» Risk Management: Identifying Significant Risks

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Nobody wants to face a crisis during an event – that’s a fact. However, that’s all the more reason to prepare in advance and develop a risk management plan. That way, if things go awry, you’ll be ready to mitigate the repercussions and bounce back.

Risk Management: Identifying Significant RisksThe key to a solid risk management plan is open communication between all parties involved. This includes the clients, their parents, the venue coordinator, and all of the wedding professionals on the event team.

Each event is unique, so it may make sense to develop a standard crisis plan that can be tailored to the situation at hand. For example, uncooperative weather is a common worry for outdoor events, so a rain plan is something that can be planned in advance. However, for each event, you’ll need to be familiar with the venue so that you can tweak the rain plan if necessary.

The same goes for other potential risks – use your foresight to think about what could possibly go wrong and find a solution before it does. Worried about an elaborate cake surviving the summer heat? Ensure that there is a nice and cool place for it to stay safe and sound. Concerned by a vendor’s lack of communication? Draw up a phone tree with everyone’s day-of phone numbers so each person can be reached.

Once there is a plan in place, send it along to the rest of the event team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Communicate your expectations and what you define as a successful. Be sure that everyone understands what kind of constraints they are operating under, as it may have an effect on the level of damage control necessary. An event is truly a team effort, so include all involved parties in the crisis plan so that each has their own role that will contribute to a successful event, no matter what happens.

It will help to schedule a monthly call with the rest of the event team just to check in on everyone’s progress and ensure that everyone has what he or she needs. This is a great way to not only keep everyone accountable and avoid risk, but also to build a better camaraderie between members.

You may not even need to use your risk management plans – that’s the good news! However, if something does happen, you’ll be confident in knowing that you’re fully prepared to handle the crisis and lessen the damage that can come from it.

» What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

When I’m working with teams training them on attracting LGBTQ customers and growing their client base, my first focus is always language and terminology. I believe that language is the foundation of our society and to effectively serve the LGBT wedding market, we must first truly understand the language of our community.

What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?Let’s start with the easy part: LGBT or sometimes seen as LGBTQ. L stands for lesbian, G for gay, and B for bisexual. All of those are examples of sexual orientation – who we fall in love with, who we are attracted to, and who we want to go to bed with.

The T in LGBT stands for transgender, or someone whose physical body doesn’t match the gender identity in their brain. Those folks are likely to change their bodies to match their minds. The most visible transgender person in the world is probably Caitlyn Jenner, a transwoman, or more accurately, a woman.

And Q stands for queer. Queer is a pretty controversial term, one that has historically been a derogatory term for members of our community. For example the older generation of LGBT folks are often still offended by that term “queer.” They may have been referred to as queer by bullies in high school, college, or even by members of their own family. For them queer is a really controversial and actually offensive term. That’s why I never recommend the use of queer (as a standalone term) in your marketing materials.

However, using LGBTQ as opposed to LGBT is actually a broader term and may be a successful way to market your wedding business. Simply put, queer has actually been reclaimed particularly by Millennials and used as an umbrella term that seeks an understanding of gender and sexual identity as complex and fluid. See, gender is a spectrum. There are lots of people who don’t identify with either male or female boxes, but rather fall somewhere in between. Simply put, they are gender fluid. Another word for gender fluid is genderqueer, commonly shortened as queer.

Similarly there are lots of people who don’t identify as straight, gay or even bisexual. Sexual identity is also a spectrum. If someone has a broad range of attraction to all different kinds of people there’s a very good chance they’re going to self-identify as pansexual or queer. Sometimes I referred to queer as “the anti-label label”: for people who are more fluid and don’t like labels or boxes, it’s the perfect label.

So, why does this matter in the wedding industry? First off, it’s a marketing consideration. Should you use the term LGBT or LGBTQ? If you live in a very liberal place, your client base is currently very progressive liberal couples, and if you often hear from the couple themselves first instead of having parents involved in the planning, then you may consider using LGBTQ instead of LGBT in your marketing materials. LGBTQ is also the perfect term if your target audience is millennial LGBTQ folks. However, if your target audience is older same-sex couples, then I would advise not using LGBTQ and instead just using LGBT. Remember, that older LGBT folks have some baggage around the term queer, particularly if it was used as a slur against them.

