By Brigid Horne-Nestor, MBC™

When I started my wedding planning business over 15 years ago, I had no idea what I should charge. Not yet a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), I didn’t even know other wedding planners to ask. Knowing what others are charging can be a valuable tool, but I feel passionately that planners should be setting fees based on their own unique talents, skills, and expertise—without question or apology. In other words, stop pricing services like a “commodity.”

Wedding planning services are not apples-to-apples
Commodities are products or services that are the same regardless of who is offering it. It’s an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Commodity pricing doesn’t leave much room for differentiation, which encourages customers to seek the lowest price. However, if your services are unique or your skill set and experience are different and better than your competitors, you can and should charge more. After all, you’d pay more for singing lessons from Adele than someone you’ve never heard of, wouldn’t you? Brides, too, will pay you what you’re worth—if you ask for it.

Why is pricing so hard to get right?
Wedding professionals love planning weddings, but don’t always charge enough to adequately compensate themselves for:
•    working weekends away from loved ones.
•    dealing with demanding and high-maintenance clients.
•    business expenses.
•    the time you spend on work aside from clients.
•    embracing the inherent stress of being self-employed.
Are you charging enough? For most of us, the honest answer is, “Sometimes yes and sometimes no.” At times, we feel we’re paid more than enough, and at other times, we probably should have charged double. Why is it so hard to get it right? Because we don’t sell widgets. We sell our services and ourselves—and that makes us vulnerable. We’re scared of being criticized. We’re afraid of losing business. Secretly, we feel inadequate and wonder, “Who am I to charge those kinds of prices?” Indeed, many of us have been raised to believe that even talking about money is not “nice.”

The domino effect of pricing right
By nature, wedding planners are “givers.” We love to be of service, and we enjoy pleasing clients. But consistently undercharging and over-delivering does not, in the long run, make you nice. It makes you resentful. It’s time we realized that charging appropriate fees does not make us selfish. In fact, it’s beneficial to our family, the industry, the economy, and us. When you charge enough for the work you do, you do a better job. You don’t resent the demands of your client. You go above and beyond. Delivering this level of service allows you to make enough money to support the needs of your family. Delivering this level of service raises standards and challenges others in the industry to do the same. Delivering this level of service generates more business, and more business is good for job creation and a stronger economy. So raise your prices!

How do you raise prices in a volatile economy?
Let’s start by acknowledging that most potential clients do not make rational purchasing decisions. To raise your prices, you need to stop using the economy, or anything else, as an excuse. Every one of us has seen a bride with a budget suddenly find a way to pay for something she “can’t afford” but “has to have.” Next, understand that most brides suffer from cognitive illusion—if something is difficult to decide, many will choose what’s already been decided for them. And, most brides do not choose services based on the lowest price. They make choices that guarantee the least negative outcomes. What’s more, many potential clients believe, “You get what you pay for.” All of us, at some point in our careers, have lost a wedding to someone who charged more than we were charging because a bride equated low pricing with lack of experience.

Charge without question or apology
So, when you’re ready to price yourself appropriately, do a little research. Ask what other planners throughout the country and the world are charging for services, but don’t waste their time by “secret shopping” them, and don’t base your pricing structures on that information. There are some planners living in rural towns with populations under 2,500 who are making more than planners living in large, metropolitan areas. True, we should have an idea of what others are charging, but we need to know that the right price for our services resides within us. Let’s work smarter in determining the value of our talents, skills, expertise, and business expenses, and charge the clients accordingly—without question or apology. Pricing smart allows us to work less, charge more, and be more profitable in the future. For specific tips and advice on how to find your right price, please visit www.weddingplannerpricing.com.

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