Our Interview with a Wedding Planner!
We’ve all seen blockbuster movies that feature the glamorous world of the Wedding Planner, or read glossy wedding magazines, where a Wedding Planner provides advice for those planning a wedding, but how many of us actually know the elusive Wedding Planner, or better yet, have an opportunity to quiz one of these mystical creatures, on all things Weddings?
I have. Me! And I’m going to share these fantastic insights on my blog, TODAY!
We’re going to delve into the business of Wedding Planning and how it has evolved, but we’re also going to chat about wedding trends and how to make a BIG impact on a budget.
Allow me to introduce the lovely, Siobhan Craven-Robins.
In 1995 Siobhan recognised a gap in the market for designated co-ordinators to help couples through the wedding planning process saving them time, money and disappointment.
Siobhan is acknowledged in the industry as the UK’s first Wedding Planner.
Siobhan is now established as one of the UK’s leading wedding co-ordinators. Her beautiful weddings have featured in Hello, OK! and many bridal magazines in various countries around the world. Her famous clients include Joan Collins, Barbara Windsor, Greg Kinnear, Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck, Des O’Connor and Ronni Ancona.
Click here to take a peek at Siobhan’s website!
Siobhan writes for various wedding magazines and is frequently requested as a speaker at business seminars and wedding shows. She is also frequently hired as a consultant for wedding related TV and radio shows, new venues and other suppliers within the wedding industry.
In 2013, with two of her industry colleagues, she founded National Association of Wedding Professionals; an association promoting professionalism and integrity within the UK Wedding Industry. The association has gone from strength to strength, boasting a high calibre membership and is starting to be regarded as a benchmark for professionalism within the UK industry.
Siobhan is renowned for her imaginative flair; no two weddings are ever the same. Her goal is to achieve a wedding that is truly representative of the couple involved. A wedding that is individual to them and one that guests enjoy and appreciate.
Siobhan, I’m so thrilled to be introducing my first ever interview with a Wedding Planning expert, who has 20 yrs experience in the industry! That is an amazing feat! Congratulations! How has the wedding planning industry evolved from you started your own business, and what changes have impacted you most as a Wedding Planner?
When I started there were no Wedding Planners in the UK. There were companies that helped couples with elements of their wedding, but not a full planning service. I was uncertain whether this was because there wasn’t the demand for it, or if it was simply a hole in the market. I did quite a lot of market research before I started my business, to try and establish one way or another, what the viability of offering such a service could be. I decided it was ‘a goer’ and launched at the end of 1995.
Since then, the wedding planning industry has grown and grown. In the early days, I had to create market awareness, now there is awareness. The clients have remained the same: couples based overseas for work and marrying back home in the UK, overseas clients who would like to marry in the UK, and UK couples who are time short and need a hand with the planning.
Obviously, the industry growth has made hiring a Wedding Planner more commonplace, or at least a consideration to a proportion of couples marrying. This is a good thing. However, it is an industry that many people feel they would like to get into and start businesses that undercut and dilute the services of a planner e.g. day of, styling etc. Whilst these are valid options for clients, they have devalued the role of the planner. Couples think that they can just hire someone in to oversee the day, at a fraction of the price for full planning, and will have the same experience as if they had hired someone from the outset. Businesses cannot survive charging these prices, and it misrepresents the value of what we do as wedding planners. It perpetuates a myth and decreases the value of the professional and well-experienced planner. This has been an unfortunate aspect of the industry growth.
What changes would you like to witness in the Wedding Planning industry today?
I think the profession has to be recognised as one of value. In my previous answer, I explained what has happened in recent times and I think a lot of planners are feeling the fallout from this. It is hard to set standards without regulation in the industry, but I am optimistic that founding the NAWP will help promote professionalism in all categories of our industry and eventually change the mindset of clients.
I think that the wedding industry as a whole is to be celebrated. By its nature it is awash with talented entrepreneurs, people who have translated a skill into a business. It would be great to see this recognised and for it to be rid of its sometime ‘cottage industry’ inference.
Can you tell us more about your involvement in NAWP and how membership benefits those working in the weddings industry?
Myself, Amanda Sherlock and Lester Gethings started the NAWP in June 2013. As Wedding Planners, we speak to and deal with the full spectrum of wedding suppliers, and as such, have an insight into these various businesses. Post-recession, the industry had taken a beating: prices had been dropped to try and create more business, new suppliers had come into the industry and were under charging, and there was a general perception amongst clients that the price quoted was not what you had to pay. A general devaluing and diluting of our industry was prevailing.
The NAWP stands for promoting professionalism and integrity within the UK Wedding industry – an association that actively promotes and supports its members, as well as recognising the talent and innovativeness that exists within our industry. We are all entrepreneurs that have harnessed our creative flair to start a business and sustain a livelihood.
