Marie Luciano: Ask Me Anything!
Since graduating, Marie has planned a number of jaw-droppingly gorgeous events. Lucky for us, Marie also joined us earlier in the fall to answer some of your biggest questions about what it’s like to become an event planner. From the best way to conduct meeting with vendors to how to get local event planners on your team, Marie shares her best advice!
Q: I’m starting out as a new planner in a fairly small market. I am having trouble determining how much to charge. How do I find out if my fee is too high or too low? I feel like if I call other event planners, they won’t want to share that information…HELP!!
A: Knowing what to charge was a big one for me when I started out. It was hard to determine, but I went with a flat fee. If you want to ask your fellow planners in the area what they are charging, just ask them and be honest with why you are asking. If they don’t give you the information, then just move on to the next one. It never hurts to ask, but this isn’t always the best idea since everyone is at different levels in their career.
A website I liked looking is called The Wedding Report. They give averages in your area and (I think) your first report is free. Recommendations from other vendors are really important in our industry! A great way to build a relationship with them is get out there and start attending wedding pro events. Or you could even do a styled shoot, which is one of the best ways to get your name out there, as well as to update your portfolio.
Q: When you set up meetings with vendors as a new planner how do you conduct the meeting? I’m thinking of having a questionnaire and asking questions as I write notes….is that acceptable or is there a better way?
A: If the meeting is for my clients then I’d meet with them, ask the questions my clients typically have if they aren’t there, and report back to my clients. My clients make all final decisions, though. I’ve yet to have clients who don’t want to be there for the initial meeting!
I typically jot down notes in my notepad and let them know I’ll be taking notes and asking some questions for my clients. I typically don’t meet with vendors just on the fly unless it’s for a client or to start building a relationship with them over coffee. I hope that helps!
Was it difficult for you starting out in the business? How did you find clientele?
A: I think the most difficult part about starting out in the business was making friends in the industry and that may sound silly but it’s nice having someone who understands and knows how hard your job can be at times. I’ve been very blessed to have the clients I got when I got them! A lot of my clients came from referrals and venues so I’ve been really lucky. It can be hard finding clients sometimes in the area I live in, but marketing on Facebook, venues and local bridal shops helps a lot!
Q: I am just starting as a new planner. How much of a deposit do you request at the time of the contract signing?
A: I actually used Annette Stepanian’s contracts and then consulted with a lawyer to make them fit my need more. Every state has different laws so make sure you consult with a lawyer when making your contracts. As a retainer, I take 1,000 of the balance and then my clients pay in increments leading up to their wedding or event— that way it isn’t a huge amount of money from them and I’m not out of money at the end of the planning process in case (god forbid!) they have to cancel their wedding.
Q: I am finding it hard to get involved with other planners in the city who don’t seem to want to collaborate. How do you approach that situation?
A: That is such a great question! When I was just starting out, I felt the same way about getting involved with other pros. I’m not sure if you have any in your area but the Rising Tide Society has something called “Tuesdays Together,” and Sage Wedding Pros also has an event called “Thursday Therapy.” You can bring both these kinds of events to your city.
Most of the time planners and other wedding pros want that in-person interaction before committing to collaboration. Also make sure you are reaching out when wedding season is nearing an end or just gearing up! Most wedding planners don’t have much time during wedding season. I hope this helps!
Q: Where/How do I begin?
A: I’d start with taking a course at QC Event School! You will learn so much from them! Their courses are jam packed with exactly where to start when you are building you event planning business. There are many behind-the scenes-details that you will learn. The templates they give you are wonderful and the tutors are really helpful.
I learned so much from their program and it really helped me feel like I was ready to make my business. I also think taking a wedding workshop is also beneficial and even working hands-on with a local wedding planner to get some experience.
Q: What do people look for in an event planner?
A: I’d say people look for someone who is organized, personable, and who will stand up for their clients when things go wrong!