The Be Sage Conference

June 24, 2014

Hi Friends!

I am so excited to share with you that I will be speaking at the Be Sage conference in Chicago August 3-5!  This conference perfectly aligns with everything I believe in when it comes to business practices and parallels my own no-nonsense approach.  I’ll be speaking on video marketing and I’m really excited to share what I’ve learned with the attendees.  I’m also amongst wonderful company with the line-up of other speakers so I am really excited to learn as well!

Registration details are on the website and I hope to see you there!

xo,
Alison

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3 Tips to Start Your Wedding Planning Business Off Strong

June 13, 2014

Hello friends!

I have been receiving an influx of emails the past few weeks from those of you who intend to start your own wedding planning businesses but want to take the right steps to ensure you don’t make common mistakes (you’re all so smart!).  Take it from me, mistakes in the beginning stages of your new business always result in wasted time and money (and put you on the edge of insanity) but the good news is most mistakes are completely avoidable with the right tools. Because these questions are so common I thought a post on the subject would be helpful for you – AND because it’s Friday the 13th and I’m feeling CA-RAZY, I’m giving away a really powerful free resource that I wish I would have had in my arsenal when I started my business!  Details about that are at the bottom of this post.

But first – three things you can do NOW to start your wedding planning business off strong:

1) GET EDUCATED
The TOP questions I receive about education: do I need a degree? and where is the best place to get certified? and do I really need to be certified?  Let me break this down for you because I believe that being educated in whatever career, craft, trade you plan to practice is extremely important.

Do you need a degree to be a wedding planner?  Well no, not technically.  Many wedding planners I know majored in hospitality and even though I’m sure that degree is somewhat helpful to a career in wedding planning, it simply will not logistically teach you to actually plan a wedding.  I personally believe that if you must have a degree and higher education is something that is important and validating for you, a business degree with a focus in marketing would strongly contribute to a career in wedding planning (or any entrepreneurship endeavor) and set you up for major success as marketing your services and running a business are things that must be learned.

Where is the best place to get certified?  As the Director of Wedding Education for The Wedding and Event Institute I am obviously biased here, but this is hands down the best place to get certified as a wedding planner (or receive any wedding business education).  Even if I was not their Director of Wedding Education I would still be shouting from the rooftops about how amazing this institution is.  I have been working closely with WEI for over a year now and the wedding planners on my team are all certified through WEI.  I never fail to be impressed at the level of integrity and professionalism with which they operate and the depth of education they offer to those at any level.  This is why some of the top wedding professionals and industry leaders (such as Ceci Johnson, Kristin Banta, and Anne Chertoff) sit on the WEI Advisory Board.

Do I really need to be certified?  This is how I look at it: I am not going to a stylist who hasn’t been to cosmetology school or a dentist who hasn’t been to dental school and I would never work with an unlicensed realtor to buy or sale my home.  The same goes for any professional, be it a plumber or surgeon.  I’m sure that you agree.  So why would anyone hire a wedding planner who is not certified?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Even if you are familiar with wedding planning or have owned your business for several years but are not certified, I recommend you take certification courses regardless.  It will only benefit your business (or future business) and make you a more knowledgeable professional.

2) PRICING
Another top question I am asked all the time is: how do I price my services, especially when I’m brand new and have little experience?  Admittedly, this is tough.  I also struggled with this when I was a new wedding planner who didn’t know how to price my services.  I started my wedding planning business in 2007 and although I was certified, had interned and had some experience, I was still really confused as to what was a fair price since I hadn’t officially planned a wedding, start to finish, for a stranger.  So I did what most new wedding planners do: I checked out what the other planners in my area were charging.  I didn’t do this to copy their pricing, but rather to get some understanding of what my local market would bear.  I came up with an average and considered my own time and money that had been invested up to that point and charged $2000 for my first complete wedding planning booking (the other planners in the area were charing around $3000-$5000 at the time for this service).  I thought it was fair as it was well below what was average, but I was still being somewhat compensated for my time (most couples book a planner for complete planning services 12-18 months out).  I always recommend that new planners create 2-3 simple packages and use the flat fee pricing method.  Understand what your market will bear.  (Need more clarification on different pricing methods?  I’ll have that for you at the end of this post.)

