This is the Transcript of the #WeddingMarket Chat on January 16th, 2013. #WeddingMarket Chat With Wedding Planner Sarah Haywood. The answers were made on Twitter so responses will appear different.
“Britain’s most sought-after wedding planner and an authority on multimillion-dollar weddings” (TIME Magazine) Sarah Haywood is internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s premier wedding planners and designers; sought by celebrities, leading public figures, and nobility. She is the UK’s top-selling Bridal author, making her ‘Wedding Bible’ books an indispensable source for couples. Sarah was
established as the go-to International commentator for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton; she was CNN’s expert on the day of the wedding, and appeared on every continent on major television networks in the days preceding the royal nuptials (including BBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, Channel 9 Australia, and NHK Japan).
Her core company Sarah Haywood Wedding Design is a luxury wedding planning and design consultancy. She works alongside leading couturiers, top florists, venues, Michelin star chefs, cake bakers (to royalty and the stars),award-winning stylists, make-up artists and photographers. One of the few companies offering a truly bespoke service from scratch, each wedding is personally designed, planned and managed by Sarah.
Sarah has been consistently rated Britain’s top-selling bridal author since the publication of her first book in 2006 and she is the only British bridal author who also plans weddings. A new, international edition of her original Wedding Bible luxury book will be published in Summer 2013 and is to be preceded on Valentine’s Day by an all new, redesigned second edition of her Wedding Bible Planner (a customisable and practical wedding organizer packed with top tips, insider advice and with room to store swatches, clipping and quotes together with essential wedding paperwork).
Learn more about Sarah Haywood at http://www.sarahhaywood.com
Join Our Wedding Market Chats For Wedding Professionals Every Wednesday at 10:00PST, 1:00EST, and 6:00GMT (UK time) with the #WeddingMarket Hashmark On Twitter. Learn something new to help your business grow every week. The chats are hosted by Wedding Market editor Julie Albaugh (@juliealbaugh).
Q1: How did you become involved with the wedding industry?
A1: By accident! I had another career first and entered this one just over a decade ago…I was a TV journalist. I decided my career might be short-lived as there are not many women 40+ on TV so I went freelance at the TV station. I planned a good many parties and then friends asked me to assist with their weddings and parties. Then when I went freelance I started writing about events and before I knew it I had clients wanting me to plan theirs…The skills to be a good TV journalist/producer and an event planner are not actually that dissimilar…You need organization/managerial skills, creativity, the ability to work to and manage a budget, an eye for detail….And a back up plan if things go wrong and the ability to think on your feet and let things breathe if going well…But the business really started to fly when I published my first ‘Wedding Bible’ book in 2006. It’s been the best PR tool and we have an all new international edition coming out later this year…
Q2: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?
A2: I’m a native Londoner but my main home is now in Oxfordshire with my husband (who
is a dentist). I have two stepdaughters and a cat! I’m a graduate of the University of Warwick in central England. My degree is in classics. It sounds an irrelevant subject but it taught me a good deal about organized thinking! Outside ‘brideland’ I am a Trustee of Helen & Douglas House (hospices for children and young people. This work is very important to me and reminds me that weddings are ultimately an affirmation of the concept of family.
Q3: How did you work your way into being a luxury wedding
A3: From the bottom up! You can set out with an aspiration and a goal, but experience is
crucial. You need experience before you can manage and allocate big budgets. As important as a large amount of money is the intrinsic knowledge of how to spend it…And it is still crucial that you are offering value for money – whatever the spend. The rich and the super-rich are inconstant danger (and they know it) of being ‘ripped off. They and we are constantly aware of this and you believe at your peril that those with money are careless with it….Also crucial is that when you are planning a big budget wedding that you use fellow professionals who have experience. You do not want lots of people working with you for whom this is their first experience working in the luxury market. That said – we are always looking out for people with potential and when we find them…We do encourage and support them and we’ll ensure they are well supported the first time they work with us on a big budget event so they can grow and learn.
Q4: What are the stats for the number of luxury weddings in the
UK vs. the US?
