Today’s topic has to do with booking BIG weddings.
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As I’m sure you all know we are in the peak of wedding season right now. Like, we are all out there hustling. I’m sure if you’re a florist listening or any other type of event vendor, if you’ve been doing this for a while you’re probably knee deep in weddings right now as I am, or if you’re newer to the business, you’re probably starting to think about events for next year… I have been getting a ton of inquiries for fall of 2023. I feel like that’s way further out than I’m used to – I’m sure it’s because of the post pandemic wedding boom, so that is strange to get used to. Anyway. Speaking of the wedding boom, there is so much opportunity out there right now. I guess that’s sort of one silver lining of what we all went through in 2020 and 2021 is that now, there is definitely no shortage of opportunity. So, when we find ourselves in a phase where there is an abundance of opportunity coming our way, sometimes we encounter opportunities that come as a stretch for us. And usually that’s when we have to sometimes make a tough decision. One example of this is when we get an inquiry for a “Big” Wedding. And when I say big wedding, I’m talking about those weddings that are super exciting to book, but also can be slightly terrifying because they may also be just a little outside our comfort zone.
Now, we all handle this type of opportunity quite differently. Depending on your personality, you might jump at opportunities like this with absolutely no hesitation, you love a challenge. Some of us who are a little more cautious, maybe a little more timid, might take things a little more slowly and want to do all of our research before diving into a big job that comes with such a huge price tag – and a huge responsibility. I would say that I, myself probably fall in or near that category. Some of you might be so certain that you’re like, nope, I don’t do that. Like, I don’t do big weddings. Like you won’t touch a 20k or 30k wedding with a 40 foot pole. And that may not necessarily have to do with fear or reservation, it might just be boundaries, not having the time or bandwidth in your business just yet or just plain uncertainty.
There was a season of my business where I turned away from larger weddings for a mix of reasons. For the longest time, I didn’t pursue large jobs, and if planners asked me about my pricing range I would put myself in a very modest category and not necessarily advertising myself as a “big wedding” type of florist. I heard the word ballroom and pretty much drew the line because frankly I was intimidated. I think I was still lacking a bit of confidence, there may have been some fear mixed in there, although I don’t really consider myself someone to shy away from a challenge, but I think where most of that fear came from was just uncertainty.
I do take my clients’ trust extremely seriously. The most important thing to me is to be able to confidently deliver on my client’s vision. And so this posed a conflict for me with large events that were outside my comfort zone because – if I don’t trust myself or have confidence in my own ability to do a job, then how can I expect a client to trust me with their wedding?
So that uncertainty stood in the way of me taking on these larger jobs for a while. Just to give you some context, in 2017 my average wedding was about $5,500. I was doing some that were close to 10 oe 13k, probably on the higher end, and then my minimum was $3500 but overall most of my weddings were less than 10k and I was not eager to venture above that threshold. But in order to grow and keep moving forward, sometimes we have to venture past that comfort zone – if not to grow in that direction at least so that we know whether we like it or not. Because you might try something that feels scary, but ultimately it ends up being totally doable once you tackle that fear or walk forward into that uncertainty.
And I eventually did end up taking some larger weddings, and then after the first one, I became a little more confident, and then naturally I took a few more in the higher range, and became more confident, and so on. And naturally, my average weddings increased.
In 2019 my average wedding went from $5500 to about $8,000. And now, in 2022, my average is about $17,000.
But regardless of my feelings going into it and how I came out the other side, when it comes to tackling big weddings there are so many practicalities that are learned in the process. And I’ve learned so many things – not necessarily from mistakes that were made, because as a person who takes risks in a cautious, calculated sense, I took things on more slowly but I did still learn a lot in the process. And had I known things early on, I might have been able to dive in with more confidence, rather than shying away in uncertainty for so long. And today I’d like to share these lessons with you so that wherever you might fall on that spectrum of shying away or going for it, maybe they can help you either when deciding whether or not it’s the right time to take a job, or to simply move forward and say “Yes” to opportunities with more confidence.
I will give a little spoiler to my conclusion for those curious minds out there – It turns out big weddings are not as scary as some might think they are, BUT they are still extremely challenging and there are plenty of things that you should consider before taking one on if you want to really knock it out of the park.
So without further ado, here are 5 of my main lessons I’ve learned from doing big weddings!-
1- Bigger is just more of the same thing.
