Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yellow Pages

Thanks to everyone who sent me their opinions about using the phone book. It was extremely helpful and I really appreciate it!
We have decided to reduce our phone book coverage to the bare minimum and concentrate on building up our web presence and search engine optimization. I think our advertising dollars will be much more productive in this area.

Being a Wedding Consultant

Several times a year, I receive inquiries from gals that are considering being a wedding consultant. Movies like "The Wedding Planner" and "Father of the Bride" and the like, have helped to promote the business, and more and more people are interested in it.
When I started my business in 1995, my biggest problem was trying to explain to people what I did and why they needed me! I would often tell folks that it was like being a mother of toddlers--you run yourself ragged all day, doing all kinds of little things that add up to a full day of busyness, but when your husband comes home and asks you what you did all day, you can't think of anything! All the little things that seem insignificant, changind diapers, kissing booboos, making beds and doing mountains of laundry, wiping noses, cleaning the bathrooms, reading stories, and looking at butterflies, etc. etc. etc. How do you tell someone, "this is what I did today!"
Being a wedding consultant is kind of the same sort of thing. Anyone who has seen the movie "The Wedding Planner" can see this. You're looking for the missing mother of the bride to get her in the lineup to start the ceremony, you're making sure the candles get lit, you're trying to explain to the 16 year old usher how the aisle runner works and when he needs to pull it out, you're making sure the bubbles are going to be passed out after the ceremony and that people know when to blow them, you're trying to get the two year old flower girl to put her dress down and stop crying, and you are attempting to get the 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen to quit chitchating and pay attention so that you can line them up, you're looking for kleenex for the bride who just burst into tears when her dad came in, you're sewing a button back on the groom's tux, you're making an extra bouttonierre for the step dad who wasn't included in the flower order--and this is all just in the 15 minutes before the ceremony starts! It goes on like that the entire day, but how do you encapsulate this into one suscinct sentence to say "this is what I do"?
Even though I only work with weddings at Aberdeen since we built it in 1998, I still do all the things that an independent wedding consultant does, and probably more because I have to also keep tabs on the kitchen staff and making sure that the bathrooms and lobby are nice and neat. My biggest problem is finding shoes that I can wear for 12 or 13 hours straight and still be able to walk!
So anyway, I received an inquiry from someone that is thinking about being a wedding consultant, and when I finished writing back to her about it, I reread it and thought maybe what I had said would be of interest to more people that might be interested in this field, so I thought I would post it here on my blog.
So here is my answer----
Dear -----
Well, probably the best thing to do would be to join the Association of Bridal Consultants. They have a number of educational programs available that are very helpful when you are starting out. Their National Conference is in Indianapolis this year in November. Their website is www.bridalassn.com and they have lots of stuff on there that is helpful.
The main thing you don’t want to do is to jump in with both feet and not know what you are doing yet. A lot of gals get the “wedding planner bug” when they plan their own wedding, and sometimes it lasts, sometimes it doesn’t. It might be better for you to have another job for a while and work into the consulting business slowly. Let your own wedding settle first, and get beyond that first blush. It’s very hard work a lot of times. It is also a very detail oriented business. If you aren’t a type A, anal retentive, detail oriented person, it might not be the field for you. If you can find a consultant in the area, close enough that you might be able to job shadow/intern with her, it’s very helpful. Most states have a state coordinator that can help you find someone in your general area. The state groups usually have meetings you can attend as well that are a lot of information and very helpful to someone who is starting out. The state meetings also give you an opportunity to meet other consultants and get to know them. The consultants get membership advancement points by having an intern work with them, so it’s to their advantage as well.
You also can volunteer to help friends, relatives and whomever will have you! Consulting wasn’t really something that I just decided to do one day. I did many weddings over the years, from the time I was in high school, where I helped friends and relatives put their weddings together, and was the background person running the show at the actual event so that they could enjoy their day. I didn’t go into consulting professionally, full time, until I was in my 40’s, so I had a lot of experience already built up when I decided to do this full time. A lot of it is knowing vendors, who is good, who isn’t, all sorts of services that are necessary for a wedding. Another big aspect of it is knowing the etiquette of weddings, all the little details that are involved. There are lots of books out there about weddings and all the different aspects. If you want something on the business of being a consultant, the Association has a book available titled “The Business of Brides” by Renee Grannis, that is excellent. Renee is actually a very good friend of mine, and is still my “go to” person if I need an answer.
I guess the most important piece of advice I could give you is to not jump in too fast, or unprepared. Weddings are something that is like nothing else. You are involved in their “once in a lifetime day”. If you do everything well and they have a terrific day, they will love you forever. If you screw up you will have their wrath for all eternity! You DON’T want to screw it up, or even miss a beat. It’s a lot of pressure, I know, but that’s just the nature of the business. If you make a mistake, you might have another wedding to do the next weekend, and think “ok, I’ll do it better next week” but for that bride who is left with a botched wedding, she won’t have another shot at it, her day is the ONLY one for her, and nothing you can do will ever make it up to her. Never let yourself become complacent about this, I remind my staff on a regular basis. And it’s something that I always say to myself whenever anything out of the ordinary arises—“this is their once in a lifetime day, how can I handle this situation in a way that will keep their good memories intact? How can I handle this in a way that I would want it to be handled if it was MY daughter’s wedding?” It keeps me focused and helps me to handle a lot of things that come up that I might otherwise handle differently.
I hope this info is helpful to you, let me know if you have any further questions. I would be happy to help any way that I can. Best of luck with your move and your new career path!

