I’m still on a high from the inaugural Captivate Your Clientele workshop. It was everything I imagined it to be and more, and I was blown away by how inspiring it was to be surrounded by such a talented group of women. All these images capture the workshop perfectly, and were taken by Zosia Zacharia.
When I designed the workshop I wanted it to be three things above all else – inspiring, nurturing and empowering.
My intention was for each attendee to come away feeling like they knew how to make their client relationships the centre of their business and how to put it at the very core of everything they do. I wanted them to be inspired by my journey and feel empowered to do things their way – to think about how they wanted to design their businesses and how they wanted to work. I wanted the environment to feel nurturing – for them to feel they were in a safe space and could talk uninhibited about the potential difficulties they face. Nothing was off limits and boy did we cover a lot!
The Balcony Room at The Swan was such an inspiring setting. We were blessed with a beautifully crisp, sunny Autumn day and the view of St Paul’s and the London skyline from the windows was incredible.
The day started with coffee, delicious pastries and some introductions and then we dived straight into the first session, how to capture the essence of your client. The morning flew past with immersive talks, lots of discussion and practical ideas to take forward.
We broke for a delicious two course lunch; I’m such a foodie that this part was really important to me. The Swan did not disappoint with a bountiful display of salads, meat, fish and sides and finished with a scrumptious pud that none of us probably ‘should’ have eaten but were all very glad we did!
The afternoon saw Hannah, one of my past brides attend for a Q&A session which I know everyone found so insightful and interesting. She busted a lot of myths about the high-end client and we talked through everything from marketing to supplier sourcing, to floral design and stress management.
The final part of the day was dedicated to the ideal client – working to define it for each attendee and then sessions on how to attract and maintain them when you know who they are. This is deep work and requires more time than just a short session so they were given workbooks to go away and delve into further after their time at the workshop had finished.
I worked with some incredible suppliers to make the workshop come to life. Gorgeous welcome boxes sat at each setting containing journals, postcards and pens which were designed together with Knots and Kisses. At the end of the day they left with goody bags containing sweet treats from Mon Annie and a spritzer of the scent from the candles I chose from Neom Organics. Liz from Blue Sky Flowers selected the most beautiful but simple blooms and the room was scented with Sicilian lemon and fresh basil candles to boost energy and add to the inspiring atmosphere.
It was such an incredible day, and we finished with a cocktail or two in the bar, continuing the discussions that we’d started earlier. There are so many topics that came up that I will write about more, and that have inspired future teachings and workshops. I am about to book the venue and date for the second Captivate Your Clientele and I’d love to see you there.
I will leave you with the video below from the super talented HD Moments, which has captured the essence of the workshop perfectly and I hope it inspires you to join me next time…
As entrepreneurs one of the most powerful yet difficult things you can do is to say no. We are somehow programmed to say yes to any opportunity that comes our way, to any client that wants to book us, to any collaboration that seeks us out. Saying yes to everything though means that often we are over worked, under paid and not fulfilled creatively.
It’s somewhat counter intuitive but actually the more we say no to things, the more of the right opportunities actually present themselves for us to say yes to.
As a wedding planner it is absolutely vital that you ‘get’ your clients and they understand you in return. If you are routinely saying yes to people who are not right for you, you’re less likely to be able to attract the right ones because you’re not going to have your best work there to show and put out to the world.
I love to design weddings in open spaces; in private homes or country estates. It’s where I feel I can add most value both creatively and logistically, and I am inspired so much by our surroundings that it feels like my natural habitat. I am not inspired by city hotels or gritty urban venues; there are planners and designers out there that are, and create the most incredible weddings in them but if a client came to me with that as their brief it’s not necessarily something I would immediately say yes to. It would have to be a really great fit in other ways for me to work with them, otherwise I would refer the couple to someone else I thought would absolutely nail it creatively.
It’s why understanding who you are as a planner is so important, so that you can identify quickly whether the client is a right fit for you, and in turn whether you’re the right fit for the client. Potential clients will respect the fact that you have this conversation with them. It shows that you have integrity and understanding, and ultimately they will benefit from working with someone who is completely aligned with them.
It’s similar with collaborations. Now don’t get me wrong I love a styled shoot – I have worked with some incredible suppliers over the years and have gained a tonne of exposure through them being published globally, but again they have to be the right fit. Think about who you want to network with as suppliers, as I said in my post about wedding planner supplier networks it’s vital that everyone you work with are on the same level as you, wanting to have similar clients and to create something aesthetically aligned. You are absolutely allowed to politely say no to these opportunities; otherwise ultimately it’s going to be a waste of your time, creativity and often money, to work on something that you don’t then want to show to the world.
