Looking after your couples and yourself at this hectic time of year, with Kelly Chandler.
Wedding season is most definitely here. I’ve only got to have a quick scroll through my Instagram feed to know that you wedding venue hosts are pulling out all the stops. I’ve been seeing flooring going down, tipi builds going up, bar units installed, painting and repairs finished, and of course stunning images of wedding guests already being hosted and spoiled this past few weeks.
I thought I would dedicate this feature to serve as a quick checklist reminder you might like to keep to hand; it’s got two goals – to help you look after your clients really well (of course) and to help you look after you! Here goes:
Looking after your couples
Reassurance and schedule
In the last few weeks/days running up to their big day your couples, no matter how relaxed a wedding they are seeking, will have a few wobbles and nerves over their plans.
Ultimately you want to fill them with confidence so that they are relaxed and follow your lead, reassuring them that you (and/or your trusted teams) have it covered. The best way to do this at each point in their journey is to give them plenty of information to help them go off and plan with confidence and report back to you in suitable timeframes.
Hopefully you will have given them key documents throughout the planning in terms of what you need and things they should consider. The last few weeks are the time for you to run through the timetable for the day and ensure you have details of key suppliers on site so that you can handle any associated logistics and use your expertise to iron out any creases that will make things run smoothly. It’s also the time to politely remind couples of any key rules and regulations they need to make their guests aware of; things like finishing times, bringing in alcohol, damage deposits and parking rules. These are often particularly challenging flash points so ensure you politely remind couples of these things.
A standard template running order with Q&As is handy to get completed over email but a chance to talk it through whether via video call or face to face is invaluable and almost guaranteed to help everyone feel more reassured about what’s happening and avoid excessive last-minute communication, which you could undoubtedly do without. I always think 45 minutes on the phone is like three hours of email exchange and far more efficient.
Do whatever you can ahead of time
Having planned many hundreds of events in my wedding planning business, I still stick with the motto of do whatever you can ahead of time. Just last week I ran my own wedding conference for venues and there were certainly things I could have left to the day itself in theory – like tying badges to lanyards and putting printed signage in photo frames, but I always do anything that I possibly can ahead of the day itself. And why? To allow for the unforeseen.
There are always things that crop up with any event that require time and effort and, with the best timetabling in the world, often it’s the unplanned things that take time, so do what you can to get any set up done after the last event and before the next, whatever form that might take.
Some venues are blessed with large teams but a tight turnaround time and others with smaller teams with greater set up times – whatever your situation, always leave some room for margin; at the end of the day running events and weddings is all about people and people do crazy things and need support in all sorts of unforeseen things! Obviously keep the gliding swan image in mind, elegant but paddling furiously underneath!
As you’ll know, having your team lined up is key, whether it’s your in-house team who work each event, your seasonal team or external suppliers who support you in areas like catering, florals, furniture etc.
I believe it’s vital as a successful venue delivering great service to couples to really have a dream team worked out and developed over time. While you may not always have your choice of suppliers in each and every time, trying to guide couples to work with some of your preferred lists can really have its benefits in terms of slickness on the day and service delivery. I also know from personal experience that brilliant suppliers will step in and go the extra mile where it’s needed.
Working with people who care is pivotal in weddings and where possible aim to have a “go-to” resource should you be let down at the last minute in key areas. As an owner and solo operator of a wedding planning business for 15 years, it was vital for me to have a back up should I get ill or be otherwise unable to attend and oversee a client’s wedding. I belonged to our trade body the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (www.ukawp.com) where there are other excellent experienced planners who I know I could call on to stand in for me at short notice should it be needed.
Be weather ready
Second to people doing crazy unpredictable things is the wonderful British weather. As venues with a heavy outdoor focus you probably don’t need me to tell you to be weather ready, but I do see venues on my travels who don’t adequately prepare or leave their inexperienced clients to prepare for weather they don’t particularly think is going to happen! Here are some things to just check you have covered or remind your clients of:
- Parking – what happens to your grounds when it rains? Do you need matting/hardstanding and umbrellas on standby to get guests to/from their cars?
