» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

Photo by Kat Ma Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» How to Communicate Effectively With Couples and Save Your Sanity

Photo by Lunalee Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

What is “just right” communications with your couples?  My definition is having a communication plan that has my business communicating with all my couples consistently, and in a way that:

  1. Gives them the information they want and need while…
  2. Getting me the information I want and need — and it does all of that while…
  3. Meeting, or exceeding, the expectations of my couples, as well as…
  4. Fitting within a time budget developed to keep me both sane and profitable  

A bit long of a definition so let’s break it down by the main points:

Consistency

Your planned communication timing, amount, and quality are designed to be the same for every couple.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t change something based on a specific couple or wedding, it just means that every couple feels the love and attention in pretty much the same way.

Couples’ expectations

Ultimately, your communication strategy, and the tools used to apply that strategy, need to be designed based on your ideal couples.  For example, the mix of communication types and the style of communication for a high priced, low volume Wedding Planner should be very different from those used by a low priced, high volume Officiant.  No business model is “wrong” – as long as it meets your profitability and time needs. Therefore, it is very important to understand that the communication you have with your couples needs to provide a customer experience that closely matches (or exceeds) their expectations.

Time budget

Your communication plan fits your business time budget.  

By knowing how much time you have, what information you want to communicate, and your ideal client’s expectations, you can focus your communication spend on the important communication touch points, and automate or remove others.   

DEVELOPING A COMMUNICATION PLAN

Before revising or developing a communication plan, there are two other important things to remember. Although each of us gets older every year, our couples stay relatively the same age.  This means that our communication plan must match what they are expecting and not just be what we have used for ages (even if it worked well in the past).

Also, don’t forget to also think about communication with other vendors when developing your strategy and plan.  Properly communicating with those you are working with on a wedding can increase your visibility and your perceived professionalism – and, as we know so well, other vendors are often where many of our referrals come from.      

To create a communication plan that fits your business, it is easiest to separate the process into two main steps:

Step 1

Calculate the average number of hours you want to, or currently, spend communicating on that specific wedding.  The calculation should include calls, in-person meetings, creating and sending of emails, etc., and a bit of time for unscheduled communications.

Step 2

Map out a communication plan that best utilizes all the different communication tools and takes into consideration the number of hours that you want to spend per couple.  Think of each touchpoint and ask yourself, “what is the level of importance to me and/or my couples?” Remember, something that might not be that important to you could be very important to them and thus something that is very important to your business.     

Since each business is different, I can’t just provide a single communication plan that fits all.  However, we can take a look at the different communication touch points that are reasonably standard to all of us in the wedding industry.  

COMMUNICATION TOUCH POINTS

Inquiry communication

This is where communication method and the amount of time is hard to plan for, but I do have a few recommendations.  

  • Communicate back within a reasonable period of time.  If you have some information that you almost always provide back (e.g. a pricing breakdown) or some questions that you almost always need to ask (e.g. how many guests), have them handy no matter where you are.  
  • Answer all questions that were asked – and if you can’t answer them without more information, explain why you need the “more information” and request it.
  • Communicate back in the same method they used, unless otherwise instructed.  If they call, you can call. If they email or use WeddingWire messages, please email or message back and don’t try to call.

Initial meeting or consultation

Your business model will determine your initial meeting communication strategy – in-person, phone, online – but you also need to be flexible based on where the couple resides and their requested preference.  

Booking process

Please don’t make it hard for them to book you and give you money.  Truly. We live in more modern times and your couples likely have always lived in those modern times.  Electronic contracts and electronic payments are easier for you and easier and more comfortable for them.  

After-booking communication

Whether it’s an automated email or a templated email which you personalize before sending, it should give them an idea of next steps, timeline or workflow, and reiterate communication expectations.  Some wedding professionals, especially those at the higher-end and with a more complicated process, find that the creation and distribution of an “onboarding” document or packet is very helpful in setting proper expectations and fits with their brand.

Your in-process workflow

It is only a positive for your business, and your sanity, to have a standard workflow that applies to each wedding or level of service purchased – even if it is adaptable based on that specific couple’s (or wedding’s) needs.  The workflow should have set communication points, and you schedule on your calendar and/or in your system any non-automated communication point within the workflow (a two-week final reminder email, a month-out check-in call, time to schedule a venue walk-through, etc.).  

