I’ll be the first to admit: I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with month-of weddings. They’ve always been an integral part of my planning business (especially when I was just getting started as a new planner fifteen years ago) but to be perfectly honest, I’m sure we’ve shared these same thoughts at some point in time when it comes to month-of weddings. (We’ll get to solutions later. But, for now, let me vent):
1. Couples, though well-intentioned, often show up in the last 30 days of the planning process with subpar plans and information. They think, because planners are miracle workers, that we’ll be able to whip their event into shape in 30 days.
2. We’ve all heard it before: the infamous “I never thought about that!” response. No, no you didn’t. And now I’m left to deal with the fact that you didn’t.
3. Month-of couples often forget to tell you about something super important, leaving you high and dry to deal with it (whatever it is) on the day-of. While I love surprises, I tend to like the weddings I plan to be surprise-free on my end.
4. The inevitable information dump: Because you’re coming along so late in the process, couples will often get you up to speed by sending all of their vendor, contract, seating chart and other information in multiple forms. It’s then up to you as the planner to sift through everything, organize it all and ensure it’s all up to par. The time spent doing this really adds up.
5. As planners, it’s just part of our nature to go above and beyond for our couples. With month-of weddings, this often means doing more than we’re contracted for and more than we’ve been compensated for – just to be sure the wedding goes off without a hitch. Don’t get me wrong, this is a noble trait, but I do believe that, though we love our careers, they are, after all, careers. We should get paid for the work we do and we shouldn’t constantly strain ourselves to go above and beyond for work that’s not in our initial scope. I’d say more often than not, month-of planners do way more work than they’re contracted and paid and for.
Whew. That felt amazing. Ok, now on to the solutions!
Fast forward several years, dozens upon dozens of month-of weddings later, I realized that not every month-of wedding needs to leave me with grey hair. I realized that with the right guidance, knowledge and preparation on our end as planners, month-of weddings can run like a well oiled machine. I thought I’d share some helpful tips that I found made my month-of weddings easier (and therefore so much more enjoyable!)
A Little Prep Goes a Long Way
Make it a priority to determine exactly what’s included in your month-of service and what is not (what is not is just as important as what is.) Map out what additional services you will offer your month-of service clients, how you charge for these add-ons, and how additional services are billed.
Next, take the time to pull together a comprehensive planning checklist that reflects just that – everything that needs to happen to be ensure proper planning from start to finish (not just what happens once your month-of planning services kicks in). The purpose is to create an official planning guide that give your couples enough guidance and knowledge so that their plans are well made, and nothing falls through the cracks as they plan their day.
TIP #1: Include everything that your couple needs to handle (starting at 12 months out), AND all the things that you’ll be handling or assisting them with. This way, it’s absolutely clear as to what your services cover and what they don’t, which helps to manage expectations and inevitably makes for a better working relationship.
TIP #2: You can never be too specific when it comes to including checklist items that will help direct your couples in ways that will help you take over the reigns when it’s time. Don’t be afraid to tell your clients exactly what you require them to do to enable you, as their planner, to do your best work. Here’s some checklist examples:
[ ] Complete the reception program worksheet (which I’ve built in as a note in their Aisle Planner account)
[ ] Update the final guest list and meal selections as RSVP’s come in (which, of course, is in Aisle Planner)
[ ] Add all of your booked vendors and final contracts to your vendor manager (so I have all the information ready to go, all in one place)
[ ] Update any packing lists in the notes section of your account.
Tools For Success
Now that you’ve got this in order, create a new wedding template in your Aisle Planner account, specifically designed for your month-of weddings, and customize your checklist accordingly.
My month-of planning checklist template in Aisle Planner is overly comprehensive by design and covers everything that a couple needs to do to “plan” their own wedding. It also has a ton of helpful information and guidance for my month-of couples built into it, keeping in mind that I won’t be walking them through every step of their planning process like I am my full service clients.
