Lauren De Koster: Ask Me Anything!
Lauren De Koster of Twelfth Night Events is a certified wedding planner and graduate of QC Event School. If you missed her AMA on our Facebook page in April, no worries! We’ve picked some of the best questions, so you can catch up with Lauren’s advice on everything from wedding expos to home offices.
Q: How do you determine how many weddings you can do in a year?
A: Great question! It is tricky for me to answer this question for you because, of course, it is based on many factors. For example: Are you devoting your full attention to planning weddings, or do you have another full-time job? How much experience do you have in planning weddings? Have you completed a wedding planning course? Do you have other obligations like family and/or travel that will prevent you from taking on weddings full time? Do you have support to assist you in planning the weddings, such as on-site help or other planners who can freelance for you?
My best advice for you would be to take it slow and build up your number of weddings year after year. You will naturally find out the number of weddings that you are comfortable taking on. In my first year of business, I only took a handful of weddings because I wanted to really devote time to planning awesome weddings. Over the years, I have taken more and more, and my team has expanded as a result. We currently average between 25—30 weddings a year—which is a full-time job! You will find the number that works for you!
Q: I’m going to a wedding expo for the first time as a planner. Any tips or advice to attract new clients?
A: That’s awesome! We love our wedding expos! Wedding shows are a great opportunity for you to showcase your business, your talents, and attract new clients. Here are a few tips:
1. Put thought into your booth—Don’t leave it to the last minute! Make sure that you put attention and detail into what your booth will look like. You want to create a place that will attract potential brides to stop and want to learn more about you. With Wedding Planners, our services aren’t tangible—however, you can showcase your creativity by putting together a really well planned booth!
2. Create a show promotion! Couples are attending bridal shows because they want to find vendors and they want deals. If you are new to the industry and hoping to build your client base, why not offer a promotion? You could offer a show discount for any new weddings booked by a certain date or create a draw for a prize which requires show attendees to enter. This will allow you to capture their contact information for future prospecting.
3. Lastly, while at the show, be sure to introduce yourself to the other vendors at the show. One of our favorite things about the annual wedding shows we attend is connecting with vendors we haven’t seen lately. It becomes a fun networking opportunity year after year. So, take the time to walk around during the breaks to introduce yourself, collect cards, and hand out your information. These vendors will likely become your network as your business grows!
Q: What is your step-by-step process once you’re hired as a wedding planner for a bride and groom?
A: Each wedding planner has their own step-by-step process in planning an event, and it truly is based on their own personal work style—I’m afraid there is no set formula for this.
However, as a starting point, I would suggest that you create a timeline of the planning process. This is what is often referred to as a critical path. It outlines key areas, due dates, and tasks needed to complete the planning stages. Creating this template for yourself will assist you in creating your style. If you are struggling to know when certain vendors need to be booked, check in with your QC course materials or reach out to local vendors and ask them when they prefer to meet with new clients and their preferred timeline for finalizing plans!
Q: What are the top 3 things you would recommend doing if you were just at the beginning stages of wanting to start in the wedding planning field?
A: My top 3 recommendations for beginning a career in wedding planning would be…
1. Take the time to get a proper education. QC offers a very comprehensive syllabus that will give you the tools you need to be successful in this industry (Believe me, I know, I graduated from this program in 2010!). Take the time to really learn and understand the material, and you’ll be at an advantage when you are ready to begin your career.
2. Gain experience. Reach out to local event planning companies, catering companies, and/or venues to explore opportunities they may have available. Work as a wedding planning assistant, a coordinator, an intern—whatever you can find to soak up as much experience as you can! If no one is hiring, offer to intern or job shadow! The more hands-on experience you can gain before starting your business, the better. You will learn valuable lessons from gaining hands-on experience, and this will prepare you for planning events on your own.
3. Take the time to network and build lasting relationships—and be yourself! Building relationships with vendors is key to a successful event planning business. You will rely on the relationships you create with your industry peers to ensure you are providing first class services to your clients. Make sure to take the time to introduce yourself to any vendors you could work with in advance. Before you have a client base, take the time to meet with vendors, and let them know you’re new in the industry. Grab a coffee with them, tell them about your experience and education—but remember, honestly will go a long way in building lasting relationships!
Q: If you are a self-employed wedding planner, do you think you can run your business from home or do you think you need to lease an office?
A: This is a really great question! Yes, absolutely! As a self-employed wedding planner myself, I highly recommend working out of a home office rather than leasing a space. In our industry, we have to be as flexible as we can be for our clients, and that often means meeting them at their home, local coffee shops, and even at their place of work. With meetings on the go, leasing a space might be empty often and you’ll be paying high monthly overheads. Working from home is a great way to keep your overhead costs lower and allows more time for work (virtually no commute!).
My recommendation to you is to ensure your home office is a professional environment that motivates you to work as efficiently as possible. Perhaps your home has enough space to welcome clients into your office as well? There will be times when clients will come to you if you have the space for them. As an added bonus, depending on where you live, you can often expense a portion of your house against your taxes! I hope that helps! Good luck!
Q: Do you use software at all for the design element of events? And how do you set out a proposal for a client?
A: There are several wonderful design programs available to planners and event stylists and each one offers something completely different. There are programs that will assist with floor plans, seating charts, design elements, and even timeline management. The best advice I can give is to research event planning software in your area, and take some time to explore their sites. Many offer a 30 day trial, so you can see if it is the right software for you.
Before you start preparing proposals for clients, I recommend creating a base template for yourself. Outline all of the key areas that you will assist a client with when planning their event—from guest list management to assistance with vendor selection and everything in between. Really focus on thinking about all of the different aspects of planning an event.
Once you start creating customized proposals for your clients, you will have a template to work from. Then you can remove or add based on the personalized discussions you have with each individual client. In your proposals be clear about the event planning services you will assist with: your payment structure, deposits, booking and cancellation policies, and exactly what you can offer versus what is considered an extra charge. Often times, clients will use the proposal as the basis for booking, so transparency is key!
Q: I’m focusing on intimate weddings and events (50—75 people or less). When you’re planning for a smaller event you still go through the same steps but should the size change the pricing? Should I charge less for these smaller events?
A: Congratulations on finding your niche! I think it’s always important to focus on the style of events that bring you the most joy! Great question—and the simple answer is no, you shouldn’t charge less for smaller events. More intimate events still require the same amount of work as a larger event. While the number of guests can sometimes increase your workload, like trying to source the quantities of products needed from vendors, the general workload involved in planning any event is typically the same. It’s all in the details—and the same level of detail is required whether the guest count is 50 or 500.
When you are creating your pricing model, be considerate of your time, your expertise, and most importantly, your value. Always be consistent and transparent with your pricing. If you maintain consistency in your pricing, you won’t have to face difficult conversations down the line from clients with larger guest counts. If you are challenged by a couple who thinks you should charge less since their guest count is less, remind them that the amount of work, the number of vendor relationships you have to manage, and the amount of detail in your plan receives the same attention regardless of the size. Hope that helps!