Wedding Sales

Why People Hire the Mediocre Wedding Pro Instead of You

It has nothing to do with price.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark


There is a woman who has written more than 25 books and makes her living as a professional author and as a writing professor at a university. She was up for a prestigious literary award and everyone just knew she was going to win.

The evening of the black-tie awards ceremony came and, while the nominees were being announced, she discreetly pulled her folded acceptance speech out of her purse.

Another woman’s name was announced from the stage. The award was given to a young author who had recently published her very first book.

The veteran author nursed her grudge through the rest of the ceremony, cycling through jealousy, self-pity, and even anger:

That award was rightfully hers!

She had been in the industry for decades!

Who was this nobody who came along and took the award after just one book?

She hadn't yet paid her dues!

After the event, the younger author approached her, stuck out her hand in introduction and asked, "Do you remember me?"

The veteran author confessed that she did not.

The younger author replied, "You were my writing professor in college. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I took your class. You were the one who inspired me to pursue a career as a writer. Thank you so much – I feel alive when I write, I love my life, and I owe that to you."

The veteran author was taken aback and, of course, immediately felt guilty about nursing any animosity towards the younger writer. This person she had felt jealous towards only a few moments before was crediting her for her success.

When it comes to the wedding industry, there’s a lot we can learn from this story.

Yes, in paving a path for others to follow, you may end up losing a wedding, or an award, or a speaking engagement, or a TV spot to someone much newer to the industry than you. Focusing only on these occasional losses is where people miss the forest for the trees.

If you want people to appreciate that what you offer is better, that what you offer is actually good, the market needs to have more actually good businesses in it. It seems like you should be able to stand apart by being good when surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, but real life rarely works that way.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: everyone likes to think of themselves as having exceptional taste, yet mediocrity sells every single day.

Vocalists who have to rely heavily on autotune make the Top 40 all the time.

Mismatched, poorly made leggings were the one of the hottest must-have items of the mid-2010’s.

Millions of people are currently drinking celery juice to cure their diseases because a guy on Instagram with zero medical training said that a ghost told him it was a good idea.

Everyone wants what everyone wants because humans are pack animals and we associate safety with numbers. Mediocrity sells because it’s familiar.

So, if you want more people to want what you offer, at the level of expertise and taste you offer it, then you need to help ensure that the better options are what’s familiar.

You need more legitimately good competitors producing legitimately good work and showing it off. Sharing what you know and working to leave the industry better than you found it will almost always come back to benefit you in the long run.

Generosity wins.


The original version of this post was originally published February 2012.

The #1 Thing to Remove From Your Website's Inquiry Form

Increase your brand’s word of mouth and your industry referrals.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

The point of your website isn't to close the sale. The point of your website is to get potential clients to contact you so you can start a conversation.

The number one thing on most wedding professionals' inquiry forms that can shut down a conversation before it even starts?

Asking for a specific wedding date. 

This seems counterintuitive at first – after all if you aren't available for their date, you aren't available. That said, asking for the date up front cheats both you and the bride or groom out of a conversation that can leave a memorable impression and increase your word of mouth.

First, depending on your segment of the industry, a potential client may have a few dates in mind. Their decision could depend on when their dream venue or the photographer they've been Insta-stalking for the past year has availability. It may depend on when their maid-of-honor can get vacation time approved.

If the date they enter to get past a mandatory field on your inquiry form triggers an automated "Sorry, we're booked" email reply, you've lost out on the possibility that the date they land on is actually one you have available.

Second, and most importantly, not skipping past that conversation means you have the opportunity to increase your future industry referrals and make the wedding industry better. 

One of my non-negotiable company values is to always provide a referral if I can't accept a project. This can be because I'm already booked, I'm out of their budget, their project isn't in my wheelhouse, or we just may not be a good fit for whatever reason. Giving them the name of someone who may be able to better help them reach their goals is not only beneficial to them, it brands me as helpful and allows me to support the other people in the business consulting space who are the real deal. 

