A client comes to us. They want entertainment for the evenings event. “We will have between 40-400 guests. We’d like a well known cover band that will only do background playing while there is a magician of David Copperfield’s caliber strolling through the crowd, all while they are partaking of a buffet dinner. We’d then like the magician to perform a full one hour stage show after the chairman of the company has recognized all the important employees, and we’ve had a raffle.”
Sound familiar? We’d love to help! To best help you, you need to help us. And then, the cycle begins…..
Finally. Someone else wrote down my thoughts. Danielle Rothweiler, celebrity wedding and event planner, wrote a long overdue article in the Huffington Post. As the entertainment strategist, I’d like to extract her 10 points, and add my responses to them.
1. Keep the Budget a Complete and Total Secret.
Danielle: “I cannot tell you the countless times a client wants something, but when I ask what they want to spend, the answer is “I don’t know.” Here’s the thing: of course you don’t know what things cost, you’re not supposed to. That said, there’s always a number that you have in your head, and if there isn’t, that’s the first thing that you need to work on.”
Ray: “We don’t ask you for your budget so we can drain it dry and go for every dollar. We want to see that you get maximum use from the dollars you have to spend. Many times, not disclosing a budget is nothing more than a way to get “bids”. And that usually means they are looking for the cheapest price. Not always, but usually.
2. No “heads up” to the fact that your brother/sister/nephew is a raging alcoholic/racist/sexist and will be at the wedding.
Danielle: “Planners need to know your guest list. They need to know about any potentially explosive situations. I have seen fist fights, table flips (I am in Jersey, after all) and plenty of other drama happen at receptions. The good part? I’ve been prepared for all of it. Planners aren’t there to judge you, because trust me, we have seen it all – and we know that weddings can bring out the worst in people. However, if you don’t tell us what to expect, when Uncle Bobby rides in on a cow shouting obscenities, there isn’t a whole lot we can do. We want to prevent these things before they happen, and if they happen anyway, we want to be ready for it.”
Ray: “Not much to add to what Danielle has said here. This is extremely important when we are booking a comedy hypnosis show. The hypnotist always asks for volunteers. It’s good to have a heads-up on who the hypnotist may want to pass over on getting up on stage. Plan accordingly.”
3. Ignoring the Advice of a Planner.
Danielle: ““Why did they hire you?” is a question I hear from others in this industry when I have clients that go rogue and do whatever they want. When you hire a planner, you place a lot of trust in one person for one of the biggest days of your life. You have to have full trust in that planner, no ifs ands or buts about it. We can see the problems before they become problems, we want to fix them, and we want your Big Day to be perfect for you!”
Ray: “The same applies to the entertainment planner. We look at the entire event, not just that one or two hour window for the entertainment. Suggestions made are based on years of experience. We don’t make recommendations of what type of entertainment, or when to best use them, for our health. We want your event to flow, and everyone have a great time.”
4. Ignoring Vendor Recommendations.
Danielle: “Personally, I do not take commission from my vendors. This means, that the vendors I recommend to my clients are people that I trust implicitly to give you the service you deserve. No one can pay me to endorse them because I am honest and transparent.”
Ray: “There are two ways to work with a client. And here is MY transparency. The first, unlike Danielle, is that the entertainers I work with and have built relationships with, pay me a portion back when they get hired. Because I am doing an important part of THEIR job (getting the details, working with the planners, etc), they pay me for that part. The second, if wanting to outside my network, the client pays me for my time.”
“That said, if I put 3-5 qualified vendors in front of you, all of whom are within your budget and what you are looking for, why are you asking your cousin Betty whom she would use? What does it matter? Why is her recommendation stronger than mine? Planners, generally speaking, are not opposed to working with new people (I do it all of the time) but we can’t guarantee their professionalism and service. And, isn’t that why you hired a planner to begin with? A planner’s Rolodex is his/her strongest weapon and the deals, discounts, and amazing service you will get when a planner brings in their team, is a lot stronger than anything Betty can guarantee. (I swear!) Plus (industry secret coming right now), a lot of vendors don’t want to work with planners because they can be *cough* difficult *cough*. If you bring in someone we don’t know, they might not play nice with us, and that will affect your wedding.”
Ray: “Exactly. Our strongest weapon is in the performer list we bring to the table. We know who ‘plays nice’ and has your best interests in mind. We’ve already done that work for you.”
5. Sidestepping the Planner.
Danielle: “One of the best reasons to get a planner is to never have to communicate with a single other vendor more than absolutely necessary. Question about a contract? Your planner is on it. Song list issue? Your planner swoops in for that. Any issue at all? You have a planner. Want to know how to get rid of that planner? Sidestep them and contact the vendors on your own and tell no one (we find out anyway, by the way). Your planner has secured your contracts and done all of the negotiating, and it sends a really bad message when you contact the vendor with issues you are having. The vendor doesn’t know what to do… do they deal with you? Do they call the planner? Now who’s in charge? Intentionally or not, you’ve now shifted the balance of power by showing the vendor that you are in charge, not your planner. Why is that bad? Because the planner is the one that will keep bringing business to the vendor, not you. So, if the vendor doesn’t have to worry about future business, just about you, things might change in a bad way. Oh, and your planner will probably dissolve the relationship and not continue working with you.”
