Marketing a Wedding Planner

I have been struggling (yes, me struggling) with the best way to market wedding planners. Oh, there are a bunch of seminars and webinars from “successful” planners that are marketing “get rich like me” schemes. I have 2 concerns with those. First, if they are so damn successful as planners, why have they abandoned it to make money off of seminars?

The second reason I have a problem with them is the focus of this article.

A simple truth about marketing is that to do it successfully, you have to really dig deep and uncover what it is that sets you apart from the herd. So the problem with following someones else’s path is it is only an illusion. Yes, their words and methods may have worked for them but you are unique; you are not them. More importantly, their brides are not yours. If everyone is following the same marketing plan you all sound alike. What would make a bride pick one over the other besides price?

Which brings me back to the conundrum of marketing a wedding planner:

As a wedding planner, what exactly do you do?wedding planner as architect

Are you the architect?The general contractor? The stage manager?

Huh? (Shit here she goes again with the analogies)

Let me break it down for you.

The Architect:

The architect designs everything from the structure to the appliance placement to the general layout of the landscaping. To translate this to wedding planning you start with nothing and design the whole package from location to lighting concept to the style of the invitations.

 

The General Contractor: 

The GC takes the plans and makes them happen. She hires the subs and creates the schedule. She keeps everything on track and budget. The translation: you take the brides concept and find the right vendors to make it happen. You make sure that they are all on the same page and working on schedule, that the flowers are delivered at the right moment and that the cake gets cut when the photographer is in place to catch the shot. You are the field general, implementing someone else’s plan.

The Stage Manager:

The stage manager comes in last, after the walls are in and the floors are in place. He makes sure that at the time of performance  timing is adhered to, that the props are all in place and that everyone hits their marks. This translates to weddings as someone who comes in after all the vendors have been hired and the major decisions made. You manage the actual day of, you work with what they are given to make the brides vision happen.

I want to hear from all my wedding planner friends. Who are you? How do you describe what you do? help me come to grips with this.

  • http://twitter.com/AlphaProsperity Courtney Fontenot

    Hi Christine – I am responding to this post because I would love to see more about this topic. My company, Alpha Prosperity Events specializes in “Day or Month of” Coordination. We act as the Stage Manager in your scenario. We also act in the capacity of General Contractor, or Planner offering Partial Planning Services to our wedding event clients. I find marketing to be difficult for Wedding Planners, so I am waiting on pins and needles to see what advice or suggestions you have to share.

    • christineboulton

      Courtney, send me a link to your marketing so I can see what you are doing now.

  • larissaparks

    This is SO right on point. Believe me, I had to Tweet, FB, Google+ this blog post. Can’t wait to see the lively discussion because many could use a wake up call to refine their approach. Go Christine!

    • christineboulton

      Thank you Larissa! So tell me, which planner are you?

      • YehuditSteinberg

        I agree with Larissa on this. Christine, this is the best post I’ve seen on this topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/khalilaho Khalilah T. Olokunola

    Best damn article I’ve read in a long time regarding the roles of planning – I plan on sharing the heezy jeezy out of this! If more planners understood the different roles we would have less drama a better interpertation of what the industry and individuals have to offer. I’ve pondered throwing in teh towel a few times this year, most recently last week because frankly it stinks and I’m so tired of teh fly by night pop ups who do this just because they feel like it and not from because its fueled from a passion that started inside to create . I’m damn sure positive that I’m different , I look different, talk different and design different…heck I have different ideas of what fabulous is and isnt – We all do ….The problem in it all is that you cant market people who dont really know who they are – I hope this article sets them free ….

  • http://weddingtwitter.com/ Weding Twitter

    As an onsite coordinator I am the Stage Manager. You are correct on all points!

  • Wendy Hartigan

    Great article, Christine. My observation is that EVERYBODY wants to be the architect- florists, lighting companies, venues and even bands. NOBODY can do it all!!! So, what makes a REAL planner real? What is it that sets a planner apart from those on site coordinators, talent agency event planners and event design groups? For me, I have never purported to be the architect! It is my experience that most brides want to be the architect of their own wedding. I have been the GC many times. But, mostly, I am the stage manager, with a little of the GC thrown in. However, this does not address what I feel is an underlying problem- how does one “market” themselves as a planner, when all of those other people(above) are telling the bride they “can do it all”? They can’t, they don’t and they won’t. Recently, I did a wedding at the last minute because the bride thought, mistakenly, that the caterer was going to set up the tent, get her down the aisle and keep the flow of the party. When the caterer explained that she was NOT going to do any of that, the bride panicked and came to me. I think your point is well taken. Can you take is step further? I will be using this on my blog in my “tidbits and events” section. And, I look forward to more of your brilliance!