The importance of that last part shouldn't be underestimated. Wedding pros in every single segment of the industry complain about oversaturation. Planners joke that "anyone who walks by a wedding at a resort" opens up shop the next day, photographers complain about people with an iPhone and VSCO calling themselves pros, and caterers complain that "anyone with a kitchen and the Food Network thinks they can do what we do." Some of the new people entering the industry are truly talented. Others are . . . not.

The truth of the matter is that if you are competing at the level you want to be at, most of your competitors will also be excellent at what they do. Bad apples end up affecting everyone, and the best way to ensure that the good people stay in business is to send them business. 

Have a list of names of people you trust and respect, including competitors in your category as well as those who may be at a lower price point but still good at what they do. You can send an actual PDF list or link, but I'd recommend taking a couple minutes to send a personalized recommendation:

"Hi Sally, Your wedding ideas sound beautiful! We are previously committed for your date, but based on what you've shared with me, I'd recommend reaching out to Annie at XYZ Events. Her style is very much in sync with yours, plus I think you'll hit it off personality-wise. Congratulations, again!"

A 90 second email that helps the couple, brands you as generous to both the client and the wedding pro, and earns you karma/reaping what you sow/what goes around comes around brownie points.

This particular couple may not have the budget for you, but "I couldn't afford him, but he still took the time to help me with recommendations," is great word of mouth and a kindness people remember. It also helps build a wedding community committed to excellence and weeding out the charlatans. A win-win for everyone.


Originally published June 2018

The Number 1 Thing to Remove From Your Website's Inquiry Form (and Why)

The point of your website isn't to close the sale, it's to get potential clients to contact you so you can start a conversation.

The number one thing on most wedding professionals' inquiry forms that can shut down a conversation? Asking for a specific wedding date. 

This seems counterintuitive at first – after all if you aren't available for their date, you aren't available. That said, asking for the date up front cheats both you and the bride or groom out of a conversation that can leave a memorable impression and increase your word of mouth.

First, depending on your segment of the industry, a potential client may have a few dates in mind. Their decision could depend on when their dream venue or the photographer they've been Insta-stalking for the past year has availability. If the date they enter to get past a mandatory field on your inquiry form triggers an automated "Sorry, we're booked" email reply, you've lost out on the possibility that the date they land on is actually one you have available.

Second, and most importantly, not skipping past that conversation means you have the opportunity to make the wedding industry better. 

One of my non-negotiable company values is to always provide a referral if I can't accept a project. This can be because I'm already booked, I'm out of their budget, their project isn't in my wheelhouse, or we just may not be a good fit for whatever reason. Giving them the name of someone who may be able to better help them reach their goals is not only beneficial to them and brands me as helpful, it allows me to support the other people in the business consulting space who are the real deal. 

The importance of that last part shouldn't be underestimated. Wedding pros in every single segment of the industry complain about oversaturation. Planners joke that "anyone who walks by a wedding at a resort" opens up shop the next day, photographers complain about people with an iPhone and VSCO calling themselves pros, and caterers complain that "anyone with a kitchen and the Food Network thinks they can do what we do." Some of the new people entering the industry are truly talented. Others are . . . not.

The truth of the matter is that if you are competing at the level you want to be at, most of your competitors will also be excellent at what they do. Bad apples end up affecting everyone, and the best way to ensure that the good people stay in business is to send them business. 

Have a list of names of people you trust and respect, including competitors in your category as well as those who may be at a lower price point but still good at what they do. You can send an actual PDF list or link, but I'd recommend taking a couple minutes to send a personalized recommendation:

"Hi Sally, Your wedding ideas sound beautiful! We are previously committed for your date, but based on what you've shared with me, I'd recommend reaching out to Ann at XYZ Events. Her style is very much in sync with yours, plus I think you'll hit it off. Congratulations, again!"

A 90 second email that helps the couple, brands you as generous to both the client and the wedding pro, and earns you karma/reaping what you sow/what goes around comes around brownie points.

This particular couple may not have the budget for you, but "I couldn't afford him, but he still took the time to help me with recommendations" is great word of mouth and a kindness people remember. It also helps build a wedding community committed to excellence and weeding out the charlatans. A win-win for everyone.