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» Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you realize it or not, awards should play a prominent role in your wedding PR campaign. They not only provide brand recognition, but they also speak to your expertise and act as a source of outside credibility. Winning a few quality awards can grow your revenue, in addition to boosting morale in the office.

Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission“That’s great. But where do I apply?”

The number one key to a successful award application is to only submit to those that fit your business. Sending applications out to any and all awards you can find is a waste of time, as well as damaging to your integrity. Remember – every story is different, so don’t assume that you’re a fit for every award that your competitor has. Stick to the ones that your company truly qualifies for and put all of your effort into it.

Aim high, but be realistic as well. While you certainly may deserve some of the top-tier awards, you’ll need to work on building your brand recognition before you reach that point. Start out by applying to local and regional awards before going for the larger national ones – this way, you can start developing your award-winning portfolio.

“Then what?”

Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or a few awards, be sure to read and reread the guidelines. One mistake may cost you the win, so do your due diligence and know what is required for a completed submission. Give yourself enough time to complete the application and submit it prior to the deadline.

Map out your approach prior to writing – the last thing you want is to fill out an application online and lose it from faulty Internet or one wrong click. When writing up the copy, it’s best to use your own voice to make everything flow together into a coherent story. This means that you need to “speak” with the judges – stay away from jargon, acronyms, and other terms that may confuse them. Don’t assume that they know everything, so connect the dots and make it easier for them to understand. Using facts and figures, as well as images, are great ways to support your story.

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» Are You Competing With Yourself in Search Engines?

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

SEO is hard enough without us getting in our own way.

But when your expertise is creating a fabulous wedding experience, not implementing SEO, it’s common to overlook basic techniques that you’re simply unaware of.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it, right?

That’s why I want to break down one simple SEO mistake you might be making that could be causing you to compete with yourself in search engines; and how you can correct it today.

Here’s the simple SEO mistake I often see wedding pros making: Not choosing a preferred domain. I’ll explain…

Beginner’s Tip: Your website domain is the root web address visitors use to access your website, such as https://myweddingbusiness.com.

When browsing the web, have you ever noticed that some websites display their domain name as https://myweddingbusiness.com and others display it with a “www” in front, such as https://www.myweddingbusiness.com?

Establishing a preferred domain

Establishing a preferred domain

 

While both of these versions lead to the same website, search engines view them as two distinct web addresses, unless you specify otherwise.

So why is that less than ideal for SEO?

Well, search engines assess every individual website domain uniquely when determining whether that site is worthy of high rankings in its search results pages for a given search phrase.

Since there is only so much room at the top, each of these website addresses is competing against each other to secure a listing at the top. Search engines have to compare every single website domain (and page) with each other to determine which ones deserve the highest rankings.

So if you have not established a preferred domain, then search engines may be viewing your www website address and your non-www website address as two totally separate domains that are both fighting for a spot in the search results pages.

Which means, you might actually be competing with yourself!

“If you don’t specify a preferred domain, we may treat the www and non-www versions of the domain as separate references to separate pages.”  – Google 

In addition, when you are not deliberate about choosing a preferred domain, any marketing you do for your non-www domain version may not count toward your www domain version because, again, search engines perceive them as two distinct properties.

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» Same-Sex Weddings & LGBTQ Planning Trends: The Real Story

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. 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.

We often have a tendency to frame what we are looking for based on what we have known. And in these cases, our questions can be limited based on those presumptions.

In the case of understanding LGBTQ planning trends and the choices that go into coordinating same-sex weddings, applying what we have known (eg, the traditions and trends of straight couples) results in a miss on some of the most interesting aspects of how the behaviors of LGBTQ couples are changing.

Assumptions driven by a heteronormative filter – and one that hasn’t needed to question the legal accessibility of marriage or the limitations gender roles – means that key themes are missed. An assumption of the primary client as a bride means that the behavior of grooms is overlooked. An assumption that behaviors of white brides and grooms can be generalized to non-white brides and grooms may not always apply. And so on.

