Advice for New Wedding Entrepreneurs

Friday, January 20, 2012

This post is specifically written towards people new to the wedding industry. If you've been around for a while, feel free to skip it. Or not. Totally up to you.

For those of you who are new to the wedding industry, welcome! It's a fun and challenging industry and one that has afforded many people great opportunities. I hope it does the same for you. Many people new to the industry tend to make the same mistakes when they're starting out, so I wanted to address some of those here so you can take note and not allow these to hold you back.

*If anywhere in your bio you say that you fell in love with weddings while planning your own wedding, rewrite your bio. This sentiment may be true, but the reality is that it has become a cliche and it is one that makes it very difficult for both potential clients AND your colleagues to take you seriously. What else, besides your own nuptials, do you love about weddings? Write about that instead.

*The same goes for being born with a camera in your hand, a paintbrush in your hand, etc.

*Your own wedding should never be included in your gallery portfolio. It doesn't matter if you've planned corporate events for 15 years and just recently got married -- having your own wedding in your gallery makes you look inexperienced.

*If your job requires you to be on site the day of a wedding (photographers, bands, planners, floral designers, caterers, etc), make sure you have the proper insurance for your profession and your state. This is not something you can skip until you become more successful or until you decide if you really like your new career or not. About 10% of weddings have a guest either die or get seriously injured (heart attacks are common as are alcohol-related incidents). Make sure you're covered legally before you need it.

*Do what you have to to make your business work for YOU (within ethical bounds, of course). I did a lot of things "wrong" when I started in weddings: I didn't join the associations everyone said I had to, I didn't advertise where I was supposed to, I didn't wait 5 years to charge what I was worth, I became friends with my clients when everyone said I should keep a "professional" distance and so on. I was running my business for ME and my life circumstances. I had to make it work for ME. And it did work, even though I broke all the "rules."

*This also pissed a lot of people off and some of them started saying mean things . . . some REALLY mean things. I am not going to lie: their words stung. It hurt that people who had met me in passing at a cocktail party were saying things about me and my life that weren't true. Then one day I realized that it didn't really matter what any of my competitors thought because they weren't the ones writing me checks. So, if you run into haters -- and if you start being successful you definitely will -- throw yourself a fully-catered pity party for about 20 minutes and then get back to work. Your haters aren't the ones writing you checks.

*Don't expect everyone to fight fair. More importantly, don't allow that to make you cynical.

*Know your industry history. Respect the fact that there are a lot of people who have been doing what you do for a very long time and doing it well. At the same time, while it's totally okay to look up to the people you admire, make sure that you don't put them on a pedestal. They're just people.

*Take all social media bragging with a grain of salt. All of it.

*There's a book by Marianne Williamson that I love and in it she says, "Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you." I was once told by a well-intentioned but misguided mentor that I would need to dumb myself down if I ever wanted to get married. I decided that there are worse things than being single. I also decided to stop meeting with that mentor and embrace the truth in this quote instead. Tape it to your computer, your mirror, your fridge, your wallet . . . wherever you'll see it when you're tempted to do anything but your best out of fear of being judged.

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