As I mentioned before, I used to shy away from big weddings for a long time. Then I remember someone close to me telling me that bigger is not really that big of a deal. It’s just more of what you already do. And I thought about that and I realized she was right. Sometimes there isn’t really anything to be afraid or uncertain about with big weddings, except for just the size. Obviously when you upsize, there’s more work and responsibility involved. Like cleaning a 1 bedroom apartment vs. a 3000 square foot house. Obviously there is a big difference in the work load, but it’s nothing that you don’t already know how to do. If you think of it as something you’re already an expert at, it reduces the anxiety a little. Then it becomes simply a matter of looking at the job and giving yourself the necessary time, preparation, and support to complete it.
Timing is the kicker here because this is a wedding we’re talking about and we are working with a perishable product. So that’s when preparation, organization, and being able to delegate are going be extremely important. But completing a larger project in the same short amount of time just means that you need more man power and really good organization.
2- Become a Pro Delegator
There’s a shift that happens when you move into larger weddings, where you go from being a designer to a delegator. I didn’t love the idea of delegating at first, until I tried it. Then I realized that I love it. I love organization, and I love seeing things happen. And when you become good at delegating, things happen quickly and that is a very satisfying and addicting feeling. Delegating is so much more than telling people what to do. It’s looking at the event as a whole, and strategically putting the pieces together to make things happen in a quality way and in an efficient way. It’s planning ahead and coming in each day with a plan already in place. If you want things done well, it’s paying attention to each person’s strengths, and assigning the right tasks to the right people. If you want things done quickly, it’s motivating your team by giving them a timeframe or you jump in and do a task alongside them, talking them through it and setting an example of the pace you expect. I think sometimes delegating can be mistaken for being absent, but I think a good delegator is actually very present. They’re observing and paying close attention, keeping a pulse on things while also keeping their eyes forward on the goal.
When it comes to delegating, think of the team as the ones rowing the boat but as the delegator, you are the one steering the boat. If no one is there to steer, your boat is just rowing all over the place. Your job is just to shine a light and lead the way, and keep everyone on task. When my team is producing, I am looking at the proposal and I am seeing what is next, so that when someone finishes a task, I know what task to give them next. I’m reading my team’s energy, making a comfortable environment for them and making sure that everyone is happy because when people are happy, they produce better work.
There is something about building a dream where multiple people and talents are involved, not just yourself, and having pride and trust in your team. Delegating is still so much about the vision but it’s also about people and I think that is part of what makes it so rewarding.
We recently completed a pretty big wedding at one of the big resort properties here in Southern California and we had a team of 5 for a pretty huge event. It was also mother’s day weekend so everyone was short staffed and we busted it out and I was so proud of how much work everybody put in. When we finished the ceremony installation – which was a huge team effort, all of us were so giddy. We literally stood there jumping up and down and high fiving in excitement at what we had just created. And I swear the best feeling was that NONE of it could have happened, as beautifully or in the time that it did without each person on the team that day. Everyone played such a huge part. And that felt amazing. When you learn to trust in others, build each other up and work together, truly, that is where the real magic happens.
So now hopefully you have imagined what delegating can look like, let’s talk a bit about how to build a team because, when you’re new to larger weddings, I think that this is foreign to many of us.
Whether or not you enjoy doing everything yourself, I think this is pretty normal when you build a new business. You might be grasping tightly to the control because you can’t afford to take a risk on someone new, or you might just be hustling it out alone because you don’t have the luxury of slowing down to even think about hiring. For me, it was a mix of both. I hustled it out alone in my business for quite a while, even to the point of pulling all nighters a few times, not only because I didn’t have many other options for help, but even when I had the opportunity, I couldn’t quite bring myself to relinquish the trust to someone else when it came to the design.
I finally was able to let go and allow my team to grow, at least when it came to design and production, and let me tell you – I’m extremely glad I did, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t extremely hard, and if I am being honest I still struggle with this a lot in other areas of my business. Delegating and entrusting others to bring your vision to life, especially when you’re paying them your hard earned money to do so, is probably one of the hardest parts of building a business.
And a question I often get asked is, how do you find people you trust to help you with the design? Truthfully, when it comes to finding the right people, at least in my experience, I believe that you just get lucky and I know that’s not super helpful to someone who is like, trying and desperate to grow their team, but I will say this. The only way you find those diamonds in the rough is to start digging. You have to open up your doors and allow lots of people in, and give them a chance to prove themselves. I allow lots of new people into our studio all the time because I am always looking for those special talented and hardworking individuals and the ones who bring positive energy, because there are plenty of them out there. Sharing consistently on social media has helped to open that door. The people on my team who have become lead designers and who have come to know my style and process inside and out and the ones who I can trust with any task, they are all people who I met because they reached out on instagram or they happened to freelance for me one time and they worked their way to where they are now, to where I couldn’t imagine my business without them.