Information giving/gathering

Electronic communication usually works very well here.  Depending on your level of service, you can determine which emails you send would be automated, which would be templated, and which would be completely personal.  And, if you need to get a bunch of information, online questionnaires are a fantastic tool to use, often getting better responses than asking for those questions to be answered in an email.  If your process includes having a scheduled call or an in-person meeting with your couple, send them the discussion points beforehand so they can be prepared. This reduces the amount of back and forth after the meeting and makes sure that no one feels like the meeting was a waste of time.

Unscheduled communications

Although you can’t completely control this, set expectations early on with your couples about how you are going to communicate with them, how best they should communicate with you, and what response time to expect.  

After-event or after-service follow-up

If you work with a lot of couples and just want to congratulate them, thank them, and ask for reviews, this could be an automated email, but I don’t recommend it.  Each couple/wedding is unique and we are in a very personal business, so instead I recommend a templated email that you then personalize based on the couple. I always try to remember one or two memorable things from my time at the wedding and add it to the thank you (it was great meeting your parents, your nephew came through with the rings after all, etc.).  

EVALUATING YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN

And don’t forget to evaluate your communication plan by:

  • Looking at your reviews. Are the couples talking up how well you communicated with them, not talking about it at all, or talking about it in the negative?  Use this to determine what is working well and what needs change.
  • Keeping track of the questions that shouldn’t be asked or missing items. Are you getting a lot of questions from your couples, yet the answers were in earlier communications?  Are you frequently getting to certain points in your process and still missing items that you requested from your couples?  Are you consistently, or somewhat consistently, forgetting to tell your couples something?

Just remember, your business, your couples, and your technology are always evolving, and thus so should your communication plan.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» Introducing Our Newest Education Experts

To provide you with more of the the latest and greatest expert advice to grow your business, we are excited to announce that we have added Bethel Nathan and Vanessa Joy as WeddingWire Education Experts, joining Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm and Meghan Ely.  Be on the lookout for their blog articles, speaking engagements and webinars over the upcoming months — and when you see them, don’t forget to give them a warm WeddingWire welcome!

Bethel Nathan, Business Coach & Speaker, Elevate by Bethel
Expertise: Customer Experience, Business Management, Relationship Building

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love, using her years of experience to help others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses.

Bethel loves to travel, speaks Japanese and is a long time scuba diver having logged over 300 dives with her favorites being in Indonesia, Galapagos, Socorro Islands, and Fiji. Along with her many fun hobbies, she will be bringing her expertise in customer experience, business management and relationship building to WeddingWire.

To learn more about Bethel, check out her website or or follow her on Instagram.

 


Vanessa Joy,
Owner and Photographer, Vanessa Joy Photography
Expertise: Social Media, Content Marketing, Workflow

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching.

Vanessa comes to WeddingWire with her adept knowledge in topics such as social media, content marketing and workflow. Apart from being an expert in those areas, Vanessa has 5 college degrees, a very talented videographer husband (whom she met working a wedding!) and an undying love for chocolates, wine, ice-cream, but mostly cookies! She also comes from a long line of strong, creative women with her mother being a wedding photographer, and grandmother being one of the first female journalists for the NJ Senate.

To learn more about Vanessa, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

Please join us in welcoming these two new Education Experts. We feel so lucky to have them as a part of the WeddingWire family!

» How to Hire the Right People for Your Team

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Assembling the right team is essential to the success of a company, especially one that is growing and evolving in a field as service-oriented as the wedding industry. The wrong employee will set you back in terms of time, resources and more than a little sanity. Before you hire someone new, prepare yourself for the task and avoid mistakes before they cost you any of the above.

The posting

Even if you have hired for the position before, it never hurts to revisit your job description. You want your new hire to fit into your overall brand, so be meticulous with how you advertise yourself as an employer.

Revisit the little details – do all of the job responsibilities still make sense? Are there things from your plate you’d like to move over to the new employee? Is your compensation in line with area standards and is it competitive? Consider connecting with your team and soliciting their thoughts on the qualities and skills needed.

Promoting your job opening

When it is time to promote your open position, start with your blog, social media and newsletter. Reach out to trusted colleagues and ask them to keep an ear open for highly qualified candidates looking to change positions. Your best matches often come to you as warm leads.

