Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wedding Planners, Are You a Guide? Or a Dictator?

What’s your style of working with clients?

Do you offer information and resources as suggestions, or do you TELL the client how it is? Is it your way or the highway? If they choose another path to take other than the one you’ve planned, do you get upset and resentful? Do you withhold the best of your creativity from your working relationship? Ugh, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. Guilty as charged. Without meaning to, of course, no malice aforethought, just an overworked, burned out wedding planner who lacked perspective. But let me tell you, managing any type of business to consumer relationship in a dictatorial fashion is one of the fastest ways to foster distrust and discontent. And what a damn shame that is, truly. Why? Because you may maintain control of the details but you’ll lose the client. Planning and designing weddings is not just about the day itself. It’s the journey to get there in the months and weeks of working closely together that, if unpleasant or stressful, will either mean a broken agreement, a dearth of referrals or a dead end relationship.

What can you do to STOP it?

In my experience, you first have to see it for what it is. Uncomfortable! For you and for the client! Being honest with yourself that something is currently not working with your method. Once you’ve come clean with yourself that it sucks and needs to change, helps you move to the why? Why are you holding on so tight? The willingness to acknowledge the toxic emotions under the surface may help end your damaging approach before it’s too late to salvage the hard won connection. So, are you a dictator?

Here are FIVE QUESTIONS to help you determine “Am I a Dictator with my clients?”

1)  Does everything revolve around you? Not the client. Not the bride and groom. Does everything have to mold around your schedule, your idea, your vendors, your vision?

2) Do you obsessively control every aspect of the wedding, from the event professionals and the scope of their work, to each minute detail? Can you delegate tasks to the client, their family, or other vendors? Or do you keep it all to yourself?

3)  Do you use fear to inspire loyalty, creativity and partnership?

4)  Do you need to be right? Always? If the client makes a point or request, do you claim it or rip it apart? all because you just have to be RIGHT?

5)  Are you ever wrong? Do you pass the blame to others when something doesn’t work? Is being wrong even an option?

When you tell anyone the way it has to be, that advice is not coming from a place of generosity and wisdom. Rather, it’s coming from your own sense of fear and insecurity. Seriously, do you know what the real motive is behind your inflexible direction? In many cases, as it often was for me, it stems from a desire or need to control the situation. Yes, CONTROL, that 7-letter word that is both a project manager’s friend and foe. But, I’m sorry to say, you can’t control it all. And certainly, you can’t control the client’s every move. Or the hundreds of professionals and guests involved!

And, frankly, if the client chooses NOT to follow the plan or advice you’ve offered, so what? Let it go. Don’t let their decision to go another way impact your own sense of self worth or professional value. Each client has his or her own goals in mind, not to mention, the background story, relationship intricacies, financial parameters, and marketing perspective that you may not be privy to.

Think of it like asking for directions, either they go the direction you say or they don’t. One way or the other, they’re probably going to get married anyway. Why twist yourself into a pretzel in the process?

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Comments ( 0 ) | Posted in Perspective, Random, Small Business, Wedding Planner Coach
Thursday, April 14, 2016

{Branding} Tone of Voice is Everything

As I prepare for another client workshop on brand awareness, spending hours reviewing their marketing materials, social media, and website copy, and whatever else I can get my greedy hands on, I am amazed again at what I see. That confused message, that all-over-the-place brand voice that may have started off clear at the beginning, but has gotten lost along the way. Trust me, I know how easy it is to get confused, particularly when social media marketing crashed the party. But if ever there was a time to take another look at your brand’s tone of voice, it’s now. It’s tomorrow, it’s every single day. Developing a unique way of speaking to your audience, and then maintaining that voice consistently through all your marketing efforts, is key in creating your true, authentic brand.

“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.” Philip Kotler, Professor at the Kellogg School of Management

Ah, and there it is, right? Beautifully spoken by the wise Philip Kotler. How many times have we complained to other entrepreneurs about a potential client “price shopping” us, or pushing us to talk fees before they’ve heard who we are and what we offer? If that happens to you too often, it’s time to revisit your brand messaging. Are you clear as to who you are, what you do, and what differentiates you from others? Does your brand identity resonate through your tone of voice used online?

The tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it.

This includes not only the words you choose, but their order, rhythm and pace. When seen in the world of business and marketing, the phrase ‘tone of voice’ generally refers to written, rather than spoken, words. A little confusing, right? But suffice it to say, a company’s tone of voice will inform and populate all of its written copy, including its website, blog, social media, newsletters, brochures, advertisements, emails, and packaging.

Your tone of voice is also an expression of the people behind the brand.

