On Personal Priorities: A Metrics for Time Evaulation

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Business Advice | One Comment

I started writing this blog back in 2005- for an amazing 10 years- and it’s interests have always mirrored the interests that have been both my own, as well as those of our business and what I sometimes call me and Mayra’s “collective mind”. There have been times where I’ve felt uninspired, pushed through to keep publishing stuff and discovered a new direction for the content- we went from advice for brides to visual inspirations to just kind of offering up advice for you wedding professionals and business owners out there… because we realized that was who was reading.

While I’ve had weeks where I let it go, I haven’t even attempted to log onto this blog since early August. It’s now November. That’s a whopping 3 months of neglect. What happened?

For the first couple of weeks, it was just season kicking in. We had a killer fall in the works and it was almost as if when the calendar turned from July to August 1, it all just revved up. What’s a couple of weeks right? Then, it was like a giant unraveling of life as we know it. I will spare the details and offer up a summary: Mayra and I are blessed to have a close circle of friends. We have little parties together, we all live relatively near one another, we brunch, we sometimes farmers market, we are woven into each others lives in an easy, daily way… spokes of a wheel of friendship. Sometime in Mid-August one of our liveliest spokes got sick at work and was rushed to the ER. Rebecca, her cousin rushed to her side and several of us girl friends of hers joined her. Unbelievably, at 38 and seemingly healthy, she stayed there for two weeks and never returned. She died on August 27th.

I simply didn’t have a lot to say. Like on Broadway, it’s our business, so the show had to go on at work- we have 5 fairly massive events in October. Our hearts were (are) broken and we had so little energy and so much to accomplish, we recognized fairly quickly that we weren’t going to be able to get through the next two months or so the usual way. There simply wasn’t enough within us to do what we were contractually required to do as business owners and have much room for anything “un-necessary” … and from this forced editing came (for me) a lot of clarity.

I’ve spent a lot of time giving a lot of fucks about things that just aren’t worth the energy. I’ve spent a lot of time doing things because I’ve always done them and I don’t know how to stop doing them. I’ve gone to a lot of parties because I didn’t know how to say no. I’ve taken clients we didn’t want to take because I thought it would help our reputation… I’ve pinned because you are supposed to now use Pinterest and I’ve written blog posts when I’ve had nothing to say because it’s good for SEO. I’ve had so many meals with relative strangers at the sacrifice of making time for life long friends because I felt flattered at the invitation.

Time is too finite for this for me anymore. I don’t know how much I have, but worse, I don’t know how much any of us have either… I don’t know that I didn’t know this before, but I know now that rather than have this be a back of brain piece of knowledge, it needs to be a governing principal for how I live. How is it that I am spending this time?

Inadvertently, I’ve developed a relatively simple evaluation metrics to evaluate if something is worth my time. While on a FamTrip this past week I described it as having four questions, but in reality there is just one… when presented with a way to spend my time (taking a meeting, attending a party, having “drinks” within a connection) I have started to stop and ask myself the following questions:
1) Is this going to directly help us to grow our businesses revenue? (More revenue = more money to either retire to a second career we are passionate about, or money to hire someone new so we have more time to spend with people who we love = time to feed the soul.)
2) Is this something that excites my passions/stretches me creatively? (Creative Growth and passion = feeding the soul)
3) Is this an opportunity to spend time connecting with people that I love? (“ugh, I’m tired, but I miss my girlfriends and I want to see what they are up to so I am NOT going to bail on pizza night” = a great night with friends = feeding the soul)
THE MOTHER OF ALL QUESTIONS: Does this feed my soul? (My day would be more hectic if I went to yoga but yoga always puts me in such a great mental state = you get more done = it feeds your soul)

For me (So Far) this is working. I am, as we all are, a work in progress, but I’ve decided that I am only going to post on this blog when I have something to share that I think might feed your souls as well. Your time is too valuable for that.

I’d love to hear any of your metrics for evaluating how you spend your time. I’d love to hear from you period. I’ve been debating closing the blog, but just when I think about it, people seem to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it over the years. I think I’m in a spot where I’d rather write less and write more helpfully. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride!


Beware Wedding Instagram Charlatans

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 in Business Advice | 7 Comments

FACT:  Having an awesome instagram and being good and professional at your job are NOT the same thing.   They aren’t mutually exclusive, but maintaining awesome social media has zero correlation to someone’s ability to be an excellent wedding _________.

In some ways, this statement that is SO painfully obvious, it shouldn’t need to be stated, but add this to the long list of statements that are obvious and that we need to remind ourselves of all the time. (My personal running list that includes “Eat less pasta, lose weight.”  “Go out less, sleep more.” Etc, etc.)   But we need to sometimes remind ourselves of these obvious statements because there is something VERY SEDUCTIVE about the “lesser” choice.

