Wedding Wisdom

Top Educational Events to Attend

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Wedding education. Ten years ago, I would have contended that the opportunities were limited. In fact, I remember my employers investing in general hospitality sales training for me since we couldn’t find opportunities that truly fit, despite out best efforts.

But these days, we’re swimming in opportunities- from national conferences to intimate workshops. With that in mind, the question may be asked- what’s the best fit for me? Since every wedding pro has their own path, they really need to decide what would be the best fit for themselves. Luckily, I have the pleasure of attending a wealth of great events and am happy to get you started with what’s on my radar for 2017 and beyond:

 

WeddingWire World

This is a great spot for those looking for up-to- date information on a broad range of topics for a reasonable price. I’m thrilled that they are now hosting it in two cities (Los Angeles and Washington DC), making it even more accessible. Expect a mix of keynotes, breakout sessions, panels and, my favorite, the latest trend and tech news from Sonny Ganguly. There will be lots of content from many of the WeddingWire education experts you see regularly on their EDU blog as well as fresh faces.

 

Wedding MBA

This is another national conference that offers a wealth of education for a great value (especially if you get in on any of their early bird ticket deals). What’s nice about this conference is that their team continues to allow the education to evolve. You’re going to have breakout options in your own specific industries, robust Q&As and keynotes. You’ll see top tier national speakers mixed in with some really engaging wedding veterans who are also in the trenches with you.

 

NACE Experience

If you are an active member (or a wannabe active member of NACE!) then this is a must- especially if catering based education is a priority. It’s a heavy hitter with a more intimate feel. The breakouts are plentiful and carefully selected by a team of event pros throughout the industry. NACE Experience is ideal for those who work within the wedding, corporate and social realms- and expect ample time to network with members across all chapters. I’m especially excited to see it hosted this year in Houston, home to one of the largest (and most fun!) chapters in the US.

Engage

I went for the first time this past June and can see why this is on so many people’s conference bucket list. While a larger investment than some of the other conferences, you really get to dive into the world of luxury weddings. I’ve always contended that in order to sell to this market, you need to understand it from the inside/out and this conference fast tracks you there. Expect high profile speakers, networking with a mix of highly respected veterans AND up-and- comers, not to mention plenty of inspiration that you can apply to your own services. And yes- their famous “swag” exceeds expectations.

 

The Special Event

This was my first national conference and always holds a special spot in my education-loving heart. What I love about TSE- education is a mix of corporate, social and weddings (with an actual wedding track). This has more breakout options than any other conference I attend in the year and many of the evening events are a la carte so I can customize my experience. Plus, I love that it takes place early in the year-talk about a great way to a light a fire under you for the year ahead!

Be Sage Conference

I’m attending for the first time this year and am thrilled there is an event that speaks to the challenges of master level wedding pros. Let’s face it- there are a whole wealth of new scenarios that come with company growth and I love that Michelle Loretta (founder of the conference) is filling this much needed gap in industry education. You’ll see some familiar faces in the speaker lineup BUT what’s great is that Michelle hand selects fantastic speakers outside of the industry who can offer new perspective. If traveling just isn’t in the cards right now, remember that there are some great wedding/event industry related podcasts and webinars readily available to you. Additionally, don’t discount local opportunities either- there are some great regional chapters of associations (NACE, WIPA, ILEA, etc) that regularly host speakers, so make sure you’re looking in your own backyard.

Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, an award-winning wedding PR and marketing firm. She is the national Vice President for WIPA and the 2017 NACE Experience education chair.

Business Tips

Industry Associations: Why to join and how to take advantage

By Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

Whether you’re new to a market or you’ve been in the area for years, joining a local chapter of an industry association could be the game-changer you’ve been looking for. In addition to regular networking meetings, membership comes with a number of benefits to your business.

Let’s walk through the process of becoming a member of an association.

Why Join?

Membership to a community of like-minded individuals has a lot to offer. First and foremost, a majority of local chapters host quarterly or even monthly get-togethers for industry peers to network and share ideas, stories and thoughts. Oftentimes, these events are paired with education and can be a great chance to learn from renowned speakers.

Keep in mind: Although you’ll be a member of a local chapter, you’ll also hold membership to the national organization as a whole which may bring a tier of additional benefits like discounted tickets to national conferences and the opportunity to visit other chapters.

How To Choose

There are quite a number of options out there and if you’re just starting out, I’d encourage you to begin by choosing the one that suits your brand and business needs the most. You can always become more involved as time goes on, but it’s best not to overwhelm yourself early on.

