

Ah.. I could probably go on with stories of what I wish I knew then, but these are definitely stand outs. 

If you have a topic that you would like me to touch on, let me know in a comment down below. 

Until next time friends, 

Nicole

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