So that was my answer---if others have any questions, feel free to post them and I will see what I can do!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Looking for answers---I need your help readers!!

So, yesterday I met with the people from Yellow Book, about our advertising in the phone book's Yellow Pages. My feeling on this is that the Yellow Pages in paper/print form is a dinosaur that nobody really uses any more. We are paying an exhorbitant amount of money every month to have ads in there, and what I am asking you all, is this---do you EVER use the Yellow Pages book?
I realize that if you are reading blogs you are probably the more computer savvy of the population, but my thought is that most of our clients and potential clients are equally savvy, and probably throw those books in the recycling when they come to their house. But I could be wrong, and that's why I am throwing this out to all of you thousands of readers for your opinions on the subject.
Where do you get your information? If you needed a tux, or invitations, or a location for a wedding ceremony, what would you search? Where would you go to look?
Help me out here! Thanks in advance! :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm sure WGN will be calling soon.....hahaha!

So last week, I was hanging out at home, trying to get some things planted in my yard, and Michelle called me. "Denna, this guy called and wants to interview you this afternoon about wedding receptions, here's his number."
So I call back, and it's Adam and Luis on WBEW which is the NPR station in Chesterton, and the sister station of the NPR station in Chicago that I listen to ALL the time,(so I am like SOOOOOO impressed!!!)and they tell me that they are doing a show about planning a "Phantom Wedding", I think they meant to say a "pretend wedding" but whatever. So I told them, sure, no problem, and started to stress about it till they called me at 4:30. Well, I had SOOOOOO much fun doing that interview!! These guys said that they wanted to ask me about the cost of a wedding reception, they never told me they were going to ask about my husband and what he does, or problems at weddings, or weird things that had happened, or ANY of that stuff. I felt kinda like I was in a tennis cage with the balls flying at me left and right and I was trying to hit them all back over the net! Wow! Talk about having to think on your feet!
So anyway, I think it went rather well! I actually didn't have a bunch of things that I wished I hadn't said or wanted to go back and change, like I usually do. I do wish that I had said more about what Jim does. He is so much a part of it, and he does so many things around there, talking with couples, being there for the weddings and sending the gals down the aisle, and talking with the guests and parents and all. He's our number one PR person, and I really feel badly that I drew a blank when they asked me "what does your husband do?" He DOES do all the maintenance and keeping everything shipshape, but I think he felt like I made him out to be a glorified janitor, and that wasn't how I meant it at all. I KNOW what a huge job it is, maintaining everything in the 20,000 square feet plus the outside grounds that we have to maintain, and that was the first thing that popped into my head--what a fabulous job he does of maintaining everything at Aberdeen Manor, so that it still, after 11 years, looks like it's nearly brand new.
So anyway, that's my one regret, but I felt like the rest of the interview went really well. Here's the link if you want to listen to it!
All in all, I think it was good. I felt like I was able to convey to them something of what Aberdeen Manor is all about. Any critiques or comments would be appreciated!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pennsylvania Tradition

