Confessions of a Wedding Planner

16 February 2015 –

Sureen Riekert is a wedding planner of note. Sureen lives conveniently close to the wine lands in the fair Cape and shares her live with her furry kids and partner, Erik Grobler.Sureen Profile (1)

Somewhere between events and errands, running a household and social obligations she managed to provide us with her perspective on being a top notch planner (and executor) of weddings and events as Executor for LoveStori Weddings and Event Stylist & Coordinator at  Blue Horizon Estate. Sureen gave us the low-down on what to expect and expert tips for succeeding in the demanding industry of event management.


 

Maybe you’re drawn by the title of a DREAM JOB in the wedding industry. You’ve seen “The Wedding Planner” (featuring the dreamy Matthew McConaughey and lovely Jennifer Lopez) a million times, and can list the A-Z of local grown flowers off by heart, feed the best man his speech (from behind the scenes) through your matching hidden earpieces, remind the MC to take his glass of bubbly along when toasting the couple.

The media paints a beautiful and exciting picture of the boundless possibilities of the events industry, if you’ve seen “The Great Gatsby” and you’re tapping your toes to the songs thinking “this is going to be one BIG party” just know, the events industry is very much portrayed that way, and sure it mostly is a party but, what goes on behind the scenes to make this exciting puzzle come together for the big picture to materialize is what we call “crunch time-all the time”.

When you initially meet with a client you start conceptualizing a vision; either they already know what they want or they might be strapped for ideas and need you to colour in the black and white wire frame. You are SELLING for a living, you’re dealing in the industry of “dreams come true” and you have to find a way to make sure that what you have sold will be the end result.

Procurement is often neglected

It may seem like heaps of fun to book entertainment and décor, arrange flowers to their ultimate perfection, working out a seamless schedule and even though food and wine pairings may be a yummy responsibility. You are expected to provide a service at the speed of light and this service needs to be extended to your client at all times. Don’t put your suppliers on the back burner – after all, without your suppliers you may find yourself secluded on an island of many ideas but little possibility.

Suppliers

A good supplier will become a lifelong industry friend and they will carry you through emergencies, reserve the best (or the newest) arrivals for you and even assist with dispatching goods for a pre-dated setup. Sadly, bad networking, client relations and initially PR may cause your MR / MISS Delivery Attitude to fall short by a long shot.

Making it happen, yourself

You can see yourself organising (in intricate detail) live entertainment, colour changing dance floors to tequila tower shots raising over five meters high. Or that haute couture dream wedding adorned with old glitter dusted macaroons as part of an elaborate candy buffet and crystal cut glassware fit for the finest champagne.

You find yourself in a meeting with the personal assistant to a global enterprise which expects the next launch event to dazzle clients and customers with suspended flowers from ceiling beams stationed over delicate crystal centre pieces, casting beautiful warm lighting to complete the perfect setting.
Maybe you have a pin board filled with the latest floral magic by Preston Bailey (that’s of course if you know who Preston is).
You will “make magic happen” and maybe exceed the expectations of even the biggest “bridezilla”. All this is possible in the wedding, event and function industry. Highly demanding and highly rewarding at the same time.

Different styles

The different sectors of the industry will normally comprise of the following:

Private Functions

These can be quite cool depending on budget but range from intimate gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries, year-end parties and baby showers.

Conferences

A little boring if you’re party-minded but stick around, you might learn something interesting. Treat these customers like gold, because they are sure to have a friend-of-a-friend’s-cousin-twice-removed who is looking for the perfect 21st birthday party or other small family orientated event.

Weddings

Famously everyone’s favorite and (most unprepared) kind of party – don’t stress. There’s Pinterest and Lover.ly for endless inspiration for creating the most amazing “fairytale”.

Charity events

You may benefit from some kind of background in accounting for this, as you may spend months trying to re-con expenditure and profit to try and balance the initial budget assigned to you.

functions

Each have their own level of expected service assigned to them, therefore it’s important to know where you would like to place yourself as a field worker.

Down and dirty

Essentials for this industry include the infinite pen, markers, clipboards and some sensible shoes. You are going to spend MANY hours on your feet, negotiating big budget allocations, planning exhausting logistics, doing small talk with many folk, delegating staff, counting stock and cashing up way past midnight, you will kiss ass, you will turn water into wine and you will pull GIANT rabbits out of very petite hats. And all of this will be up to you, not the “planning fairies”.

Still reading? Good! Then you must be intrigued. So where do you start in this demanding industry?

Where most of us begin, post graduate you will start with internships, temping or starting at ground zero level doing admin, filling in stand-by shifts (which result in you pausing your Need For Speed unlocked level PS3 game on a Saturday night and forfeiting that “new record”). You may end up clearing tables, be assigned to restroom maintenance for the first few months (*insert sad face*) working at a venue or hotel; but it does lead somewhere eventually. Don’t despair, maintain a natural spunky and ever-ready attitude and you’re bound to work yourself up the ladder in no time.

For the rest of us with a more academic and classic background, who’s Dad may have pulled some strings to get you that internship interview “Pre Press Release”, your coffee will be warm and freshly brewed. Just keep in mind (for now at least) that the ultimate directive is only assigned by the BIG BOSS, and ultimately this rule applies to anyone applying for any post graduate position anywhere. You have to sell yourself at the end of the day and that, my friend, is something a connection can’t vouch for.

Commitment issues?

You should also know that when signing a client you may find yourself committing ahead of time in many cases, which may often result in giving up personal social dates such as Holidays, Birthdays and Special Occasions. Of course you’ll plan ahead in this case, but when you’re employed by a vendor, for example, you may end up missing Grandma’s 80th Birthday or even be assigned to working on New Year’s Eve. Will you forgive yourself 10 years down the line for this?

Let it “inspire you to let them hire you”. Sureen

Tips for surviving in this demanding industry:

  • Let the experts teach you the basics.
  • Experience is priceless.
  • Ensure you can “paint the picture” with the “brushes” you have.
  • Have an arsenal of ideas and inspirations at the ready.
  • Look after your industry connections.
  • Look after yourself and your loved ones.
  • An earnest, friendly demeanor will take you the extra mile.

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