The industry also has its fair share of unscrupulous suppliers and bad practice. We recognise that as business owners it can be frustrating to find yourself in the same market place as these businesses and competing for the same clients. There is only one way to change this, and that is to join forces with like-minded professionals and create one, strong voice.
Regardless of the sector you work in within the Wedding industry, we all experience the same problems and issues. Sharing these with other professionals is helpful, and through the NAWP, we are creating one source that echoes the sentiments of so many others – a powerful and viable representative for our businesses.
As the NAWP grows, we are creating wider recognition within the client marketplace; helping couples to recognise quality suppliers and know that they have been accurately quoted. Hence helping to stamp out this prevailing thought that all prices are inflated or open to negotiation.
Anita Brown 3D Visualisation helps Wedding Planners convey their vision for a client’s wedding by creating photo-real images of their design to present to the happy couple. How do you feel our service has transformed the design process and overall service a Wedding Planner offers?
I was most excited to see your product earlier this year, Anita! It is an ideal tool for wedding planners. I say this for a few reasons: it sometimes can be hard to convey a ‘vision’ to clients. Not everyone can see what we see, this is ideal in that scenario. Similarly, some clients like to see options, and this again makes this a valuable tool to display these.
We often have clients who are based abroad and are planning their wedding long distance for them. Again, this is a great visual aid to demonstrate décor, layout and finishing touches.
Your 3D Visualisation greatly enables us in all these situations. It makes is easier to convey our ideas and is a professional presentation that accurately portrays our work.
What advice would you give to Wedding Planners starting out in business today?
Firstly, identify why you want to do this. Enjoying planning your own wedding or just loving weddings isn’t enough! This is someone else’s big day you are taking on – and it will feel nothing like your own.
You have to be good at admin (it’s a largely admin role, despite what the films portray!), an excellent communicator, good at diffusing fractious situations, be able to think on your feet, be able to work in a team and have a creative eye. Obviously, you have to be able to run a business. No matter how good your wedding co-ordination skills, if you can’t run a business, you will fail.
Identify what will make you different, don’t try and copy other people.
Do a course to see if this is for you – UKAWEP offer some great courses. Having a qualification displays that you are invested in wanting to get into the industry to potential employers, and gives you a good grounding in just what it all involves.
It is a notoriously hard industry to get in to. It can be difficult for us to take on interns due to the confidentiality attached to the job, but planners will often advertise for help on the wedding day itself. Other great places to gain experience and get to know the industry and who’s in it are placements with venues, caterers and production companies.
What are your top 3 pet hates when it comes to weddings!
I always say that I would have the perfect job if I didn’t have to deal with transport! It is the bane of my life as a Wedding Planner. Obviously, this is a generalisation as there are some fabulous companies and drivers out there. However, you really are beholden to them on the day. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much information you have sent and the accuracy of your finely detailed running order for the day – this does not guarantee that they read it! Drivers get lost, go to wrong addresses, park streets away and expect the client to find them, book another job straight afterwards with no regard for the 3-hour time slot you have them booked for – I could go on!
I don’t know that I have any other pet hates, it’s more to do with taste. There are some styles I don’t like or don’t think work well, but I would never criticise someone’s taste. If I don’t think something will work for a client or wedding, I do speak up and suggest alternatives. We are there to guide but not dictate.
For couples planning a wedding to a tight budget, which areas should they prioritise, to ensure that the wedding conveys their personality and style, whilst making it memorable for their guests?
A wedding that represents the couple is often created by the small touches that actually don’t cost anything or much at all. The ceremony is the most important: your choice of vows, readings, music all reflect who you are as a couple.
The ‘extra’ touches such as naming tables, the music you play at the reception, your first dance, the theme of your stationery, your speeches are all the couples’ chance to make the day their own.
And finally, what are the top 3 trends for weddings or wedding reception design that you’re witnessing at the minute?
For some time, there has been a focus on styling and lighting – I love this. I think lighting in particular is such a simple and effective way to give your setting a wow factor, or create new ambiences through the day.
The food and drink element is a constantly evolving one and an exciting aspect of the wedding. I love fun elements that we have introduced at weddings I have planned whether it be a pizza oven for late night snacks, an ice cream stall on a summer wedding or a martini bar. These are all ways to personalise your wedding, but they also add interest, and in their own way are part of the décor.
Slowly, very slowly, the hire market is diversifying and there are more options becoming available for furniture, linen and other décor props. There is more focus on this now, but, in comparison to the USA, it is still quite a (worthwhile) pricey consideration in the wedding budget.
Thank you so much to Siobhan for taking part in our first ever interview (and with a Wedding Planner too! *SQUEAL*!!) and for providing the beautiful images used in this blog. Learn more about Siobhan’s wedding planning services here, and to read more on the National Association for Wedding Professionals click here.