Same-Sex Weddings & LGBTQ Planning Trends:  2016 Survey of Contemporary CouplesSo we asked: What happens if you “flip the script” and ask the same questions of straight couples as you would ask of same-sex couples?

What happens if you compare the choices and reactions of same-sex couples whose marriages and engagements have occurred since the major legal milestones (namely, the 2013 DOMA decision and the 2016 federal marriage equality rulings by the Supreme Court)?

What happens if you compare same-sex to opposite-sex couples, and what if you look at what trends are changing for straight couples while asking the question if there is resonance in those changes with the wedding trends that same-sex couples have pioneered (i.e., blended wedding parties, avoiding certain wedding traditions, discarding a ‘bride’s side’ and a ‘groom’s side’, etc)?

Simple: By challenging the assumptions of the “traditional” one bride/one groom script and utilizing our peripheral vision to shift the context to be more inclusive of all couples, my team – which consisted of me and the GayWeddings team, the WedInsights team at WeddingWire, the experts at Community Marketing & Insights (CMI), and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute – asked better questions of all couples.

The result is the 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples and Current Wedding Planning Trends report, which surveyed more than 1,400 same-sex and opposite-sex couples who were married or engaged since 2013. Our inclusive and comprehensive nationwide survey revealed the clear impact that marriage equality has had on current wedding planning trends for same-sex, opposite sex and queer-identified couples. With the quickly evolving landscape of same-sex wedding planning underway, this is key; relying on outdated data to inform your business choices will put you at a distinct disadvantage.

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» How to Leave Your Stress at Work

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

When you get home after a long day of work, many of us feel the need to decompress. After all the hours at the office, you have the physical freedom to do as you please…but many people have a hard time allowing themselves the mental freedom from the hustle of a long day at work. If you are constantly thinking about work, even when you are at home, when do you take a break? If you don’t take time to separate what you are working on during the day from your down time at night, you are sure to get burned out!

Follow these tips to leave your stress at work and help guide your mind away from unfinished projects and work responsibilities to be able to truly refresh yourself, avoid burnout, and prepare for another day.

How to Leave Your Stress at WorkMake a To-Do List

Before you leave the office for the night, make a list of things that you already know you need to do tomorrow and place it somewhere where you will see it as soon as you walk in the next morning. By writing your to-do list down and leaving it at work you’re relieving your brain of the endless cycle of trying to remember each task on that list. There’s nothing worse than laying down and closing your eyes only to picture a mental list of tasks that could prevent you from a good night’s rest! Physically leaving your list of tasks at work can help your brain leave your stress at work as well.

Unplug

After a long day of staring at a screen, it’s time to unplug and disconnect. Not only is it good for your eyes, but also great for your brain. If you’re like me, it can be hard to ignore an email, text, or call when your phone is constantly ringing. Avoid the temptation and obligation you feel to immediately read and respond to any messages that are work-related and don’t apply right now. Disconnecting from constant emails and texts will allow you to be fully present wherever you are.

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» Annual Survey Highlights: Top Wedding Business Goals for 2016

WedInsights

Annual Survey Highlights: Top Wedding Business Goals for 2016The wedding professionals on WeddingWire are a diverse and varied group, but many share a common goal: growth. However, the strategies they employ to achieve growth depend heavily on a number of factors – so we went straight to the source. Six thousand WeddingWire Pros responded to our 2015 Annual Vendor Survey, so we’ve got great insights and data about your industry colleagues to share in the latest volume of our WedInsights Series.

Based on the feedback from the pros who responded to our 2015 Annual Survey, it’s clear that many of them hope to grow their business in 2016 and beyond. Pros not only expressed their desire to book more business and increase revenue, but also provided insights into what they’re doing to make their goal a reality. Whether you are a sole entrepreneur or work for a multinational organization, see what wedding business goals your peers are making a priority in 2016.

