In 2018, the average wedding in the U.S. cost $44,000, according to Brides.com. The wedding industry is a nearly $60 billion market, and small business vendors often play an integral role in orchestrating every fairytale ending.
Weddings can be a lucrative market for florists, caterers, event planners, venue managers, photographers, and bands. But, these events come with a lot of pressure and high expectations. The stakes are high—and the many moving parts and demanding couples can lead to stress and expense on the part of small business owners. So, what should merchants know before they say “I do?” to working a wedding? Ask these five questions before saying yes to the dress.
The biggest mission when it comes to working a wedding is getting the agreement in place to protect you from disaster. It goes without saying, but get everything in writing, including and especially any modifications to your original agreement. Good contracts will be specific, detailed, and protect all parties involved. Include these sections:
Be very precise in your description of services. For example, florists and brides might have different definitions of what constitutes delivery of “white flowers.” A merchant may assume something like baby’s breath; meanwhile, the bride is envisioning white lilies. Attach images, sketches, or link to specific Pinterest posts to make sure everyone is on the same page!
The fact that many couples begin to plan their wedding up to two years in advance does not actually make the entire process less stressful for you, the vendor. A longer lead time can increase the chance that the client ghosts you, or that there will need to be changes to the original contract (again, get them in writing!). Statistics show that couples with a two-year engagement might spend a year looking for the perfect vendor, so it’s not personal if someone bails after the initial pitch.
Likewise, the opposite issue can be true: there’s too little time for you to properly prepare for the wedding demands. Due to the seasonal nature of weddings, vendors may often be asked to do a ton of work in a short space. Make sure you have the time available to handle the requests. For florists and caterers, this should include thinking about what will be possible. Some flowers may not be in bloom, or some ingredients may not be in season. Consider the timeline and the time of year carefully when designing the scope of work.
Some small businesses resist working weddings because of the burden the event places on the rest of their operations. Florists, caterers, and event planners can take advantage of independent contractors to outsource some of the on-site tasks of running the event. A contractor might be a good fit to handle consultations, wedding marketing, pre-wedding day prep, logistics and ordering of supplies, setting up on the day, or managing staff schedules. Think of them as a dedicated resource to keep an eye on the wedding while you handle the rest of your business.
Inevitably, something will change as the couple gets closer to the wedding date. It could be the number of guests, it could be that the wedding gets moved inside, or it could be something bigger. Determine ahead of time where there is flexibility: what is the absolute budget limit? What are the “nice to have” services that the couple is willing to compromise on, versus the “must have” items? There are often many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to planning weddings. Getting the couple’s hard and fast limits when others are coming to you with ideas or changes can help you stick to the contract and ensure happy clients.
For event planners especially, managing cash flow can be one of the most complicated parts of putting on a wedding. From payroll and supplier agreements to floral arrangements and caterers, there are a lot of moving parts with separate payment schedules and deadlines. Plus, budgets are notoriously tight when it comes to planning a wedding. If you go over the agreed amount, that means money out of pocket for your business. Don’t let a wedding drain your operating budget: plan a payment schedule that allows for efficient budgeting ahead of time and adds a cushion for overages or changes. Use a POS-integration like Reporting to automatically track day-to-day payments received, discounts given, and taxes paid. Likewise, Cash Log is a free app that tracks cash transactions, including all cash drawer activities such as adding or removing bills and coins.
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