Trust me, I know the temptation to just shut off the world and do everything yourself, but I encourage you to just dip your toes in and start looking at others and seeing their potential. It’s allowing other talented individuals to become a part of the vision that has transformed my business and made it what it is today.
I know it might seem like a hurdle now, but just think about the future. When you find yourself at a restaurant somewhere at 6 o’clock on a Friday evening sipping a cocktail after you and your team just busted out your entire production list for tomorrow’s giant wedding, and you’re sitting there feeling totally prepared and stress-free, I swear there is no better feeling in the entire world.
3- Think About Space
Big weddings take up space. A lot of space. I think this is one thing that can easily get overlooked when you’re excited to book a big wedding and then you’re getting into production and you’re like holy crap – this is a lot of buckets. And do we even have enough tables for everyone to have space to work? And where are we going to store all of these finished arrangements? And do we have enough truck space?
One thing you get really good at after doing a lot of big weddings is space efficiency. My team and I can tetris the heck out of any vehicle, let me tell you. And when it comes to our studio space – our space is not that big. We have an empty room off of our warehouse that’s that’s a converted office with an A/C unit and it’s maybe 15×15 ft, and that is our cooler space. We used to set up 3 or 4 folding tables in there to create more room, but in the past couple years, between buckets of flowers and finished arrangements, we quickly started to run low on shelf real estate. So we purchased 2 wire racks with 4 shelves, and then a year later purchased 2 more, which finally gave us pretty maximum space efficiency in our cooler. It also allowed us to cart around finished arrangements so that the designers could put their finished arrangements on the racks instead of having to carry them into the cooler one by one.
Transportation is a whole ‘nother tetris game. Most of our weddings are in the 10-15k range, and for those we can usually get by with a cargo van for flowers and one other standard vehicle for hard goods, as we’ve become quite skilled at making everything fit. With a combination of 5-ft folding tables and a black 2 decker cart for maximum shelving, we finally learned we could double our van space. For larger weddings, I usually rent a 15 ft box truck and we use a similar set up. Since the truck is taller, we can actually use our tall wire racks and secure them to the inside walls giving us even more shelf space. They also come in handy for carting things around on site and taking up less of a footprint when staging florals.
Probably one of the biggest eye openers on the seriousness of square footage when it comes to big weddings was when we recently had a large wedding that was very hydrangea heavy. I don’t love working with hydrangea because of how bulky it is, but this wedding took bulky to a whole new level.
You look at these stem counts on paper and you know it’s a lot, but seeing it in person is a whole different story.
Luckily for this one, we had rented space from our wholesaler because I knew that we were going to be bursting at the seams if we had used our own studio. Mainly because it was so much hydrangea and I kind of knew that the pieces we were making for the aisle and ceremony were going to take up so much more space than we were used to. I know that some studios are probably used to seeing pallets of hydrangea coming across their tables, but for a studio florist who does more smaller weddings and is not used to this, it can be a bit of a shock. Not only are hydrangea buckets extremely heavy and take up a ton of space when full, but on top of that, the processing and trash alone is enough to fill an entire dumpster. We had 20 cases for this wedding which was one entire pallet, and two pallets once fully processed. Carrying those buckets to and fro would have been a nightmare so I was glad that we were able to utilize the pallet jack at the wholesaler. Not that it would not have been doable without, but I’m all about working smarter not harder so this was a huge godsend and definitely something I would consider again next time we have a wedding of that size. Because they actually have a legitimate cooler (which we do not) were also able to start production a day earlier, which helped space out the amount we needed to get done that week.
Another note on the topic of space, don’t forget to have a plan for trash. Sometimes you get lucky and the venue has trash dumpsters you can use, but for a wedding of this size, if you don’t have access to a sufficient size dumpster I would always communicate ahead of time with the venue or have a backup plan for where to dump.
4- Be Over-prepared
Another really good habit that can set you up for success with weddings that involve a little more uncertainty is always being overprepared.
The first part of being overprepared is simply doing your research. With big weddings, or any size wedding for that matter, if there’s one thing I know it’s that I don’t want any surprises. If you are a wedding florist you already know that there is always going to be curveballs. It’s nearly impossible to avoid every possible mistake or mishap, because things happen that are out of our control. With big weddings, there are more details, there are more balls in the air, and there is more uncertainty so that just means that there is more that can go wrong. So the goal should be to reduce as much of that uncertainty as possible by doing your research and being over-prepared.
