Confessions of a Wedding Planner: “My biggest challenge would be when Allerton Castle was on fire…”
Today, we have quite a special interview on our hands. We’re here with Vicky, former wedding planner who also happens to work in another wedding-related business.
Q: Vicky, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with us. Back in the days when you used to plan weddings, what were your responsibilities?
A: To meet with bridal couples, understand their wedding needs and help them plan the wedding of their dreams! I would help with ideas, understand their personalities and help them have a day that was unique to them. I would be involved with the wedding planning as much as the bridal couple wanted. Sometimes this was minimum searching for a few suppliers and helping with little parts of the planning, while many weddings were helping the bridal couple plan and organize the whole affair: from searching and booking suppliers, wedding dress shopping, venue decoration to being there on the actual day. I would help the bridal couple with whatever or wherever they needed.
Q: How would you describe a day’s work: before and during the actual event?
A: Every day was different. Generally, before the event it would be meetings with the bridal couple, either face-to-face, over the telephone or through emails. Organizing suppliers. If the bride wanted me to go wedding dress shopping with her, bridesmaid shopping or cake-tasting, I was always there to give a helping hand. Same with the groom, choosing which suits where right for them etc. Sometimes I was involved in helping the bride make her own stationery: names places, invites etc. I’ve even been shopping with the mother of bride for her outfit and helped the bridesmaid & best man organize the hen/stag do.
I was involved in the planning and organizing as much as the bridal couple required. Other brides would just want an initial bridal plan, which is like a bridal portfolio: this would involve an initial meeting with the bridal couple usually face-to-face, but sometimes over the telephone or email (whatever suited the couple best). After several discussions, I would put together a portfolio for them, this would involve wedding ideas that suited to them (theme etc.), plus a list of suppliers who could offer what they wanted, a plan of action and other personal comments that related to our discussion (this could be something they were worried about, unsure about etc.)
The day of the event was always very busy. In most cases, I would call at the bride’s house with a little gift. I would head to the church if needed (to check flowers etc. depended if that’s what the bride wanted) or I would head straight to the venue, with anything the bride would like me to take (most of the time they had delivered their overnight bag, clothes for the next day etc. but if they had forgotten something, sometimes I would take this. Sometimes I would deliver all their belongings for them the day before, along with their name places and favors etc. I’ve also helped with delivery of cakes and flowers).
The day would include ensuring the venue was all prepared, the table plan was correct etc. meeting guests, helping with any problems throughout the day, if the venue didn’t have a toastmaster I would step in and basically ensuring the day ran smoothly and on time. I would stay until the very end if the bride required.
Q: Why did you give up wedding planning?
A: After having my first child I realized, no matter how much I loved helping brides I couldn’t give the 100% I thought they deserved. It became a struggle to work around bridal needs (day trips, meetings, organizing their whole event etc.) So I decided to take a backseat on the actual planning side, but set-up the online side with a wedding blog etc. and write some wedding tips books. The A-Z is available free on our website www.calmweddings.com. I love weddings and still wanted to stay in the industry.
Q: As a wedding planner, what was the biggest challenge you had to face and how did you overcome it?
A: I didn’t find the whole planning side challenging, there would be let down with suppliers (unforeseen circumstances, luckily not that often, but I would do what I could for the bridal couple). I think my biggest challenge would be when Allerton Castle was on fire, a couple who were to marry there couldn’t. We had weeks to find them a wedding venue, to which we did, although it wasn’t as extravagant as the castle. I helped them make the day unique to them, changing a few theme ideas etc. Roping in help where I could from suppliers to help dress the 2nd venue. That was challenging because the bride was so upset. But luckily, they both said, they had the best day ever.
Q: How about difficult brides? How would you handle what people call a “bridezilla”?
A: I was quite lucky, I didn’t really come across any bridezillas. I think you can tell from an initial meeting what a bride will be like. Most brides are passionate about their wedding and want it to be the best day ever. (I had a few brides, not many, who just wanted me to get on with it, they practically just wanted to turn up, that made me more nervous as I would be worried something wasn’t to their standard on the day, but to be honest, it was always okay). I had a few mothers who were worse than the bride, and generally if we worked together and everyone listened to each others ideas, it all went to plan. Being a mediator was probably the nearest I came to a bridezilla, it wasn’t me they were angry with, it was interfering family members!
Q: What use to set you apart from the other wedding planners? In marketing terms: what was your unique selling proposition?
A: I was there for the bridal couple. I didn’t have restrictive hours. If they wanted to call me in the middle of the night they could (not that anyone did!) but they knew I was there for them. I would do whatever it was they required. We became more friends than me being their wedding planner. Hence the reason I struggled to offer such a passionate and in-depth service when my daughter was born.
Q: How would you convince a skeptical bride that she needs a wedding planner? What were your arguments?
A: I would never force my services on a bride, if they got in touch they were generally interested in wanting some help. To be honest, it was sometimes the groom who was a little unsure, but once I’d got my ideas across and when they understood the time involved in organizing a wedding there was luckily never any trouble.
Q: As I understand, you still work in the bridal business, but you run a platform for both wedding vendors and brides. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
A: I now run an online wedding store, which allows suppliers to put their products on our site. They can do this for free and we take a commission if anything is sold. We do have packages that allow the supplier to pay for additional services, but to actually put their products on the site it is free. We also have the bridal blog. When I developed this site it was for suppliers too, so many brides use the internet but there are so many suppliers who don’t have the facility to have an eCommerce site, so our site allows them to get their services out there.
Q: And why do brides need a platform like this?
A: We feel brides should have a choice of suppliers across the country. We offer a wide range of products to brides, with suppliers they wouldn’t see if they were just searching the internet, looking through magazines or staying local. There are so many lovely little suppliers out there who offer so much to brides and we want to help them connect. I wanted more than a directory. Plus, with us being experts behind the scenes we can offer so much more with tips, advice and ideas.
Q: What are the advantages that a bride has when choosing your platform rather than offline shopping?
A: Brides have so much choice is one place. It saves on time. It can be nice to look at different things for your wedding, but it can get too much, having one place to purchase your wedding products can take away a lot of stress.
Q: How does this platform specifically work? What are the steps that a bride needs to follow to get her hands on a specific item?
A: It’s as simple as going on the site, looking at what they would like and ordering it! If it’s not a ‘calm product’ we’ll send the order onto the supplier who will make sure it’s fulfilled. We’re always here if the bride has any questions.
Q: Any last words or piece of advice for our readers?
A: Your wedding is one day out of your life. A day you will remember for ever. It will go by so quickly, you must enjoy every moment. Meet with your partner several times throughout the day, connect with each other. Stop and take in every moment, because before you know where you are, you’re heading off on your honeymoon! Plus, this day is about the two of you … keep it that way.