Why Working in the Wedding Industry is like being in High School

By Shannon Underwood

The wedding industry is like living on a high school campus, complete with cliques, mean girls, nerds and rumors. The ‘in’ crowd is always at the same weddings that you attend. For better or for worse, you are stuck with them.

Prom Kings and Queens

The popular vendors are the wedding planners and venues. They control who is a preferred vendor and those lucky few reap the financial rewards of that status. Some professionals use their influence to create jaw-dropping events while others misuse their status to bully florists, photographers, DJs and others into buying their way onto the coveted list.

Bribes can cover a wide range of demands or ultimatums and a similar array of costs and effort, everything from random fees to contractual kickbacks to requests for free flowers, food or services at personal events.

Paying a referral fee might boost your business in the short-term but in the long-term, the bride might feel betrayed if she discovers the politics behind your transaction.

How to handle the situation:

Politely direct the professional to your 5 star ratings or show them links to your video testimonials. At times you might elect to participate in select bride-centered events like high volume open houses, bridal shows or important bridal consultations. Be selective about what, when and where you will offer value added services and determine the real ROI for each.

Rumors

Trying to protect our brides can leave us listening for insider information so we can keep our brides informed. Our ears perk each time we hear the word wedding, florist, caterer, gown shop. We don’t want OUR brides to be unwitting TV stars, seen sobbing outside a closed-down gown shop or wedding venue on the local news.

Stop looking for problems.

I recently heard a harpist was coming out of retirement. However when I called to inquire, I was told, “I don’t know where you got your information, but I am living on a ranch in Montana and would never dream of getting into weddings again.???

In another scenario, a review on Yelp! stated that my favorite invitation company was no longer delivering orders as promised. After further research I discovered that the review was done by a rival invitation business.

How to handle the situation:

Don’t repeat any information you can’t personally confirm. To be certain, only refer vendors you have worked with directly.

Cliques

Frustration is common when we feel like the new kid. It’s easy to write off lack of acceptance as insignificant but being the wallflower could be costing you business.

How to handle the situation:

Find a common denominator that connects you. Bridal shows and networking groups could give you an excuse to strike up a conversation and build rapport. Lead with something like, “Last year when I walked the show your booth was breathtaking. It’s my first bridal show – what kind of setup do you suggest? ??? That can lead to collaborating on the wedding you’ve both been hired to do.

DO:

Establish relationships. The best way to break into any social group is through kindness and consistency. Three of the right wedding industry friends (think class presidents and cheerleading captains) could potentially connect you to your entire local wedding industry.

DON’T:

Continually solicit fellow wedding professionals for stuff… it’s annoying. Venue managers are inundated with people wanting to be on the contacts list and it gets old for them. Don’t be one of those….they might avoid you rather than help you.

Competitors even have a reason to connect. Call another professional before you turn down that wedding you can’t accommodate. “I am booked for this date and I wanted to refer you to a lovely couple I have been working with. The bride is Meghan and her groom is Tim. I couldn’t think of anyone better than you to fulfill their needs for their wedding.???

Moral: Be generous and offer referrals for wedding business that you can’t fit on your calendar….you’ll get some in return.

As soon as you stop caring about the wedding industry social hierarchy you will find yourself as one of the cool kids that everyone emulates.

Bribes can cover a range of demands: paying fees to appear on printed materials or at open houses, kickbacks for completed bookings or renting office space within the venue. Others might want free services at personal events such as food for the wedding planner’s family reunion or hair and makeup before the venue owner’s anniversary dinner. Vendors might also be pressured to produce an expensive album or canvas featuring the venue, free cupcakes for every open house or fresh flowers whenever requested.

It seems like we often look for a problem to protect our naive wedding couples from being stranded on their special day.

If you are asked a question about a wedding vendor you aren’t really familiar with, an appropriate response might be: “They are not a professional I have ever used before and I only refer businesses that I have worked with first hand. Would you like me to suggest some gown shops/florists/caterers that I have worked with in the past????

If a venue manager hears the words, “How do I get onto your list? Or “Can I leave my literature here???? one more time, he or she will scream. It only makes you look socially awkward and self-centered.

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