I’m quite a big advocate of the role of a professional wedding planner. Sarah from Girl Friday Weddings popped on my radar some time ago and after doing this interview with me six months ago – a lot has changed! Not only is the role of the wedding planner blossoming more than ever, but Sarah and I managed to launch Project Innovate together So I think the response to her last question? It’s coming true!
Please tell me about yourself and your background?
I spent much of my post school years travelling and living abroad before returning home, finishing my degree and finding my way into a career in sales and marketing. I spent the last few years of my life prior to GFW running campaigns and events for BigPond marketing. Life in the corporate world is certainly different, and weddings are so much more rewarding (and much prettier than an internet connection!)
What inspired you to get into the wedding assistant industry?
I knew my time in a traditional Mon to Fri job was definitely at an end when I had my daughter Chloe. Producing events is something that seemed to come naturally, even if it can be an extremely stressful job. I wanted something that I could not only enjoy creatively but also something that I found personally rewarding. There’s no greater reward than watching our brides walk down that aisle!
Photo by Caspix
What sets you apart from other personal assistants?
We definitely have a very flexible work ethic. We’ve done everything from blow drying a brides shoes (yes it rained during the photoshoot), to picking up a last minute bottle of shampoo from the hairdresser and dropping across to the bride’s home. And in addition to that, we offer our regular planning and event management services.
We also have a very different approach with vendors that we work with, and we collaborate with our vendors as a team – rather than have an “us” and “them” mentality. If we can assist one of our vendors with a task or to help them fix a problem which will make the day better for our bride and groom, then that’s what we’ll do. I encourage the team to use their initiative to preempt problems, and troubleshoot before there really is an issue – rather than sticking strictly to the job brief that we’ve been given by our client.
Explain how your business’ flexibility allows you to be useful to any couple, at any stage of the wedding?
There are so many hours that go into planning a wedding. Paying someone to plan it end to end is an expensive exercise. Our plans are very flexible and we can book appointments in by the hour (for a consultation), to full planning. Many of our couples in fact come to us closer to the date when they just feel like the planning is becoming more burdensome than fun (what it should be).
Would you help out with hen’s parties before the wedding, and thank you notes after the wedding, or do you limit your services for tasks specific to the wedding itself?
Absolutely. We can help out with any component, though the part that usually gives most couples grief and stress – is the wedding planning.
How does hiring a wedding assistant result in the couple saving money in the long run?
An experienced wedding planner will a) know what vendor to use for which service, and try to consolidate as many of your job requirements into the one vendor booking b) negotiate the rate on your behalf c) which vendors NOT to use (which is sometimes more important, yes I keep a list). All of these aspects will amount to cost savings to the client in the long run, which often outweighs the cost to hire a wedding planner.
Photo by EnVogue Imagery
How do you cope with brides at their most stressful times?
A gracious smile mostly! My own engagement and wedding was quite a stressful period for me, so being empathetic is extremely crucial. And if all else fails, a glass of wine at the end of a very long day is very helpful!
How do you keep on learning and evolving?
I invest significantly into travelling abroad at least once a year to attend educational industry programs. It is difficult though, because they have so many fabulous programs to choose from. I’ve benefited enormously from attending The Special Event and Wedding MBA for the past few years, and it’s something that I feel passionately about as an ongoing investment.
How do you keep your product fresh and different?
I think attending programs overseas helps us get a really good understanding of what’s going on in the marketplace and especially helps us to evolve in terms of our service offering.
What aspect of a wedding is most commonly forgotten when a couple is planning their wedding without an experienced assistant?
There is so much emphasis on “style” these days in print that the structure of the reception can often be overlooked. This is something that the venue usually assists the couple with, with standard timings. The only problem with this is that the timings are more skewed toward food and beverage service rather than personalized timings for the bride and groom. A good planner will know how much time the kitchen and floor staff need, and will combine this with the style and event brief from the bride and groom and make some recommendations suitable for both parties.
What part of the wedding usually causes the bride the most grief?
If we are talking about the wedding day – then I definitely think it’s the few hours in the lead up to the aisle walk! It’s an emotionally charged moment and usually involves a few tears not only from the bride, but from her family. It’s really wonderful to see the relief on her face when she joins her groom at the end of the aisle.
What is the weirdest task you’ve ever taken on for a wedding?
Tough question. Because there are a few. I’ve had to go through the groom’s wedding night bag to find his camera while he was at the reception. Uhh – enough said.
Photo by SOHO Images
What are 5 things a couple must get right when planning their big day?
1. Work with vendors that are right for you, that are qualified to do the job you’ve hired them for and that you have a good “feeling” about. And don’t select your vendors based on price. This will often cost you more money, than it will save.
2. Document key elements of the day but don’t go overboard. I’ve seen brides put together multiple run-sheets with different timings for different people. It’s not necessary. One comprehensive run sheet with your key contact numbers is sufficient.
3. Confirm your bookings in writing a week or two out. Email is the easiest. Any farther out from the date, and your vendor won’t be able to give you a firm bump in time.
4. If you read a lot of bridal blogs, then planning too far out from your date may be a mistake if you’re a bride who is likely to change her mind when you see something you like better.
5. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Remember it’s a marriage, not just a soiree with your friends and family. As long as you keep this one thing in mind, little set-backs like rain on the day of, or not having a good hair day should be irrelevant.
Where do you see your business evolving to in the next few years?
Our first goal is to bring some of the fun things that we’ve learnt from our educational workshops overseas to our brides in Australia. We constantly hear from our couples how they want to be “different”, we’d like to start teaching our brides how they can achieve this by being tactile with colour. We now have a beautiful range of imported linens that we hire out, which I know will give many couples that creative edge that they’re looking for.
Our second goal is to work with more of our wedding professional friends to share the information from our learnings abroad, and to continue the great work that we do on a monthly basis for our industry mixers: Thursday Throwdown. The next few years will be busy, and we’re excited!