Start out slow and build upon your participation until you’re happy with the return. As for picking the right association to join, it all depends on who you are, what your company is all about, and what direction you’d like your business to grow. Do your research and first determine what networking groups are available to you. Then, begin breaking down each so you know what your investment is, as well as your return. Each group will offer different concentrations and unique networking opportunities, so judge them on what they can bring to your table.

Maximizing Your Membership

So, you’ve been going to every networking event, and although you’ve met some really great people, you aren’t quite seeing the return you were looking for. It happens! If you’re looking to boost your membership, it may be time to look into committee roles to see if there’s a spot in which you can share your knowledge. Whether you think the membership committee is a great option or the programs committee seems more up your alley, find an ideal fit and reach out to the committee chair to look into openings. Down the line, a role on a committee could turn into a leadership role, so be prepared to invest yourself in your future.

You can also look into sponsorship opportunities. Each event that is held by a chapter is typically put together by its members – venues, photographers, caterers, florists, designers and the like are all welcome! If you’d like to show off your work in front of your peers, get in touch with the programs coordinator to find out more information. In addition to boosting brand recognition, this is also a great way to bring in vendor referrals.

Although it may seem like a big task to take on, joining an association membership can transform your business – as long as you know what you’re doing. Take some time to be diligent in your search and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and the immediate past national president for WIPA.

Business Tips

Room Block Commissions 101

By: Marni Aksut, RB Travel Group

Hi there Wedding Planners! You may have heard on Eddie’s podcast or around town Planners talk about this mysterious IATAN accreditation that allows you to make a commission on Room Blocks (with no cost to clients!). Well, I’m here to explain what IATAN is, the process to get an IATAN # and how I can help you source Hotel Room Block rates.

Let me start by being upfront about a couple things…

1. The IATAN Accreditation process differs a bit from state to state and depending on what state you are in, it can be more complicated than others. Although the accreditation can be a lot of work, if you qualify, it can help your bottom line in a significant way.

2. I am the founder of RB Travel Group and we help Planners like yourself in two ways.

a. We do the time-consuming work negotiating hotel rates & collecting their pricing for you in a simple spreadsheet. This will save you loads of time!

b. Plus we share our commission with you. So whether you have an IATAN accreditation or not, we save you time and help make you extra $.

Let’s jump right into it!

What is IATAN

i. International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN) supplies an accreditation to qualified US travel professionals including Event Planners, which allows you to make a commission on most hotel bookings.

ii. IATAN is an International Non-Profit organization that has been around for over 25 years providing a vital link between the supplier community and the U.S. travel distribution network.

How do you become IATAN accredited?

i. First you complete the Accreditation Application. Follow this link and download the Accreditation Kit to get started. http://www.iatan.org/accreditation/Pages/application-forms.aspx

ii. You need to be able to prove you’ve booked more than $200,000 in Annual Gross Sales for the previous year –OR- have $20,000 of available capital.

iii. You will either need to prove that you have 2 or more years of professional event planning experience –OR- have one of the following valid certifications: Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP)/ Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) / or Certification in Meeting Management (CMM).

iv. If you live in one of the following states you will also need a Seller of Travel Registration (CA, FL, HI, IA, WA)

ii. The Application fee is $195 and the annual fee is $98.

IATAN is a great way to get compensated for all your hard work that goes into booking room blocks.

I want to take a moment to recognize that while IATAN is fantastic because it allows you to make extra money on something you are doing anyways, it does not solve the real problem…

PROBLEM: Room Blocks are TIME CONSUMING! As many of you know, dealing with the hotels can be an exhausting experience.

SOLUTION: RB Travel Group (RBTG) sources Room Block rates for you at as many hotels as you want. Plus we share with you 25% of our 10% commission. You do not need your own IATAN accreditation to use our services.

Whether you have the time to reach out to all the hotels and want your own IATAN accreditation, or you prefer RBTG to do the hotel rate search and then share the commission with you, we have one goal in mind. That goal is for all Wedding Planners to enjoy more free time AND earn an income you can be proud of.

I wish you much success and would be happy to be a resource for any planners that have questions about IATAN or RB Travel Group. Feel free to contact me anytime at marni@rbtravelgroup.com

Good Luck!

Marni Aksut
RB Travel Group
www.rbtravelgroup.com

Business Tips

Brand Ambassadors: Why You Need Them And How To Get Them

By Jennifer Taylor, Taylor’d Events Group

Sure, we all need employees to help us with those pesky day-to-day tasks, but what about brand ambassadors? The difference between an employee and a brand ambassador is one of commitment and dedication to the brand and can make all the difference for a growing company.