It’s not easy though is it?! It takes practise, and goodness I have taken on various jobs over the years that with hindsight I shouldn’t have. But do you know what, looking back I think every single time I knew – my gut was telling me that something was off and I pushed those feelings to one side, grateful and hungry for all the work I could get. Working in the opposite way, by deliberately seeking out those clients I know I’m a good fit for, is so much more fulfilling – both creatively and financially. So next time you get a potential new client or are asked to collaborate, just stop and have a think before diving in and saying yes. Sometimes it’s definitely more powerful to say no.
It takes a huge team of people to create a distinctive wedding. You are the ringmaster – amassing all these talented professionals together to bring the celebration to life. Having a team on board that are a joy to work with make the experience of planning the wedding much more enjoyable for you and ultimately for your client.
I’ve worked with some amazing people over the years, and also some that I would never want to work with again! I’ve found tact, diplomacy and killing with kindness is the best way to deal with a tricky supplier! Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often and I have built a brilliant network of super suppliers who I know will deliver above and beyond the brief every single time.
The suppliers you choose to work with can make or break a wedding and ultimately your reputation. They are absolutely crucial to you delivering what you promise, and developing a tried and trusted network of professionals is key to running a successful wedding planning consultancy.
You will work with a large number of suppliers on each wedding, from the venue to the photographer to the florist, the stationer, the caterer and everyone in between. It is vital that you all work together as a team both in the run up to the wedding and on the day itself.
But how to choose them, select them for each wedding and build a strong working relationship?
Take time to get to know and to vet suppliers that you’ll recommend to your clients. Firstly do you like them, can you see yourself working with them over months and on many weddings, view their portfolio and ask them about their experience, do they have the necessary legal entities in place such as public liability insurance or PAT testing for electrical equipment and do you feel confident that they understand your vision and can bring it to life.
Are they aligned with the kind of clients you want to attract? Your network can also become a great source of potential weddings, so it’s likely that you’ll all be working with similar style and budget celebrations. If they share the same ethos and ethics as you, you’ll naturally attract a similar clientele.
Reach out far and wide to people you’d like to work with, and understand you can’t work with everyone every time. Even now there are still some suppliers who I have known for years but who I’ve never had the opportunity to work with – the right wedding just hasn’t arisen. I’ve nurtured my relationship with them though and we both know that as soon as the situation comes about (which it will) to bring the perfect wedding, we will work together and the results will be beautiful.
As a full service wedding planner your clients rely on you to shortlist all their suppliers and make recommendations on who would work best for their individual wedding. This means you need to have an army of talent up your sleeve and people you know will deliver.
I’m lucky to have worked with some wonderful people over the years, many of whom I now count as good friends. Align yourself with professionals who can help you elevate your offering and share like minded clients. You are in control of your business, so you are ultimately in control of who your work colleagues are – now isn’t that the dream?!
Not the snappiest of titles to a blog post I’m afraid (!) but it’s something that I hear A LOT and happened to me recently too. What to do when you’ve put in the leg work on a client consultation and then they don’t book you because their venue/ caterer/ mother * has told them they don’t need a planner or stylist.
* delete as appropriate
Back in the early 2000s before I started The Pink Pumpkin, which ultimately became Kim Balasubramaniam Weddings I worked in medical education. I ran the examinations and assessments for a training programme for students who wanted to become doctors, but had already done a degree. This involved pulling together content from a huge variety of places – consultants, surgeons, communications experts, GPs, physiotherapists, the list goes on. In short there were a whole lot of people with a whole load of different skills that needed to come together to ensure that these students had the broadest education possible and therefore were equipped to go out into the world after graduation and practise medicine in the way that suited the modern world.
Weddings are not dissimilar. Bear with me! Planning a wedding is a daunting prospect for most, and a skill that takes time and experience to perfect. To truly have a distinctive wedding a couple needs to work with a whole myriad of suppliers from their planner to a photographer to a stationer and everyone in between. This multidisciplinary approach is something that I have built into my business from day one – to allow each person involved in the wedding to be able to do what they do best. Everyone has a unique skillset and the planner and stylist’s key role is to bring all these people together to create the vision that they have crafted together with their client. There is no room for egos, no room for one-upmanship and definitely no room for clashes. Our role is a mixture of interior designer, project manager, counsellor and ringmaster. When it works, it works beautifully and the whole team can congratulate themselves on a job well done.