Great employer seeks perfect candidate

Once you begin interviewing, know the signs of a great match. Look for somebody who is fun, energetic, personable and willing to learn. Your clients want to connect with someone who has a positive attitude and who upholds your corporate culture.

On the flip side, be aware of red flags. Showing up late for an interview, not following instructions included in a job listing, not being properly dressed for the interview, and not knowing anything about the company or the position they are applying for are all signs that a candidate is less than ideal.

The double-edged sword of previous experience

While past experience can be desirable, it also can mean that a candidate has developed bad habits, or is unwilling to adapt. Be open to looking beyond experience. Focus on potential.

Questions to ask

Your questions can encompass basic information like “What do you know about our company?” and “How do you define good customer service?” Don’t be afraid to get (professionally) creative, though. We like to ask something like, “If you were going to be working on a movie, what part would you want to play: actor, producer or director?’ to get a feel for applicants’ motivations and personalities.

Involve the team

Consider a trial run for a set period of time to allow you to determine if your new hire is compatible with your current team. You’re about to spend a lot of time with him or her, so it’s worth the extra effort for all involved to make sure you have found a good fit.

Few business decisions are as critical as hiring the right talent. Invest your time and effort in the process. You will not be sorry.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» Tips for Your Branding Overhaul

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Did you realize that best practices call for a business to rebrand every two years or so? In fact you should plan for a complete rebrand every 4-5 years! We asked the experts to share their tips for your next branding overhaul.

Timing

How do you know that it’s time?

The International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning’s Kylie Carlson points out clear indicators that it’s time for a rehaul, including a dated logo, feelings of embarrassment when you hand out your business card or marketing materials, and struggling to raise your prices. Some signs are positive, however. “Have you simply outgrown your brand?” asks Carlson. “This is actually a nice place to be in,” she encourages. “Often, when a company grows, they enter new marketplaces and that renders their current brand ineffective.”

Once you know it’s time to rebrand, where do you begin?

Start here

Rebranding is a multi-step process. Sandy Hammer of AllSeated recommends beginning by looking “at the brands and companies you love. Why do you love them?” Consider their logo, colors and overall look so you can view your own brand through a similar lens.

Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group says, “Keeping up with the industry trends is key for your brand. You have to keep an eye out for all facets of consumer behavior, including how your market is reacting to certain brands, what they’re looking for and how they’re speaking.”

Igal Sapir, CFO of 100 Candles cautions that “branding is not just about aesthetics. Yes, poorly constructed sites will be passed over quickly by millennial couples eager to engage with a brand…be mindful of the prospect’s user experience when they come to your site.” Sapir suggests reviewing your site in great detail from the perspective of a client and determining ways to make the experience more efficient.

If you’re renaming your company, Attorney Caroline Fox of The Engaged Legal Collective, advises you to contact a trademark attorney to “do a trademark evaluation and analysis up front before you commit to a name and invest money into new marketing materials or other designs,”

Ready, set, rebrand

You’ll need to put together a team of professionals to help you with your rebrand. Velez believes that looking within your organization first is a helpful way to start. “Leverage the resources you have available, first, especially your design team! Then, go beyond for extra-professional help.”

Carlson recommends asking friends and colleagues for referrals, and warns that “Good designers are often booked well in advance, so once you’ve found the right fit, don’t delay.”

Ashley Stork, owner of Magnolia Vine Events emphasizes organization and bandwidth. “Be honest about your time, and what your capacity is at the time of re-branding”. She recommends having your copy mostly done in advance, adding, “You may need to tweak, add or have a copywriter review but not having the copy for your site will hold up the whole project.”

There is no better time than right now to begin considering and planning for your next rebrand!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Can I Call It A Gay Wedding?

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

I was at a luncheon a few weeks ago, and a new acquaintance asked me about my line of work. I explained that my straight mother had founded our business — GayWeddings.com — almost 20 years ago and that now, in the years since WeddingWire had acquired our site, I was spending the majority of my time helping wedding vendors understand how to best serve same-sex couples and explaining LGBTQ wedding trends to journalists.

A Manhattan resident who was in her seventies, my new friend was excited and curious about my work, especially because she had enjoyed the same-sex weddings she had attended. So our conversation continued, and, in response to one of her questions, I answered by saying something to the effect of, “For example, at a gay wedding…”

But this is where she interrupted me.

