Author: Bethel Nathan
Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Follow her at @elevatebybethel and @bethelnathan to learn more!
I think we can all agree that the last few weeks have sucked! For us in the wedding and event industry, social distancing is the exact opposite of what we do and how we make a living. And because we don’t know how long this may last, the full impact is still labeled as TBD. Yet, we also know that this is temporary… couples wanting to get married are not going away, and soon, or soonish, we will be back to those busy working weekends that we all know and love.
Which leads to the two main questions many wedding pros are asking: “what can and should I be doing with my current couples?” and “how can I help my business and our community get through this?”.
With so much uncertainty surrounding us, I share and understand the frustrations and worries of what comes next with my fellow wedding pros. Yet, I also understand the frustrations and heartbreak that many of these couples are going through. Which, I need to say, is something we all should empathize with. We as an industry sell this as their big and special day – a day of incredible love surrounded by community – and as an emotion-driven purchase. So, just as suddenly as this is all happening for us, it is also happening for them. I believe that you need to work with your couples as much as possible to help them, and in doing so you can help your businesses, both in the short-term and in the long-term. I know that survival for you and your businesses (and paying the bills for you and your families) is first priority, but now is also a perfect time for rave-worthy customer service.
When it comes to helping your couples now, here is what I recommend:
1. Proactively communicate
If you have couples that are set to marry in the next few months who you haven’t yet heard from, contact them immediately (and loop in their wedding planner, if it’s not you and they have one). In those communications, you want to show empathy and understanding, while also showing the couple that you are on top of this and therefore they have nothing to worry about when it comes to working with you and your business. This also allows you to begin the conversation of rescheduling (not canceling) by being proactive with your options and availability.
2. Provide your availability
If they are already in the process of rescheduling, find out what timeframe they are thinking. Then, provide all of your available dates within that timeframe so that they can factor it in when they are making their decision (without having to waste back-and-forth time contacting you).
3. Personally keep in touch
On the day that was supposed to be their wedding, can you send them their first dance song or a picture of a flower display using some of their flowers? Can you send them a note and suggest that they toast each other that day – even if not with their planned champagne – and dance together in their living room? That’s what I just did for my weddings this past weekend. Really, just something that might put a bit of a smile on their face and let them know you are thinking about what they are going through. You could also send a group email to all of your couples that are rescheduling with a few pieces of advice. This is a very personal business, so the more positive connection you continue to form with your couples, the better.
4. Utilize your pro community
Reach out to other wedding pros in your category who have your same or similar style and personality. Ask them if they are willing to join forces to help your couples. The idea would be that if one of your couples is rescheduling for a date that you are not available, but this other pro is, they would take the wedding under the same agreement and rate, and vice versa.
5. Consider waiving fees
If at all possible, waive any rescheduling fees or differences in your pricing based on the date they are rescheduling. I know that they may be taking a prime weekend in the fall, or moving from a Thursday to a Saturday, and some wedding pros are choosing to put guidelines around what dates they can take, which I fully understand (it so hurts for me to say yes to giving up a rare open Saturday in October that a future couple might have inquired for and purchased). But we must remember that these couples are being forced to move their wedding – it’s not like it was their choice to move their wedding date – and their options with the availability of their venue and the “dream team of wedding pros” that they have intentionally assembled may be limited. How you handle this will say a lot to not only your couples, but also other wedding pros, too. And you know that we all talk amongst ourselves locally, of course, right?
6. Let your community know you’re here to help
Reach out to your local wedding pro community and see how you can help. Can you jump in, maybe even last-minute, to help out a planner who has a couple who is now without what you do? Can you offer some reduced services to couples who are scrambling to have their weddings as soon as possible after the “all-clear” is given (e.g. maybe 3 hours of DJ services vs. your standard package), even if that is not a normal option in working with you? Just letting others in the community know you are there to help is a great start.
7. Review your communications
Pause sending or edit the language of any automated emails being sent to these couples. This could be an invoice reminder, a last-minute list of things to think about, etc. You don’t want them getting something that makes your business seem unprofessional or insensitive.
8. Don’t forget about future couples
Keep communicating with your other couples, those whose weddings are “outside” the virus window. You should be letting them know that everything is still right on track for their weddings. You might even want to add in an extra communication point or two along the way. It could be some general wedding planning articles or something more specific related to their wedding (some new song ideas, additional options for timeline, etc.). This type of communication will increase your personal connection with them, and improve their comfort with your business, especially in such an uncertain world. That level of confidence with you and your business means that you could even offer some extra services for them at a package rate if they pre-pay or even pre-pay their balance due, to help you with current cash flow. But, no matter what you do, don’t forget about those future couples in the forced-focus on your rescheduling couples.
I understand that the survival of your business is first priority, which may lead to some less-than-perfect customer service choices. Just always remember, the more you can empathize with what your couples are going through, and deliver an experience that tells them that, the better off your business will be long-term. An incredible customer experience in good times is only exceeded by an incredible customer experience in bad times! They will more than remember – and talk about – how you treated them. And don’t forget, an incredible customer experience often leads to great reviews, outstanding referrals and a boosted reputation — all things that can help us get through this difficult time.
Bethel Nathan, Elevate by Bethel
San Diego, CA
Photo Credit: Danielle DeFiore