Expanding your team isn’t always an easy choice – while you may need the help, it can be difficult to loosen the reins on a business that you’ve built from the ground up. How could anyone ever embody your brand as well as you? While it may seem like nobody could possibly understand the intricacies of your company, it’s important for all business owners to open up a bit and welcome new members to the team when necessary.

A great brand ambassador is one who will represent you and your company, not only in the office but in their personal lives as well. Look for someone who will champion your brand and share in your company values. When interviewing for an open position, come prepared with preferred qualities in mind: Do you want someone who is always on time? Self-motivated? Great team worker? The ideal characteristics will vary depending on your company culture and the position’s duties, but keep your values close as you find the very best fit.

Once you’ve selected the best candidate, it’s time to get your new hire on board with your company culture. From their very first morning, you need to engage them and make them feel as if they are a part of the team. It may be tempting to start by throwing all of their paperwork at them and assigning them some tedious to-dos, but it’s always best to work alongside them the first several days and ask them for their input. Invite them into staff meetings and get their thoughts on certain subject matters – the more they feel valued, the more committed they will be to your business.

In addition to office work, find ways to incorporate them into your outside activities. Looking ahead to a networking event? Get them a ticket and begin to introduce them to your industry peers! Headed off to a trade show? Bring them along and give them pointers about how to navigate the floor. Not only will you be providing valuable experience for your team members, but you’ll also be putting them in a position to handle things like networking events and trade shows on their own, in turn freeing up more time for you.

Think about your best and worst jobs – what kept you motivated and committed? What would you have changed? Leadership is an essential factor in the development of brand ambassadors, so remember to be present and be helpful.

Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners to grow and improve upon their skills.

Wedding Wisdom

Managing Personalities Throughout an Event

By Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Event Design

When you think about planning an event, you probably think about timelines, vendor communication and all of the nitty gritty details that go into the final product. However, if you think back to all of the events you’ve worked on, there’s surely one other task you’ve performed: managing all of the various personalities you encounter along the way.

From couples to vendors to parents, it always seems as if everyone has a say one way or another. With that in mind, it’s essential for all event professionals to become experts at managing personalities – this will make the process much smoother and will ensure that you maintain control of the event.

Friends and family

Many of the personality conflicts that come up throughout planning can be attributed to a couples’ loved ones who want their opinions to be considered above the clients themselves. This can be tricky, as some events involve divorced parents, which generally is a sensitive situation as is. When this happens, it’s important to remember that your clients are your priority – keep them in mind when you make all decisions.

If a friend or family member continues to cross the line, I make a point to talk to them on the side and explain how important the wedding day is to the couple. If they are stubborn and refuse to appease the couple, then I let them know it’s their choice if they want to sit it out.

You were hired by the couple so it’s your responsibility to meet their preferences.

Vendors

In some cases, you’ll find that it’s other vendors that can cause difficulties. The way you handle this situation will depend on where you are in the planning timeline. If you’re still early on and you find a vendor is causing issues, then your best bet is to give them a call and discuss their participation in the event. If they don’t step it up, then it may be time to talk to the couple about replacing them.

If an issue comes up later in the planning process and there’s no time to replace a vendor, then it’s up to you to settle the differences – at least until the end of the event. Call a face-to- face meeting with anyone involved and get to the bottom of the problem as early as possible.

Remind them what matters in the moment – the couple and their event.

Clients

We’ve all faced clients with unrealistic expectations or those who come with a bit of an attitude. It’s never an easy situation, but don’t let them get the best of you – be respectful no matter what and always, always be honest and professional. The only thing you can do is to be open and explain your side of things. If they are unmanageable and refuse to change their ways, then it may come to the unfortunate task of letting a client go. Make sure that your contract includes a clause that nullifies the agreement if the client crosses any lines, but ensure that your retainer is still guaranteed for the work that you’ve done. Remember: your mental health is not worth the invoice from a stressful client.

For most events, you probably won’t need to worry too much about the people you’re working with – weddings are a happy business and tend to attract like-minded people. However, when an issue does creep up on you, it’s always best to be prepared to find the solution.

Kim Sayatovic is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Belladeux Event Design, a full service wedding and event design firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wedding Wisdom

Company Culture: What it’s all about

By Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

No matter what type of work you do, we all share the need for one thing: a strong company culture. Company culture forms the foundation of your brand and affects every aspect of business, especially when it comes to the job performance and commitment of its employees.

