Jeannie Uyanik was originally an MBA graduate logging 16-hour days computing macroeconomic analysis of emerging markets. Today, she spends her days in a stunning midtown agency, working as the executive director of an esteemed wedding planning firm in Manhattan.
While attending NYU’s Stern School, Jeannie had noticed a recurring pattern within the student demographic. Her peers often struggled to balance a seemingly characteristic trifecta of graduate studies, daily life and wedding planning. An inherently perceptive businesswoman, Jeannie saw an opportunity.
“I didn’t think, given what I did for a living, that creating a wedding planning firm would be that big of a deal. I was like, this is Pewee Herman stuff,” she remembered.
But she was wrong.
“I got very good advice from my father,” she told us as we sat in a lilac-colored conference room decorated with beautifully ornate invitations, effusive thank-you letters from appreciative brides, and elegantly framed wedding inspirations. “He said, ‘If you want to open a nail salon, you better know how to give a manicure.’”
Ironically parallel to her father’s wise guidance, that’s why we were there with Jeannie that afternoon. In speaking with a woman who had been coordinating and executing exquisite weddings and events for over a decade, it initially seemed ill-fitting to ask her for advice on something as fundamentally simple as a consultation. But it’s important to understand that mastering those elementary simplicities is imperative to long-term success as a planner. “If you want to get into this business, you can’t just know the industry,” Jeannie advised. “You need to know your specific daily tasks, and you need to know how to execute them well.”
After students graduate from NYIAD’s Wedding Planning Course, coordinating those first few wedding consultations can be a tremendously intimidating task. Thankfully, Jeannie shared some wonderful insight and advice with our students in order to assist beginners with those excitingly new challenges- starting, suitably, with how to hold an elegant, professional consultation with first potential clients.
“You always want a quiet meeting area,” she began. “If you don’t have an office or a spot where you feel comfortable, rent a conference room for the day.”
Understandably, a quiet setting and a lack of disturbance is important to an overall atmosphere of professionalism, as well as a projection of a planner’s general attentiveness and focus on the client and their needs. If your first meeting with a possible client is punctuated by laughing strangers, ringing cell phones and coffee spills, it makes a sloppy first impression.
“Starbucks is not the place go,” she shared from experience. “I met there not because I didn’t have an office, but because clients would ask me to.”
Those meetings were disordered, she remembered. And, imaginably, they did not reflect the refinement and sophistication with which Jeannie handled herself once hired.
“If you don’t have the funds to get yourself a nice space,” she continued, “pick a hotel lobby that’s quiet. Know what those are, know the hours people are usually there, and know if you can get a seat. And if you can, offer to buy your client coffee and juice.”
Despite the initial investment, the gesture demonstrates finesse. It shows a client that you can anticipate their needs and will accommodate them accordingly. “Yes, you’ll spend some money,” she admits. “But it’s worth it. You need to show some savoir-faire.”
Hospitality and generosity, she continually echoed, need to be the defining qualities of your consultations, and of how you conduct yourself as a planner every day. “If someone came into your home, you would offer them a drink,” she explained. “You should really try to think of your business of an extension of that regular, polite hospitality.”
Once you’ve mastered this etiquette and tactful sensitivity, your next task should be to prepare yourself for the logistics, and for what you should expect conversationally during the meeting. Jeannie estimates that about 80% of couples enter the meeting ready to go, and another 20% need some convincing.
“There are some couples that are ready to talk about themselves and about the wedding. They want to share the details of how they met, what they’d like to do, what they’re worried about, and what they’re dreaming about,” she said. “And there are other couples who start the meeting by asking us who we are, and why we should get to hear about their personal details and dreams, and I think that’s fair.”
To prepare for this, she strongly recommends preempting those questions. “Most of the time,” she said, “it’s evident that couples are asking questions they’ve been prompted to by their research.”
In preparation for this possibility, an organized planner could put themselves in the couple’s shoes. Try searching something like- “What should I ask my Wedding Planner?” Browse the results from the perspective of nervous brides-to-be.
Develop answers to these common questions, and prepare for your future task of making a bride feel comfortable.
And at the end of the day, you should never force a relationship if you sincerely don’t feel chemistry during your meeting. “We don’t want to push it if it’s not there,” Jeannie shared. “50 percent of the time you’ll decide to work together by the end of the meeting. It’s a wonderful feeling, and it’s a gift, and it’s so exciting for us,” she continued. “But don’t undermine your prospective client’s intelligence. They know how to get in touch with you. Give them your email, give them your phone number, and give them your business cards. Either they felt it, it worked for them, and they’ll get in touch- or they didn’t and they won’t. And that’s okay.”
In developing a reputation of reliability and trustworthiness, remember the importance of that dynamic. Rather than forcing uncomfortable relationships for the sake of planning additional weddings, consider the practicality and long-term benefit of limiting yourself. In the long run, your reputation will speak for itself if you’ve developed a portfolio of fewer, very-well executed weddings with satisfied couples and families.
Allow the initial consultation to center more around the couple’s vision, and the family’s comfort, and less around the sale and the technicalities. “If you learn these things carefully, and execute these simple tasks professionally and with grace,” Jeannie promised, “you will be able to build a solid reputation as a wedding planner.”
Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online wedding planning course. Request your free course catalog today!