But what about when it doesn’t work – when you don’t even get the chance to carry out your vision because the client has been told, and has accepted, that they don’t need you. This is single handedly the most infuriating reason for you not to get a booking. And it needs to change.
I can bake a fairy cake, and have been known to cobble together a dodgy looking tractor for my children’s birthday cake but would I even consider attempting to create a wedding cake? No, absolutely not – which is why I work with genius bakers like Krishanthi and Melissa.
I have written some beautiful tags on my Christmas presents, and made some lovely invites for parties but would I design and print stationery for a client? No, of course not – typesetting and designing a suite of invitations is a very specific skill and one which I would’t begin to understand. Which is why I recommend Abigail Warner and Rose & Ruby among others to my clients.
I make a mean spag bol, can knock out a dinner party for ten and am never happier than dreaming up a new curry for my husband but never in a million years would I consider catering for 150 guests in a marquee in a client’s back garden. That would be madness. Which is why I love to work with talented folk like Kalm Kitchen and Rhubarb.
I could go on but I’m sure you get the drift. We all bring our own skills to the table. By a venue or a caterer or whoever insisting that a client doesn’t need a planner they’re completely undermining the skills that you have and the creative and organisational flair that you will bring. For wedding planning clients I literally do EVERYTHING for them – go gown shopping and to dress fittings, attend meetings in their absence, pick up their shoes before the wedding, I’ve even been known to change a client’s baby’s nappy for goodness sake! I go above and beyond every single time and it makes me so angry when people just don’t understand what the job entails.
So what can we do about it?
Firstly, the only way we are going to change other suppliers’ attitudes is by educating them. This may be as simple as listing out all the things that you will do for the client to the venue, so that they’re aware of the level of detail you go in to – are they going to be there the night before the wedding hand tying silk ribbon in the perfect bow around 120 bunches of freshly picked lavender? I can guarantee most will not. It may involve a phone call to them when you get an enquiry to talk through who would do what so you know what to include in your proposal. Handled in the right way, venues and caterers and other suppliers should then slowly begin to see the value in your services much more.
I’m a great believer in one-to-one contact – if there are venues that you’d particularly like to work with or are getting enquiries for and clients aren’t booking, arrange a meeting with the manager and talk through the services you offer and how it will actually make their lives much easier. Like most things in life, immediate opposition to something is often rooted in fear of the unknown – they may have had a bad experience with a planner in the past and think you’re going to take over, or they may feel threatened by your involvement. Ultimately communication and collaboration is the only way to get over the hurdle. Kill them with kindness!
Secondly, this is about alignment of your brand. Are you attracting the right clients, working with the right venues and identifying the key people you need in your network? Some venues, such as dry hire spaces or marquee plots, lend themselves perfectly to the involvement of planners and stylists. These tend to be places that take on less bookings but potentially more creative ones so you clients see the benefits from the start of hiring someone to help them. These are ultimately also more fulfilling for you, whether the challenge is logistical or creative, when we really make a difference the rewards are great.
Finally, perhaps we also need to educate our clients more. To ensure they really know what our job involves and how much added value we bring. This is going to be different for everyone, and again comes back to communication.
Sometimes though, it’s just not going to go our way, so we may need to chalk it up to experience, possibly filter enquiries for specific places you know you’re not going to work at, and try not to take it personally. It can be a lonely life, the life of a planner – we are often one person enterprises which is why it’s also really important to be able to rant to someone in real life!
Remember though that you are amazing. You get to do something that you are incredibly talented at for a living, you get to set the boundaries and you get to say what you do or do not want to do. Own your worth, stand tall and know that ultimately if someone chooses not to work with you, they will probably live to regret it the night before their wedding when they find themselves tying the 117th bunch of freshly picked lavender with their silk ribbon!
Welcome to the blog! And to the new website, and new company! Why Inimitable? Well ultimately, as a wedding planner, your clients buy YOU. You may have a gorgeous portfolio, an impressive list of venues you’ve worked at, a little black book to make anyone jealous, but it all boils down to whether your client connects with you as a person – if they do, they will be hooked and you will book those clients with grace and ease.
Our industry is competitive. It has grown exponentially over the last 15 or so years – when I started The Pink Pumpkin my first wedding planning consultancy, there were only a handful of planners in the UK and it was something that was starting to come across from the States. We had to work hard to convince people that they needed someone to help, that we weren’t there to control and that our services were worth paying for. To a certain extent this is still the case, but more and more couples are actively searching for planners; particularly those at the higher end of the market, which is where Inimitable and I come in. I want to help you capture these clients, so you can spend less time convincing people to work with you and more time actually creating the weddings you love.