As we all know, happy and committed employees correlate with increased productivity and overall life satisfaction. If you have a great, innovative product with a team that doesn’t thrive in the environment, chances are your product won’t do as well as it could.

So, how do I start?

First and foremost, look at the values that you hold near and dear – both personal and professional. Remember: a company’s culture is only as strong as its leadership, so it’s essential for you to determine what you really want your office environment to be like. Do you prefer things casual or are you more into a professional feel? Are you interested in cultivating teamwork or would you prefer your staff members work on individual skills? How would you like your company to be identified? Whatever your preferences may be, you’ll need to settle on it before instilling it in your office.

We like to operate under a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, so as much as we are diligent workers, we also want to have fun and enjoy our workplace. Every company will have a different culture, so it’s up to you to decide on what works best for your team.

Once you have a vision of your ideal atmosphere, it’s time to bring the team into it. Schedule a meeting that includes all employees and begin by discussing what they would like to see in the company. Share your vision and ask for feedback – the only way for a company culture to work is for everyone to be on board with it. Some questions that help us guide our company include:

  • Where are we right now?
  • How did we get here?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How can we get there?

The more your company culture forms into what you imagined, the more your team will get along. You may also notice that your brand attracts more like-minded clients that are attracted to the way you work – all the benefits of having a great environment!

Lastly, keep in mind that you’re never quite ‘done’ with developing your company’s culture. It’s an ongoing process and will change over time, so it’s important to be flexible and understanding. People come and go, but your culture is here to stay!

Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and the immediate past national president for WIPA.

Timeline Geniuses

Timeline Genius: Tara Jones

Timeline Geniuses,

Do we have a touching story for you today: We all know that sometimes our clients drive us crazy, but at the end of the day, they are the meaning in our work. We do it all for them. And every now and then, we get so lucky, our clients lift us up and inspire us.

Sometimes the timing of this sunshine is exactly what we need. Tara Jones of Simply Southern Weddings & Events shared a very personal story with us, that she has given us permission to share with you.

On Christmas Eve of 2015, Tara’s mom went into sudden cardiac arrest, and after being in a coma for four days the neurologist confirmed that there was no brain activity. Tara, her brother, and her sister had to make the hardest decision of their lives: to remove the woman who had been with them their whole lives from life support. Their mom was buried on New Years Eve. The holidays would never ever be the same.

From Tara:

“Upon returning home from the funeral, I was tasked with going through all of her important details since both my brother and sister worked outside their homes. While doing so, I came across a lot of her journals she wrote from the time we were all teens. Some made me laugh and reminded me of a lot of happy memories I had unfortunately forgotten; while others made me cry as she poured her heart out about tragedies she experienced, how our rebellious teen years drove her insane, and hardships we never even knew she was going through. The thought of that hit me hard.

It was during this time that I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to move forward with my wedding planning business. Mainly because I knew no vendors and I hadn’t even begun to start advertising in VA, then I saw Amanda’s post.”

Amanda and Ryan were looking for a wedding planner through a Facebook wedding group. Tara responded to her post, and the two hit it off immediately. Tara describes her bride as incredibly sweet and extremely bubbly, and took to calling her “my Ray of Sunshine”, a nickname that has stuck to this day.

“I am and will always be thankful for finding her post because when she hired me, it pulled me out of mourning and jumped started my desire to continue my passion of helping brides have their dream weddings.

After driving to Leesburg to officially meet her, Ryan and her parents, and touring the beautiful Rust Manor, I was so thrilled to be back in the game! This wedding will always have a special place in my heart because it helped me realize that no matter what tragedy we are going through, we can’t allow it to alter our true passions. Even though we have to put it on the back burner for a small period of time, we need to never let it escape our minds.

I can’t imagine where my thought process would be right now had it not been for this wedding and my Ray of Sunshine!”

We’re thrilled for Amanda and Ryan of course, but also for Tara, who, with the help of love and sunshine, was able to continue growing her business even through the hardest of days.

This is why we love wedding planners and want to support all they do! We see so much strength, kindness, and love in our industry, and that makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy some photos from this very special day, captured by Samantha Martin:

Wedding Wisdom

2017 Wedding Trend Forecast

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

With the 2016 wedding season in the books, it’s time to start thinking about what trends are ahead for 2017. As the great Heidi Klum says, “One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” With that, let’s take a look at what we can expect for the upcoming year.

Guest Experience

More and more, couples are striving to give their guests an experience that’s unique and will be unforgettable. “Today’s couples are exploring more ways to engage their guests,” shares Fabrice Orlando, owner of Cocoon Events Management Group. “We’re seeing interactive food stations and on site ice breakers gain in popularity.”

