We interviewed Karen from Classique Events in Victoria about the wedding industry, and her advice on planning destination weddings for clients.
About Classique Events
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
My Name is Karen Tancin and I am the owner of Classique Event located in Victoria. We are a Wedding Planning and Management business that can design and create each wedding and tailor it to the desired style and look the client requires. Our business operates in Australia and globally, creating destination Weddings all over the world.
When did you get started in weddings?
I had always worked in a customer focused position, Marketing Manager for a large communication company and in radio as a Senior Advertising Manager. When you establish yourself in the work environment and gain skills and business relationships, you tend to progress into the job you find that is desirable. Over 10 years ago, realizing I had certain skills that would be helpful to manage on behalf of clients and my management of stressful situations were a key, the progression into Weddings seemed logical. You do have to have a sense of design or a flare for creativity.
When did you know you wanted to be a wedding planner/ work in weddings?
I had observed work colleagues and friends stressed from their Wedding duties and strained their relationships with family members and their own partner. I loved organising suppliers for large work functions and parties. It slowly begun when a friend asked to help with the organizing of her wedding and using suppliers that I had sourced to fit with her style. After my own Wedding, I realized, this was my career.
How many weddings have you worked on in your career?
We are coming up to our 10 year Anniversary for the business and we are over 260 weddings and events thus so far in Australia and overseas.
Does it ever get old? Any challenging moments?
Each wedding is unique and different and some with the same looks, styles and needs. Usually there is 16 segments to each wedding that is required. Some clients have already booked certain suppliers and only require 10 suppliers or just to manage their day. There will always be challenging moments, there is never a wedding without some ‘moments’. This is why you are there. To take care of the moments, find the solutions, think on your feet, problem solver, and the calm in the storm. Some brides can be quite demanding, and you receive relentless calls and emails. To eradicate this behavior is to establish the boundaries and how you work in the initial appointment.. It never gets old. There is always something new or different in every wedding.
Best part of the job as a planner / stylist?
Best part of my job is to see it all come together and the smile on the client’s face. I like the WOW, the OMG, the ‘couldn’t have done it without you’. I always cry when I see them walking down the aisle. I think I’m the only one that knows the background work and the emotions that went into the day. It’s like a little secret into everyone’s lives, but always finishes on a happy ending.
Best part of running your own business?
The best part of running your own business is the control of your workload. Initially, you work harder, faster, taking every job and are more stressed to establish yourself and gain experience. Once you are comfortable in the job, you can set the pace, allowing you to do the best job for each client.
I do have to also say that employing young people (and older people trying to get back into the workforce) in the business and giving them experience in all facets of Weddings is one of best feelings. Knowing you have educated and helped them on the road to their career.
What is the largest event (based on budget or number of attendees) you have ever planned or assisted with planning?
Our largest wedding our business managed in price and attendees was an beautiful Albanian Wedding that we Managed, Designed and Styled.
ABOUT YOUR CLIENTS + WEDDING PLANNING?
In your experience, who typically ends up hiring a wedding planner?
90% of the time the initial call or email comes from the bride. I have had a few grooms lately that have made contact, wanting to help their bride-to-be out. This was their way of “helping with the wedding”.
What do you feel are the most important elements to designing/ organising a party or wedding?
The most important elements in any wedding is to go with what the bride likes. Her style, her taste and her pictures. Too many follow the trend of the time, or Instagram. Get the bride to send lots of pictures and read the look. Write it down in an email to confirm. When in discussions with the suppliers, always use pictures and send the explanation.
Everyone has to be on the same page with a design and look. It is your job to convey what the bride wants to the suppliers and making sure it happens.
When you get a client- where do you start? Is there a rough order of business or process?
There is always a process to follow in the first initial contact with a client. Booking in a meeting is the first step. In a meeting, it is always about information gathering. Founding out what suppliers are already booked (who they are), what requirements they need from you, and look style and theme can then be established. The most important part of the initial meeting is to get to know the client. Their relationship, and take a keen interest in them. Be genuine and interested in their love story. You will always learn something.
Can you tell me about the types of wedding packages you have available to couples?
For our Australian local couples, we tailor each wedding to the individual needs. Creating a Wedding proposal outlining all their requirements with pictures they have sent us. The pricing is calculated on each individual item. The proposal can be adjusted and changed to create the total picture of their wedding and the cost.
Destination Wedding Packages are designed with the “All Inclusive” deal. We make sure all is included so the client know exactly what they are getting for the price. We have Wedding Packages at countries that are popular and cost effective. We can create destination wedding packages in different parts of the world with our expensive wedding network we established of the years.
What’s your favourite part of working with brides and grooms?
