Lessons learned from 14 years as a wedding planner

Last week I celebrated my 14th year in business as a wedding planner. Armed with little more than a dream, some business cards and a whole load of self-belief, I set up my consultancy The Pink Pumpkin with the aim of becoming the go-to planner for style savvy couples in the UK. Within a year I’d won my first award and I haven’t looked back since.

Over the years the landscape of the wedding industry has changed immeasurably. Gone are the days that having one of your real weddings published in You and Your Wedding would see your books full for the next season. Social media, pinterest and the emergence of wedding blogs means that brides now more than ever have access to all the inspiration they could possibly want at the touch of a button – some would argue too much.

In some ways nothing has changed. Couples still want to feel like their wedding is the only one. They still hate being sold to, want to be inspired and ultimately work with people they like.

Below are the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the past 14 years as a luxury wedding planner.

Don’t be like the rest of them, darling

I spent many a year trying to be someone I wasn’t to appeal to as many clients as I could. To design weddings at every type of venue, for every type of client and at every opportunity. It was only when I really understood who I was as a business owner and creative and got super clear on who I wanted to work with that I felt truly fulfilled by what I was doing.

Don’t try and be all things to all people, be the absolute best at the one thing you are incredible at, and your clients will be drawn to you magnetically.

Go above and beyond

Whenever I work with a couple I’m always thinking about how I can elevate the experience for them and make planning their wedding an utter joy. For me, luxury is defined by the level of service I give to each of my clients. I offer them time, I offer them expertise and I want them to feel like nothing is too much trouble.

Adding unexpected touches of brilliance throughout each client’s time with you can only help to enhance their experience. Planning a wedding should be a fun, enjoyable and happy time. We are so lucky to be able to work in this industry to make a living, and our clients deserve to be appreciated.

Be super clear

As with any relationship I have found that communication is absolutely key. It begins at the very start of their journey with you; from being specific about what quotations and proposals include, to the scope of your service and the ability to make changes along the way.

In my experience, problems have occurred when a lack of clarity has meant that a client’s expectation doesn’t match up with what they receive. They feel cheated in some way and it reinforces the quite frankly ridiculous stereotype that people in the wedding industry are out to ‘get’ their clients.

It’s easy when we’re in the business to assume. Because we know what we’re offering, we assume that it’s going to be clear to our clients but often it’s not. Try taking a look at your contract or a recent proposal with a fresh pair of eyes, understanding that often these clients have no experience of booking a floral designer or commissioning a photographer and see whether you have complete clarity within these vital pieces of communication.

Value your service {and time}

In a service based industry it’s so difficult to communicate value. But it’s even more difficult if you don’t value yourself. For years I undercharged for my services convinced that people wouldn’t pay more. I was wrong. When I started to get to grips with the finances behind the business and understood what my time and expertise were actually costing, it was fairly soul destroying! But it gave me a much needed kick up the backside to make significant changes to my pricing, and in turn it allowed me to work with clients who truly valued my services rather than those who were just looking to work with the person who offered the best rate.

Value your time and your expertise, and if you do one thing this year, get to grips with the numbers behind your business!

Be kind, always

I teach this to my children every day but I don’t think there’s anything more important. I have been burned over the years, trusting people who turned out to be anything but trustworthy, and have often been told I’m too nice to be running a business. I believe though that you don’t have to be ruthless to be successful. That you can be both kind hearted, generous, wear your heart on your sleeve and still run a business that is both creatively and financially fulfilling.

I’m proud to have been running my business for such a long time. I have most definitely had ups and down but ultimately there’s no place I’d rather be than in this wonderful world of weddings!

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