There is something seductive about a giant bowl of Carbonara, of being at “the after-party” and associating yourself and your business with someone very “popular” on social media.   The difference is, you can run off the extra pasta and catch up on sleep another day- but putting your business reputation/ your clients’ money into the hands of someone because they have a pretty instagram with tons of followers is riskier business if you haven’t vetted their ability to actually execute their job well.

FACT:  You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. 

Back at Brown, there was a girl who dressed like a hobo- literally.  She was constantly in the same clothes, never had a hair cut, had holes in her shoes- the whole nine yards of hobo-ness.  I of course found out that she was an heiress to a family fortune whose name every one reading this would recognize.   I was surprised, but not, because every mother teachers her kid not to judge people by their appearances.   While most people take this to mean “Don’t assume a boring looking book couldn’t  turn out to be amazing”, we are living in perilous times where we never assume the converse: A very pretty, beautiful cover could be filled with lines and lines of gobbeldy gook.

The importance of having a pretty cover  has made people blind to the reality… until they experience it.

It’s getting more and more common for couples to “pre-shop” on Instagram and other visual social media and come to you with locales and creative partners that they have found and been following that they are interested in working with.   It’s your responsibility (especially if you are a planner or designer) to do the leg work on what’s really happening behind Oz’s curtain.  You know all those annoying questions magazines used to advise Brides and Grooms to ask vendors?  Some of them weren’t all bad.  Before you get caught up with working with someone “IG Famous” and being associated with someone “big” on IG , go back to basics and do some due diligence on them.

FACT: A bad experience stays with people as long (if not longer) than great photos. 

When blogs first became popular I used to say to Mayra all the time “So pretty, but I wonder if it was a good party.” I say that triply so now, when posting 4 selectively staged IG photos can make 5 hour of potential calamity seem like an enchanted dream.   When a “celebrity” caterer is a nightmare or a “big shot” photographer makes a client cry (I’ve had both these things happen over the years- pre-social media), I guarantee you that the client never remembers the day- regardless of how many likes the photos may have gotten- without saying “It’s a shame that _______ happened, it was otherwise so pretty.”

I feel really strongly it’s important to help your clients have an amazing event (if that’s your business) and have a great day, and great imagery should be a part of it, but it should come second to having a team of skilled professionals that are executing with the CLIENTS best interest and experience in mind… not their social media growth.   Going the other way, may NOT completely bite you on the butt, but it may not help you grow your business or your reputation either.

FACT: Strong Social is Good for Business.  

It just is.  It’s how people ID their “dream teams” for weddings in some respect.

FACT: Being good at your job is even better for business. 

It just lasts longer.  It goes beyond trends.  It maintains beyond your latest bit of press and carries you to new places you might not have dreamed you could go.


TLC’s Extreme I Do’s and AaB Creates

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Blog | No Comments

Don’t forget to set your DVR as we are getting ready to take over your TV (or you DVR) at 10PM this Thursday (July 30th) when Mayra and I appear on Extreme I Do’s!  The 1 hour special follows three couples and their wedding planners trying to have the most extreme destination weddings they can imagine all across american. From a mountain top to an Alaska Glacier to, you guessed it, a Hawaiian volcano, check out our adventure this Thursday.  Preview below!

Listening and Learning

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

We had a really fascinating conversation last week with some colleagues in the wedding business in Japan about how one trains someone to be a “great” wedding planner/ event designer when so much of what marks people who are quite good at this (let’s say, Marcy Blum or Michelle Rago or Todd Fiscus, for instance) is that they have a culmination of unique experiences that they can draw on to enhance their clients vision for what their celebration or event can be.

What emerged from the conversation though is that while that is a LARGE part of it, especially in the UBER luxury arena (Marcy’s commitment to fine dining and wines and Michelle’s travel has given them knowledge that can’t be facsimiled over to someone else), for the most part the other intangible skill is actually LISTENING to your client- not just to the things they say, but also to the things they don’t say- the non-verbal cues and visual cues.  The thing that differentiates an expert planner and an outstanding designer is not always their individual vision, but their ability to pick up on what their clients says verbally and non-verbally, connect the dots that are missing for them and translate that into event success.

I worry that in the growing competitive atmosphere that this over-saturated wedding market has created that too many of us approach our sales pitch (and perhaps our businesses in general) as a need to prove something, and less as an opportunity to show your ability to listen, to hear, to understand and to translate what the client wants.  Clients are TOTALLY buying you and your personality, but if we worry that customers don’t value our “skill” as wedding professionals, we can start to change that by showcasing the most important skill that we have:  the ability to listen, understand and translate to the intangible desire that lives in the clients mind.