I made a conscious decision a few years ago to only work on those weddings which really made my heart sing, and with clients who I felt completely aligned with. I took on less bookings, but better bookings. They paid more, I had more creative freedom and I felt completely respected and trusted in my role as a planner.The high-end client is discerning. They need a certain level of understanding and they have to totally trust that you know what you’re doing, that you get them and that you are in complete control of everything.
Once you discover the magic that makes you inimitable and learn how to express it every step of the way in your business you too can book those clients that you truly desire and create a business that works for you right now.
This is going to look different for everyone. You may want to specialise in festival wedding weekends, have a love for marquee or outdoor celebrations or hope to capture the luxury hotel market – whatever makes you happy and allows you to show off your talent and creativity to the best extent will work for you. Because when you do more of what makes you happy, that ultimately shines through your whole business; your clients will be happier and the celebrations that you craft be more magical and meaningful than ever.
You will have been working on this wedding for a long time and there’s no room for error or second chances. Keeping good records of everything is absolutely essential and double checking all communication with your suppliers is key.
Ensure they all have the correct locations, postcodes, timings and contact numbers. Double check that all invoices have been settled ahead of the day or that there’s cash available if necessary.
Check the timelines you’ve created are appropriate and talk them through with key suppliers such as photographers and caterers. Triple check your guest number count and names against your RSVPs and the table plan – a sure fire way of having an unhappy guest is to not have them on the seating chart!
Check the wording of the invitations; have they got the correct addresses on, and times, dates, RSVP etc.
You get the idea – check, check and check again!
As a wedding planner you are responsible for bringing your client’s vision for their dream wedding day alive. You want guests to enter the wedding and be able to identify immediately with the elements that you have created for them and for the whole day to have a distinctly personal feel.
At the heart of this process is your relationship with your client. You will only be able to create this level of detail if you develop this relationship to the max and really know what makes them tick.
Your relationship with your client is everything. To them you are a friend, a confidante and often a counsellor!
“THEY NEED TO LIKE YOU, TO FEEL THEY CAN OPEN UP TO YOU ABOUT ANYTHING AND ABOVE ALL, TRUST YOU IMPLICITLY.”
Your clients will be your greatest cheerleaders and can help you to grow your business in the direction you want to – nurture them, and give them the time and space to fully open up to you. It will be worth it and ultimately your work will only get better because of it.
My first workshop, Captivating your Clientele being held in November 2018 in London teaches you how to really get to the heart of your clients, how to understand the needs of a high-end client and how to navigate tricky situations. It will also give you a unique, priceless insight into the mind of a luxury wedding client as I will be hosting a question and answer session with one of my past brides. It’s an opportunity not to be missed – book your place now!
I’m thrilled that one of my styled editorial shoots has been featured on the international Ruffled blog. The shoot which was at Somerley was inspired by the story of the venue itself, and the beautiful furnishings inside. Antique dining chairs which had been upholstered with tapestries of blousy bouquets in the prettiest pastel shades inspired the colour scheme and florals.
Editorial shoots are such a great way to hone your creative style, and to move your brand up a level. You attract what you put out – if you dream of doing outdoor weddings but your portfolio is mainly hotel ballrooms then a styled shoot can be a great way to inspire your clients and show that you are capable of creating something magical in the setting that you want to.
They can also be a lovely way to network with suppliers and work with people who you want to, but have not yet had the opportunity to. Don’t be afraid to approach people with your idea but be specific about what you are creating, who you’re going to be ‘talking to’ with the shoot and where you’re going to be pitching it to. A lot of my clients are international so it makes sense for me to have my work featured on international blogs – however if you’re concentrating on your local area or specifically want to work with clients in the South of France for example, think carefully about who you should submit to for maximum exposure.
Above all, have fun! You’re designing without the constraints of a client, so enjoy the process, refine your skills and create something wonderful! xo
PS if you’d like a gander, the whole shoot can be seen here on Ruffled Blog.
I had the great pleasure recently of being interviewed by Emma Meek, the ultimate Inimitable woman behind Miss Bush Bridal and Luxe Bride. Emma and I have shared many a client and have the same ethos to our businesses – to give our clients exceptional service every time, to work to the highest possible standard and to really own our place in the market.
Our most recent mutual client was the gorgeous Hannah who married her love James at home in the Surrey countryside. It was the most incredible wedding, was featured in You & Your Wedding among others and she rocked a bespoke Jesus Peiro gown.
You can read the full interview here on Luxe Bride.