Again, brand voice is not just what a company does, but who it is that makes it a brand. A tone of voice both embodies and expresses the brand’s personality and set of values. It’s about the people that make up the brand – the things that drive them, their loves and hates, and what they want to share with the world.

Does your brand voice set you apart from your competitors, is it unique?

It’s like knowing you shouldn’t eat that piece of cake but you eat it anyway. We all know that a lasting brand is a unique brand. A one of a kind message that everyone has to have even if they don’t want it. When we set out to create our creative businesses, aren’t we striving to offer the world something new, something fresh, something totally ours? A brand’s tone of voice should be distinctive, recognizable and, you got it, UNIQUE. We all use words and language – both written and spoken – in our own distinctive manner. Thankfully, as humans, we each have our own idiosyncrasies, humor, favorite expressions, inflections, rhythm, and so on. Harness that originality and use it in your brand voice.

A clear tone of voice can move mountains.

It’s no secret that carefully crafted words are powerful influencers. Reviewing your brand identity, revisiting where it is now, today, and then breaking down that identity into a working, authentic brand voice, is persuasion personified. Let your tone of voice tell the story of your business on a grand, mission level as well as a daily, working level.

By and large, a successful tone of voice should go without notice. The aim is not for your clients to  remark on your pretty website, or your tremendous writing but, instead, to remark on your great business. When your brand voice is clear and consistent, the brand message is trusted, believed and BOUGHT.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

{Random} March into Spring

spring quotes inspirational sayings recovery

Ah, yes. It’s the first day of March and the sun is indeed hot and the wind is truly brittle and cold. But the warmth of the sun gives me hope that Spring is just around the corner… and a healthy dose of HOPE is all that it takes to remind me that this dormant, icy season is what I need to better appreciate the rebirth of Spring as it approaches.

Growing up in Southern California meant one season blended into another without dramatic change. I find that climatic change to be invigorating and exciting as it speaks to the primitive creature inside me. It calls forth the celebration of a new day, a new chance to start again…

{Quote by Charles Dickens from Great Expectations with artwork from Dear Lillie}

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Friday, February 14, 2014

{Happy Valentine’s Day} Snow in Love

valentine's day, snow hearts

“Hearts are not had as a gift, they are earned.” – Yeats { via the Style Files }

I must day, looking back at last year’s Valentine’s Day, when my world seemed to be spinning in darkness and despair, my marriage crumbling into tiny pieces and my heart breaking wide open, I would never have thought I would be where I am today. And where is that? In a happy, fulfilling relationship with my husband. Miracles do happen. I know that now. Personal crises, marriage counseling, faith strengthening and total surrender all came together to stitch up the pieces of my heart. What remains is a stronger, more open heart and willing spirit to see my husband as the beautiful, flawed human he is. And he is truly amazing and I am truly grateful to have him in my life.



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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

{Random} End of Year Brain Fog

inspirational quotes

When a friend of mine recently described her cluttered, overworked mind as suffering from a “brain fog” I found myself 100% relating to the term!

The year was crammed with projects, tasks and assignments that never seemed to end. Am I grateful? Oh yes. Unbelievably so. Am I relieved to take a short break over the holidays, reflect on what I learned this past year and look forward to what lies ahead for me in 2014? Why, yes, I am relieved for the time to step away from the daily routine and recharge my batteries. I have found that there is great relief in turning off all of the devices to let my eyes rest  and my brain STOP.

For in that stillness my creativity returns and I am, once again, present.


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Sunday, December 1, 2013

{Events} Special Event Design Trends for 2014

metallic gold trend for event design melissa paul

As seen in my December column in InTents Magazine, special event trends are constantly evolving and, thankfully, continuing to find a way to bring out the best in the business. From thematic design statements to technological advances, in my opinion, these eight trends are the ones to watch in 2014:

THE RETURN OF BLACK TIE Once again we can thank Hollywood for the reemergence of luxury and formality. Movies focusing on the 1920s and 1930s like The Great Gatsby and television shows like Downton Abbey have brought the elegant era of black tie formal style, lavish celebrations and stately sit-down dinners back in style. Expect to see grand house parties with plenty of sparkling crystal stemware, polished silver vessels, vases and serving pieces, traditional fabric tablecloths, napkins and runners, and shimming chandeliers suspended over long dinner tables. But thankfully, this trend does not include dripping crystals on empty branches. Those days are long gone.