SPEAKING of Listening and Learning, we are excited to announce that Mayra and I will be heading to Dallas this November 1-3rd where we will be once again speaking at the truly awesome Be Sage Conference .  We had the honor of speaking last year and were so inspired by the experience we launched Besties in Business afterwards, and started prep-work to expand Just About Married to new markets.  One of the things that we’ll be talking about is what it really means to be a Bestie in your business, and how by listening you can not only help other colleagues out, but learn quite a bit yourself.

Be Sage Conference 2015Be Sage is a unique conference in that it keeps a smaller environment and fills its roster of speakers with lots of practical matter- like financial planning or new media marketing.  Each session has specific take aways and probably my favorite part of the entire conference is that you walk away with 2, 4 and 8 week plans of action towards achieving your new goals.    If you are looking for some professional development this year, we hope we’ll see you down in Dallas!

And because we can’t stop making announcements, we are SUPER DUPER excited to announce that we will be making our debut on TLC on July 30th at 10PM as part of their Extreme I Do’s special.  The show follows 3 couples and planners as we help plan amazing weddings in really extreme locations.  Ours was on a volcanic rock beach.  Check out the trailer below and set your DVR!!!!


DoC vs. Month-of Planner vs. A Rose By Any Other Name

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

There is a great FB group that I’m a part of (there are a few, but this is a great group of planner alums from Engage!) and a colleague started a very thoughtful thread about petitioning the Bridal Media to STOP using the misleading term, “Day-Of” Coordinator.  I so think that “Day-of” is a trick phrase, I can’t stop myself from putting bunny ears around it each and every time I use it…  This said, I can’t help but find this “issue” problematic, largely because I think it highlights a much larger problem in our industry in general- we are overly apologetic about what it takes to do our job well and allow our clients to suggest to us the best way to skin a cat, even though they are calling us under the complete premise of not having ever skinned a cat before (generally) and certainly, therefore being unable to know how best to do it.

From the pure perspective of semantics, there isn’t really anything wrong with the expression “Day-of Coordinator” – because you are NOT planning the wedding,  you are simply organizing details and information that’s already been prepared and you ARE in fact coordinating the activities of that day.  The fact that generally speaking it’s universally understood by experienced hands that it takes about 4 weeks of prep to properly coordinate that day, doesn’t change the fact that you are preparing to coordinate the wedding day.

In reality, the client who asks for less doesn’t really want a less well organized wedding, they want to pay less and so they ask/ try to shortcut the prep time you know it requires in an effort to reduce the cost.  They aren’t asking for less because they mis-understood the service based on the name, they are asking for less because they desire assistance but want to dictate the cost by reducing the terms…

It’s like haggling at a flea market.  It’s their right to ask, so just tell them no, it actually can’t be done in a day and we don’t even offer that and anyone who would offer that clearly doesn’t know what they are doing, so I would question someone who says they will do that… at whatever price.

But that said, the issue isn’t with their asking, the issue is, why is it that we still sell our services in such a way that clients, who don’t know what they really need, feel in command of how things are offered?   Not just “Day-of” but wedding planning in general.  Adjusting the way that we prefer to work because of a clients’ ideas of how your job should be done is like creating a situation where a child tells the parents how it feel it should be raised based on their lack of knowledge of what life might hold in store for them.

The bigger, bigger issue of course, is something that Marcy Blum spoke about during her Engage! chat… which is that in this age where the clients value the “aesthetic” , it can be daunting to communicate (and command) the value of something that isn’t aesthetic at all… it’s experiential.  Yet we, the planners/coordinators, are the ones  in the equation who know what it takes to create the experiences the client is seeking… so why are we so apologetic in the way we explain what it takes and what it costs to properly create those experiences for clients?

Fixing the understanding of what is “Day-of” or “Month-of” isn’t the responsibility of the Bridal Media (though their understanding would help…) NOR is it the responsibility of the client… it’s our responsibility as an industry and as independent business owners to ACTIVELY take a stand for what it takes to properly do our jobs and unapologetically speak up to it.  Simply put, if you clearly explain on your website/ in your marketing materials and in your sales calls/emails  how and WHY you define “Month-of” or “Final Planning” or “Day-of Coordination” there should be no room for questions..

I can say this relatively confidently, because Just About Married rarely, if ever, gets requests for less than one month-of coordination.   Similarly at AaB Creates, we only offer one service (well, technically 2- Design and also “Full” Planning) and we rarely get requests for less than that, and if we do we say no.  We explain what the service is, what the price includes and how our system works and people are either interested or they are free to go elsewhere.  By explaining our system and what we require to insure our end of the agreement (a well managed event as planned by the client), it eliminates the possibility of the client attempting to direct how it can go.   Here is this new, pretty nifty video we’ve added to our JAM site that explains what we offer and why…

(I’m fully prepared that this will ruffle some people’s feathers… comments, dissent and discussion highly welcomed.)