“Don’t call it a gay wedding!” she admonished. “A wedding is a wedding! It’s not a gay wedding!”

I understood what she meant. I’ve heard this refrain and have even found occasion to use it myself in certain contexts. A wedding is a wedding when the consideration is how much it costs to produce a ceremony and a reception at peak season on a Saturday night. These are structural elements that impact the price of the wedding, the budget, the availability of a venue, the size of the guestlist and so on. A wedding is a wedding when we are talking about two persons in love choosing to exchange a solemn and legal vow in front of their loved ones. In these ways, I agree with her.

I think I surprised her, however, when I pushed back — graciously, of course — on her premise.

Actually, I said, a wedding isn’t always a wedding, but I appreciate your message of equality and recognition. By custom and habit, I went on to explain, weddings have been a strongly gendered, heteronormative exercise where all that flows seems to come from planning around a pair of pants and a dress — but especially around the dress! — and that this equation can be very different for two brides, two grooms or two persons who define themselves in a way other than “bride and groom.”

This is where there is room, I explained, to recognize that a “gay wedding” is different, and that understanding and addressing those differences is key to helping a couple celebrate.

For example, though statistics show that most couples are most concerned about price and availability when trying to locate and book wedding professionals to help them, LGBTQ couples are just as concerned about being rejected as they are about price and availability. This is an important difference and, even since marriage equality was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015, that fear (and reality) of service refusal remains.

Additionally, same-sex couples have tended to be older in age and have tended to pay for most or all the wedding themselves. This has an impact on budget priorities, the guest list, and who the decision-maker(s) are in the planning. Over time, however, same-sex couples are getting younger and families are getting more involved in the planning and budgeting for the wedding.

Another key difference is what it means to photographers in how they plan to work with same-sex couples. One must consider posing, detail sessions with attire, having enough photographers to cover the wedding preparation rituals for two brides wearing traditional gowns and needing styling services. They must consider how two gowns or two bouquets can be awkward to stage in close proximity or how two tuxes next to one another provide no color contrast. If a photographer plans with ‘a wedding is a wedding’ in mind, he or she will likely stumble into unexpected traps that can impact the final product.

I’m not sure that my lunch buddy fully understood what I meant about how important nuance and cultural competence is in helping wedding pros deliver superior services to LGBTQ couples in a competitive market. I certainly hope, however, that she felt my appreciation for her unabashed support of marriage equality and recognition that same-sex couples deserve a seat at the proverbial table.

As same-sex couples continue to assimilate into the larger wedding market, I invite everyone to remember that two grooms and two brides still have some unique needs that shouldn’t be overlooked. So, until the dust has settled on the modern market, let’s not fully retire the phrase “gay wedding” or “lesbian wedding” or “queer wedding;” there is still something very special to remember and celebrate about our unions.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Wedding Pros Lead By Inclusive Example

Photo by Creative Island Visions

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my very first wedding industry conference in 2005. At the time, our business (originally called TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com) had been focused on helping couples who were desperate to find us, so I wasn’t sure how wedding professionals might react to our specialized services.

For context, it’s important to remember that Massachusetts had only just recognized marriage equality — the first state to do so — and the topic of “gay marriage” remained largely controversial. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect; some states began to introduce legislation to ban same-sex marriage in response to legislation advancing in Massachusetts; and, some states were promoting civil unions instead of full marriage rights. It was a very different time.

The opening night of the conference included a networking reception, where I spent most of my time listening to other attendees sharing their experiences. Eventually, though, a wedding planner from Virginia, with whom I was having a pleasant conversation, asked what I did for a living. I explained that I ran an online boutique dedicated to serving same-sex couples. I had hardly finished my sentence when, without a further word, she turned on her heel and walked away from me.

I was stunned. But not deterred.

It might have been the first time (and one of the most pronounced!) that I encountered discomfort and disagreement about my passion for helping LGBTQ couples plan their weddings, but it wasn’t the last.

The good news is that, on the whole, I’ve had very positive and welcoming experiences in the wedding industry. Increasingly, interested wedding professionals, who were growing in number as marriage equality advanced, realized that they had questions about working with same-sex couples and sought my advice. And, when we launched our GayWeddings partnership with WeddingWire in January, 2011, acceptance deepened further.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the partnership with WeddingWire was watching the enrollment in our LGBTQ-friendly directory of wedding vendors grow by leaps and bounds.  WeddingWire helps same-sex couples understand that there is a safe and welcoming place for them; an incredibly important resource given that approximately half of all LGBTQ couples say that they experienced a fear of rejection based on their sexual orientation when searching for wedding vendors.