This weekend Jim and I were in Pennsylvania for his nephew, Justin's wedding. He married a very lovely gal that he has been with for nearly 10 years. So both families seemed to think it was about time. Justin is kind of a quiet sort of guy though, and he just didn't want to hurry into anything!
The wedding was in an absolutely beautiful old church in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Yes, friends, there IS an Indiana, Pennsylvania! And furthermore, it is the home of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)!! Indiana is also the boyhood home of Jimmy Stewart. My Jim's claim to fame is that he worked in the hardware store owned by Jimmy Stewart's father when he was in high school, and dusted the Oscars in the window of the hardware store. Indiana, PA is a sweet little town, very similar to Valparaiso, kind of hilly, lots of beautiful old homes, a vibrant and alive downtown. Indiana has always felt homey to me because of the great similarity to Valpo.
The Calvary Presbyterian Church where the wedding was held had a huge dome over the center of the building, all made of stained glass. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were spectacular. I thought they might be Louis Comfort Tiffany windows because of the shading and details, but the minister said they were done by one of his understudies. At least I was close! The church was built in 1901, and had been Jim's church when he was in high school. It had beautiful oak pews, very similar to the ones in our chapel. The outside of the church was a dark reddish brown sandstone sort of material, with huge covered porches at the entrances. It was one of those churches that will never be duplicated because the cost in this day and age would be astronomical. Indiana, PA is loaded with beautiful old churches. There were at least 8 in the downtown area that I would have loved to see the insides.
The men in the wedding party wore the new linen look beige tuxedo/suits that we also have available. This was the first time I had seen them on a wedding party, and they were REALLY sharp!! For a summer wedding, they are dynamite!
The reception was held at the Indiana Country Club. There was a huge table of hors d'oeuvres as well as candy and cookies available when everyone arrived. The candy and cookies were all coordinated to the chocolate, light blue, beige, and white theme of the wedding. It was very pretty, and I was surprised to see how many people actually did take cookies and some of the candy from the table. It seemed that everyone admired the candy, but took the cookies. I know we haven't had very good luck with the candy tables, so I wasn't too surprised by that.
Jim and I both enjoyed being able to sit back and enjoy ourselves, and not have to DO anything! It was fun to watch what they did, service wise and all. We did actually get a couple of good ideas from it!
Many of the traditions are the same there as here. The introductions took place, and then the bride and groom did their first dance right away, and cut the cake. I did notice there were some couples dancing before the intros, which is kind of an Eastern thing. They did a dollar dance, which is, of course, a pretty popular thing here too, but after someone danced with the bride or groom, they made a circle around them, and the circle kept getting bigger and bigger, and it was moving around them as they danced. Pretty soon there was another circle around them, and then another. It was difficult for the new dancers to get into the center to dance with the bride and groom! The dollar dance kept going until everyone in the room was pretty much involved. Great fun.
Another tradition I found out about this morning, when we all had breakfast together, was that people tied their money up in little balls for the dollar dance. They tied knots in them, balled them up together, and made it really difficult to flatten them out! It was something I had never heard of. My sister in law said that it was to teach them to solve problems and deal with difficulty in their marriage. Hmmmmm. Interesting!
All in all it was a wonderful weekend! I wish I had some photos to post, but I took the weekend off from taking pictures, and just enjoyed myself. Maybe one of our relatives will take pitty on me and send me some to add.
Best Wishes, Stephanie and Justin!

