Owning your own wedding business is tremendously rewarding, but it also comes with many challenges. A predominant one seems to be the issue of how to charge realistically for the services you provide. The NAWP is a great supporter of businesses charging realistically and ethically. Its three directors have more than 40 years’ experience within the wedding industry, so are confident that they are well placed to voice their opinion, and give advice and suggestions on this subject.
As a Wedding Planner of 11 years myself, I speak from experience when I say that I have been undercut a number of times, sometimes by as much as half. This is never welcome news when you have pitched for new business, and sent what you believe is a realistic proposal, only to find out that the clients have chosen someone else because they charge far less. The salt in the wound is that those clients believe they have compared like with like and have therefore booked the better option; an option purely based on price and not experience.
None of us like to lose business. If, however, you lose to someone of equal calibre, and who charges accordingly, then it’s a fair playing field. Losing business to someone who is well established, but charges far less, simply gives the impression that some of us inflate our fees. This simply isn’t the case, and I would argue that what we are doing is charging realistically for the work that we do, our experience and our knowledge. Most clients book a planner a year ahead. If you divide a planner’s fee over the course of a year, particularly if they are charging less than say £6k, it only equates to £125 a week (before tax)!
There is a huge disparity in the fees that wedding planners charge for a full planning service, from less than £1k to more than £15k. This must be incredibly confusing for couples who can be quoted wildly differing prices.
What do I mean when I say “charging realistically”? Well, when you make the decision to start your own business. you are stepping away from the security of a regular monthly income. Your new venture has to generate enough income to, not only pay its way, but also to earn you a decent living. In the case of a wedding planner you have to decide on how many weddings you can realistically take on per year, and a suitable fee per wedding in order to make it viable.
Many years ago, when the wedding planning industry was in its infancy in the UK, I read an article on an American website about what the career of a wedding planner could be like. It said that you could plan 30 weddings a year and charge $1500 for each one. Anyone who has ever planned a wedding, however, knows that you cannot possibly organise 30 in one year. It isn’t physically, mentally or emotionally possible!
So, what is a realistic number of weddings per year for a planner to coordinate? Well ask yourself whether you would rather do 24 weddings a year at £1k to earn £24k, or 6 weddings at £6k to earn £36k. If the latter sounds more appealing, then established planners charging less do nothing to support themselves, our industry or the role of the wedding planner.
If you are new to the industry, your first tasks are to build your portfolio, forge new working relationships with trusted suppliers, and build your reputation. Of course, this all takes time, but you will not be without some experience as you are more than likely be bringing transferrable skills from previous jobs. This should aid you in building a successful business and help boost your confidence.
For a new business, it may seem tempting to charge low fees in order to get the job, but do we have to compromise ourselves by charging less to win business, and even undercut others? The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true. Low fees don’t necessarily guarantee good service and can even send out the wrong message i.e. “cheap”. They don’t necessarily guarantee securing a deal, and can sometimes backfire.
Planners who charge low fees may have good intentions in the beginning, but can soon run out of steam when they realise that all the hard work they are putting into the job is for very little gain. If you aren’t making a profit, then you don’t have a business. You don’t need me to tell you this, your accountant will!
The geographical consideration must be addressed. Can a wedding planner outside of London charge the same as one in London? What if you work right across the country or only three counties? Wherever you are in the UK, if you are planning a wedding from start to finish, then the amount of work is exactly the same, and you are worth every penny of your fee.
House prices and salaries are, of course, generally higher in London than they are out of London. You may well get a client from London hiring a planner outside London, but rarely the other way around. It then becomes a contentious subject because you cannot charge one price for London and another for out of London. You need to decide if you want to work less for more, or more for less. Let’s put it another way - every town has a Lidl and a Waitrose. You will always get those that will travel further to shop at Waitrose and have no problem with paying more for good quality goods and service. What it comes down to is who do you want your clients to be? You need to identify your clients and aim for them. Regardless of where you are located, professionalism is worth paying for, as your experience increases, so should your prices.
If we don’t take the control of what we are truly worth from the outset, then the role of the wedding planner will never be taken seriously within the UK wedding industry. We will always be in the uncomfortable position of having to justify why we charge what we do.
It’s vital to spread a positive message within the wedding industry, and to our clients that a planner’s role is serious one, and an integral part of the planning process. If there is parity in our fee structure, (more E to G and less A to Z), then clients will value our role more and hopefully spend less time trying to pitch us against one another.
I am of course coming from this as a wedding planner. However, this quandary is by no means restricted to just wedding planners, unfortunately, it stretches the whole of the wedding industry e.g. Photographers, Stationers, Make up artists and florists to name a few.
Charging realistically for your product and or service is key to maintaining a good living, longevity and respect within the wedding industry.
Article Posted: 17/03/2017