After WeddingWire acquired GayWeddings and marriage equality became the law of the land three years ago this month, it became clear that, going forward, same-sex couples would have access to the marriage licenses, services and planning resources available to all couples.

At WeddingWire, this rings more true than ever, even in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to find narrowly in favor of Jack Phillips’ request to be able to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex couple (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). I am heartened by WeddingWire’s uninterrupted commitment to inclusion through its non-discrimination policy; its position as the first and only wedding company to earn a spot on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (and perfect scores at that!); and knowing that the majority of wedding professionals believe that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples as they would all other couples.

This month, as we celebrate Pride, know that I’ll be celebrating you, the many supportive wedding professionals who have been out there, working with couples and celebrating our unions with open arms. You are a big part of the story of marriage equality, and responsible for helping to weave same-sex weddings into the fabric of our industry and mainstream acceptance.

Our work is not done, but the conversations are happening. And, now more than ever, we must continue to lead with love, to listen with love and to serve each other with love. Happy Pride!

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» What the Supreme Court’s Decision Means for the Wedding Industry

Photo by Nick Spiker Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has been one of the most watched court cases of the 2017-2018 Supreme Court session. In today’s 7-2 decision, the Justices have ruled in favor of baker, Jack Phillips, who declined to serve David Mullins and Charles Craig, who asked him to make them a wedding cake in 2012.

Justice Kennedy, who issued the majority opinion (with Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting), emphasized that this ruling is about this case in particular. The ruling does not offer a broad-sweeping permission for service refusal, but it does underscore the value that a religious belief be given as much dignity as the court extended to same-sex couples in the 2015 Obergefell ruling.

Says SCOTUSblog analyst, Amy Howe:

“Although (Jack) Phillips prevailed today, the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy rested largely on the majority’s conclusion that the Colorado administrative agency that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly by being too hostile to his sincere religious beliefs. The court seemed to leave open the possibility that a different outcome could result in a future case, and it did not rule at all one of the central arguments in the case – whether compelling Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his right to freedom of speech…

“‘The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances,’ the majority closed, ‘must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.’”

I know that there are many LGBTQ couples who express anxiety about finding vendors to help them with their wedding planning, and I can imagine that this will only enhance those concerns.

I also know, from the research I’ve done in this past year, that there are many wedding professionals who care deeply about LGBTQ couples and that they receive a kind and loving reception when they are searching for their teams of vendors.

In addition to the individual wedding pros who are steadfast allies, WeddingWire remains steadfast in its core belief of equality and its desire for the industry as a whole, to be a warm and welcoming community for all people. As it has been for years, the vendor directory will continue to be a reliable and safe resource for same-sex couples.

Additionally, it is important for LGBTQ couples to know that, though it may seem a contradiction, there are wedding pros who support Jack Phillips’ freedom of expression, but who also believe that that same-sex couples should not be turned away on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They support Phillips’ freedom to express himself but think he is in the wrong to refuse to serve same-sex couples. This group of wedding professionals understands that the wedding industry has welcomed same-sex couples with open arms, and that the vast majority is ready, willing and able to serve them.

To the wedding pros reading this I say: Thank you for all that you have done in the past 15 years to recognize the importance of marriage equality, and to help the LGBTQ community, our friends and our families to celebrate our loving unions.

Today offers a wonderful opportunity to open your arms, and welcome those couples who need to know that they have a safe space to plan their weddings. More than ever, the Pride hashtag, inclusive language and images in your storefronts and in your social media feeds, will speak volumes.

In closing, I’d like to remind you of the mantra many of you have heard from me at WeddingWire World over the years, and it still holds today:

Lead with love, listen with love and serve with love and you can’t go wrong.

I hope you’ll join me in this spirit as this important conversation continues.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Are You Too Busy To Be Successful?

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

One of my presentation titles is: “Are you too busy to be successful?,” which, like many of my topics, came from discussions I’ve had with wedding & event professionals like you. Being busy is easy. Whether it’s email or social media, family obligations or volunteering, staying busy is easy. Getting the things done that you want and need is another story. And since we’re not getting any more hours in the day, what’s the answer for busy wedding and event professionals?

