How to build an event planning portfolio

A huge part of any planner’s business is helping the client to visualize what you can do for them. Storefront and venue displays can often be helpful here, and hotels rely heavily upon them, but for the planner, there is no more important element than the portfolio.

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As you plan magical weddings, sweet sixteen parties, or banquets, your portfolio will grow with different venues, themes, menus, and experiences. But what if you have never done a wedding before? How do you prepare your portfolio?

Keep in mind that a portfolio is there to help the bride and groom imagine the possibilities for their wedding. It is absolutely professional and appropriate to include representative photos of venues, plated food, and wedding themes, so long as you are able to deliver the vision depicted.

The notebook

The planner should have a very nice notebook, leather bound or otherwise (no grocery store binders), that can highlight aspects of every wedding. The notebook should be broken into Profile, Venue, Menu, Theme, and Packages

  • Profile:

This is where you start. The most important thing you are selling is you. This section should include your credentials, background, relevant experience, and most of all references. These are testimonials from people who know you and will comment on your abilities, organizational skills, client service, and the ability to deliver a fantastic wedding experience. This is where you begin to get the client excited about who they are hiring.

  • Venue:

Many wedding planners aspire to have their own venue as the business grows, and the best venues are designed with flexibility that allows for every theme of the wedding from rustic, to vintage, and beyond. Most venues have well-done photos that they will be glad to share with you for inclusion in your portfolio.

As you gain experience, be sure to have the photographer take photos that reflect your vision, so you can build your own book of work. Be sure to have a variety of locations with various capacities, and in different price ranges to serve your clients. Check to price regularly or have the venues advice you of pricing changes to avoid surprises.

  • Menus:

Nothing sells a catering menu like attractive photographs of the food properly plated. Linens and other details are important as well, but it is perfectly reasonable to reach out to local caterers and request professional photos of their catered offerings for your portfolio.

If the menu is to be served buffet style, the caterer should provide photos of the food and equipment. You want to ensure that your caterer shows up with a menu and serving items befitting the professionalism called for by your event. Be sure to have a variety of offerings to suit all events.

  • Theme:

Until you have well-done photos documenting your wedding theme options, you will have to be creative here. Local party rental stores have a number of items that can be rented as centerpieces and decorations to assist with wedding themes, and photos of these items well staged can help you customers imagine the theme options.

This is also a great way to expand your business with additional sources of revenue as you build a brand. Get permission of the happy couples you work with and include their images. It will help new clients imagine their own perfect day.

  • Other:

Some wedding planners like to provide their clients with checklists or follow along planners of their own to keep up with wedding timelines and details. This is a matter of personal preference, and should only be done where some money has been paid by the client in advance. The danger in this offering is that a client will use your tools to try to handle this themselves.

How to Charge For Your Services

  • Hourly

These packages include a set number of hours driven by a budget agreed upon by the client. Planners’ rates range from $75 to more than $150 per hour. Consulting packages typically billed by the hour consist of the client sitting down with the planner and asking questions based on the area or areas they need help in. This may be pulling together design ideas, confirming or suggesting a vendor or venue choices or ensuring that the client is on track and has not forgotten anything.

These types of meetings typically take place early in the planning process. These meetings are a great opportunity for the planner to upsell the client and recommend a Day of Coordination or even a Full-Service wedding package. Luckily for you, many times the client will realize they really do need more help than they had originally thought. However, these recommendations should be reserved until after the session has completed, as the client is paying you for your expertise, not your sales pitch.

  • Daily

Some clients want to be more involved in the planning of their event and hire a wedding or event planner to manage details on the day of the event. Charges for these events range from $1000 to $2000 dollars to manage the event for the day. Although this package is typically booked well in advance of the wedding, the wedding planner does not get involved until 1-2 weeks prior to the wedding day.

As a day of coordinator, responsibilities include creating a detailed timeline, contacting the vendors for formal introductions, confirming the day of contact information and reviewing copies of all contracts to clarify all contractual obligations of all vendors. After discussing the client’s vision the planner would be in charge of running the event. And on the day of the event, the planner’s responsibilities would be to be present at the venue and ensure every detail is set up the way the client has envisioned it.

As a Day-Of Coordinator, you should also be the liaison between the client and the vendors for the day. This greatly relieves the bride, for example from unnecessary stress, which is, in a nutshell, what being a planner really is about. During the event, the planner’s responsibility is to ensure everything runs smoothly. The goal is to adhere to the timeline, but in the event that this isn’t possible it is the planner’s responsibility to ensure that events are rearranged in such a way that incurs minimal cost and stress to the client, their families and their guests.

The package cost for Day of Coordination can vary widely depending on the area of the country, the size of the wedding and if there are one or two locations.

Full-service planners range from $3,000 to more than $10,000, depending on experience and demand. In some instances, these are flat fee engagements, and in others, the fee is a percentage of the total wedding cost ranging from 10-20%. Many planners who are well-established will only do full service since this gives them full control of the look and feel of the event upon which their name, and thereby brand depend.

In this package, the planner is practically running the show from conception to execution. Full-service planners recommend the vendors, which gives them the opportunity to work with vendors they are familiar with and can trust. They also typically are very involved with the planning of the decor, flowers, linens, rentals and printed materials. They also take care of all of the details included in the Day of Coordination package.