    • christineboulton

      Will I talk about this more? Count on it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darlene-Horsch-Taylor/1346464980 Darlene Horsch Taylor

    Christine – I would consider myself a General Contractor AND the Stage Manager as you described in your post. I am definitely NOT an architect…though that is somebody I partnered with to bring into the mix for my full service package. We wedding planners/coordinators are great at wearing many hats…you should add counselor/mediator to your list considering all the drama that comes with planning weddings. Sometimes I honestly think I should pursue a degree in psychiatry or therapy with as many family disputes and bridal meltdowns I’ve dealt with!

    Maybe we could be called Project Managers? My husband is a project manager at work and has a team of people that he works with on a specific project; he directs them, gives them specific assignments, motivates them, tracks their progress, and oversees the whole project right through the live launch. If their are troubles with the launch, he is there to troubleshoot and fix what needs to be done to keep it going.

    I don’t really think you can separate the TEAM…the production team is everybody: the producer, director, stage manager, costumer, designer. Bottom line – bride needs a good stage manager. Right? But a good stage manager that is a good general contractor….still confusing though. I’ve often wondered what title to put on my business cards. I ended up putting Wedding planner/coordinator as there is much planning involved to have good coordinating. So…. I’ve probably thoroughly messed you up and am no help to you at all….LOL

    • christineboulton

      No you didn’t mess it up Darlene. The problem comes because brides don’t understand the difference. If more planners set up packages using plain language instead of “Platinum” Gold” and “Silver” there might be a fighting chance.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darlene-Horsch-Taylor/1346464980 Darlene Horsch Taylor

        Yes, I agree! I do not set my packages up that way. I say exactly what they get: “Full-Service Wedding Planning and Coordination” or “Wedding Consulting and Wedding Day Management” or just “Wedding Day Management” We must make it easy for the bride…right?

  • Meredith PWG

    All I’m going to contribute is this: some marketing messages are harder to create than others BUT…it doesn’t mean you get a “I Don’t Have to Market my Business” card. You just have to go through the creative process like everyone else – where are your brides turning to for wedding planning? Are you in front of them? If you are in front of them, what do you want them to know about you and your business? What do YOU do that your competition doesn’t do (with many wedding planners, I find the only truly unique selling advantage you have is…YOU) Great article Christine (not that I’m shocked ;-) )

    • christineboulton

      Oh, nobody gets that card!
      thanks :-D

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  • Chelsea Boehler

    I can and have been all three but I prefer to be the General Contractor, using your analogy. It depends on what the couple wants. I know a lot of coordinators/planners who only speak to the bride. I want to speak to both parties, bride and groom or partners to determine how to include everyone in the celebration of the day and have them personally reflected (be it decor, games, songs, etc.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/weddingsfromtheheart Jean Neuhart

    Most of my clients hire me in the Stage Manager capacity, although I would love to do more General Contracting. It’s tricky when the planning isn’t done well, and as the SM we have to tidy up the mess and make it pretty. This issue is compounded when other types of wedding vendors claim to be able to do it all, but in reality aren’t good Planners. Wedding planning isn’t referring a “good” florist or a “good” baker, or what-have-you. It’s referring the right ones to fit the clients vision, budget, etc., as well as a lot of other factors.

    Great previous posts about what title to put on our business card and what to call our packages. You’re right Chris, brides don’t understand the difference, but we have to use language and terms that they understand and use.

    • christineboulton

      Jean this one sentence is GOLD “Wedding planning isn’t referring a “good” florist or a “good” baker, or what-have-you. It’s referring the right ones to fit the clients vision, budget, etc., ”
      I may just have to steal it, with permission, of course ;-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/weddingsfromtheheart Jean Neuhart

        Hi Chris, Go ahead and steal away. This has long been a pet peeve of mine about other vendors.

        • http://www.facebook.com/janis.flagg Janis Flagg

          Exactly! We don’t just work from a vendor list….we search to match personalities, styles and budgets! This is a pet peeve of mine when other vendors tell brides they can plan their whole wedding. Hardly! I would bet that they aren’t going to take them to any consultations and aren’t aware of more than half of the 16-20 vendors on average that it takes to end up with a relaxed and worry-free bride on her wedding day. I accompanied my clients (a bride and groom) at a tasting and the caterer said that- to the three of us, yes right in front of me! Glad they found a caterer they liked better! ;0)

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.rutherford.1610 Amy Rutherford

    Several years ago, I was a salesperson for a catering company and handled hundreds of weddings a year. I suggested that every couple have a wedding planner, even more emphatically after my own wedding. Seeing how essential my planner was to the ease and flow of the whole event made me want to share with other brides-to-be. It’s too late after the wedding to realize you SHOULD HAVE hired a planner!

