Wedding planners are facing pressure from the challenges of the pandemic, couples deciding to plan their own weddings and fewer weddings—the marriage rate in the U.S. has dropped by nearly 60% over the last 50 years.
Meanwhile, industry research firm IBISWorld reports that the number of employees in the wedding planning industries—17,458 in 2022—is growing as revenue is declining.
So how does a wedding planner stand out?
Hear from three superstar wedding planners to find out.
· Danielle Couick operates Magnolia Bluebird in the Washington, D.C. area., producing about 30 weddings and other events each year.
· Andrea Eppolito of Andrea Eppolito Events wrote the book on wedding planning, literally. She actually wrote two—“Luxury Weddings in Las Vegas” and “Redefining Your Wedding Business.”
· Jennifer Kraft of Kraft Event Management hosts events in New Jersey, New York City and Westchester County, N.Y., along with Palm Beach, Fla., and has planned weddings all over the world.
“There is enough opportunity for everyone, but it is incredibly important to differentiate ourselves from the masses,” Couick said.
Eppolito said that Las Vegas is unique in that the city issues almost 100,000 wedding licenses each year. The market for weddings in Las Vegas is saturated, especially in the mid- to upper-level range, but she said she doesn’t necessarily feel tremendous competition.
“I really believe that the way in which I design and manage my clients is incredibly unique,” Eppolito said. “People who are looking for what I do will find me because I have differentiated myself from the other businesses in my market.
Danielle Couick, Magnolia Bluebird Andrea Eppolito, Andrea Eppolito Events Jennifer Kraft, Kraft Event Management
Understanding Your Clients
Setting yourself apart is the key.
For Kraft, it’s getting to know her clients intimately.
“We specialize in making our weddings truly custom and digging deep with our clients to make their wedding celebration extremely personal,” she said. “We want every single detail to reflect who they are as a couple and the blending of two families. The story needs to make sense, so we spend much of our time asking many thought-provoking questions and actually listening to their answers and then presenting a plan and design concepts with a specially curated event team.”
Couick said being well-versed in many aspects of the industry helps her stand out.
“We aren't just planning weddings, we are producing celebrations that are incredibly multi-faceted and nuanced,” she said. “We are taking care of the client, their guests, their vendor teams and each other.”
Eppolito also specializes in understanding her clients.
“My clients have my full attention which allows them to feel authentically understood,” she said. “The ability to tell a couple's story through presentation, sensory experiences, and with subtle nods to their past, present, and future is what allows me to stand out. I never phone it in and I never execute the same event twice.”
Nuts and Bolts
There’s also the nuts-and-bolts side: Making and maintaining relationships with vendors like luxury hotels, florists and photographers; producing a professional website; using social media effectively; and ranking high in Google searches.
“We use mostly Instagram to share our scouting trip discoveries, BTS productions, and snippets of our events,” Kraft said. “Visuals are such a great tool and truly I wish we had more time to spend on posting.”
Kraft’s company also relies on third-party lead generation marketing to stay on top of web searches.
Eppolito said social media has given her company the tools and availability to communicate directly with our clients.
“Instagram images have been wonderful in that it allows people to see my work in a static way, while Stories and Reels [on Facebook] allow me to be a bit more present and raw behind the scenes,” she said. “TikTok is growing fast, and I have my own production team that creates long form, behind the scenes videos for YouTube.”
But both Couick and Kraft said there’s still room for old-fashioned word of mouth.
“Our business relies solely on word-of-mouth referrals and partnerships,” she said. “Our best referrers are our happy clients and the venues we get to work with. They stand behind and can speak firsthand to our exceptional process, experience and team.”
Kraft said 90% of her projects come from referrals.
“The best referrals are from brides and/or parents that have attended one of our weddings as a guest,” she said.
Here are some more tips from wedding planner pros to help stand out.
· Have a website and update it regularly with new content.
· Learn about SEO (search engine optimization) and how Google ranks images, especially photography.
· Have a web domain and email that matches the domain for a professional appearance online.
· Social media is a way to be everywhere, from Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok to blogs and podcasts.
Danielle Couick, Andrea Eppolito and Jennifer Kraft offered their best advice for wedding planners. Here’s what they said:
Danielle Couick: Have a perspective, a voice and an opinion. Be kind. Play nice. Ask questions. This is a fast-moving industry, invest in yourself, your balance, your joy. Find your tribe. Pour into your people. The best clients are the ones that want you. Figure out what drives you and why that is important to your consumer. You cannot and should not be everything to everyone.
Andrea Eppolito: Education is the great equalizer. You should be dedicating at least 15 minutes a day to reading, watching educational videos, listening to podcasts, or working on another facet of your business. It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but when you stack those 15 minutes up over the course of weeks and months it will give you a tremendous edge. Lastly, make sure that you have your own story to tell. You need to be able to communicate what you do, why you do it, and how that makes you different in a very quick and efficient way.
Jennifer Kraft: Stay true to yourself. Be authentic. Create a personal brand that you are proud of. Be honest with a great work ethic that your clients would appreciate and treat your staff and vendors with the utmost respect. The rewards will be plentiful!