Collecting more reviews to stand out

Reviews function as online recommendations for your business from past clients, so it should come as no surprise that over 90% of professionals say online reviews are critical to their business. The majority of pros also report that they collect most of their reviews on popular third party review sites like WeddingWire, Yelp, and Google.

Despite the well-known importance of collecting reviews, wedding professionals admit they are not as confident about collecting and managing reviews – nearly 25% say they could use help in this area. Getting reviews can be a major strain for a quarter of pros surveyed, especially for those in jewelry (43%), transportation (34%), beauty and health (32%), event rentals/ photobooths (31%), and venues (29%). Increase the likelihood of capturing client reviews by incorporating reviews throughout your client experience to make them more likely to submit a review for you after the big day.

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» Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding Business

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I will not be telling you how to create, plan, or market your business since that process is different for everyone, depending on what kind of business you want to start and your goals. Instead, I’ll point you in the right direction of finding those answers and getting everything settled.

No matter the idea, I am here to tell you that it can be done – I promise!

Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding BusinessWhat’s In a Name?

At this point, you should already have a good understanding of what you want to do and who your target audience is. With that in mind, think about what kind of name best suits your company. While it may seem natural to use your name, consider whether you’ll want to grow or sell your business one day. If so, stay away from using your name as it may equate with a personal brand, rather than something that can be transferred to other team members or potential buyers.

Your business name also defines what you do. If you’re interested in planning all types of events, don’t pigeonhole yourself by including the word ‘weddings’ in your name because it may deter corporate or social prospects. I also advise to stay away from words like “perfect,” “greatest,” and the like – you don’t want to have that one customer tell you that their day was not perfect.

Once you have a list of potential names, test them out with friends and family to see which ones stick. Run searches on Google, social media, and your state’s business registration page to ensure that it isn’t already in use. While you’re at it, check in on the requirements that you’ll need when registering your own business.

The More, The Merrier

Once you have a good idea of your name, brand, and services, it’s time to bring in your business development team. If you don’t have an accountant already, find one that works specifically with small businesses so he or she will have a good idea of how to structure your business. This will most likely be about the time that you’re ready to register your company with the state, in which case, congratulations! You’re a business owner! But you’re not done yet… Continue reading

» 5 Ways to Take Time for You

5 Ways to Take Time for YouAll month long we’ve been shining a light on wedding planning stress – for both couples and our pros. As we head into the summer months, more and more of your weekends are going to be busy with weddings and all the preparation that comes along with the busy season, so we’re here to help keep you cool, calm, and collected.

We just celebrated WeddingWire’s Official Day Without Planning for our couples, but since we know you can’t always take a full day off from your busy schedule, here are five ways to take time for you!

Hit the gym

Even if exercise is already part of your normal routine, it’s important to balance your mental exertion with physical exertion. Break a sweat running on the treadmill, meditating in hot yoga, or taking a long walk before or after work. If you spend a lot of your day on your feet already, try another activity like swimming or cycling to work different muscles and break the monotony.

Head to the spa

What better way to blow off some steam than some R&R? Whether you go in for a quick manicure/pedicure (men can enjoy those, too!) or schedule yourself a massage to loosen up the knots in your back, spend some time focusing on yourself. Even a quick visit to the hot tub or steam room can help you relax and reflect on your personal life so you can hit the ‘reset’ button for a while!

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» Wedding PR: What’s a Company Philosophy and Why Does It Matter?

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

There are a number of considerations when starting your wedding PR process, from research to branding to organization. However, there’s one piece of the puzzle that will guide you along the way – your philosophy.

Wedding PR: What’s a Company Philosophy and Why Does It Matter?“Isn’t that for big corporate companies?”

While large organizations wear their philosophies on their sleeve, it’s just as important for small businesses to have tenets that keep them on the right track. A company philosophy explains the mission statement – how do you plan to achieve it and why is it relevant?

Philosophy goes hand-in-hand with branding – it’s what makes your brand come to life. Not only does it motivate you to achieve success, but it points you in the right direction. When developing your philosophy, remember that it’ll follow you every day, so it must fall in line with your personal values.