    The analogy I used often was similar to yours…the planner is like a conductor of a world-class symphony. Each of the musicians is a highly trained professional but they always have a conductor to make them work well in unison. That seemed to hit home with so many of my clients so I thought I’d share it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luann.parks LuAnn Heiden Parks

    I have been flip-flopping back and forth with different ways of marketing myself as a planner and my full-service wedding planning/coordinating business as well. According to your scenarios, I have been all three: architect, general contractor, and stage manager during my career. In the beginning (when the economy was better), I did many weddings and was given carte blanche on design, developement, and implementation of all aspects of their weddings, and all while staying within their budget given to me. I was in heaven doing it this way because I LOVE the creative design aspect of wedding planning and the glowing reviews of the final results. Usually I had 12 months or more to plan these fabulous weddings and receptions.
    But as the years progressed, economy changed a little, brides and grooms started paying for a lot of the wedding themselves, so they only needed a general contractor, using your terms, and this fit fine with me as well. I’d listen to their dreams, visions, ask tons of questions of both bride AND groom, and then refer vendors that I thought could meet their ideals and budget for their weddings. Works wonderfully!! They have and maintain some control but lean to me for advice, guidance and answers during the planning process. Then, of course, I am there on wedding weekend to make sure it all falls into place. But I find that I get these types of calls when the myriad of details start getting overwhelming for them. So I might have three or four months to work with them.
    And then here lately, with the economy in a dark abyss with no light at the end of the tunnel, brides and grooms are doing most of the planning themselves, thinking they are saving money, and only hiring me for the Day Of (which is in reality for the week before the wedding). I refuse to just walk in on the Day Of with no clue about what is going to happen, where and when, and by whom. So what I usually find out about seven days before the wedding is that this particular vendor hasn’t been heard from in months, this one was paid but is still demanding a final payment for some reason, the caterer made changes to the menu without contacting the bride and groom, and the florist has substituted a less expensive flower for the ones the bride asked for that were WAY out of her budget. I’m getting paid for the Day Of package, but end up spending hours and hours trying to fix the problems, sort through the heap of notes, and pull it all together before the afternoon of the rehearsal.
    Brides, grooms, and parents don’t understand the behind the scenes activities that we planners go through to make their day absolutely everything they dreamed it to be. So how do I market myself? What is a reasonable rate? What is a reasonable package price? I’d love to know what others are doing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/janis.flagg Janis Flagg

    I loved seeing this! I’ve often made similar comparisons to what we do. We wear a LOT of hats. Helmets would be helpful or at least thick skin! I like to think that we a little bit of each of these professions in addition to what you mentioned. We are part Teacher, Confidante, Liaison Officer, Seamstress, Designer, Orchestra Conductor, Security/Crowd Control, Mediator, Nurse, Psychologist, Investigator, Real Estate Agent, Tour Guide, Image Consultant, Mind Reader, Financial Planner, Cheerleader, and Custodian. Anyone else feel this way?

  • Shelly Stone

    Absolutely LOVE this blog! Christine, I always get so inspired when I read your posts, and the responses! I have only been in business for 3 years and am in the process of taking a big jump from “home-based” to having a “brick-and-mortar store front”. I’m very scared and nervous, but believe that I will be successful. The timing of this blog is perfect. I am trying to figure out the best way to market myself, the wording, the “packages”… I’ve been doing fine with no overhead, but now I really need my potential brides and grooms to understand what it is that I/ we can do for them, and how I am different from my competitors. Right now I have the “Platinum”, “Gold”…sort of packages and plan to change the names…I never really liked them, I just didn’t know what to call them. Over the last 3 years I have been all 3 – architect, GC and SM. I plan to continue to offer these different services and am anxious to hear what works for others as far as the marketing…words that brides and grooms really understand. I’m looking forward to reading more responses!! And, I’m so glad to see that my thoughts/ feelings are the same as many that have responded here. :)

  • planningn00b

    I am VERY new when it comes to the event planning field so there’s not too much I can say on this subject. An angle I want to use this bridal show season, and something I picked up on between this blog post and the comments is I want to literally sell my personality. Many “good” wedding planners do virtually the same thing, like you said, with the only difference being their personality. Some are more serious, some are more fab and chic, and some are perky and sunny… All are great, but they won’t mesh with all brides, and I think that is a beautiful thing because it literally makes it possible for more than one wedding planner to play in the same market. I am in the process of setting up for next year and I’m noticing that my BIGGEST mistake (other than I’m a complete noob at the business aspect of planning) I made last year was trying to fit whoever and whatever came my way, making me very blah and generic. That is not me, however, and this year I want to try and let my personality shine through (I’m more of a sunny, perky person… yuck, I know :p) and, hopefully, pick up brides that mesh more with me, even if that means I won’t even appeal to the brides that are more serious (we may not have worked out well anyway)… Question is HOW to let my personality shine through, and I will get back to you on that when I figure it out!! Thanks Christine for all you do! You have been really insightful this past year and hopefully this year I can take everything I’ve learned and actually put it into practice.