Wedding Professionals:
So....You Want To Be A Wedding Consultant (part II)

The Role of The Consultant

In our last article, we discussed how many people view this business called wedding planning & consulting. For some, consulting seems to be just the ticket to earn some cash on the side and have a little fun in the process. However, there is one factor that usually is not taken into consideration: Weddings are extremely emotional events that can try the very patience of a saint! Not only are you dealing with the obvious (i.e. two people who are in love) but you must interface with everyone else in their families and circle of friends. In most cases, everyone involved means well, but they are too close to the situation to view it objectively. That objective view is the job of the wedding consultant. This article will hopefully give you some insight into what being a wedding planner truly means and you'll gain some additional information on the role of the consultant (both legally and professionally).

What Is A Wedding Consultant?

A consultant's primary function is to help a couple discover and implement and manage all of the necessary tasks required to host a successful wedding event. In laymen's terms, the role of the wedding consultant is that of a facilitator, mediator, money manager, artisan and constructor of dreams. Since most brides & grooms-to-be have neither the time or the resources to pull off such a social chore, many are turning to the "pro's" to handle it for them. A good consultant should be able to do just that, "handle" the situation. As I mentioned earlier, weddings are actually very complex emotional mazes. Even the most well-planned, beautifully orchestrated event has some sort of emotional twist or turn that a consultant must be able to skilfully negotiate.

The wedding planner is the one person who knows the most about the event. It is imperative that the consultant literally be "on top" of everything, every finite detail. One never knows when pandimonium may break out or when the bride (or her mother ) may call for an update on a certain portion of the wedding. Knowing all of the little intricacies on the event allows the consultant a fair amount of control. Control is an important issue when it comes to dealing with a group of people (no matter what the occasion !). This is not to say that the wedding consultant will rule the event with an iron fist (although this has been know to occur...), rather it means that he or she will have the capability and the confidence in knowing all of the issues and their meaings as they pertain to a particular wedding.

Professional Roles Professionally speaking, you are hired to perform a service. And as "the hired help", keep a couple of things in mind:

    1) Be very clear to your client about what you will or will not do. By having an agreement in writing, there is generally less confusion and misunderstandings. If there are areas in your contract that could be ambiguous, clarify them with your attorney or other legal advisor before you present the paperwork to the client. Many consultants have been burned quite badly because of not giving the bride an agreement or due to a lack of clarity in its' wording, having to perform more services (at a loss !) than they originally intended.

    2) Be competive in your pricing. Depending on your level of expertise, you will need to charge for your services accordingly. Be brutally honest with your self and your ability to manage multiple tasks (and brides!). If you are just starting out with no experience under your belt, you cannot expect to be paid a large sum of money. It takes time to gather the level of knowledge you will need to plan and execute, creative and well- managed weddings. One of the best things you can do is to find a seasoned consultant and offer to work for them. For free. Not only will you get a bird's eye view of the business, but you can find out, through careful research, what the going rates are for different types of weddings in your geographical area. And once you book your first paying client, be honest enough to let them know that it is your first wedding, but you are willing to offer them the highest level of customer service possible. And stick to your word! When the event is over and your talent is receiving rave reveiws from the client and her guests, you'll be very glad you listened to the above piece of advice.

    3) This wedding belongs to the bride & groom. Not You ! Even if they exhibit the tackiest taste in bridesmaids dresses and table linen, it's still their event. A good wedding consultant is able to skilfully and tactfully inject good taste into the basest of events. Having an eye for color and style helps greatly when your clients become color blind!. Your role as the planner means that your experience can give couples great ideas & fantastic scenarios that they may have otherwise overlooked. Additionally, you will have to act as mediator at some point in time during the planning stages. Knowing how to be subtle yet confident in your statements and suggestions will go a long way in fostering better interpersonal relationships for your client and their families.

Legal Commitments

Upon the signing of an agreement or contract with your client, you become bound by the terms of that piece of paperwork. As I will mention many, many times during these articles, having everything in writing will save you unecessary paperwork and headaches! As a business person, your contract is the one thing that will keep your business in business. If you have a client that fails to pay your contracted fees (and this happens quite frequently !), having a legitimate, signed contract (by both parties) will allow you to collect what is due to you. Should one of your brides cancel her wedding, a cancellation clause in your agreement can save the day for you financially. Since many "wedding coordinators" are hobbyists versus professionals, the bridal public can and has taken a very lacksadaisical view on paying us what we deserve and paying on time. The minute you have a signed contract, you can enforce your company's policies to the fullest extent of the law. Without one, you're up the creek without a paddle!. Make sure that your client understands what they are signing. In my contract, for instance, I make sure that the clients initial all policy & payment clauses. This ensures double clarity on their part. Not only do they sign the end of the contract stating that they understand all the terms and conditions, but those initials for certain portions of the agreement, clarify my position as the consultant/business owner even more.

In our next article, we will tackle the subject of research and homework. I will cover the areas of market research (what it is and why you need to do it!) as well as effective ways for you to reach the clientele you are interested in. As always, if you would like to reach me, you can do so by e-mailing me here at the On-line African Wedding Guide or at HappilyEve@aol.com.

    Homework Assignment:
    Research the consultants/coordinators in your area to find out what the going rate is for wedding planning services in your geographical location. You'll want to find out the types of services performed as well as rates. I would like for you to e-mail either here at the Guide or my business e-mail with your results. This will allow us to take a look at pricing across the U.S and I'll share them with you during the next article. .

Until next time,
Linnyette Richardson-Hall

<<To Part One>>