TIP #3: Consider all of the things that have been an issue for past events, and use the checklist to help provide direction to avoid a repeat performance. For example, did it take you a full hour to alphabetize the escort cards and organize place cards when you were already on a time crunch? Include a checklist item that requests your couples to do this before handing them over to you.
TIP #4: Think about the things your clients will ask you and answer them before they even ask by making use of the “Details” section of a related checklist item. This will minimize the amount of time spent responding to emails from month-of clients and provides your couples not only a great client experience, but also amazing proactive guidance (rather than reactionary answers) that showcases your experience and expertise.
Get Your Clients Started on the Right Foot
Set your month-of clients up on Aisle Planner the minute they book you, even if it’s 3, 6 or 8 months out. It’s a great selling point for your business, communicates a level of professionalism, and shows that you have your stuff together. By providing them that really great, comprehensive checklist you took the time to set up earlier, along with a full suite of planning tools, you’re not only providing a value-add to your already amazing month-of service, you’re also helping (read: nudging) them to get all of their ducks in a row long before the month-of rolls around (meaning things will likely be more organized by the time you come in for month-of planning). It’s also so helpful to have all of your events–regardless of the type of service you’re offering–in one easy-to-access place. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to manage your full-service events on one platform one way, and your partial-service events on a different platform another way.
TIP #5: As you get your couples setup in AP, take some time to set up a few notes that will help them manage the details (ceremony details, packing lists, song lists, etc.). Be sure you’ve included items in your checklist that direct them to use these notes to fill in the details.
TIP #6: Turn off all notifications for month-of weddings and don’t turn them back on until your services kick in at the one-month mark. (You’re welcome!) This won’t affect your client’s notifications, just yours. It’s a great way to avoid getting bogged down in details for a wedding you’re not technically being paid to plan yet, while still keeping the clients on the proper planning track.
TIP #7: If your month-of service includes wedding day timeline creation, keep Aisle Planner’s timeline feature in “Planner Prep Mode” so you can work with the couple to build it the way you want to. (If you release it sooner, you’ll have to contend with the timeline that your couple creates, which may not be what you like to work with.)
Once you’ve set up your partial or month-of client on Aisle Planner in advance of your month-of services kicking in, schedule regular check-ins (or at least take a peek at how they’re coming along with completing tasks on their checklist). A little client love goes a long way. To your clients, you’re being thoughtful, but to you, it’s added insurance to minimize any big issues that could have been avoided had you known about them in advance.
TIP #8: Notice they’re really really behind or stuck on certain critical pieces of the puzzle? Check in and offer assistance–this is a great way to upsell those a-la-carte hours you offer yet provide them the assistance they are clearly in need of.
Wheels in Motion
Once you’re nearing the 30-day mark, set your wheels in motion to ensure your couples are properly prepared for the hand-off (customer “onboarding,” if you will). I require that my couples do certain things before we meet and, of course, I review my checklist with them to be sure they’ve accomplished all of the things that they’re responsible for. As we review and come across things that they haven’t done, the door is already open for me to offer additional assistance (adding up those a-la-carte hours!) for things that they don’t have time to do.
Then, thirty days out, once we’re ready to meet, we have a solid, organized place to work from, rather than working from pure chaos. Expectations are managed, couples know what they’re responsible for, I know what items I need to pay particular attention to and everyone is happy.
TIP #9: Uncomfortable upselling your services and asking your clients for more money? Consider it an official part of your month-of planning process and let your clients know from the get-go that you’ll review their planning checklist as you’re nearing the thirty day countdown and if they need extra help to get things done, your a-la-carte services can come to the rescue. This makes the conversation easier, since it’s expected (and often appreciated!)
When it comes to your month-of couples, be smart about how you’re working hand in hand with them to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone. Setting up the right “planning process” for your month-of service sets you both up for success, organization and, ultimately, a smoother (and more streamlined) planning process.
Cheers to finally loving those month-of weddings!