DRAMATIC DESTINATION VENUES Whether for weddings, birthday celebrations or corporate meetings, destination venues with their natural beauty and dramatic views continue to gain in popularity for events. Corporate conferences, retreats and political gatherings are discovering the allure of tropical destinations, if only for small leadership meetings. The other notable trend for destination is the ever-growing increase in larger tented celebrations in far off locations. As Carlos Damy, Owner and Business Director for Elena Damy Floral and Event Design in Los Cabos, Mexico shares,

“Once considered the ideal way to elope or enjoy a smaller, intimate wedding celebration, we’re happily seeing destination weddings expanding into grand ballrooms and tented spaces in 2014 and 2015.”

TRADITION TOPS THE TABLE Over the past few years the focus has been on mini foods that guests can enjoy in one-bite, maybe two or three. Small plates, tapas flights and cocktail foods served during dinner. But 2014 will see the return to heartier, sit-down meals that show off the plated classics. Caterer Max Hansen, a classically trained chef and cookbook author in Bucks County, Pennsylvania states,

“The most popular foodie choices for 2014 events seem to be stylishly plated dinners that feature elegant-but-modern presentations of the best local ingredients available. Hosts are savvier than ever, requesting seasonal entrees like venison, pheasant, roast beef and salmon, served on fine china from covered silver platters by formally trained servers.”

TALL FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS For many floral designers, tall arrangements disappeared due to design preference, perceived extravagance or true budgetary restrictions. But over-sized floral decorations are back en vogue and are making bold statements in party spaces. Whether designed in traditional silver candelabra, sculptural glass vases, or sleek modern metal containers, tall floral arrangements are a design element 2014 hosts are prioritizing in their event budgets.

“Nothing gets me more excited than to have a client walk into my design studio carrying a pile of photos of big, fabulous floral displays!” says Brian Kappra, Creative Director of Evantine Design, an award-winning floral design and event planning company in Philadelphia. “Mixing high and low floral across a party room makes such a visual impact, and when guests spend 4-5 hours in that space, it’s an event designer’s dream to create an environment with layers of color and texture. It tells a story like nothing else.”

SHARED EXPERIENCES Seamless planning and impeccable execution is a must for special events, we all know that. But today’s successful events need more than that to achieve greater impact. Particularly for corporate launches, non-profit fundraising, and social awareness campaigns. Corporate clients are asking for more from their event professionals beyond stunning decor and experiential agencies like Broadstreet and The Experiential Agency are reaching further into standard event planning territory. These marketing integration agencies are helping to leverage parties and events into opportunities to meet, exchange, share and build community engagement in new, multimedia methods. GET TECHIE WITH IT Using technology and strategic communication is key in today’s party planning world, and forward-thinking event planners are providing event attendees with all-in-one apps they can use to track activities, connect with business contacts and share their experiences via social networks. But what takes the technology to another level, is using apps before, during and after an event to engage with attendees and guests for lasting impressions. That includes weddings, social parties, non-profits AND corporate events. One of the most popular for weddings is the Wedding Party App. Don’t ask “are you using an app?” Instead, show you’re aware of the trends and ask your clients “which app are you using?” and incorporate it into the planning process. GLITTERING GOLD For some time now, metallics have ruled the roost in event design in accessories and embellishments. Something on the dinner table glimmered and shined, if only the flickering vintage votive candles. But thanks to the recent spotlight on the Art Deco era, gleaming, glittering gold is back in fashion. Even bridal fashion designers like Claire Pettibone and Elie Saab are featuring gold embroidery, lace and fabrics in their 2014 wedding gowns. Not only is gold a versatile tone for any type of event, it looks fantastic paired with every other color on the rainbow as well as other metals. Softer shades such as pale blue, lavender and pink keep gold toned down; whereas, cranberry red, crisp white and midnight blue turn the drama of gold up high on the designer dial. Gold is warm and adds a sprinkling of sophistication to whatever it touches! Mixed with other metals such as pewter and bronze, gold reaches new heights of glamour. LIVING WALLS Bringing the outdoors in is a huge design trend exploding in interiors, and just now starting to show its green face in events. A living wall or “green wall” is a vertical display of plant material and/or flowers that are used environmentally in gardens with space restrictions, or in residential homes for eco-air-filtering-appeal. Now, living walls can be used in tents, along walkways and marquees, or behind stages as sweeping decorative statements. Not only does some form of living walls take floral design to a whole new level of artistic skill, but it magically disguises any unsightly equipment with stunning efficiency.

“With a nod to theatrical set design, using dried flowers mixed with fresh can make this extravagant element more affordable without sacrificing impact, ” says Brian Kappra of Evantine Design.

