Industry expert and author Alan Berg shares ideas about what you can do about it

Wedding Planner Magazine asked industry expert and author Alan Berg to respond to the industry challenges readers identified in our State of the Industry survey. Berg identified ways you can impact the industry by facing these challenges head on. Here’s what he said:

The Challenge: Educating couples about the merits of 
wedding planning.

“Couples need to be educated to understand the value of the services they desire. They don’t know what they don’t know!”
– Alexis Eliopoulos O’Mara, MBC™, Unique Weddings by Alexis, Boston

response: Educating the consumer is the job of industry associations, like the Association of Bridal Consultants. These organizations can do the outreach needed to get the couple’s attention and then, hopefully, open their eyes. So, what’s a planner to do? Make sure you’re networking with other quality wedding pros, caterers, venues, photographers, etc. Cross promote your services and refer to one another. Blog and post on social media about the industry, not just your company; you’ll be seen as a subject-matter expert. Volunteer to speak at meetings of industry trade associations on how planners and vendors can work together. Show vendors what a professional planner does.

Here’s something out-of-the-box that I heard a few years ago: An invitation pro offered to speak at bridal shows to educate couples on how to make their own invitations. It sounds counterproductive, but he went into such detail that many who thought they would do their own invitations then realized it was too much work. You could do the same thing and go into detail about planning a wedding. Some will take notes; others will realize they need a professional.

The Challenge: There are no barriers to becoming a planner, which floods the market with inexperienced “weekend warriors” who charge too little and don’t provide quality service.

“The wedding industry’s greatest challenge is the constant influx of new, uneducated, and untrained competition. It seems that every bride who falls in love with wedding planning during her own planning experience thinks she can open a successful consulting business without first obtaining the proper certifications and training. Their lack of experience, hobbyist attitudes and often ridiculously low pricing structures tend to create a very unprofessional impression that can easily extend across the industry.”
– Cheryl Lynn Foster-Gerton, PBC™, Preston Bailey Signature Wedding and Event Designer, An Essential Event, Denver

response: How many professional planners started out as weekend warriors or did their own wedding planning or that of a friend and decided they could make money from it? It’s hard to deny today’s newbies the same opportunity. A better plan is to take that newbie under your wing and demonstrate that being ethical, professional, and investing in their business is the right way to do it. Show that professional training and certification is an asset, not only to their business, but to their clients. If you really think these newbies are taking business from you, you’re not marketing yourself very well. You don’t sell planning services. You sell specifically you providing those services. If they want you, and no one else, they have to hire you, and pay your price.

The Challenge: DIY brides.

“In a DIY world, couples often have skewed visions of great expectations compared to what is within their budget.”
– Diane Šolaja, Dee Kay Events, Tennant, N.J.

response: If you don’t like the idea of DIY brides, make sure you’re not a DIY planner. Did you make your own website? Do you do your own marketing and advertising? I don’t mind if you do it yourself, as long as it doesn’t look like you did—which, unfortunately, it usually does. If you want professional results then you should do what you want your prospects to do—invest with a professional.

The Challenge: There are a lack of industry standards to hold vendors accountable for quality products, good service, and ethics.

“Bad vendors. There is no regulation in this industry, anyone can say they are a wedding/event planner and those who are not good at their jobs give the rest uf us a bad name. I wish there were a nationally regulated way to certify individuals in this industry to better instill consumer confidence.”
– Kelley Mitchell, NOLA Weddings & Events, New Orleans

response: Most categories in the wedding industry lack uniform standards. Service and quality are harder to quantify. However, if you don’t provide quality and service, the marketplace will eventually put you out of business. You don’t need a governing body to do that. The marketplace holds vendors accountable. If you don’t believe me, just read the reviews on WeddingWire and other sites. Quality and service are totally in your control. Don’t wait for someone else to set a standard. Raise the bar so high that your customers and prospects can’t imagine doing business with anyone but you. Your website, marketing, branding, communication skills, professionalism, personal presentation, offices, etc. should support that you are a leader.

The Challenge: Reality TV has led to unrealistic wedding-day expectations among brides and couples.

“A major challenge would be the current reality shows. These shows give brides a perception on wedding planning that just doesn’t exist, such as walking into a venue and expecting a menu and cake tasting on the spot with no appointment. It’s just not the ‘reality.’”
– Anonymous

response: As we all know, reality TV is anything but real. Most of it is just as staged and scripted as any TV show or movie. There is a house-hunting show called “Property Brothers,” where the brothers get the “wants list” and the “needs list” from the buyer. When the buyers purchase houses that fulfill their wants, the houses are always more than their budget. That’s reality. As to bridezilla, no wedding professional should have to endure mistreatment by any customer. It’s always our right to say say, “No, I’m not taking that job.” The more experienced you get, the more you can sense when a bridezilla is coming. It’s also a matter of taking control of each customer and situation. That also comes with experience.

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