Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Are Deposits Non-Refundable?

A very fair question asked by many clients!

A deposit is not only to secure your booking with the vendor, but also to secure the vendor's business with you. Confusing, yes, but follow me here.

Photographers and reception sites can logically only book one wedding per day. Cake creators, caterers and many florists can only book a certain number of weddings per day, and some of these limit it to one per day. When a bride books that date, the vendor closes that date to any other bride/booking. This means we may turn down business from future inquiries for that date.

(I personally turned down over 15 brides for the date of 7/7/07 because it was booked, and I turned down over 25 brides for the popular 6-7-08 date.)

Should something happen and you change your mind, move your date, want to use another vendor, and you cancel your booking, especially close to the date, it creates a financial hardship for the vendor. As you know, not too many brides book their caterer, photographer, etc., 3 or 4 weeks before the event.

This means the vendor has no opportunity to re-book that date. The vendor has already turned down business that could have been booked except for the fact that he/she closed that date just for you. The non-refundable deposit covers the lost opportunities and the costs incurred by the vendor based on your commitment.

Moving the date is many times viewed as a cancellation. Why? A bride books 11-7-09 with me. I turn down 4 brides for this date because I've made a commitment to the booked bride. Bride decides to move her date to January, after the holidays. I have now lost those 4 potential brides because I've turned them down.

I've had a number of discussions in which I'm asked "What costs? The photographer hasn't taken any pictures yet!" You're right. And the caterer probably hasn't bought any food and the florist hasn't purchased the flowers. But these are not the only costs associated with running a business that can help you have a great event. All of these vendors require special (expensive) equipment, rent, insurance, staffing to answer the phone when you called to book the event, internet access to enable you to see our website as you planned your event, the time already spent with the client during the consultation and follow-up, cost of paper, folders and filing cabinets to create and store the client's paperwork, and much more. These costs need to be covered and overhead has to be met.

When we close that date to any other business based on a client's commitment, then we have lost the opportunity to see any income for that date that would cover this overhead when the client decides to cancel.

A deposit protects the client and assures the client that the vendor will be there. A deposit also protects the vendor when the vendor turns down other clients, so the vendor can be there for you on that date.

So when talking to vendors, ask about their cancellation and refund policies. This is especially important if the bride/groom is active military and unscheduled deployment is a real possibility.

Knowing what the rules are in advance will help reduce some of the pre-wedding stress!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Science Behind a Good DJ

I was having a great conversation with a DJ friend of mine, Mike West of MGS DJ’s (http://www.mgsdjs.com/MGS-DJs.php5 ). I was surprised to learn there was a “science” behind being a good DJ. Like many people who have never stood behind a DJ table, I thought they just played music. Fast songs to get people dancing and slow songs when they need to rest. Seriously, I thought that was it.

Man, was I wrong!

I was aware of the importance of a good DJ at a wedding. The DJ is the party’s Master of Ceremonies (MC). He has the timeline of the event and keeps everything moving and on schedule. He announces when dinner is served and releases the tables for the buffet. He lets the bride and groom know when it’s time to cut the cake and when the first dance is being held. I’ve worked weddings with DJ’s who had no idea how to take care of this stuff …. they were just “a friend” of the couple who was playing the music and that’s it.

It’s much better with a professional DJ!!

There is a difference between a club DJ and a wedding DJ. These are different audiences and a good DJ knows how to play to each of them. (I mean, do you really want your grandmother or your 7 year old niece sitting there listening to “club” DJ comments?).

What I found fascinating, while talking to my friend Mike, was learning about the little things that make a good DJ really stand out. Remember, you’ve paid this DJ for a minimum number of hours and you want your guests to enjoy your party for those hours. A good DJ knows how to keep the party going.

For example, Mike asked me “Do you know why you don’t play slow songs at the top of the hour?” I had no idea, so he explains that after a few fast songs, a DJ will play a slow song. The tired dancers will sit at the table, look at their watch and say, “Oh my goodness, its 11:00! We better go!” BUT ….. when a DJ plays slow songs at, say 11:40, the tired dancers will sit down, look at their watch and say, “It’s just past 11:30 …we’ll stay for a few more minutes.” People tend to leave at the top of the hour …. if you give them a reason to. A good DJ gives them a reason to stay.

And that’s why I love catering wedding where an MGS DJ is working. Because I know things will run smooth, on time and the guests will have a GREAT time! And isn't that what you're after, too?


Monday, September 7, 2009

How Soon Should I Book?

It just cracks me up every time I see one of those timelines for brides, especially the ones where the timeline shows "order your wedding cake: 4-6 months in advance". 4 months? You can actually find a baker with an opening on their calendar only 4 months in advance of your wedding?

A caterer/cake designer friend of mine tells me she received a call from a mother of the bride in August inquiring about a wedding cake for October. My friend said, "THIS year?" The mom was shocked that anyone would have to order a wedding cake a year in advance. My friend told her, "Anything under 6 months is considered 'Last Minute'."