- Extra cover – do you have suitable event spaces for rain? Sometimes a tricky one as couples don’t like to accept the reality of rain, but where will guests go at different parts of their day if it rains? For the ceremony? For the drinks reception? For the dinner? For the dancing? Clearly the ceremony will need to tick the Registrar’s legal boxes, but other parts of the day need to be thought through too and usually one main space already set for dinner is not suitable, even for the most laid-back informal couple. Extra cover doesn’t just apply to rain – I’ve had many a wedding where guests have really appreciated the provision for sun, whether it’s a pop-up stretch tent for shade over an outdoor ceremony space, garden furniture with parasols for the drinks reception or simple paper fans and sunscreen.
- Lighting – for outside spaces and temporary structures. This is not weather related as such but worth mentioning. Is your outside lighting suitable for guests late at night to find their way from space to space, to overnight accommodation and to their cars? The same goes for staff operating the wedding – can they get from bar/clearing/storage spaces in good light?
- Heating – while we might not think major heating is needed for summer weddings, temperatures can seriously dip, so think through options, particularly for the evening, of providing a source of heat, whether it’s fire pits or simple cosy throws – you might not be providing this all but guiding your clients to consider these options will only enhance what they think about your venue and your reputation.
Looking after you
So, I know that your clients and their weddings come first and rightly so, yet to sustain a successful business that’s here for the long-term you have to ensure that you and your team don’t run out of fuel. I’ve seen quite a few wedding businesses cease trading because they worked too hard, burnt out, and lost their passion and their reason for being. So, while you work all the hours (and there is no getting away from that to an extent), try a few of these tips to keep a tiny bit of balance for you:
Plan your breaks
None of us can work 24/7 over a sustained period (I have tried over my years as an entrepreneur and learnt my lesson) without it taking its toll. When can you plan some short breaks during the wedding season? It’s important to plan ahead of time to ensure it happens.
Can you block out one day per week at least where you don’t have showrounds, when you take a break from the email and phone or where a team member can cover for you? This is really important to ensure you arrive fresh for set up and delivery of the next event – it’s very easy to plan to take breaks and then let workload take over but blocking off “downtime” into the schedule as an immovable thing is really key to making sure it happens.
Celebrate your successes
Going hand in hand with the above is to remember to celebrate each event success with something lovely. Now it’s unlikely to be something big as time is short but scheduling in an hour or two just for you and something you love whether it’s a hot bath and pamper session, curling up on the sofa with a read or a nice bottle of wine, make sure you do something lovely to celebrate delivering each successful event and what you and your team have created for your couple.
A listening ear
I know that for many in charge of venues, it can be a quite isolated role as often you are small, sometimes one or two person teams. I know it’s often very helpful to talk to others and I have just the resource for you. Over 300 venues across the land (and some overseas) are making use of our venue-dedicated free Facebook group resource, Wedding Spaces Going Places.
On a daily basis, venue teams share ideas, challenges, ask for support, and benefit from mini trainings from my team and I’d love to see you there! It’s completely free. You can sign up by answering just three simple questions – search for ‘Wedding Spaces Going Places’ on Facebook (by Kelly Chandler Consulting)
Best of luck this wedding season and here’s to many gorgeous wedding celebrations and memories.
Grab a read
I know you might say ‘time for reading? I seriously don’t have time for that over the summer!’ but I urge you to seek some balance where you can and these two reads are books I revisit when I need a boost to rebalance me when I feel I am struggling with lack of time. Of course, I often “read” using Audible while on the go, so I can drive which is a win win for someone with a full diary!
‘Busy – How to Thrive in a World of Too Much’ by Tony Crabbe
A friend (probably sick of me quoting “I’m busy”) recommended this book and I powered through it. It’s written from a business psychologist’s perspective and is a brilliant (and often amusing) guide on how to reframe busy lives with discussion on mastery, focus, engagement and momentum. What I like is it’s not a time management book (I’ve read plenty of those) but it really got me thinking about where and how I actually spend my time and I’ve now (almost) removed the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary.
‘What I Know for Sure’ by Oprah Winfrey
This is a book that I revisit often and dip into for a quick “Oprah power session”. Based on her monthly O – The Oprah Magazine column which she’s written for 14 years, this book is choc-a-block full of life lessons from Oprah’s perspective. It covers joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity and power. They are fascinating short essays into the life of this incredible woman yet with very much a focus on making us, the reader, the best version of ourselves.
About the author
Kelly Chandler is a long term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw to prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 15 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of the trade body The Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.