Ray: “Our performers expect us to have all the details in place. That takes a huge load off their plate, so they can concentrate on one thing- giving you their best performance. Many of our clients already have an event planner they are working with, and our relationship is with them. Your planner and entertainment strategist are the ones who take on the responsibility of making it work. Don’t add any confusion to the mix.”
6. Not Believing What We Say Things Cost.
Danielle: “Weddings are expensive, and in my area, the average cost sits around the $50k mark. Sure, you can do a wedding for less, but things cost what they cost. The biggest culprit here is always the cost of flowers. Yes, a planner can explain to you why flowers are so expensive, but does it really matter? We all know you want the lowest number possible, and we want to get that number for you. But the number isn’t going to be “0”. Asking us to keep exploring other options isn’t the answer either. Odds are, your planner is already getting you a pretty sweet deal, and if the number is too high, then work together to adjust your expectations.”
Ray: “Danielle speaks from the point of planning a wedding. This also applies to every event. Gala, Trade Show, Appreciation Dinner, Holiday Party, etc. If you have disclosed budget (see #1), we want to make that work for you.
7. Telling Us That Your Friends Know Better.
Danielle: “Every couple has what most refer to as “The Peanut Gallery”. You know… these people that will judge your wardrobe, your venue, your food, your flowers, your everything. You know what they will judge you on the most? The price that you are paying for everything. Pretty soon you’re calling your planner with “Aunt Chrissy says that I shouldn’t be paying more than X dollars for the mountains of peonies that I want hanging from the ceiling to be later set on fire.” The best way to avoid this is to keep your financial matters private between whomever is writing the check, and your planner. Make note: if the person writing the check keeps telling you that you’re spending too much, then either let us talk to them directly, or let’s revisit the budget.”
Ray: “As the entertainment strategist, we are your ‘Aunt Chrissy’. The other point I want to add to this, don’t base your entertainment decision on what you like. Our expertise is in learning about the people attending, and making recommendations accordingly.”
8. Not Making Decisions.
Danielle: “There are decisive people and there are not-so-decisive people. All of those people have difficulty at one point or another with making decisions during the wedding planning process. This is totally OK. Your planner is there to help you wade through your pages of Pinterest pictures, figure out what works best, what’s available, and what’s possible. From there, you will all work together to design the day and select your vendors. The proposals you receive all have an expiration date though, and no vendor, no nothing, is held without a signed contract and a deposit. I personally ask that my clients do one thing at a time, which means everything else can be held up if they can’t commit to which DJ, which photographer, which color draping, etc. they want. Make it a priority to make decisions and ask your planner for help when you can’t. Trust me, a great planner will have a way of getting their clients to realize what they actually want, when they don’t even know.
Ray: “Every vendor, not just the entertainment, have calendars they work with too. Not making decisions can lose you the entertainment you really want. The world does not revolve around one date and one event. The great entertainers are in demand. If they fit your budget, decide now!”
9. Sending Multiple Paragraph Emails Multiple Times a Day.
Danielle: “I love the telephone! I love talking on the telephone! Love. L-O-V-E. Why? Nothing gets misinterpreted, and what could take 47 emails, can be done in a 47 second phone conversation. That said, since many people work (and a high percentage plan their wedding while at work), email seems to be a preferred form of communication. The best way to send an email is to make the subject line what you are talking about, and to keep it short, sweet and to the point. Feel like it’s becoming a novel (kinda like this blog)? Shoot off an email and schedule a time to talk with your planner to hash everything out. Also, multiple emails with multiple paragraphs, sent multiple times in a day have a chance to wind up in a spam folder, and that’s no good for anyone!”
Ray: “One short telephone conversation can put detail into perspective better than multiple emails and texts. Consider how much time it takes to sit down and write that email. We think we are saving time. By the time we’ve tried to collaborate via email, the thoughts have become disconnected, and we’ve spent a day doing something a phone call could have handled.”
10. Radio Silence.
Danielle: “Please, I beg of you, do not just go radio silent on your planner. There are deadlines to meet and things to be done, many of which will require your attention and, most likely, your credit card. Leaving your planner hanging is never a good idea. Whether you want extra time to make a decision, are rethinking your budget, going on a vacation, whatever it is, don’t just go silent. This makes for a sticky situation for your planner – especially if they have vendors on hold waiting for your decisions. Your planner has a reputation to uphold with their vendors and it gets tarnished if they can’t come up with answers from their clients. We get it, you’re busy…but guess what? So is everyone else. Find the time and get back to your planner!”
Ray: “Danielle stated this perfectly.
Everything she wrote in her article applies to any event. Even if you haven’t hired an event planning team, these thoughts apply to each and every vendor you work with.
Event planners and entertainment strategists (such as us) want to make your event successful!”