As every wedding professional knows, wedding planning season kicks into high gear during the Spring. Hopefully you’ve had a very productive off-season, and tons of new client inquiries are now rolling in! This time period is when you’ll be setting up for how successful your entire year will be. (Basically, it’s when life gives us flowers and we make bouquets.)
It can be a stressful time for planners, photographers / videographers, florists, caterers and all the other wedding pros out there. And that’s okay, everyone feels it.
As you dive into wedding season prep, follow this guide to make sure you’ve got all your I (do)’s dotted and T’s crossed. Here are the key steps to keep yourself and your clients not only sane, but thriving during wedding season.
1. Get Clear and Organized
The first step to take before any other is to get a detailed calendar together ASAP!
As you start receiving new inquiries, and start booking out further in advance, you’ll need a good organizational system. Most clients will require multiple touch points and meetings in addition to their big day, so its crucial to keep track of your schedule so you don’t overcommit or stretch yourself too thin.
Calendar-Keeping Quick Tips:
- Stick to your style – don’t try to keep a digital calendar if writing things down makes you feel more clear, and vice versa
- If you’re a ‘writing things down helps me remember’ person (relatable), try a detailed day planner or a large dry-erase wall calendar that you can keep up-to-date
- If you’re the digital type, it’s always easy and convenient to use your phone calendar, or for something more tailored to your industry, try a digital planning guide for the year
- Color coordinate based on different clients, recurring vs. new events, etc.
- Set up automated reminders for important dates and events
- Block off more than enough time for important tasks. We humans are notoriously bad at estimating how long tasks will take.
The other part of getting clear and organized is not forgetting to devote time to yourself! Both mentally and physically, this will help you to feel less scattered, and ready to tackle your busy schedule.
2. Get a System
After your trusty calendar, you need to set up a customer relationship management system, or CRM, to organize your communication, meetings and events. We recommend mirroring everything in your calendar here so you never miss a reminder!
Use a CRM to store all your client / prospect information and add notes and other files (contracts, photos, etc.) to client profiles. Many platforms will also allow you to sync to your email address and send, schedule and automate important touch points. You’ll also be able to track opens, and easily reference your notes and conversation threads with every client.
Here are some great CRM platforms specifically designed for solopreneurs and small business owners (some even with free options!):
3. Get the Communication Flowing
The easiest way to provide an exceptional client experience is to always be responsive. And the easiest way to stay responsive is to build out templates.
If you’ve signed up for a CRM platform that allows you to send and track emails, it should also allow you to store pre-written templates there. But if you’re not to the CRM level yet, never fear! You can set up canned responses in Gmail, too.
Here are some common message templates to create that will make your life 1000x easier:
- Response to new client inquiry / form submission
- Response to pricing questions and other FAQs
- Contract delivery / confirmation
- Meeting / trial / shoot session reminder emails
- Thank yous, and other quick follow up emails
While templates will make things faster and easier, you should never send out a templated email that you haven’t personalized! Seriously, no matter how busy you are, don’t do it. People can tell they’re talking to a robot when this happens, and you want them to feel your personality shine through in each message.
Include people’s names and wedding date at the very least. And as your relationship grows, include new information you’ve learned about them or their wedding vision / theme.
4. Get The Right Tools Ready
If you haven’t already done so, set aside time for research asap! Brushing up on new tools and methods you can add to your arsenal this year will always help you stay ahead of the competition and wow your clients.
Figure out what floral styles, food and drink trends, cameras / editing software, etc. you need to step up your game. Then see what you have the means to incorporate into your budget.
Your vendor connections are an essential tool as well – so don’t forget to reach out to rental companies, venues, studios or anyone else you have a professional relationship with at the beginning of the season. Let them know how much you value them, and how excited you are to work together again.
You can stay ahead of the curve and learn a lot of this in real time by attending courses and workshops by influencers and experts in your field. This learning time should be a main goal during your off season, too!
5. Get Your Budget Together Now
After you’ve got your tools accounted for, consider what else you need to make room for in your budget. Start by considering the following common cost areas.
Business costs: Do you travel for your business, and have mileage / gas spending to account for? Do you occasionally pay for office / studio space, and if so, how many times do you think you’ll need to use it this season?
Technical costs: Are there any operating costs other than a CRM system to account for, like website building / hosting? If so, compare services and weigh yearly vs. monthly costs into your overall budget.
Marketing costs: Do you feel ready to start investing in, or step up your paid marketing strategy? Do you think you’ve got the chops to apply to be a certified vendor on The Knot, or another wedding referral platform?
Client Experience Costs: How much are you going to invest in client gifts and perks? We recommend dedicating around 5% of your total pricing to towards a client gifting budget. From this, reserve 80% of that for gifts that are a set fixture in your workflow, and are similar for all clients (a set booking / welcome gift, a before-the-big-day bottle of fancy champagne, etc.).
Then, set the other 20% aside for in-the-moment surprise and delight gifts (like if your client mentions coming down with a cold, send a surprise gift card to Panera for some get well soup on you). These spontaneous gifts are the extra fun, meaningful ones! Allowing room in your budget to send them in the moment will make an unforgettable impact on your client relationships.
6. Get a Support System
The last crucial step in keeping your sanity during wedding season is to find your tribe. Find them, rely on them and give them support in return.
AKA don’t try to tackle everything alone! This is a surefire way to make mistakes. As you grow, give yourself some direct professional support by growing your team in kind. Hiring an assistant, a second shooter or even hiring one-off freelancers from Fiverr or TaskRabbit can take a load off your plate, and can be well worth the investment.
It’s always a good idea to find classes and resources from seasoned pros in your field. Or if you’re a social learner, get involved in forums, workshops and meet-up groups within your professional community.
These relationships / communities with people who understand your struggle are invaluable. Plus, most people are willing to swap best practices with you, so it’s incredibly helpful to get acquainted with your online and IRL peers in general! If you’re not sure where to start – join some relevant Facebook groups.
Don’t forget about personal support, either. Whether it’s your best friend or significant other, we all need someone to vent to and/or a shoulder to cry on outside of the professional realm.
Remember to always show your tribe how grateful you are for them. Use this helpful Gratitude Guide to give you fresh, fun ideas on how to show your gratitude to others every day!
Hopefully you feel more prepared to tackle wedding season already. With your calendar filled out, your CRM and communication templates set up, your tools in order, your budget set and your support system in place, there’s nothing you can’t handle!
And while you’re busy grinding, don’t forget about all the great parts to come. Remember the fun, the dancing, the love, and the creativity that led you to this business.
Now take a few deep breaths, give yourself a little “I got this!” pep talk, and go conquer this wedding season.