Tuesday, June 30, 2009

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!

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