Brides & Grooms love retelling the story on how they met and how he proposed. They let you know the problems, their family, that uncle to keep away from the bar, the mother in law who will create havoc, the grandad who needs help walking to his ceremony chair, or a loss they want honored. You become part of their family. An ear to listen, an advice councilor, art designer, security monitor in family meetings. A calm voice of reason when the bride wants to leap over the budget. The secret keeper when the groom has a surprise for his bride.
You’re their subtle helper, their wedding concierge.
What’s the most interesting wedding moment you’ve witnessed?
Do you see any trends in the industry at present or with your current clients?
In the past 10 years we have seen trends come and go. Vintage and rustic look came in a few years back and everyone wanted this style. All matching from décor, cake, vintage dress and colours. Colour themes change each season and we see old classic black and white come one year, then bold bright colours of burnt orange make a splash. The flower walls have been around and are now taken over by mesh walls with cutout or light up names and balloon designs. One item every bride wants is unique but on trend. They want to have something that knowone else has seen. This is when creativity steps in.
What does your work week usually look like?
Coffee! Emails – replies to those emails. Appointment with clients, back on computer to write up proposals. Meeting with staff on upcoming jobs and tasks. Invoices and payment plan creations for clients. Answer calls, Pay suppliers, make copies, file for tax purposes. Meetings with suppliers, paperwork, visit flower market for latest colours and styles. Speak with venues, get latest pricing. If we have a wedding on the weekend, all hands on deck, we are getting out all our décor, needs, following up on suppliers, timelines, etc. Always ends with a coffee!
YOUR BUSINESS ADVICE
What’s the best way to get started in the industry? What’s your advice to others starting out in the industry?
Best advice is to go and work at a venue, supplier, or wedding décor or planner first to understand the industry to gain an insight or establish relationships.
Make sure you have quality suppliers and you have seen their work. Cheap is not always the best as it is a reflection on you and how you work.
Have your paperwork always up to date, keep a file on each client and put in a spreadsheet on work completed. Be diligent and be a perfectionist with your records.
Have the time for your clients. It’s their most important day
Create a look book – helps the client chose a style of wedding
Have good staff, treat them well and pay them well.
Treat suppliers with respect, they will make or break you.
Enjoy what you do. Listen more than speak, ask a lot of questions to clients. Information is key.
In your opinion, what has been the key to your success?
Good customer service! Listening to the needs and understanding their wants. A warm approach and making the clients feel at ease, knowing you are there to help them. Genuine, be honest and upfront. Always explain with ease. I do have a saying ”ALL GOOD” when clients are worried or checking up on something. Clients like to know you have it all under control.
What business actions have you taken that have really moved you forward?
I believe taking the step into the global market has been beneficial for the business. Establishing ourselves and being internationally recognized as a global wedding planning service is exposing our Management style to the rest of the world. We have the experience to
Negotiate with venues and suppliers to put quality destination Wedding Packages together and manage it to perfection.
Knowing what you do now, how would you develop relationships with vendors/ suppliers in a new city?
New Suppliers need to know you are a professional and experienced. The suppliers need to be respected and you must listen to their business practices and understand it may be different from what you normally do. Be adaptable but always have the client’s best interest and needs at the forefront. Let them know that you are to work together for a positive outcome but also respect for their business, they are the professionals in their field.
How did you transform your wedding planning business to the next level?
Next level for business is about late nights, working hard, lots of coffee and working to a goal.
Referrals and reviews of your work are your golden key. People like to review your work, and read references, use these as marketing tools to promote the business.
Keep your website fresh and updated. Use social media as your advertising. Post regularly and make sure the photos are your work and of high quality.
We ensured that people interacted on our social media. We utilized the social media. We asked for the professional photos of each wedding to promote (always ask permission to use first).
How did you decide on the right pricing structure for your services?
There is a lot of factors to consider when creating a pricing structure for services.
Your time has a value. This is the hardest cost as you cannot see it or touch it. But you need to charge for your and your staff’s time. You can do a flat Wedding Planning and Management Fee or you can add an amount on to each item/supplier to cover the costs of time.
It was easier for us to put a flat fee for the management that covered all the expenses and time spent. The client understands that they are paying for a service.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
At the beginning, I would let go of items the client would ask for and cover the cost or the client would change her mind and add to eg: a cake, more décor etc……the supplier would charge extra for these changes. I was too nice and the business began to suffer. I now put a disclaimer at the bottom of each proposal about changes in price originally quoted.
You can be nice – but protect your business.
Slow down and enjoy each wedding. Do not overload yourself with work, delegate to staff and get help. Take a staff member with you to client meetings. Just in case you cannot be there, the client has met the staff member and the staff know the clients.
Visit classique event: https://www.classiqueevent.com.au