3) FINDING CLIENTS
So now that you’re certified and you have interned and gained experience as a wedding planner as well as set your packages/pricing, the next step is finding clients who would benefit from what you offer.  I’m always asked if I advertise or do bridal fairs and the answer to those questions is mostly no.  But that wasn’t the case when I was new.  I advertised online (at the typical places brides search like theknot.com and mywedding.com) but didn’t find a lot of value advertising offline (it did create vendor recognition, but I never booked a wedding from a magazine ad when I was new).  I did 2-3 bridal fairs a year, I networked my booty off and coupled with the online advertising, all of that is what really worked.  The most successful of all those with the highest conversions were bridal fairs.  In fact, most of the wonderful clients I booked my first four years in business booked me via a bridal fair.  Everyone’s experience with advertising varies so don’t be afraid to try a few different things.  You’ll find what doesn’t work fairly quickly.

Are you ready for that really powerful resource I mentioned earlier?!  

Today through Sunday I am giving away two of my favorite coaching topics via PDF that I really think you’ll benefit from:

My Pricing Methods PDF that really breaks down the different ways you can price your services as a wedding planner and how I use a fusion of these methods in my own business.

My Email Tips & Strategies PDF to help you along as you figure out how to price your services and how to manage your email inbox (it may be manageable right now, but implementing these tips now will get you prepared)!!

To receive these resources:

1) Make sure you have sent me your email address via the button on the upper right of the screen entitled “FREE RESOURCES” so I know where to email the PDF’s.
2) Share this blog post on Facebook (share it from my Facebook page HERE), retweet it on Twitter, or share on Instagram and tag me (@thealisonhoward).

That’s all!  Happy planning friends!  And watch out for those ladders and black cats today. ; )

XO,
Alison

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I Said YES!

May 30, 2014

Hello Friends!

I am so beyond excited to share with you all that I have accepted a position with The Wedding and Event Institute as Director of Wedding Education.  For the past year I have been the US Reporter for their Wedding Wednesday Reports and have really enjoyed sharing information and tips with students of WEI and the wedding industry in general.  As I launched coaching and my own workshop, REFINE, and as I began to speak on video marketing across the country, wedding education became a more prevalent part of my world and one that I really love.  So imagine how THRILLED I was when WEI approached me with this amazing offer?!  Very, to say the least.  Starting in June I will be representing WEI in this official capacity and I am so excited to educate others in the wedding industry as they grow their careers.

The big question I’ve been getting is whether or not I will continue to plan weddings.  My answer to that is ABSOLUTELY!  I love weddings and I love my couples, so I can’t see myself quitting anytime soon. However, I will only be booking a maximum of FIVE weddings a year.  My team is in place to plan far more than that and because they have all been trained by me personally and certified via WEI they offer fantastic services.  Alison Howard Events will still be based in CA, able to travel to any destination.  So nothing is really changing for my company other than possibly needing to add another planner to my team (hint hint).

Here are a few more questions I’ve been asked:

Q: Will you still be making videos for your YouTube channel?
A: YES!  Expect to see more candid behind-the-scenes content as well as lifestyle content in addition to wedding info in the future.

Q: Will you still offer your REFINE workshop?
A: YES!  The next workshop is in Dallas, TX in August and details will be announced in June.

Q: Will you still offer coaching to aspiring and novice wedding planners?
A: YES! :)

To my family, friends, past and present clients and those of you who have followed me over the years: thank you so much for all your support and encouragement!  Starting a wedding planning business was a random endeavor that has become one of the greatest blessings I’ve experienced.  I love you all and appreciate you more than I can express.

SHINE,
Alison

 

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog! This is my little piece of internet real estate to share with you who I am and what I do.

If you are a prospective client, enjoy my latest work and get to know me via my personal posts. If you are an aspiring wedding planner I hope you find my experiences and insight helpful. If you are a fellow blog lover who just happened to find yourself here, enjoy!

Feel free to connect with me via email, Facebook, or Instagram. Thank you for sharing your comments and thoughts - I love hearing from you!

xo,
Alison