{Photo courtesy of Tyler Boye and Evantine Design}

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Comments ( 0 ) | Posted in Event Industry, Party Planning, Wedding Planner Coach, Weddings & Parties
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

{Fashion} A Gray Day

gray versace evening gown

On this sunny autumn day all I see is gray. Layers and layers of luscious gray tulle and intricate embroidery by Versace.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{Bridal Gowns} Berta Bridal


Graceful, feminine, and seriously sensual. The 2013 Collection from Berta Bridal is, as always, simply stunning. For Berta, the Israeli fashion designer responsible for these elegant, sexy wedding gowns, fashion is a way of life and has been since she was a child. Not for the body conscious, these body hugging, back revealing, cleavage dipping wedding dresses take traditional to a whole {nouveau} level.     {Available at select bridal salons}




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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

{Event Industry} Navigating Ego

Although I have been retired from wedding planning for three years now, as a blogger and features editor, I still work in and around the event industry. As a result, I remain exposed to the non-stop drama that takes part in this creative business. And, in my experience, where there is creativity, there is ego. A whole LOT of it.

The event industry is loaded with talented, lovely people who are blessed with signature strengths and sensational skills. But, who also have some major flat spots that make collaborating with them a real friggin’ challenge. Working with one super-sized ego is hard enough, but bring many egos into a single team and things get downright ugly. Who brought the client in? Who is the biggest player? Who is the most successful? Who has been around the longest? Who has the biggest following on Twitter?

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to reap the rewards of yet another successful event without having to deal with all the bluster?  Or, the manipulation and drama that completely messes with the objective everyone was hired for in the first place? Namely, a successful, well-produced wedding or event.

Question is, how do you navigate through all the ego when you’re trying to build an effective team of event professionals?

Kick Them Right Off Their Pedestals

When folks are truly gifted at something, whether that’s cooking or designing flowers, it’s very easy to be so dazzled by their talent or accomplishments that we are totally blind to their weaknesses. Even superstars and self-proclaimed celebrities are human. Let’s be honest, most of us humans ARE flawed. What a shocker, huh? But some clever people hide their flaws better than others, some find ways to compensate, and the very best acknowledge their weaknesses and do everything they can to improve them.

The ones to worry about, and RUN FROM, are those who act as though they are flawless or that their flaws simply don’t matter, behaving as though the world ought to ignore their outrageous behavior. They expect the rest of us to cut them more slack, and all too often that’s just what we do. Of course what makes the most sense is continuing to recognize their talents and strengths, but through realistic open eyes. Knock down those pedestals. Take off those rose colored glasses. Broaden the definitions and see each event professional with honesty in the moment.

Insist on Being Treated with Respect

Basically, you get what you give. If you treat someone with respect, you should expect the same in return. However, if that’s not happening from the “ego players” on your team then you need to call them on it. Insist on being treated with respect and professionalism. Rather than suffer in silence, I have found that standing up for yourself and hitting bad behavior right SMACK! between the eyes works far better for everyone in the long run. Your direct approach may even provoke a nasty initial response, but so what. Better to curtail it than let it take the whole team down with the ship. The truth is that most dominant people respect dominance in others, even when they don’t agree with the content of the message. In the best case you will have garnered some respect, and at the very least you will have removed yourself from a non-productive relationship.

Take a Long Hard Look in the Mirror

There is no better place to take stock of EGO than in the mirror. Where does your own ego stand? Are you a legend in your own mind? What is your impact on others? Perhaps it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and see just how your ego rates in the whole scheme of things. Again, you get what you give. If you project ego, you’ll get ego. It’s all about attraction and reflection. Be honest. Step down off that pedestal and get real.

Kick their Asses to the Curb

Okay, you’ve identified the egomaniacs, you’ve insisted they treat you with respect and then cleaned up your own attitude and still the team is not playing nice together. Face it, something has to change. Someone has to go. If an event professional doesn’t know how to work as a team player, don’t work with them. Period. Whether they are “the best” or a “celebrity” ~ who cares? If they can’t think beyond themselves, you don’t need them. Build a team without them. Build a team that functions – go figure – as a team, not a committee of dueling agendas. Sometimes that shitty, self-centered behavior can lead to real problems among the team: last minute planning, failed communication with the client or within the team, withheld product, and/or stifled creativity. All of which just impacts the success of the event. Which, then trickles down to reputation, repeat business, client appreciation and financial liability. Not to mention sucking all the joy out of the project.

Consider the Bigger Picture

On a team of event professionals the client’s interests are integrated for the good of the whole group. On a committee, individual parochial interests are defended at each other’s expense. You’ve got to turn the committee of egos into a team of professionals, make them believe only the team can prevail.

Ego only gets in the way.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

{Love Notes} Love is ALL There Is


“And I’ve realized that the Beatles got it wrong. Love isn’t all we need—love is all there is.”

––Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

{Photo by Mel Barlow}

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Comments ( 1 ) | Posted in Love Notes, Random