No matter where you decide to conduct the majority of your business or what your personal management style may be, there are certain tasks common to all wedding consultants. Among them are day-to-day business administration, bridal consultations, wedding-day organization, and vendor and service coordination. Here's a look at each of these activities.
Even though no two days tend to be alike for wedding consultants, because the tastes and needs of their clients vary so widely, there are certain tasks you can expect to do on a regular basis. To begin with, you'll spend lots of time on the telephone every day, fielding inquiries from interested brides, following up on vendor leads and checking on the status of wedding preparations. If you employ contract or temporary help during weddings, you'll have to meet with them on a regular basis to provide instructions and go over details. You'll also spend a significant amount of time with the brides themselves, either conducting consultations or accompanying them to appointments with suppliers.
Then there's the paperwork. You'll have contracts to review, tax forms to file and other business-related papers to shuffle. You'll also have to keep meticulous records on the choices your brides make, the status of wedding day plans and other details. A word of advice: No matter how good your memory is, you should always jot down every appointment and activity. The number of details you'll have to attend to as a wedding consultant will be truly mind-boggling, and when you're busy and short of time, it will be too easy for something to fall through the cracks--possibly with disastrous results.
To determine what a bride wants and how much she wants to turn over to you, you'll have to schedule consultations. Although some planners offer free one-hour consultations, it makes sense to charge at least a nominal fee--say, $50 an hour--for your time. In his book, Great Wedding Tips from the Experts, Robbi Ernst writes, "A genuinely professional wedding consultant isn't going to talk with [anyone] for free, unless it is simply an introductory meeting . . . to determine if you are a good match for each other."
According to Ernst, the fee for a single consultation typically ranges from $175 in smaller communities to as much as $500 in metropolitan areas. Charging a fee will help to cut down on the number of women who are just "shopping around" for services without making a commitment.
The Wedding Day
All the wedding consultants said they act as the bride's advocate on the happy day, running interference with suppliers, making sure the wedding party is dressed and where they're supposed to be on time, and so on. Some consultants, like Julia K. in Oak Point, Texas, and Packy B. in Broadview Heights, Ohio, prepare snacks and drinks for the wedding party to nibble on before the wedding so they don't go up the aisle with rumbling stomachs. To make sure all these tasks run like clockwork, most wedding planners create a detailed wedding day schedule for each member of the wedding party, the parents and other relatives as well as vendors who are responsible for providing various services.
Consultants often hire extra help on a contract basis to assist with wedding day activities. Their duties may range from greeting guests to taking care of the wedding party and families (refilling drinks, assisting the bride in the powder room and so on). These contractors are hired on an as-needed basis, and are paid either by the hour (around $10 to $15 an hour) or by the function ($100 to $150 per day).
Working with Vendors
One of the things that will make you invaluable to customers is your knowledge of the bridal industry. As a consultant, you're expected to be the font from which all knowledge about the industry flows. That means knowing things like which wedding gown styles or decorating schemes are in vogue and which are pass�, or whether it's inspired or gauche to use silk flowers in the bride's bouquet.
But perhaps even more importantly, your clients will count on you to recommend reliable suppliers that offer the best quality and value for their money. So it's your job to research bridal service providers in your target market to find the best possible sources for the products or services you'll require. From this research you should compile a list of preferred vendors you can either share with the bride during a consultation or use yourself if you're in charge of all the planning.
The easiest way to identify potential service providers is by asking friends and business acquaintances for recommendations. Other useful sources of information include the Internet, and your local Yellow Pages and Chamber of Commerce. The Better Business Bureau can also be useful for helping you steer clear of businesses whose reputations are less than sterling.
In this initial fact-finding stage, don't limit yourself to locating a certain number of vendors. Rather, identify as many potential sources as possible so you'll have several to choose from when the time comes to make a recommendation to the bride. Keep in mind, too, that you should locate vendors in the low, medium and high price ranges to accommodate all budgets.
Then once you've compiled your list of sources, pick up the phone and make appointments to see their facilities and products in person. Since business owners are generally pleased to grant you a personal interview and show off their services as a way to secure future business, those who balk should be removed from your list.
Who Will Your Major Suppliers Be?
- Reception halls and banquet sites
- Entertainment consultants and DJs
- Photographers and videographers
- Wedding cake bakery
- Limousine service