The wedding industry is viewed differently by all; to the suspicious it is the ‘industrial wedding complex’, a shady organisation that conspires to extort. To cynics it if full of lovely fluffy types that haven’t quite got over planning their own wedding.
To us, the hard grafting retailers, artisans and planners it is, at a very basic level, going to work in a very female-first environment.
Planners come in for a lot of flak, because, “what do they do?” I totally get that point of view, I am guilty of having thought so too. Over the last five or so years, working with some brilliant planners, my view is entirely changed.
In my first job out of university I went to work at a presentation company in central London. I was naïve in the extreme. Clients trusted me, probably because they had no idea how little I knew, but every time I had to brief a project into production with limited technical knowledge I was greeted with barely concealed eye rolls at best and belittling at worst. Sometimes I left a studio floor not even knowing if I could communicate to the client whether something could or would be achieved.
I don’t want to sermonise but my twenty two year old self empathises with planners, particularly those in the early stages of their careers. I understand that all planners won’t know how to pitch a marquee, whip up a meal for thousands, dangle the floral dream catcher and fit the dress. It is not their job to know how to do that, hell; each wedding will be a learning curve. Sometimes even I have thought “is it absolutely necessary to bring your planner to a dress fitting…”
There are many ways that they are a lifeline not just for their clients but for the industry
Five things to consider when working with planners
A Professional Friend.
When my lovely colleague Corinne was planning Richard & her wedding, the tumultuous noise of family opinion and the deafening silence from work colleagues left her somewhere between hysteria and disinterest with her own wedding planning. Adding in Lauren from Bluebird at my suggestion because, selfishly, I needed her operating at full strength, was brilliant for Miss Bush. To watch the transformative effect on how Corinne’s mental health having a professional friend, interpreting her ideas, and not glazing over because we have talked weddings for thirteen years was incredible. When sniping at planners because ‘they don’t know this’ or ‘can’t do that’ the industry must know that it’s not about them and their particular artisan genius at that point. At a time when a bride or a couple could be drowning in wedding admin and trying to tune out ‘amateur experts,’ being able to focus on the day job, to feel like they are being heard not herded is invaluable.
Communication & Interface
Having read the Love My Dress readership survey about a thousand times over, one of the recurring niggles of engaged couples is poor communication. This can range from waiting an age for a quote, getting progress reports, being alerted to changes down to simply a prompt and courteous response to emails. Miss Bush was seriously guilty of this in the past. Brilliant at selling dresses, excellent at fitting. Following up appointments, letting clients know the progress of their order, explaining fittings procedures and costs and even booking advance fittings - terrible. Born from a simpler era of retail it took a lot to modernise to meet a client’s expectations and we are still learning. An artisan or a retailer has to understand that it is not just the arrangement of some flowers, the taste of the food or the basic fit of a dress that is important. It is the experience of service, sometimes over and above the product, that is the aspect a client will remember. As much as it has hugely increased the workload, timely responses and effective communication is essential. Add a wedding planner as an interface and they relieve the burden for a vendor. They can filter out the urgent enquiry from the handholding, they can manage client’s expectations and they can have a no-nonsense, trade conversation with suppliers while retaining a swan-like glide in front of the client. They are a sponge, a punch bag, a sounding board and a counsellor allowing the creative to create. To the artisan this may appear they are basking in underserved glory, taking credit for work that is not theirs. As it ever was; production hates the sales team for making them work silly hours and the sales team hate production for being surly and obstinate. In between sits the fine art of account management or wedding planning in our industry, keep the wheels oiled, the hair stroked with liberal sprinklings of glitter.
Never have I heard a wedding planner suggest a cake from M&S or a filling station forecourt bunch of flowers. I have never heard them suggest that an A level photography student should handle capturing the day expertly or that they can whip together a finger buffet for forty at a fiver a head. I have heard them strongly question clients about where their priorities lie.
Yes, they are all a little bit Martha Stuart; they love a candle a good bit of cutlery. Yes, indeed, they fanny around a touch with details; Lauren was dead chuffed with suspended laser cut perspex table signs for Corinne’s wedding that I warrant a few guests couldn’t even focus on. Yes, what they focus on is the detail and not love, marriage and the bigger picture. Yes, again, Planners want to create a beautiful body of photogenic work. They are not social workers they are social engineers.
They want clients to book the best suppliers to deliver the best results. They would like to be recommended and booked again. They are not essential to the straightforward delivery of a product from A to B, from fork to mouth, from potting shed to posy.
They shout about the great artisans, are passionate advocates for them because they know how good you are and can tell clients so with the bumbling, self-effacing, shoe-gazing that affects all us Brits!
The more we understand of each other’s craft, the more we can respect it and teach respect for it. The more a wedding planner leans about the practicalities of the timings of making a dress, for example, the better they can advise a client. The art of dress fitting, when to spend, where to save and absolutely when to splurge they can help a client plan and budget accordingly.
When I hear of planners draining lakes, craning temporary toilets over houses and installing catering kitchens in fields I understand where a wedding budget goes to.
When I know that, far from being a glamorous job, a wedding planner is part roadie, part PA and on the day crisis averter I understand their challenges. Whether sitting with an ill relative, managing raucous, ‘tired and emotional’ number guests or simply rounding up strays their job does not end at tying bows. At Corinne’s wedding a wedding planner was dispatched to find a missing Usher and his wife who were having badly timed ‘little lie down!!!!’ – far from the field of dreams career-wise.
Sometimes being self-employed is the best thing in the world. No 9-to-5. No dull routine. It is however occasionally lonely, very often in the wedding industry it is entirely female and always presents the juggle of the work/life balance.
There are plenty of challenges facing the trade this year; ultimately no one actually needs anything any of us do apart from the most basic service of the Registrar. All of us have faced criticism at one time or another that we are overpriced, unnecessary or irrelevant. Every product or service is a treat for the couple, an extravagance or an indulgence depending on one’s point of view.
I would urge rather than side-eying someone’s chosen profession, craft or industry sector and judging it unnecessary or frivolous that we too learn to communicate honestly and openly with each other across the different discipline for the benefit of this very wonderful circle of love we are privileged to belong to.
All photos minus the first from Corinne and Rich's wedding
Corinne and Rich's Suppliers:
Photographer: Juliet Mckee
Venue: Wotton House
Dress: Suzanne Neville from Miss Bush
Planning and Styling: Bluebird Creative
Videographer: Ash Videography
Hair: Sharon Roberts
Makeup: Carolanne Armstrong
First picture by Jessica Grace Photography at a recent Bluebird event in collaboration with Miss Bush.