[courtesy of weddingsonline]

New Technologies

With millennials making up approximately 90 percent of engaged couples, it’s easy to guess that many are using technology to elevate the guest experience as well. It not only gives guests instant satisfaction to see their posts and pictures online instantly, but is also making things like hotel reservations, transportation, etc. a lot easier- especially, for destination weddings. Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group explains, “We’re seeing a marked increased in the number of couples integrating technology into their wedding day-from customized Snapchat geofilters and 3D printed elements to livestreaming the event itself.”

[courtesy of pinterest]

The New Traditional

We will continue to see customized weddings that reflect the to-be-weds’ personalities and relationship reign supreme over the more traditional cookie-cutter style. Every couple has their own set of traditions and favorite things they want to celebrate, from unique ceremonies performed by a friend rather than a traditional officiant to quirky DIY paper flower bouquets instead of real blooms – the possibilities are endless! Kim Sayatovic of Belladeux Event Design says, “Getting married in a non-traditional venue is very popular right now. People want to be unique and tie the knot at properties not typically known for weddings.

[courtesy of interiorator]

Food Centric

The evolution of food at weddings is astonishing when thinking about where the industry was 10 or 15 years ago. Guests now attend weddings expecting to be blown away by the food, and couples are definitely delivering. This trend ties into both guest experience and the new traditional, with funky fusion menus that capture the couple’s favorite cuisines and interactive food stations that engage couples in the food experience. “Late night snacks have gone from a fun surprise to a ‘can’t live without’ that guests expect, while additional courses that elevate a menu beyond a simple soup or salad are also becoming the norm,” shares Kevin Dennis, owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services.

[courtesy of carats & cake]
Elevated Decor

Engaged couples are taking note from luxury events and elevating their own design to enhance not only their vision, but also the guests’ experience. New trends are popping up all over the place so much so that no two weddings look alike anymore, which is something couples are loving. From metallics like silver to inspiration from the far East, 2017 is bidding farewell to blush tones and saying hello to bold choices. “Color is finally back,” explains Nahid Farhoud, owner of Nahid’s Global Events. “This is in contrast to the last few seasons where all-white weddings were more prevalent. We’re also seeing more hanging botanicals as well as lighting patterns.”

[courtesy of rebeccalouiselaw.com]
Gearing up for the next wedding season is always an exciting time, and we can’t wait to see what else 2017 will bring.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

Timeline Geniuses

The Art of Balancing Planning and Design

By Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Event Design

Events are created in two stages: design and planning. Together, these two components meet to put create a client’s vision, from the color of the flowers in the centerpieces down to the timing of the grand entrance. When you’re handling both aspects of the event, it’s essential to put in an equal amount of time and effort into each.

For those who tend to focus on one side, but have hopes of developing into a full-service, now is the time to get a feel for how the event process flows, and how to find a happy balance between design and planning.

bella6

The first piece of the event puzzle is the design – what do your clients want the final result to look like? What do they want it to feel like? Do they have a certain color palette or a particular theme that they want to stick to? More often than not, this is where the Pinterest boards roll in and fabric swatches get compared.

This is also the point to finalize the budget and vendor options in order to put together a solid team of event professionals who can bring their vision to life. Generally, I like to allocate the first three to four months of the timeline to design so we can get into all of the little details; however, this may vary depending on the complexity of the event.

5

Once the team is together and the vision is understood by all, we enter the realm of production. A planner helps clients with signing contracts, paying deposits and coordinating all of the vendors to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This can take some time since event production involves a lot of moving pieces, so we typically factor in seven to eight months. While each vendor is responsible for their own role in the big day, it’s up to the planner to check in and ensure that everyone is on track.

As the planning winds down, we get into the final stage of the process: event management. At this point, most of the logistics should be ironed out and now is the time for finalizing itineraries and adding all of the final touches. Communication is key throughout the whole event planning process, but it’s most important during the management stage as the final decisions are what will guide the day-of schedule.

belladeux4

Our clients tend to be either design-focused or planning-focused, but we have found that things go best when they become involved in both aspects of their special day. Although we certainly try to cater to their interests by including them heavily in either design for the visual folks or planning for the Type-A folks, it’s essential that they get the final say on all major decisions.

By ensuring that the design, planning and management stages all go smoothly, you can rest assured that the event will go off without a hitch!

Kim Sayatovic is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Belladeux Event Design, a full service wedding and event design firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana.