Today I’m chatting about how both parties can work better together….
Team work makes the dream work right? It really truly does. However sometimes you may feel like other wedding vendors are working against you, instead of with you. Because my background is in communication, I am always thinking of ways to work more in harmony with others. I often feel that it’s usually a matter of miscommunication that happens when things go awry when working with other weddings professionals. Today I am chatting (with the help of some planners who weighed in on this convo) about how to work together and have it be a mutually beneficial relationship. I have split this blog into 2 parts… one focused on speaking to Calligraphers and one focused on speaking to Planners.
Personally I have had great experiences working with planners. There are a very small amount of times that things got a little frustrating but it has taught me a lot. Today I am sharing some of my experiences, but mostly the experiences of others. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with me on instagram and I promise you are anonymous!
Let’s Chat About Planners and Their Job…
Before we can even get into a conversation about what you should and shouldn’t do, I think it’s important to just quickly state what a planner does…. This may seem silly but I think it’s important to consider the details of their job. Planners are literally the foundation of everything that is happening on the wedding day… they have to think of it ALL. They are focused on a timeline, making sure the bride and groom are happy, making sure that the arch is perfectly centered on the lawn, making sure Aunt Sally doesn’t trip and fall into a hole… I mean I have heard some crazy stories! To say the least, they are very busy people with a head full of so much stuff. On top of that, they are usually tasked with staying within a certain budget, so they have a lot of balls in the air. As a wedding vendor, you want to make their lives easier and not more complicated. With that said….
Organize Your Items
I was a little shocked when a wedding planner friend of mine recently told me that a calligrapher she worked with didn’t organize the place cards by table. My JAW DROPPED. Like what?! WHY?! If you are a calligrapher and you are just dumping place cards into a box … you need to rethink that strategy. Think about the extra time it will take the wedding planner (or couple) to go through those names to double check them, and then organize them by table. Do the planner or your client a favor and sort by table (or by whatever format the client gave them to you in)….
AND if you say “Well that’s a lot of extra time” then charge for it! I charge a little extra for place cards to account for my time double checking all the names and packaging them up by table.
Showcase Your Actual Work On Instagram
Does the work you create in real life, look like the work you showcase on instagram or your website? It should. It can be very disappointing for a Planner to recommend you to their client and then find out that what you do in real life is not as good as what you showcase on Instagram.
One of the ways I see this happening is for styled shoots. Sometimes what you create for a styled shoot just isn’t possible to create in real life (I.e. I did this with a certain watercolored invitation set when I first started and learned my lesson fast). Make sure you aren’t showcasing these items, or if you do, be clear that it can’t be reproduced.
Working with Budgets
More often than not, you are going to get someone who is trying to stay within a specific budget and that’s fine! But don’t undercut your services because of it. I heard a horror story where a planner needed a calligrapher to come down on her price so the calligrapher ended up printing items on computer paper! Yikes. In this situation I would kindly tell the Planner that I am not able to accommodate the budget and still produce the quality of work that I am proud of. Keep it simple and keep your standard of work high quality. It’s ok to say no.
Don’t Nickel And Dime
As a calligrapher you absolutely 100% deserve to be paid for your work. However, in my opinion it is not worth nickel and diming the client for it. For example, if you are doing a place card order of 200 guests (at $2 each) and the Planner/Client has 2 changes for names, don’t charge them $4, just suck it up and eat the cost. On the other hand, if the client has 20 changes to names, charge them, that is reasonable. But for those really small fees, it’s sometimes better to just play nice and do them “as a favor”. You can even say “Typically I would charge $2 a piece for these, but I will wave it since there are only a small number of changes”. You do want to let them know that there is typically a cost, because in the future it might encourage bad behavior if they think you will just do whatever needs to be done for free.
Don’t Make Your Pricing Overly Complicated
I am guilty of doing this, and the main reason was that I felt I had to explain my prices away because I was so scared someone would think I was too expensive. Now that I am more confident in my pricing, I am able to be very clear and simple about it (at least that is what I hope other’s think!). Here is an example of how pricing can get very confusing:
Shannon is a calligrapher, she is quoting for a seating chart for 150 guests. This is what she sends the planner:
Set Up fee: $50
Layout fee: $100
Cost of Wood: $75
Price per Guest Name: $1.50
OR you could just say, I charge $3 per guest name (that includes materials), making a seating chart for 150 people $450.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Don’t show me how the sausage is made” that’s kind of like this. Although some Planners/Clients might want a little more explantation as to why things cost what they do, most Planners are looking to give their clients a quote and they won’t be relaying this information as well. So keep it simple and straight to the point! :) Side note, this sometimes is a case by case basis, if I know a planner is prone to asking for ways to cut the cost, I will break down the costs associated with the piece.
Be a Good Communicator
You want to make sure that you are communicating well with the client (Planner). Here are some ways I have found to do that….
Give Them Updates Often (when necessary of course)
Ask if the Planner wants to be CC’d on all emails with their client. Typically the planner does want to be so they can stay in the know.
Give Specifics for example: I will need your final guest list by October 4th, the place cards will be ready for pickup at my studio on October 15th.
Send A Sample- Whenever I start a place card order I always text or email a sample of the first one or two I create. This removes any instance of “Oh… I was hoping the calligraphy would be thicker/thinner” or “I didn’t know the gold was going to be this translucent on the vellum” Save yourself the extra work and just get approval right off the bat.
Be The Expert. Many times a Planner is not going to know what the best ink color is for a specific material or they are looking to you for design options/opinions. You want to come across as an expert in your field so don’t be afraid to share with them. If you know that gold dip pen ink is going to be pretty hard to see on acrylic place cards TELL THEM! They will appreciate it, believe me.
There are a few planners I work with often. A few of them LOVE constant communication and a few of them are more hands off, know who you are working with and treat that relationship accordingly. If you are working with a new planner, err on the side of over communication until you figure out how that planner works, and don’t be afraid to ask how they prefer to work together!
This should be a no-brainer but make sure you are double checking all your work. Mistakes happen from time to time but they are going to happen a lot more if you aren’t being meticulous about checking your work. Word will get around REALLY fast if you are lazy in this regard.
Alright we’ve covered the Calligrapher side… now here is what Calligraphers want Planners to know….
Using Pinterest For Inspiration
We all love Pinterest, there are so many fun and amazing ideas on this platform. However, it’s important to take into consideration that Pinterest items may be very expensive to recreate and sometimes almost impossible under certain circumstances. Always ask a calligrapher if it’s a possibility to recreate and if they mention a price that is too high, ask if there are ways to reduce the price and how it would change the piece. It’s all about open communication here! But Planners, please understand that we love getting fun projects but we also are trying to make a living…. And with that let’s talk about budget….
Working with Budgets
Just like I said above almost everyone is working within a budget, and that’s fine! There are times when I can accommodate budget requests but there are other times when I cannot. And the great thing is, most Wedding Planners understand this. I guess what I am trying to say is, just be respectful of the prices of the other vendor, which honestly I’ve never had a problem with in terms of working with planners, in my business!
Read Our Contracts
If you want to know exactly what you are getting from your hired Calligrapher, be sure to read through the entire invoice and contract (Calligraphers, you should be giving detailed accounts of items ordered in these). The longer I have had my business the more details I give, because you learn something new each time. You will know exactly what you are getting from the contract/invoice. For example: if the sign you ordered is 3 feet, it will be 3 feet, don’t expect it to be 5 feet if the contract doesn’t state that. Something to mention about sizes, I have found that sometimes people don’t really understand how large or small something is from merely giving its dimensions… I encourage you to get out a measuring tape or yardstick and look at that size (I do this VERY often in my own business).
Sending Us Inspiration Photos
We love to see what you have imagined for the wedding day and we are happy to see your inspiration pictures. With that said, we will not (or I should say… should not) recreate another artist’s work. Legally we could be in big trouble if we are copying someone else’s work and on top of that, morally it’s just a major no-no. I see this happening more often in styled shoots than actual weddings, where a planner will send an invitation suite picture or a menu and say “We want it to look exactly like this”. At the end of the day it is truly on the Calligrapher to say “I’m sorry but I can’t recreate another artist’s work, I am happy to take inspiration from it but I will create a piece that is unique to my style”. If I know who the artist is, I will direct the Planner to that artist. I have only run into this problem a few times and unfortunately I was so new in the beginning that I did recreate another artist’s work, having no idea that it was wrong. Plain and simple, please don’t ask us to copy someone else’s work, we hope you are coming to us because you love our work :).
Being able to communicate clearly and directly is key to any good partnership. Below are some areas I have experienced as being a place where communication might get a little murky.
Giving us exactly what you want reproduced is the best way to get things done the way you want. Please submit seating charts in clear, editable formats. Often times (if we are doing a seating chart) we will need to take the names and move them into a software program where it allows us to lay everything out digitally (this helps us account for spacing and overall balance of the piece) we can’t do this if you send us a PDF or if you send the seating chart in a really wonky format.
If you are wanting the escort cards to be done by couple name (I.e. Jane Schone and Ryan Burke), please clearly organize the spreadsheet/document that way. Take any guess work out, having your calligrapher guess at who is a couple and who is not is bound to cause major issues. Same goes for meal selections, please make these as clear as possible as we would hate to be responsible for someone eating dairy if they are allergic!
I have a clause in my contract that says “Submit text exactly how it should be reproduced in calligraphy, that includes grammar, punctuation and formal titles.” This is a general rule of thumb but what you give us is what we think you want, so make sure it’s what you want ;)!
Be Open To A Calligrapher’s Input
Sometimes I will receive copy/text that I know either isn’t going to work in the space, is too confusing for guests or is going to look super unbalanced. I really appreciate when a Client or Planner tells me “We are open to your suggestion on layout, or if words need to be removed etc…”. I recently did a bar menu where they listed options for alcohol and beer but for the wine all it said was “wine” it looked really unbalanced. Of course sometimes you don’t have an option and it is part of our job to come up with crafty ways to layout information, but if there is an option please be willing to listen :)
In conclusion working with Planners as a Calligrapher (and vice versa) can be amazing! I think the biggest take away is to keep the communication lines open and always be sympathetic to the other person’s job and experiences. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you learned something new today! If you have any comments or advice for working together in harmony, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!