And the answer is…

Well, the answer is the same for you, as it is for me, and it’s one word… priorities. We simply make the time for the things that we prioritize. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard? We have to realize when we’re controlling our priorities, and when we’re allowing others, or outside forces to control them. We also have to realize that we can change our priorities whenever we want. Still sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so fast.

What’s my priority today?

Have you ever gotten a call from a friend who offers to take you to the ball game, or show, or concert, on short notice? You had plans for that day/time, but you change them so you can go with your friend. In other words, you changed your priority for that time slot. Sure, whatever you were going to do probably still needs to get done, it just moved down a notch, or two, on your priority list.

But I just. Can’t. Stop…

I know, from personal experience, that there are times when we’re doing something other than what we know we should. Maybe we’re spending time on Facebook, when we know there are emails to be answered, or proposals to write, or laundry to do. Sometimes there’s an invisible force that tells us “I’ll just look at one more post” or “I’ll only click one more link…”, but one leads to four, leads to ten, leads to another hour lost. Hey, we’re only human. The first step in correcting this behavior is realizing that you’re doing it. Then, you need the willpower to cut yourself off. In other words, you need to change your priorities.

The most important word you need to know

Something else that makes us too busy is taking work on which we know we should pass. If you’re relatively new in your business, it’s likely that you’re taking any, and every customer that comes your way. That makes sense, but eventually we all learn that we don’t want every sale. The pressure often comes when we chase the big dollar sale, only to have it take way more time and resources than we anticipated. That time is taken from your core customers, and your family time, and you may even have to pass on some smaller, yet more profitable customers to accommodate the one big one.

When I’m consulting with businesses, like yours, I want you to focus on profitability, not just top line growth. Getting more revenue is great but keeping more of it is better. I recently had a client tell me they wanted to be the biggest company in their market/category. I suggested that they focus on being the most profitable, rather than the biggest. My favorite expression for that is that I don’t care about feeding your ego, if it’s not feeding your family. So, the most powerful word you have is “No.” it’s hard to pass on more sales. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I raised my rates so I could take less work this year, but it backfired. I’m busier than ever. Clearly, I haven’t learned to say “No” as much as I should.

Stop throwing money at me

I did say “No” to the highest paying speaking gig I’d ever been offered, because I wasn’t the right fit. They were even offering to change the date of their event, and it was a significantly higher fee than I had been getting at the time. But my expertise doesn’t extend to their industry. It’s close, but they really should have someone who understands the nuances, and legalities of their world. While I could learn them, it would have taken me away from my core audience. Also, if I were the customer, I wouldn’t want someone learning my industry on my dime. I would want to hire someone who is already an expert. Isn’t that why your customers hire you? Because you’re already the expert.

Can you be successful without being busy?

I’m sure you can, but busy isn’t a bad thing. It’s being too busy to get to do the things you want that is bad. If you’re not spending time with family and friends, that’s bad. If you’re always playing catch-up, getting things done at the last minute, that’s bad. If you’re not getting to your big-picture, to-do list items, that’s bad. I wrote in a recent post titled Self-Help versus Shelf-Help,” which includes a section about keeping only two or three things on your big To-Do List, so you can get more done. You really can be more productive, without being too busy. I’m a realist, so I know that your wedding season is going to be busy. But, if you prioritize what’s most important, and learn to say no a little more often, you’ll be able to see when you’re creating more busy-ness than necessary. Here’s to your success!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Run Your Business While You’re Away

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Travel, whether for business or pleasure, can take you away from the office. As a business owner, handling your absence well can easily make or break your company. So, how can you stay on top of the many facets of business management when you’re away?

Use apps

Productivity apps let you take your office on the road, and are designed to help you manage business affairs from afar. They allow you to easily delegate tasks to your team, and monitor their completion so you always know the status of your accounts and events.

Stay accessible

When I am away, I always let my staff know that they can reach me any time and that they should never hesitate to contact me with a question. We use texting and iMessages for immediate needs because they can be used during a meeting, even if wi-fi isn’t available. We save calls for emergencies only – if I see a call come through while I’m in a meeting, I know I need to excuse myself and take it because phone calls are our code for an emergency situation.