“Although we’re always working to grow our philosophy, we hold a few tenets close to our hearts: perfect fit, responsibility, handmade craftsmanship, and exceptional value,” shares Araceli Vizcaino-S, Community Manager of Azazie. “This guides every decision in the business- including how we grow our press portfolio. When you see us in the news, you’ll find that we often incorporate our tenets into our commentary in an effort to better educate readers.”

On that note, it’s important to establish a philosophy that is simple and realistic. It has to be actionable, so limit it to three or four tenets that are most important to you. Once in place, allow it to lead you in major decisions – from hiring to partnerships to press submissions.

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» Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!

Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!Our #WeDoSomethingBlue campaign aims to help couples reduce wedding planning stress during the busy season, but what about our pros? Don’t you need a break? After all, you’re not just planning one wedding – you’re planning them all for your clients!

Whether you’re putting together personalized song lists, carefully-selected bouquets, or managing all the day-of details for your clients, the busy season is a stressful time for wedding and event pros. We asked some of our WeddingWire Education Experts to weigh in with their tried-and-true tips to reduce stress during this crazy time.

Plan ahead and take a break

“We all look forward to busy season and then, when it’s upon us, we can’t seem to catch our breath. The key to reducing your stress is to get organized before the craziness starts, and then stay ahead. When you get behind in your day to day tasks, you’re like a hamster on the wheel, and you can’t seem to get off. Proper advance planning, and leaving room in your timelines for the unexpected things that pop up helps break the cycle.

Remember to take a break every so often. Working non-stop is a sure path to burnout. Give your creative mind a break, take a walk, walk the dog, or whatever works for you, but get away from it. You’ll recharge your creativity by removing yourself from what you’re doing. Thomas Edison is famous for taking power naps on his desk. His wife brought a bed into his office, but he still napped on his desk. My secret… I have a recliner in my office, and if there’s a gap in my schedule, I enjoy a power nap. Whether it’s a 15-minute power nap, or as long as an hour (time-permitting), afterwards, I feel recharged and ready to keep going.”

Alan Berg, Certified Speaking Professional®

Write it all out and get away

“When you’re going crazy during wedding season, commit to yourself that you’ll do two things: complete a nightly and a weekly brain dump, and schedule some occasional breaks. For the brain dump, just spend a few minutes each evening writing out every random to-do item you can think of – you can then sort them and add the important stuff to your calendar. Repeating this exercise in more detail once a week, and taking time to map out your goals and priorities for the days ahead, will keep you from stressing about forgotten tasks and missed opportunities. Be sure, also, to schedule yourself at least a couple of days every month to do absolutely nothing but to rest and recharge. Even if you aren’t going anywhere, just having that time blocked off as sacred can make all the difference in the world in your mood and energy levels. Combining a little organization and a little relaxation can keep you going all season long.” Continue reading

» Introducing Messages by WeddingWire

Introducing Messages by WeddingWireWe’re excited to announce the launch of our new Messages feature, which is free with your WeddingWire membership!

With Messages, you can reply to leads, manage client conversations, and track your bookings all in one place. Here’s how it works:

  1. Get notified: When you receive a new lead or message, you’ll get an email notification, plus the message will be stored in your WeddingWire account. Couples will also receive a notification when you respond, which helps keep the conversation going.
  2. Reply from anywhere: Reply right from your own email inbox (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) or login to WeddingWire to reply, with access to all your messages at any time. This flexibility means you can respond from your smartphone, too.
  3. Send attachments: Share important documents such as price quotes and contracts within your messages – no need to create a separate file share environment!
  4. Manage conversations: Access message history from start to finish to easily find specific client messages, plus view full contact information for leads and clients directly from within message threads.
  5. Track Bookings: Messages syncs with your WeddingWire Inquiries and allows you to mark clients as ‘booked’ from the conversation, so you’ll be able to monitor interest and conversion rates at a glance.

The best part? You can use your own email address to correspond with potential clients – no @weddingwire.com email address required for your or your clients. It’s never been faster or easier to connect with potential clients and track your conversations!

Login to get started with Messages >>

Have feedback for future Messages updates? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Visit our Messages feedback page to provide any comments you have about this new feature.