Inexperienced wedding planners have a tough job ahead of them. The stakes are high, the client is stressed, and you don’t want to mess up. I spoke to an experienced planner who shared her tips for new wedding planners on how to get through the first event and start to build your career.
We’ll be hearing a lot more from this planner, but for this article, I wanted to focus on her start in the industry. I have a lot of fantastic tips and ideas from her, which you’ll be reading soon, but for now, we’ll start at the beginning.
Meet An Expert Event Planner
I want to introduce Angela Garcia of Perfectly Bubbly Events.
Angela was born and raised in the San Fransisco Bay area, where she graduated from Cal State East Bay. Initially, she’d planned on training to be a nurse, but when her best friend encouraged her to join the Disney College Program, Angela fell in love with events and the hospitality industry.
“My mom is a nurse,” Angela says, “so I tried to follow after my mom, but I also have the same mindset as my dad, who is an entrepreneur.”
Angela was doing the school’s red carpet events, orientation parties. “The Director of Hospitality said I had a knack for logistics and design. It prompted my interest in doing larger-scale events.”
In 2011, Angela was offered the role as an assistant to a wedding planner.
Angela told me about it. “I thought I have nothing to lose. I don’t even know if this is the right career path for me, but I interviewed with a full-service wedding planner and event designer. We clicked! When I told her that I was interested in doing weddings as well, she never once saw me as competition. She saw me as her little butterfly that was ready to sprout their wings and grow on their own.” The event planner who’d hired Angela as an assistant became a teacher. “I relied on her as my mentor when launching my business.”
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Wedding Planning Is A Calling
“So in 2013, my husband proposed to me, and we got married in 2014. It wasn’t until after our wedding that everybody started asking us questions. How did you book the church? Who were your vendors? And I just started giving advice. I love to help people.”
Then it got real. A cousin approached Angela in an official capacity. “He was going to propose to his girlfriend. And he told me, Angela, I want you to do the entire wedding, and I was like, “Wait, what? What? No.”
Angela offered to help out for free, wanting to do a favor for the family, but the cousin refused. He insisted on paying.
It was that wedding that pushed Angela to strike out on her own. From working for event planners to launching her own event planning business.
“I didn’t learn any of this in school, so jumping on board to being a full-time event planner, I thought, ‘Whoa, this is really scary stuff.’ I had to rely on my mentors a lot. And I took a lot of rejection too.”
It was hard work, but Angela quickly picked up a second wedding around the same time as she was planning her cousin’s. And it took off from there.
Angela’s built a wealth of experience and I’m excited to share her tips for new wedding planners with you all. But let’s start out talking about money.
Related article: Life As An Events Management Student
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Figuring Out What to Charge For Your First Event
This is something almost all beginner event planners struggle with. To be honest, it’s something most entrepreneurs worry about, too, including us.
When I asked Angela how she figured it out, she said, “I really didn’t know. So I looked at what other wedding planners charged for a full service. I had to do a lot of research on Google. And I asked my own mentors. They were both full service and they charged upwards of $5000 for a wedding. And even up to $10,000.”
Angela didn’t feel comfortable asking for that much money for her first planning gig. “I just came up with a number between one and five, and I landed on $3,000.”
When Angela thought carefully about all the work she’d be doing, from working with the venue, securing the church, and everything else, she felt it was a reasonable price. Her cousin agreed. And it was a great way to build experience.
“I did a couple of other things because he was family, but I was able to get the gist of what full planning looked like and how much stuff was involved.”
Angela then used that first wedding as the foundation for setting her pricing moving forward.
What new wedding planners can learn from their first event
While the whole event was a learning experience, there were a few gems to discover.
“It was a Catholic ceremony. The first challenge I had was booking the church, and the church and the venue were different locations. They were going to have the reception later on in the evening, and they were going to get married offsite. My cousin was asking me what to do. Is the church even available? So when booking a venue, you should try to book your church around the same time.”
Luckily the wedding was in the off-season, and although they’d left it pretty late, the church happened to be available.
Angela shared the big takeaway. “Three things come first when you get engaged. You got to book the church, the venue, and the date. All three of those things need to align.
Angela recommends that event planners ask this question: What is your goal for where you want to have your ceremony?
If the ceremony location is different from the reception and party, then things become tricky. Especially when clients have a specific date in mind. So one of Angela’s tips for new wedding planners is to figure out where the flexibility lies. Are clients flexible with the date? Or the venue? Or the church?
“Sometimes, the church matters more. Then we go with dates that the church has available. But what about the venue? Are you willing to sacrifice your venue, or are you willing to, again, change the date?”
Angela explains that the process can take a month or more. Because as she’s looking at venues with clients, the perfect fit of availability can be elusive. And that was something she learned when planning her first event.
Related article: 38 Things Every Planner Needs In Their Event Survival Kit
Mistakes Event Planners Make In Their First Wedding
New wedding planners should always learn from mistakes, and I asked Angela to share some of hers.
The first mistake she mentioned was the importance of having a team. “I thought I could do everything on my own.”