Keep up with email

It’s also important to stay on top of your emails. If you don’t set aside some time each day to address and prioritize your email, you’ll never catch up when you get back to the office. Set aside 30 – 40 minutes per day to sort through new emails and to delegate any necessary tasks that result. If you are traveling somewhere that doesn’t have reliable wi-fi, you should schedule this at times you know with certainty that you’ll have internet access.

Debrief

Another key to successful management from a distance is to meet with your staff when you return from a trip to review what happened while you were gone and get everyone on the same page again.

Manage your time wisely

Travel involves a lot of time challenges that can create unique situations. One is a matter of time zones – when possible, you should try to continue working in the same time zone as your home office so you can remain aligned with your team. This will make it easier for them to get in touch with you, and will provide a consistent experience for your clients.

The other is having time for yourself. You must learn when to say yes and when to say no. Days are long when you’re traveling and trying to operate your business. Know your limits and schedule things like interviews and networking events wisely. Make sure that every activity has potential for payoff. The time you spend doing anything needs to be worth the time you are sacrificing that would normally go towards managing your business affairs.

Travel can be both life and business-enriching, and it doesn’t have to stop you from doing a great job managing your event company. Use these tips to help streamline your efforts and you will ensure that your even in your absences, your business will stay strong!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» Royal Wedding Trends: What Your Clients Will Start Asking For

Photo by @Kensingtonroyal

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

The fascinator has been tucked away, lime green suit sent to the cleaners and the last of the lemon elderberry wedding cake crumbs swept up. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are now officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. So, is this where the conversation ends?

Quite the opposite- it’s just the beginning. The Meghan Markle effect, which has caused many of us to question whether we too should embrace berets, is officially impacting what your clients will be requesting for this year and beyond.

So what do we anticipate being the next big asks?

Personalization on a new level

The desire to customize wedding day details is certainly not a new notion but the bar was raised considerably as soon as it was revealed that Prince Harry handpicked blooms for his bride’s bouquet. While couples will still want to put their stamp on the décor, menu and entertainment, expect brides and grooms to take their requests to a whole new level. Want to stay ahead of the curve? Brainstorm bespoke services and/or products with your team that can be offered from the onset.

All hail the boat neck

Meghan’s dress choice was certainly a polarizing one- it drew as many happy sighs as it did head scratches. But one thing is for sure- the neckline is a welcome change from the strapless gowns’ ongoing campaign for world domination. Better yet- it can be incorporated into nearly every season- unlike the sleeves and thicker fabric that also made up the gown.  

Go local

If one thing was for sure, Prince Harry and Meghan wanted to celebrate with as many local elements as possible, which was evident from the florist selection to the reception menu. Be prepared for couples to officially be inspired, finding new ways to bring regional flavor to their party.

Black and white is the new… black?

Within moments of the engagement announcement last November, royal wedding enthusiasts have been watching Kensington Palace’s Instagram like a hawk, waiting with baited breath for photographs of the happy couple. The real winners this royal wedding season? The dramatic black and white images released by the Prince Harry and Meghan, as evident by the swoons heard around the world. With that, expect an uptick in the number of couples requesting more black and white photography.

No wedding party? No problem

The industry and media alike were abuzz once it was revealed that Meghan Markle would not be having a bevy of bridesmaids, or Maid-of-Honor for that matter, joining her down the aisle. This detail was quickly forgotten as soon as her veil floated down the aisle thanks to a handful of the cutest (and luckiest?) teeny tiny wedding attendants you ever did see. So can a couple survive without an extensive wedding party to do their bidding? Absolutely. Will brides and grooms catch on this year? We can only hope.

Rules were made to be broken

Nothing drew a bigger gasp then when Meghan’s father Thomas Markle announced (officially officially) that he was no longer walking his daughter down the aisle. Would she ask William?  Prince Charles? Her mom? Even better- Meghan decided to walk her own self down the aisle save for a few moments with her future father-in-law just before she arrived at the altar.

Even the most modern couples will question breaking tradition but the hope this season is that they will be inspired to break rules and do it their own way. After all, Meghan Markle broke hundreds of years of tradition in St. George’s Castle, and we’re all still standing.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PW writing and brand promotion.

» Boost Your Instagram Engagement with These FAQs

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

Instagram can be overwhelming for seasoned professionals and starters alike. Between finding and creating high-quality content, engaging with your audience and growing your followers, it can be easy to rack up questions on how to best run your business Instagram. With the help of social media whiz Vanessa Joy, Owner and Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography, we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions we’ve heard about Instagram.

