Okay. Buckle up, friends! With over 15 years in the wedding industry under my belt, I'm going to share with you ALL the mistakes you have to avoid as a wedding planner. I have seen certain mistakes be made – by wedding planners – over and over again. As a business coach, I want something different for you. I want you to have the business that you want, and I want to make sure you're not believing some of the lies that marketers in our industry are screaming from the rooftops. Like you already know – it's not all good advice on the internet. I'm going to break down just 9 of the biggest wedding planner mistakes I see people make (and give your some advice on what to do instead!).
Wedding Planner Mistake #1: Not Doing Market Research.
Before you start ANY business, you do your research.
So why do so many planners enter the wedding industry skipping this step?
Market research is literally investigating the marketplace you're getting into. Like, who are the established planners in your area, what services do they offer, and how successful are they?
Although I don't think you should jump down a rabbit hole of comparison when you start to research your competitors, you should definitely know who you are and what makes you different. If you can't tell me why you're different, who can?
Why would clients want to book with you over the competition?
Don't make this mistake. Do your research. If you have no idea where to start (or just want a little direction), you can download my free business plan outline here.
Wedding Planner Mistake #2: Thinking your Ideal Clients are perfect (or worse – not really even knowing who the heck they are).
I could go on and on about this. I believe that most businesses fail because they just don't know who they're talking to.
Understanding who your ideal clients are and what they want from you is *critical* to being successful in the wedding industry. Don't make the mistake of not knowing who your business exists to serve.
And listen, I know you're thinking…
“Candice, I've done 1,000,000 ideal client avatar exercises, I know exactly who my ideal client is!”
Hmm, you sure? I would say that if this profile you wrote sounds like the perfect human being (with every personality trait that's desirable and a bank account to match), you haven't done enough.
If your ideal client sounds like a “25-35 year old who loves designer labels and regularly shops at JCrew”, you can do better, and I've created a small but mighty resource to help you get through this work in just one weekend. The Client Cocktail has absolutely EVERYTHING you need: from identifying who your ideal clients are, attracting them in real life, and even the world's best rum punch recipe. Grab it for just $47 here.
Wedding Planner Mistake #3: Booking Weddings for Free to Get Experience
Storytime. I talked to an accountant before I opened my wedding planning business (like I mentioned – I am a PLANNER), and he was very honest with me and said something along the lines of:
“Candice, I don't know a lot about the wedding industry, but I do know about the home building industry. And one of the mistakes I see home builders make is taking on lower-priced work to try to gain experience. What ends up happening is they start to build a portfolio that will never get them the clients they want.”
Ouch – who can relate to that? You are not going to book million-dollar weddings by taking weddings for free to gain experience. Those weddings are not going to attract the clients you want, and you're better off spending your precious time on other avenues.
Wedding Planner Mistake #4 Pricing Yourself into Poverty by Undercharging to Gain Experience
When COVID hit, I talked to the women in my mastermind and asked point blank – don't you deserve to stay in business? That feels like a gut check to so many of us. We often fall victim to every sob story, but we also make exceptions and slash our pricing BEFORE our customers actually ask us to.
Be honest, did you waive the change fee in your contract during COVID? Was it because you genuinely wanted to? Or was it because you felt guilty?
By undercharging, all you're going to do is burn out and eventually end up offering a subsatisfactory client experience until you end up quitting altogether. There's a reason being a wedding planner is a high turnover job, y'all, and it's not just because we get bored of pretty things.
Don't make the mistake of pricing yourself into poverty. Price yourself to make a living wage.
Wedding Planner Mistake #5: Using Images of Other People's Work in Your Portfolio.
If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone use one of my weddings for their Instagram feed, I could have retired early.
This is not okay.
And no, quoting the image source as “Pinterest” does not cut it. Not only could you end up in legal trouble, but it's also a clear misrepresentation of your work, and you may just end up leaving a bad taste in both your industry friends' and potential clients' mouths. It's not worth it.
Consider using stock photos instead! When I started my wedding business in 2008, stock photos were JANKY. Like, not good AT ALL. But I made it work and sifted through whatever I could to make it work. Now, we have so many more options. I personally love using Haute Stock or Styled Stock Society.
Better yet, network with other vendors and plan some styled shoots that are a true reflection of your work. These might cost you a little bit of money – oftentimes, florists and other vendors will want to get paid for any hard goods – but it is worth it as you start to invest in your business. I'd rather you pay for a styled shoot that reflects weddings you want to book than do ten free styled shoots where the vendors don't bring their best work.