When it comes to the venue, the better you can familiarize yourself with the space beforehand, the better. Anything you can do to familiarize yourself with the venue beforehand is going to make your job smoother on the install day. You can schedule a walkthrough with the bride, but you can also call the venue and take the initiative to walk the space yourself on your own time. If the venue is not within a practical distance or its not possible for you to do a walkthrough, look up photos of the space. You can also call the venue and ask if they have measurements of any structures, chandeliers or ceilings that you will be working with. If you need to do any rigging, ask them if their A/V staff does rigging or if you can do your own. It’s important to have measurements, especially height measurements so that you can come prepared with the proper height of ladder. Remember that the taller ladder you need, the larger your vehicle will need to be as well. So you may need to find out some of these details before quoting so that you can quote appropriately for transportation, in case you will need a larger vehicle.
When it comes to new mechanics, rigging ceiling installations, or installations, remember that you can learn how to do anything, you just have to do your research, and give yourself time beforehand to prepare. If you’re testing out new mechanics, do a test run in your studio if you can. Any time investment will be worth it so that you can have peace of mind that your theory or method is going to work, so there are less surprises on the event day. Don’t be afraid to ask other florists for support or advice, but do so respectfully and don’t assume that everyone will give away their time or knowledge for free. Ask politely, or offer to return the favor in some way.
But also, don’t underestimate the power of google, or, your own creativity. Often times when it comes to tricky installations, there isn’t just one way to do it. There are a million ways and none of them are right or wrong. Don’t be afraid to be inventive and come up with your own way to make something happen, but also, test it out and make sure it’s safe.
Another part of being overprepared is planning for the worst, and one way to do that is to build in buffers. I typically like to give ourselves at least one more hour than I think we will need, and at least one more staff member. This is my way of building in a buffer in case anything goes wrong or someone calls out and we are down a player. It’s better to have extra time on site than be rushing to complete your job. I’ve learned that nothing stresses out a planner more than a vendor who is running behind schedule, and so for me, always being one step ahead is the standard that I aim for at every event setup, to help create a stress-free environment day for everyone involved.
Because we build in buffers, there have been several instances where we’ve been able to handle tough curveballs without falling behind schedule. Like having to sacrifice one team member to go shopping for trumpet vases when several were broken in transport, or sending someone back to the studio to retrieve a forgotten item, or even coming into the shop finding that our truck was broken into and was inoperable and having to quickly pivot and switch vehicles.
The best way to make a good impression on a wedding day as a professional is to plan for the worst case scenario and be overprepared, so that you are well equipped and ready to handle your job with ease, and still have extra bandwidth for any other unexpected situation that may arise.
5- Bigger is your key to growth
After you make it through your first big wedding there’s always a rush of excitement and satisfaction, which is then usually followed by the question of … do I ever want to do that again? For me, honestly I enjoy medium size weddings most. But I allow myself to take a few of the bigger ones when they come through. Are they my favorite? No, to be honest, there are tons of added details that come along with big weddings that I don’t love. The weeks of planning and organizing, the binders, the supply spreadsheets, the team schedules, organizing meals for my team, figuring out truck rentals and drivers and giant ladders and all of the things. But, they pay the bills.
And truthfully, bigger weddings, I think in many cases are the key to growth. They bring in more income, and not just that, but for me, I decided a long time ago that the definition of growth for me was working less. And big weddings help me to do that. As I mentioned earlier, our weddings average about 17k now and because of that, I was able to do half as many weddings this year and, that might not be everyone’s version of success but I’m loving it, because one of the things I’ve gained is a lot more time back to explore other things, like doing this podcast.
Well, that pretty much wraps up my 5 tips for doing big weddings. So, whether you’ve got that big inquiry already sitting in your inbox, or you’re wondering if you should put yourself out there in the luxury wedding scene, I hope you remember these and find them helpful …Just remember…
- Bigger is just more of the same thing.
- Become a Pro Delegator
- Be Overprepared.
- Think About Space
- Bigger is your key to growth…or, for some of us, working less 😉
I hope that when you tackle that first big wedding, these 5 lessons will give you the confidence you need to crush it. I know without a doubt that you’ll discover the truth we all learn when we tackle hard things which is: you’re capable of so much more than you think you are.
That’s all for today friends, have an amazing day.