Sourcing strong photos is difficult, especially since I am not a wedding photographer. Do you have any advice on sourcing content?

Sure, wedding photographers may have their pick of thousands of photos, but as a wedding photographer herself, Vanessa wants you to remember one thing: photographers are taking photos of YOUR work! They capture the flower arrangements, the cake, the dress, the food, the venue— all the details. Without the work of other vendors, photographers would have nothing to capture except for the happy couple.

This is when networking comes in handy. Each time you do a wedding or event, make sure to find out who the photographer is. Then, reach out to see if he or she might have taken photos of your work, and if they can provide them to you to upload to your social channels (with credit, of course!). Additionally, many new photographers are dying to collaborate with established professionals on staged photo shoots to help grow their portfolio. As a bonus, these partnerships are usually free of charge! Helping out a fellow professional who is new to the industry and receiving professionally shot photos? It’s a win-win.

When it comes to taking your own photos, know that you don’t need to be a professional photographer or even have professional equipment (most phone cameras from the last two years take excellent quality photos!) to take great photos. If you feel like you are short on content, we suggest taking a photo of everything you create or every event you do. If you are a cake baker or florist, set up a quick “photo station” that you can always use with a neutral background or surface that has good lighting. Close-up detail shots are easy and quick, too. If you are an officiant or DJ, get photos of the venue, set-up, or of you in action.

What are Instagram stories and why should I use them?

Instagram stories are a great way to still be active and “post” without uploading something to your permanent feed, making them incredibly useful when you are short on strong content. Additionally, Instagram stories only stay up for 24 hours and are best utilized to show behind-the-scenes clips of what you’re up to… content that millennials love to see. The other benefit of stories? When you post one, you are more likely to go to the top of couples’ feeds. In the case of Instagram, this is as good as it gets. Remember: the more eyes on you, the better.

When it’s off-season, I don’t have a lot to post since I am not as busy. Other than uploading ‘throwback’ pictures, what else can I post?

The best thing about social media? Your followers don’t always know when a photo was taken. Instead of posting pictures right after each event you do, save a handful of photos to share throughout engagement season. When you do this, your photos will look like they were just taken, even if they might have been from four months ago. You’ll be active on social media and posting fresh content— which is always the best thing you can do. And your followers will never know your little secret!

The algorithm for boosting posts keeps changing and it always throws a wrench into my digital strategy. It’s incredibly frustrating to keep redoing my marketing strategy, so what can I do?

Instagram’s latest algorithm changes definitely shook up a lot of strategies, and figuring out a new plan to make it work for you can be quite tricky. But, Vanessa notes that with marketing, you are always going to be re-strategizing. In the marketing world, things just change. Rapidly. So while it may be stressful realizing that what worked last week is now outdated, it is just part of advertising on social media.

That being said, keep in mind that when these frustrating social media algorithm changes are announced, the platforms are making those changes to benefit their business. The goal of the algorithms isn’t to boost your posts, but to keep viewers on their platform longer. Instagram is a business, too, after all. To ensure Instagram will favor boosting your posts, make sure your posts are highly engaging. Engagement inherently keeps viewers on the app longer, and if you have a post filled with engagement, Instagram tends to favor an engaging upload over a dead post.

Should I utilize the poll feature within my Instagram stories?

YES! Remember when we talked about the importance of engagement two sentences ago? Polls boost engagement tremendously. Not only do viewers enjoy participating in polls, but the interactive nature of these stories means that your media has a higher chance of getting in front of more couples.

Can I share my Instagram uploads to Facebook?

While it might seem like a timesaving trick, try sharing different posts on each platform to impress potential clients. Each platform uses a different and unique algorithm. So, if you have a post that is crafted for Instagram’s algorithm, that post might not perform as strongly on Facebook. As a side note, tags and hashtags don’t carry over from platform to platform— you have to re-enter the tags and hashtags in order for them to be clickable, which defeats the purpose of one and done.  

Despite the stressful algorithm changes or the days when strong content is low, we still love social media. As social media continues to evolve, keep in mind how much it can benefit your business. We hope you continue to feel more confident in your Instagram-skills so you can take pride in your social pages. They are one of the best tools you have when it comes to publicizing your business!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals” by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.