Passion. Enthusiasm. Excitement. We work in an industry that is driven by love and the invigorating feelings that go with that emotion. Our clients almost always bring this energy to the table when planning their weddings. And yet the process often wears them down and robs them of these positive feelings. As wedding professionals, it is part of our job to maintain and grow this energy, and keep the good feelings rolling. It's in our best interests, because happy couples contribute directly to our bottom lines by spending more money upfront, and providing good reviews and referrals after the event.
So why do I hear so often about wedding professionals who seem to hate weddings?
It's not as if most of us are just "punching the clock." We've largely chosen to be in this industry. According to research by the Library of Congress, many wedding professionals are either sole proprietors or owners and employees of small companies, frequently working part-time or “on the side” of other jobs. Most of us are drawn to this work because we want to be part of the joy and excitement that surround most weddings. And because so many of the vendors serving weddings are directly associated with producing events, weddings aren't just some annoying side effect of our otherwise wedding-free daily work. So generally, most of the vendors working on weddings are there by choice, not chance.
You'd think that in such a situation, you wouldn't encounter vendors who tell you behind the scenes how much they "hate working with brides" or only do wedding work for the money. Yet I've heard both, and worse. How are people who (we must assume) once enjoyed weddings turning so bitter?
Burnout can certainly be a factor. I faced a serious case of it in 2015, triggered by a series of very demanding clients, business transitions, and frankly just being tired of missing out on things because of my schedule. I could feel my attitude slipping quickly. It was hard to find a fresh take on a Pinterest inspiration photo I'd seen from 15 other couples. I started losing out on events I was bidding, and got some negative feedback from clients. So I took a step back this year. I booked fewer events and took some time off during the summer. I tried to mix up my online portfolios, to see if I could attract a wider taste range. And I did some reflection on why I had loved weddings before, to get those feelings back into my work.
When you don't love being involved in weddings, you communicate that in so many ways. Think about it from the client's perspective. If you aren't enthusiastic and eager to help each couple have the best wedding they can, why should they hire you? If you're going through the motions in the consult, or don't care so much whether the client is happy with your work, it will show. The clients are spending potentially thousands of dollars on your service – would you want to give you that money, if you were the client? Worse yet, I've had clients tell me that vendors directly say negative things about weddings during consults. What is the point, then, of being involved with them? For millennials, the relationship with vendors – with their partners, as they prefer to view us – is almost as important, if not more so, than the service itself. So if the potentially high profits offered by wedding work is your primary motivation for being in the industry, you face an increasingly uphill battle.
With the new year approaching, if any of these comments about not loving what you do are resonating with you, I encourage you to take some time to reflect whether the wedding industry is really the place you want to be. Your job is to bolster and support, guide and provide expertise, and deliver the absolute best product or service. These couples deserve nothing less. If you're unable to deliver it, maybe it's time to refocus. You might be happier doing something else. If you take a step back and decide you really do Love Weddings, here's a few suggestions to help you get your groove back.
Take some time off, if you can. It helps. (And if, after your time off, you find you really don't want to go back to work, that's your clue that maybe it's time for a change.)
Attract the right clients. Think back over your last few months, focusing in on the events you enjoyed the least. I'll wager that if you consider your relationship with those clients, it wasn't the greatest. Maybe you didn't click personally - you're boisterous and outgoing, and the couple was quiet and laid back. Or perhaps their style wasn't something you vibed with; you knew you could execute it, but it didn't excite you. When you're able to attract the right client, ones that you like and whose events engage you, the positive energy generated by the flow between you and them enhances your performance.
Work on your skills, and evaluate your position. Maybe you're a great floral designer, but you're not so great at consults, so you don't seem as enthusiastic as you truly are inside. Or perhaps you're spinning at receptions when you would rather be shaking hands at the wedding shows. Being in the right job for your skill set - and having the right skills for all aspects of your job - makes you better at what you do and allows your full abilities to shine through.
Network. Having a buddy or ten in the wedding industry is useful for so many things, but especially for helping you blow off steam. Our jobs are stressful, because the pressure associated with weddings is intense. Being able to talk with others who get this provides a good outlet for the stress. Just be careful not to complain specifically about other vendors, and talk in general terms about issues of business sensitivity (for example, if you're having cash flow troubles because of unpaid invoices, you might not want to share this information with that planner working on two of your upcoming events).
Up your game. If you're stuck in a rut, look for ways to change it up. Maybe that's doing some freelance work for another vendor that has a different style, or casting your net on Pinterest to find what catches your eye personally. Take a class, or attend a conference. I found the Wedding MBA to be a huge help to me last year when I was struggling. Take a hard look at your business - what can you do better? Get an outsider's perspective on your work to see where you could make changes. Force yourself to smile when you're talking on the phone to that bride that makes you crazy (it changes how you sound).
Eat some cake. Really. Wedding cake is awesome. You'll remember why you like weddings.
I hope the new year brings a new-found appreciation for the work that you do - it's important to our clients, and they will love you for it!