(I guess it's a result of our 24/7 indoctrination where you can buy a birthday cake and a lawn mower at the same place at two o'clock in the morning! No one thinks they have to plan ahead anymore.)

Honestly, the best "canned" answer is that there is no canned answer. Because when brides ask me "How soon should we book with you?", my best answer to them is "It depends on how organized the OTHER brides are."

Many vendors, such as photographers, venues, some baker/caterers, can only book one event per day. That means if you are planning your wedding on a really popular date, then you are competing with all of those other brides for the same wedding vendors. The organized bride, the decision-maker bride is the bride who will get her first choice of vendors. The remaining brides will have to go to their 2nd or even 3rd choice.

And please .... do not make the mistake of thinking just because you TALKED to the vendor, that your date is secured with them. In this industry, money talks and that other stuff walks. The bride who brings the vendor a deposit check first is the bride who gets that wedding vendor. We cannot and will not hold a date open just in case a bride might maybe sorta kinda might be thinking about maybe booking with us. If you want that vendor, you need to be a decision maker.

Some popular dates in the past have been 7-7-07 ...... 6-07-08 ....... 8-8-08 ........ 10-10-10. Traditional popular dates such as Valentine's Day weekend have always had a high demand.

Those planning a Christmas wedding not only are competing with other December brides, but are also competing with all of the corporations and organizations who are planning their company Christmas parties.

My personal observation (and I'm hearing the same thing from my fellow wedding vendors) is that June is no longer the most popular wedding month. October is quickly becoming the #1 month for weddings. Brides are usually surprised to hear that (so many think they are the ONLY ones who thought October would be a good month!).

Our unofficial survey tells us that brides are looking for cooler weather, fall colors are playing a major role in the decor, and it's right between the hectic holidays of Labor Day and Thanksgiving. So if you're an October bride, you need to be a decision maker if you want to secure your "A" list of wedding vendors.

When should you book ANY wedding vendor? Just as soon as you know they are the ones you want to hire!

Debi Brim can be reached via email at info@cateritsimple.com

Our websites:www.cateritsimple.com

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Sick of This....

Today I read yet another article "warning" brides about we unscrupulous wedding vendors. How we try to play on their emotion and try to get them to buy more than they need (and anyone in business or in sales tries to upsell .... how is that a bad thing to do and why are only wedding vendors a villian for doing it?). How each vendor tries to sell their service as THE most important. How we jack up the prices when the word "wedding" is used.

Well I'm sick of it.

I'm tired of free-lance writers, who have never planned a wedding, who have never sold a wedding service, who have never talked with a bride, just regurgitate the same 'ole stuff that they see in other articles. I honestly think there's just one article and all the free-lancers just trade it around, like the Christmas Fruitcake.

So I'm here to dispel many of these urban legends. I'm going to share with you how at least one wedding vendor operates......ME! And since I have planned a wedding and I have sold wedding services, and I have talked to hundreds of brides, I think that makes me qualified.

This caterer guides a bride to the unemotional decision. As we talk, I will point out the logistics and logic of what she is wanting. I steer her out of emotional pink-puffy-clouds-land and into reality.

This caterer actually shows brides how to NOT spend money on her reception. I share my 30-year formula to determine a REAL headcount (not the emotional one based on a self-perceived popularity level) and how that can save her $750 to $2000 on her reception meal.

I find out where the wedding is and if they are having photos taken before the wedding. Because if the couple will arrive at the reception within 30 minutes after the first guest arrives, then I suggest they DON'T need to purchase appetizers. For 100 guests, at $10 to $20 per person, this can save them $1000 to $2000.

If their guests will be waiting more than 30 minutes, then yes, I suggest they have some kind of appetizer for them. Otherwise, the guests will get bored and possibly leave, resulting in the dinner and cake and drinks the couple paid for going to waste.

As the couple talks about their wedding, I don't try to sell my food and cake as the most important purchase. I actually tell them, "Skimp anywhere in your wedding budget but DON'T skimp on your photographer. At the end of the day, the food will be eaten, the dress will be in storage, the music will be a distant memory .... but your photos are what you'll look at on your 25th Anniversary!"

This cake designer does not have two different prices for party cakes and wedding cakes. A 3-tier cake for a birthday is the same price as a 3-tier cake for a wedding. Call it a birthday, call it a celebration, call it a wedding, call it a kiss-my-butt-in-the-middle-of-Main-Street cake .... it's all the same work so it's all the same price to me.

I've no doubt that "some" wedding vendors may try some of these tactics. I've no doubt that every industry has businesses that try to upsell, to play on emotion, and have different pricing for different events (ever try to find cheap parking in any city during a professional football game?). I am just sick of articles that paint all of us with one brush, leading brides to believe that it's standard operating procedure.

This concludes my rant of the day. To any bride reading this, I hope you now realize there are vendors out there who are ready to work WITH you .... not against you.

Because at Cater It Simple, we really DO try to "keep it simple" for you!

Debi Brim can be reached via email at info@cateritsimple.com

Our websites:www.cateritsimple.com