Saturday, June 6, 2009


As of June 1, we are changing our hours for the shop, so that we can offer MORE time for personal appointments.
Our new walk in hours are:

Thursday from 12 to 8
Friday and Saturday from 12 to 5

The rest of the week, particularly on Monday through Wednesday, we will make private appointments with our clients and future clients. These appointments will be for:

Potential customers to see the facilities and talk with us about booking their wedding/reception.

To meet with myself or Megan to go over the event sheets about a month to 6 weeks before their wedding.

To meet with us shortly after the wedding is booked to talk about plans and vision for the event and help get things rolling.

Looking at invitations and other paper products, tuxes, veils etc.

Anyone is, of course, welcome to come in during our hours on Thursday through Saturday, but we realize that evenings are better for a lot of folks who work during the day, so this will enable us to make an appointment for them and accommodate THEIR schedules.

Yes, this is a BIG change for us, and we are going to see how it goes. We may change it later on, depending on what happens, but we will try to keep everyone informed about it.

Incidentally, Megan and I both are hooked up to Blackberries now, and actually figuring out how to USE them, so we will be able to answer your calls and emails very quickly.

Let us know if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas about how we can be more responsive and accessible to you, our customers!

Oh Happy, Happy Day!!!

Today is the day I have waited for, for a long, long time! I woke up at 6 a.m. and was ready to jump out of bed and go to work right then! And for any of you who really know me, you KNOW that's not my usual!!! Today, my daughter, Megan, comes to work full time at the Manor. Megan has worked summers, vacations, and weekends, for the last 11 years. She actually was a part of the Manor from the beginning. Every year when school started, through the years that Megan was in college, as well as the last five years when she was a first grade teacher, I have been so sad to see her leave us to go back to school.
Megan was married last October, at the Manor (well, I told her she could have her wedding anywhere she wanted to, but that if she wanted Jim and I to be there, she probably ought to consider the Manor!  ) A few days after she and Trey returned from their rainy honeymoon in Mexico she was over at the house for a glass of wine. We were talking about the wedding and what a wonderful day it was, and how much fun we all had.
Megan said to me “Mom, I never fully realized, until I was on the other side of it, what it is that we give our customers, and how special that is. I really want to be a part of that!”
My first reaction was, “Well you ARE!”
And she said “No, I mean I want to be a part of it full time, like you.”
Well, to say I was thrilled would be a gross understatement!!!
The months since last November have been filled with long talks and discussions about when would be the best time. Initially, she was going to continue to teach for another year, however in the spring, our employee situation changed and she decided that this would be the time.
I know what a difficult decision this has been for her, and I have tried to let it be HER decision (i.e. I really tried to not jump up and down in excitement whenever we talked about it, but GEES it was hard!!!)
Megan is an absolutely phenomenal teacher! And she truly loves teaching. She has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little bitty girl. We used to ride around town in my minivan, and she would have an imaginary class in the back seat that she would talk to! I would stop at the railroad track and she would turn around and shush them! “Now class! We need to be quiet so that the bus driver can check for trains!” There was a Christmas when she was about 7 that the ONLY thing she wanted was a “real” grade book, like the teachers had! Santa brought her one too, and she wrote all of our names in it as her “students” and when she would get angry with one of us, she would give us a bad grade! That little girl grew up to be such a wonderful teacher! Her kids all loved her, the little boys would absolutely swoon over her; she was SO good. And I know how much she loves it. I feel very guilty that I am taking her away from that. I also feel very humble and honored that she has chosen this path for her life.
The qualities that made her such an amazing teacher though, will serve her well at the Manor. Her sweet, unassuming personality; her diplomacy, tact, and thoughtfulness; her way of always empathizing with the other person, and walking in their shoes, seeing where they are coming from; her organization skills, and methodical way of tackling a job. All these things will be assets to her at the Manor.
Today is a very special day in the history of Aberdeen Manor. Today my daughter, my best buddy, my neighbor, becomes my business partner. I hope that I can be everything she expects of me, and live up to HER expectations. I will certainly try my best!