Every four to five years or so, a "new class" of wedding professionals comes on the scene, armed with moxy, grit, and big goals.
Many are talented, many launch new products or services tailored to peers "because it didn't exist in the industry" (this is never true, it just means they weren't good at paying attention), and many become savvy at marketing themselves on a bootstrapped budget. A handful out of each group find themselves in a position of leadership early on or with a reputation as the new wedding industry "it girl" (or guy).
Many people who become one of the go-to experts or "mini-celebs" in their field – especially those whose 'stardom' happens while they're in their twenties – assume that their good fortune and industry position will continue forever, as long as they keep working hard.
Because their popularity allows them to command higher prices, they often make their plans for the future with the expectation that the level of money they're bringing in now will not only continue, but consistently increase. They then spend their income on bigger and better things: a closet full of designer clothes and handbags, flashier cars, first-class upgrades on every flight (no matter how short), and giant custom homes designed with their giant, custom dreams in mind.
Then suddenly one day they notice that they're no longer the most in-demand photographer.
Or they pick up the latest issue of Town and Country and realize they're not mentioned at all among the bridal trend experts.
Or they got knocked off this year's list of top floral designers in favor of someone they've never even heard of.
Or they launch a workshop that has always sold out and zero people sign up.
And they were not at all prepared for this change in status – emotionally or financially.
If you've been in the wedding industry for longer than a decade, you've seen this cycle, too. Some of the biggest names in the wedding and social event space just ten years ago – with book deals and speaking engagements and ultra-celeb clients to match – are practically invisible now, and not by their own choice.
Let me be clear: none of the types of purchases mentioned above are right or wrong. Where these people got tripped up was assuming their business and popular role in the industry would continue to be a cash cow for as long as they wanted. As a result, many did not have their savings and investment accounts where they needed to be to help them ride out the slow seasons.
Several people in the most recent "new class" are currently falling prey to this mentality, and it is painful to watch.
If you're one of the current go-to industry experts – and especially if you are newer to the industry and in your twenties or early thirties – take advantage of where you're at today to plan well for an unpredictable future. Work to stay relevant, but realize you may have years that are more difficult to book or your educational courses won't sell, and plan accordingly.
In the words of my friend and industry veteran Debbie Geller, "When you have a good year, buy some nice shoes, but set money aside for a rainy day."
You will be thankful you did.
Originally published August 2016