Hi friends!  I am so excited to finally share the details of my workshop, REFINE, with you and how this idea came to fruition. I have been working on developing this workshop since early last year.  It really began to take shape this past summer when I had an ah-ha moment during a coaching session with a new wedding planner.  But lets back up….

When I was a newbie to the industry 7 years ago, the first thing I did was to become a certified wedding planner.  I learned a lot through the certification process about etiquette but found that something tangible was missing.  I had limited hands-on experience to draw from, so I began attending workshops and conferences to hear from professionals in the industry. Although these workshops and conferences left me feeling extremely excited and inspired, I still lacked the tangible tools that I really needed to get my business running effectively.  Interning with seasoned wedding planners gave me good insight as to how a wedding planner directed and coordinated the wedding day, but it still didn’t supply me with what I really needed.  It wasn’t like these experienced wedding planners were going to give me advice and tips on how to “make it” in the industry, let alone share any detailed information about their businesses with me.  After all, I was their potential competition.  And while they were extremely kind to even allow me to occasionally intern, ultimately I knew that keeping me in the dark was to their benefit.

So I was forced to make things up as I went along…

I had to learn how to correspond via email with prospective clients by just doing it.  No one taught me what to ask and why.  I was winging it.
I had to learn how to conduct that initial in-person consultation with prospective clients by just doing it.  I didn’t know what to say or how to conduct a meeting or what they needed from me.
I had to learn how to appropriately set my pricing by just doing it.  I didn’t know what the market could bear or what anyone else was charging or what I was worth based on my limited experience.
I had to create my own contract, forms and templates by just doing it.  No other wedding planner was going to give that information away.
I had to learn how to direct and coordinate a wedding rehearsal by just doing it.  I had only been to maybe 4 rehearsals ever (3 of which were for weddings I was in) and I didn’t know what would work and flow best when practicing a wedding ceremony processional and recessional.
I had to learn how to plan an entire wedding from start to finish by just doing it.  No one told me what vendors needed to be secured first and why; no one taught me how to do a timeline; no one taught me how to budget; I didn’t know the difference between ranunculus and peonies.
I had to learn how to coordinate a wedding by just doing it.  No one told me how to oversee and direct set-up and decor or how much time was needed between the makeup artist arriving and the first look photos or what happens when the bakery forgets to deliver a sheet of cake to the kitchen.

It was all trial and error those first few years.  I regularly thanked God for two things: 1) my amazingly gracious clients who took a chance on me and 2) my acting background.  I pretended I knew what I was doing with a determined confidence, as if I had the lead in a movie where I played a polished wedding planner with impeccable skills and depths of knowledge. What I really felt like was an amateur.  In reality, I was a girl with limited experience and big dreams who tried really hard to get it right over and over and over again.  With each email response to a new inquiry, each meeting with a prospective new client, each signed contract, each step in the planning process, each rehearsal, each wedding, I became refined.  Better, more confident.  I would make mistakes, learn, refine, repeat, make more mistakes, learn, refine, repeat.

As the years passed, I formulated my own processes and I learned how to correctly implement them.  I learned what questions I needed to ask and why.  I learned what my clients needed from me and spent countless hours analyzing how best to serve them.  I learned how to set boundaries so that my business didn’t control my life.  I learned what my strengths were and how to use them to my benefit and I learned what my weakness were and how to manage them.  I read every business book I could get my hands on and surrounded myself with intelligent, driven people who were hungry for success but whose hearts were in the right place.  I prayed and cried and struggled and quit about five times swearing I was DONE with this business only to restart again and refine.

It was an exhausting, exciting and difficult first 4 years of business, with 64 amazing couples entrusting the details of their wedding to me.  So many times during that period I wished that I had a fairy wedding planning mother who would take me under her wing and not only advise me but also GIVE me the damned tools I so desperately needed.  She never came.

Fast forward to today. Coaching aspiring and novice wedding planners over the past year is where REFINE was born. Through working with new wedding planners one on one, and via my own personal experience, I developed this workshop KNOWING how desperately people want to be taught – step by step – exactly how to run a successful wedding planning business, templates and forms and all.  I am not afraid to share what I do in my business, my procedures and processes, my forms, how I interact with my clients, etc.  I don’t view sharing this information with aspiring and novice wedding planners as creating competition.  If these people are ambitious and passionate, they’re going to be successful with or without help (it’ll just take them a bit longer without help).

If you are an aspiring or new wedding planner with less than 5 years experience in the wedding industry who is feeling confused, defeated, frustrated and is seeking to reinvent, replenish and redefine who you are and what you do, the REFINE workshop is for you!  I am giving you everything that I wish I had been given as a new wedding planner, from a USB drive with all my templates and forms, to great presentations on topics that you’re really curious about, to live demonstrations that will teach you how to correspond and interact with clients.  This is more than an experience (although you will definitely be treated to delicious fare, fancy drinks, a swag bag full of gifts just for you, FUN, etc.); what you are really investing in when you register for REFINE is content – which is what you really need.

REFINE will debut right here in San Diego, CA on March 18 & 19 (location to be announced soon!).  Registration is now open and space is limited.  You can read all about the REFINE workshop RIGHT HERE.

Lets get ready to refine in 2014!  I can’t wait to see you in March!!

Lots of love,
Alison