A4: In the UK we have far fewer weddings overall: just 280,000 a year TOTAL (as opposed
to 2.5 million+ in the US so our luxury market is tiny! Our business however, does not rely upon exclusively Brits – we have an international clientele (and from all over the world) …
We plan weddings mainly in Europe but we (I believe pretty uniquely) can offer a cross-continents personal service. We have exclusive relationships with luxury wedding planners in North America, South Africa and the Middle East. So we can guarantee a personal, bespoke service wherever you are based and wherever the celebration… And these are personal relationships with people we know.
Q5: What is the most important for breaking into the luxury
A5: You have to KNOW and RECOGNIZE luxury before you can work with and offer it! You must have an innate sense of style, and present impeccably at all times – in person, in writing, in emails and everyone who works with and for you must do the same. …and you need to understand that ‘designer’ does not necessarily equate to luxury (that’s a common mistake in this market) …in our industry luxury equates to first class service (indeed world-class) service. In my experience service is paramount and is what the client is looking for from us and everyone we work with…really big budgets will go on the guest experience and when working with the fabulously wealthy you have to raise your bar and theirs if you live a life-style of 1st class hotels, fine dining and jet-setting across the globe to your gorgeous homes….the kind of wedding celebration you seek is one that exceeds the everyday lifestyle you and your guests already enjoy…it’s not as easy as it appears to raise the bar for clients who already enjoy the very best life has to offer every day! Exceeding expectations in this market is by no means an easy task! Money alone will not achieve a ‘Luxury Wedding’. It’s only the starting point….knowing how and where to spend it is still crucial.
Q6: How do you market to the luxury market? Communicate?
A6: Word of mouth is our Number 1 source of referrals (both former clients and people we
work with. I know our ‘shop-front’ is our website. The website’s the first place someone will then look. So we work hard to keep it fresh and up-to-date. At the moment, we do not advertise but I do have the benefit of being a top selling bridal author – and that is a valuable marketing tool. We have a part time marketing manager and we ensure she makes me accessible for expert comments. She has also been looking into a cross channel marketing solution that will tie all parts of my business together and allow us to grow further. My journalistic and broadcast background has also been a huge advantage and of course that culminated in working with CNN for their Royal Wedding coverage. So I work with the skills I have and use them to what I hope is my best advantage.
Q7: How does the sale presentation need to be different?
A7: Good question! I am not sure that is that different. But it is important to really know your service, what makes it stand out and focus on what you will deliver. If you are offering a service rather than a product it can be tricky to get across where the value lies. I focus on our experience and expertise within our market: ultimately that is what the client is hiring. Don’t hire me to save money, hire me to offer VALUE for money whatever the spend and to create a one-off, kick-ass event!
Q8: How do you charge for your services? How do you cap your
A8: We work on a sliding scale and it is a combination of time and a percentage of the
budget. We do not work on commissions; it is a straight fee with any commissions or financial incentives passed back to the client. We do cap our fees for budgets in excess of around $1.4m but as it is a tailor made service it is not prescriptive. Every client is quoted based upon their individual requirements
Q9: What are the requirements for working with the luxury market?
A9: Experience, competence, leadership, tact, the ability to effectively manage and
communicate and instill confidence. The ability to foster a team mentality (and mean it!) and to delegate the know-how to build a team from scratch and TRUST and RESPECT those you work with (and mean it!) You also need design skills (whether or not you hire in professional event designers to work with you) and business acumen and financial competence are crucial.
Q10: @SarahHaywood How do you deal with difficult customers?”¨
A10: Respect a point of view but be firm! But we also foster a sense of team spirit with our clients and lead by example. As well as a level of expectation toward our client from those we hire to work with us, we expect it to be reciprocated. We do not tolerate our clients treating those we work with badly. Luckily we do not get many really difficult or tricky customers. I always reiterate to the team that managing a wedding is partly about managing expectations and there may be more than one set of expectations! Part of my job is to try and tease out any potential conflicts as early as possible in the planning process and to get everyone who is financially and emotionally invested in the occasion on the same page (so to speak). That said – every wedding I learn valuable lessons (and sometimes the same ones over and over!)