First there’s the need for heavy lifting. Angela’s husband was a guest at the wedding, and he was able to help, but planners can’t rely on guests every time. “I set up a flower wall, so this why I needed a team, and muscles. I couldn’t do that by myself.” The vendors needed help setting up too, and he was able to step in, but Angela learned she needed to prepare the team in advance.
But when the event spans multiple venues, a team becomes critical. “It was hard because I was running around everywhere.” Angela was unable to stay at the church and instead had to rely on the photographer to help. Now, we’ve spoken to photographers about event planning, and know they’re open to helping out, but it’s not ideal.
The problem was that as a new wedding planner, Angela hadn’t built a strong relationship with the photographer. She had to hope and trust.
“I know now to have somebody at the church when it’s an offsite wedding and at least two people at the venue to work with the venue staff and also manage other details.”
Don’t Hide The Surprise
This is something that we’ve heard from vendors and planners alike. Wedding planners need to talk to their clients one on one. That means get some quiet time with both people getting married. Why? Well, because the one might be planning a surprise for the other. And the wedding planner needs to be involved.
“I love surprises. But you cannot ever hide a surprise from your wedding planner. If you want to surprise your significant other, you have to communicate everything with the planner. I ask for both their emails so I can talk to them separately. “If you guys have anything that you want to do for each other, you need to tell me. You cannot tell me on the day of your wedding what you’re planning to do this because I need to tell every one of your vendors. I need to tell the venue what we’re doing. I need to have all these logistics in place.”
In Angela’s first-ever wedding she planned, she managed to pull off an extraordinary surprise. The groom surprised his bride with a live performance of her favorite band.
“When they showed up, we hid them in the parking lot, and they were actually doing their sound test. And I was trying so hard to make sure that she couldn’t hear anything. It was just me and the groom and my husband who knew that we got the band involved.”
Angela managed to ensure the surprise worked, and it really wowed the bride. But because she coordinated everything with the videographer, photographer, DJ, and venue, she managed to create a lifelong memory.
“My whole thoughts in my head was, oh my gosh, just work. And then I looked at the bride’s face, I knew it worked, it was a success, and it was awesome.”
Angela’s Top Tips for New Wedding Planners
“Take it one grain at a time. It’s going to be overwhelming, it’s going to be stressful, but you have to assess everything that the client has asked you to do. Creating a checklist, creating an event timeline, not forgetting things.”
“Write everything down. Whatever you said to the client, write it down and make sure that you have those notes because that’s what the client’s going to look back on. So write everything down and have that checklist, so you don’t forget.”
“I’m notorious for checklists now, but during my first event, I had everything in my head. That was where I forgot a lot of things. So I learned to write everything down, and I had notebooks, I’m old school in a way where I like to write it down because then it just helps me retain information better. But I use G Suite, Timeline Genius, and event planning software, including ThymeBase, to keep everything organized.”
“If I were to tell a new planner anything, it would be write everything out. Everything that the client has asked you to do for them and what you told them in return. It is a kind of contract to yourself and the client, indirectly without it being like a formalized contract. Here’s what we agreed to do. Here it is on paper, and then I use that as a checklist on the wedding day. I can make sure that I get everything done.”
More Tips for New Wedding Planners
Angela also told me about the importance of finding a mentor. For your first event, “you’re scared, you have no idea what you’re doing. The fear of rejection is very real because you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I relied a lot on my mentor because she had already paved the path. She knew what to do, and this was her paving the way for a new planner.”
“I also relied on relationships that I built with some of these vendors. So every wedding that I attended with my mentor, I made an effort to get to know who the other vendors were. I built a relationship with a florist, who is now one of my closest friends in the wedding industry. And she also helped me a lot on how to write an email to a venue, asking them if we could use their space to do a styled shoot.”
Styled Shoots Are A Great Way For New Wedding Planners To Build Their Portfolio
We’ve heard this upcoming idea from others event professionals. One of the biggest tips for new wedding planners is to work on your portfolio.
Angela relied on vendor relationships to build her portfolio. “So I didn’t know what a styled shoot was. I talked to a florist, and she said, we’re going to reach out to a couple of venues.”
“I had this idea of doing a Tuscan style wedding, I had a wedding dress, and I’d made connections with the florist. She put me in touch with a photographer and a calligrapher.”
But finding the location to do the shoot was a challenge to overcome. “I didn’t know where to go. The florist told me how to write an email to a venue. And I got so many rejections because I was a brand new planner.”
So Angela turned to her mentor for help. Through the mentor, Angela was able to connect to somebody at a venue who gave her a chance. “And that’s how I built that relationship. I learned that going to an event, never be afraid to introduce yourself to the person next to you. You don’t know who they could be. They could even be a potential client. I always made an effort to talk to the vendors at the event-the photographer, the videographer, the florist because we’re repeat business. We want to be able to work with them again in the future.”
Always Follow Up
At ThymeBase, we talk about following up after the event is over. Angela agrees. She recommends following up with the venue and working on your relationship with vendors. As a wedding planner, you’re a part of a community. The community will be supportive, and you’ll help each other out, but it begins with two small steps.
Say hello, and follow up.
Angela, thanks for the fantastic tips for new wedding planners. You’re an inspiration to us!