Wedding Planner Mistake #6: Not Having a Legal Contract
I don't really need to beat a dead horse after the year we just had, do I?
I know that having a legal contract is not one of the sexiest things about owning a business. Trust me, I get it. However, not having a legal contract only needs to be a big mistake in ONE SITUATION for it to cost you so much more. I know that sitting down with a lawyer to draft a contract can be pricey, but there are so many affordable template options. I personally recommend Legally Set (she has a few different options depending on your wedding business needs!).
Stop getting your advice from Facebook groups and just invest in a good contract, okay?
Wedding Planner Mistake #7: Not Understanding the Scope of Work You've Been Hired for
When you first start your wedding business, you'll do almost anything to get the sale. But being crystal clear in the beginning is the absolute best way to avoid any future issues.
Oftentimes, we talk about scope creep, but we never talk about overpromising and under-delivering (which can be your customers' perspective – if you aren't careful!). Be crystal clear on what should be expected from both sides before the contract is signed.
You need to be careful about balancing your client's requests and what you've actually been hired to do. Scope creep is when clients ask you to do things that you haven't technically been paid for–and it can be a real buzz kill.
It starts off innocent enough. “Hey Candice, can you make this phone call for us?” But it can quickly spiral into a long list of “Can you do this?” – and you haven't been paid for it.
Make sure your contract outlines EXACTLY what work you're doing for your client–and note an hourly rate for additional work OUTSIDE of what you've been contracted to do.
But listen to me, and listen to me carefully: you've got to enforce it. Don't say yes to your clients' every wish and demand. If they're asking you to do work that is outside the scope you agreed upon, CHARGE THEM.
Wedding Planner Mistake #8: Thinking that Your Success Will Happen Overnight
Business takes time y'all. You'll hear the story about someone who launched their wedding planning business and got picked to plan Obama's anniversary party in the same week.
I'm 99.9% positive that won't happen to you.
And listen, it SHOULD happen to you because you're that talented.
It takes time for your business to get its footing. To build brand awareness, gain experience, and make your mark. Overnight success is a myth that marketers love to convince you is real.
I don't know about you, but I am so sick of this “make 100K in six months” kind of marketing. I would much rather you build a business that is profitable and gives you both the business and life that you want for the long haul, then convince you to try to make as much money as you can, as fast as possible. I've fallen victim to this kind of advertising before, so I know that it often ends up with you just feeling discouraged and defeated. I don't want that for you!
And when I tell you to invest in long-term strategies like SEO, Pinterest, and blogging, I'm assuming you're in it for the long haul. So, recognize that good things take time. And you're not here for a short time–you're here for the long game.
Wedding Planner Mistake #9: Doing Day of Coordination
I know you want to get your feet wet ASAP, so your gut reaction is to offer Day of Coordination and charge a low rate to get money flowing.
But please, reconsider.
Day of Coordination is a headache. Take it from me–your wedding planning mentor. It's filled with low-budget clients, a shit load of problems, and comes back to not only building the type of portfolio you want but also understanding the value you bring to the table.
If you're offering day-of coordination, you're not going to make much money AND you're going to deal with a lot of headaches. Plus, it doesn't show what you can really do… which is plan, design, and coordinate a kick-ass wedding.
Instead, consider offering Month of Coordination to start.
That was a LOT, so let me quickly recap. As someone who has been where you are, here are the top 9 wedding planner mistakes I see couples make when they start their wedding businesses:
- Not doing market research
- Not knowing who your ideal clients are
- Taking weddings for free to get experience
- Pricing yourself into poverty by undercharging to get experience
- Using images of other people's work in your portfolio (use haute stock or styled stock society instead)
- Not having a legal contract
- Not understanding the scope of work you've been hired for
- Thinking your success will happen overnight
- Doing Day of Coordination
Ready to grow your wedding planning business the right way? I'm so glad to hear you say that. The Planner's Playbook is here–and it's going to be your new secret weapon to plan, design, and coordinate high-end weddings like a pro.
Seriously, my new coaching program *only* for wedding planners was created to teach you everything you need to know about HOW to plan, design, and coordinate weddings. Want to grow your wedding planning business? Well, you've got to become the best in the game. And The Planner's Playbook is here to show you how!
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