Q11: @SarahHaywood How do you handle social media and blog posts for your
A11: We do not Tweet, blog, post on Facebook etc. specifically about our events…that’s because we know the clientele we attract do not like it… But that’s not to say I do not believe others should follow my lead – there are many clients who would and do like it…. it is their way of feeling like a celebrity for a few days! But we do not attract those Clients it is about knowing your market. And I know mine. But I do not want to put my spin on anyone else’s celebration or use an event as it unfolds as a marketing tool…Neither do I want to spoil the magic by revealing how we did what across social networking sites. I want the finished event to be seen and enjoyed in real time and by those it was created for…. That’s the pay off for me and what I love most about what I do….that said, I have a business that was well established before social networking was even invented…,and I was slow to take it up – and am still catching up (which might be obvious!)… If I was starting out now, the climate and how one establishes a business is entirely different and the clients are different. So it remains to be seen if my strategy will be effective long term…As things stand I will continue to be careful about how much we reveal – and for the really curious we of course have the website! But we do use social networking to promote our other business activities…Our books, wedding planning apps, workshops, our diamond service and my speaking engagements and public appearances etc.
Q12: What was it like to work at Buckingham Palace with CNN for
the Royal Wedding?
A12 It was amazing! Both the build up to the day and the wedding day itself…The wedding week I did 17 live broadcasts across every continent…I’d do early eve news in the UK, lunchtime for the US and a breakfast show in Australia – I got confused as to what day it was! Being alongside Piers Morgan, Anderson Cooper and Cat Deeley on CNN was an experience too – they were very nice to me….I was a little nervous given CNN’s huge audience, that it was live and the anticipation over the wedding itself…But to actually be there with a bird’s eye view from the Buckingham Palace Media Centre was incredible….The funniest moment of my day was after the wedding when I did a live web-chat with the Washington Post…. Someone actually asked me: “Were the soldiers in the wedding procession real?”At 6am the following morning however, I was on a plane to Italy as we had a wedding there (and a very forgiving bride)!
Q13: Do you have special events or projects coming up?
A13: The knock on effect of the raised profile the Royal Wedding media coverage gave me
is that I am fortunate to be invited all over the world to give talks, host workshops and open wedding events. I had the most incredible 2012 travelling to the Middle East, N. America, South Africa and this year have more invitations…not all of which I can accept as I do not want to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’! But I have a new book coming out here in the UK on Valentine’s Day (The “Wedding Bible Planner”)…Later in the year the first international edition of the original ‘Wedding Bible’ will be epublished (it is going to be gorgeous!)… My ‘Luxury Wedding Workshops’ for brides-to-be return home to the UK for the first time in 5 years…but I am procrastinating over the venue (you did not ask me about my weaknesses – they include procrastination!) And we also have a new project for would-be luxury wedding professionals for the back end of the year. And in between all that we have some fabulous weddings for fabulous clients to plan!
Q14: What do you want the #WeddingMarket to take away from
A14: That whatever the plan for your business there are no shortcuts to success. You cannot set out to work exclusively in the luxury wedding market you have to work your way there. You need to have passion, vision, talent and determination and be business savvy. You will also need a little luck.
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: I’ve heard in UK wedding ceremonies MUST be in a permanent structure (not “outside”). Is this true?
A: Correct weddings in the UK (excluding Scotland) it is the venues and not the officiant that’s licensed….
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: What is the best way to find your “Luxury” high end bride?
A: Network with the right suppliers, venues and vendors and KNOW their market….
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: Do you do most of your events in Oxford, or London. How far away from U do U hire your vendors?
A: We work all across Europe and beyond and always try to source everything as close to the wedding as possible.
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: What is your advice to aspiring event planners trying to get a job upon graduation?
A: Experience is the best route to success. Work on as many events as you can and I’d be hiring on a ‘can do’ basis rather than who has the longest number of letters after their name.
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: Do you think Confidence in your product & Services plays any part in roping in your bride?
A: Confidence in our product & services is crucial. I believe in what we do, how it evolved and how we deliver.
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: Do I ever ask current client(s) for referrals?
A: NO – never ever. I know I’ll get them when their guests attend the wedding..
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: Do you find that luxury clients lean towards a particular style of wedding?
A: I find our clients tend to buy into what we do and our ‘signature style’ (if not there are other planners!)
#WeddingMarket Chat Question: How would you describe your signature style?
A: Elegant, stylish, polished, sophisticated and glamorous…AND events delivered with like-minded professionals who share our passion and commitment to first-class service.