Greetings from 10,000 feet above, wedding friends, as I write today’s post while en route to Laguna Beach for a site visits for an exciting project we’re designing… details soon to come! Today, I thought I’d posit a question I’ve been noodling: is a rose by any other name just as sweet?
The wedding industry in New York is a social scene always up for a party and a glass of wine (or three) with their colleagues. After months of everyone being completely immersed in the busy wedding season, it was with great joy that we were able to hit the Wish Upon a Wedding launch event and the Martha Stewart and Knot Gala events at the close of bridal market.
It isn’t just a great chance to catch up socially, but to gauge the state of the economy , trends in client behavior and, of course, anecdotal trends within the industry itself. One particular conversation with a photographer friend struck me immediately, and I couldn’t help but post about it to get your thoughts.
He said: “It seems to me that we’re seeing the death of wedding planners, at least the way people used to think of them.” What he explained was that he works a ton with clients who bring in Day-of Planners and he works with a ton of Planner/ Designers, but he is seeing less and less of the traditional “planner”… the master or mistress of all things wedding who acts as a “Producer” for the whole production. His argument was that clients see the value in having an event manager, and clients see the value of a designer, but clients are feeling less and less in need of a “wedding manager”, which is how (wrongly) the role of a planner is often perceived.
I, from my end, completely understood what he meant… In the last few years we have concsciously shifted what we sell to emphasize the “design” over the “planning”. But, I still know plenty of straight out planners with tons of clients who are in need of what they provide so well. Surely, the need for an expert to come in and advise, produce and orchestrate the most important day of a couple’s lives can never go out of vogue? Or can it?
If “the death of wedding planners” is iminient, it’s not for lack of people needing that service, it’s for lack of clearly messaging what wedding planners do. The profession is the victim of self-inflicted bad marketing….and the only way to save it is to re-evaluate and re-message what it is that is actually being done.
When people think Wedding Planner, they immediately think of Franck in Father of the Bride or J.Lo in “The Wedding Planner”… buttoned up professionals who knew exactly who to call for what and exactly where the perfect location would be. They embodied organization and secret knowledge (and were both working on what would be considered high end weddings, btw). But, these “proto-types” existed before wedding blogs, before brides wore black, before vendor directories and facebook pages and a clientele so savvy to the ways of media, production and design they often have goals of having weddings published when they first walk into your offices… These prototypes existed before you could buy gorgeous stationery online, before you could hire virtual assistants and before, frankly, modern families became so modern, we don’t force ourselves to use outmoded etiquette at every turn of the wedding process.
These aren’t new issues, but they are solidly crystalizing… So where does that leave the Wedding Planner? How do you encapsulate that intangible thing that having a real person brings to the table? And, what is that intangible?
If you listen to organizations like the ABC, that intangible is that you, Wedding Planner, can “save the client money” through your vendor relationships… When, that in fact is hardly true AND it puts you in the absolutely awful position of having to “earn your fee back” in the clients eyes… Or perhaps, a better answer is that you simply re-evaluate what you actually DO and re-assess your language…
In fact, to my photographer friends’ point about how he is seeing more designer/planners than before… I don’t think there has been a dramatic change in businesses, as much as there has been a group of people in our industry embracing what it is that they actually do, have been doing, and selling their services accordingly (and being able to command higher prices because of it). Similarly, I think that there are a lot more “planners” out there who realize their skill/love is in event management… and rather try and be all things to all people, they embrace the role of being “Day-of Coordinator”.. (a term that also makes me bristle… since it’s just inherently inaccurate).
This new generation of brides didn’t grow up (necessarily) watching J. Lo and Martin Short… They’ve been watching reality TV. The terms they know and value are things like “Designer”, “Art Director”, “Producer”…. phrases that actually probably more accurately encapsulate this area of wedding work than something as overly simplistic sounding as “wedding planner”. They are savvy enough to handle nomenclature that reflects what we, in this industry are actually offering up.
Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are you calling yourself these days? Do you think Wedding Planner undervalues what we actually do? Comments welcome and appreciated.