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ICYMI: Planner vs. Designer Speaking Panel

This amazing, knowledge-packed panel was put together by Jenna Culley of Jenna Culley Events and owner of Linen Effects. She was able to gather some of the biggest names in the industry to answer the question of what it means to be a Wedding Planner vs. Wedding Designer vs. Both! 

Panel Members

Laine Palm, Laine Palm Designs

Krista Crawford, de Vasco’s Daughters

And Dana Allison, Keyed Up Events

***This panel conversation was edited for length and clarity. It is based solely on my notes taken in person. There are no direct word-for-word quotes by the panelists. 

What is the difference between a wedding planner and a wedding and design planner?

Dana: Designers care about reaching all five of your senses. Planners care about the logistics. Some planners will dip their toes into design in small ways (i.e., suggesting certain napkins, linens, etc.) but it has more to do with logistics.

Laine: For designers, it is about creating a “cohesive look.” From wedding party outfits, invites, and tableware, and making it all flow together! I want to ensure that guests are wowed at all those little moments. There has been an evolution of what it means to be a designer as well. Some will design and deliver their vision, while others will design and execute the vision for their client by finding all the correct vendors for it before presenting it to their clients. 

Rachelle: Planners will give you what they want, while Designers will question what you want and help you find a way to stand out!

Krista: As a Designer, it is about helping your clients think outside of their own box. 

Jenna: Planners come in to execute your vision. Designers are going to help create your visions and lead the vendor collaboration to make it happen.

Nurture vs Nature: Is being a designer innate or learned?

Krista: Being a designer is about being passionate about design. Yes, some elements of design are innate, but you can learn! For some people, it will come more naturally but there are a wide variety of resources you can take advantage of such as design classes, workshops, and getting inspiration from other industries like fashion and interior design.

Rachelle: Coming from a more science and math background, with an MBA from the Carlson School at the U of M, designing was a learned skill. I came in with a process! While having a good eye for design is innate, there are rules you can follow to help. Be a sponge and learn from other vendors in your industry! I never called myself a designer before I trusted what I was doing.

What kind of clientele looks for design services?

The group of designers agree that the majority of design clients are those who cannot visualize their vision on their own. Pinterest boards can help build a great vision but you don’t want to copy and paste!

Krista: Pinterest boards vary too much in design styles. I will not take things directly from my client's Pinterest boards but I use it as a building point for their design.

Are you a planner first or a designer first?

Immediate answers came from Rachelle and Laine on this one, they stand on being planners before anything else. For Krista, having a long background in interior design (even having worked on projects for HGTV), she is always a designer first.

How did you know when you were ready to start marketing your planning vs design services?

Laine: When you feel capable and have a portfolio to feature.

Rachelle: When you can take an idea and turn it into something else. You’re not just taking a Pinterest board and making it happen. 

How do you market your services?

Laine: A lot of emphasis on SEO and being mindful of keywords. 

Rachelle: Through social media, showing people how we accomplished your mood board and brought it to life.

Krista: Consistency! Always brand your collateral and remind people of what you do. 

Dana: As a planner, I want to show off my happy couples in order to market to the couples looking to take a load of stress off in their wedding planning.

Lets chat packages. What are your clients getting?

Rachelle: We insist on having design services with any full planning package to avoid having our name attached to a design we don’t align with or had our hands in. For the clients that choose design packages on its own, we require that it be paired with our Day of Management services. When it comes to pricing it is so important to track your hours! You don’t want to work 300+ hours on a wedding to find out you’ve been working for $15 an hour.

Laine: We do not offer Wedding Management anymore This decision has helped go from 45 weddings to 13 a year.

Krista: I believe it is Quality over Quantity. We have gone from 36 weddings last year to 10 this year offering Full Design + Planning Packages as well as Partial Design + Management.

How do you layer the design throughout the planning process?

Laine: In phases. Phase 1 we start with color palettes, floor plans, and have the important conversations. Phase 2, we create their design deck where we map out EVERYTHING. The budget is very clear at this point. Our design decks can be up to 40 pages depending on the project. 

Rachelle: Our first meeting is the hardest and lasts about 2-3 hours. This is all about vision and priorities. We require our second meeting to be in the office where we can share things like our large variety of samples. This meeting helps us learn what they like and don’t like and we are able to talk them through what we can do in this market.

How do you get into doing design?

Rachelle: I took classes and went to workshops. When you’re first starting it’s important not to bring clients into the process. Also, don’t be afraid to push back on your clients ideas. You need time/space/resources to add design to your current services.

Dana: Push your way into design aspects. Maybe that means attending linen meetings with them, or helping them choose a color palette!

Jenna: Lean into those vendors that are knowledgeable. You can learn a lot from them!

All of the planners agree that collaboration is the key to learning new skills and growing as a planner/designer. Your industry partners are experts at what they do for a reason! Additionally, the group shared that in order to showcase your strengths as a designer, you want your Instagram feed to be more of your designs than pictures of couples only. 

Communicating with your clients about their design/ your services.

Krista: Design isn’t about matching but finding what compliments each other, layering, and creating a cohesive look. I like to tell my clients that we don’t want their wedding to look like what they’ve seen before.

Dana: Communication is key with your clients. It’s important to have the tough conversations about budget, expectations, and services included. Outline what it is you WON’T do. 

Rachelle: Use rules with your clients if you’re trying to present them with a different idea/ style. For example, “I always do…”, “we design in three”, etc. You don’t want them to get lost in a “sea of the same”.

Styled Shoots, worth your time or not?

Laine: We don’t do them. Once you have an established portfolio and ideal clientele, you want to focus your time on current clients instead.

Dana: They can be a great way to showcase your rental inventory and inspire your clients in the planning process.

Krista: I love them! They are guaranteed photos that you want and they are a great way to push each other as vendors and collaborate. Only do them if you’re passionate about the work and make sure you don’t burn yourself out trying to do them in your already busy schedule.

Rachelle: Doing events for a long time, I feel like I have enough content and don’t have time for them. My full service clients mean that I don’t have a slow season!

Overall conclusion from the group is that they are expensive and time consuming so only do it with the best of intentions and make sure that you are gaining from the experience!

In Conclusion

This event was captivating from start to finish and I was happy to be able to attend and be a part of it! This recap consisted of my own personal notes I took at the event, and I included the information I thought would be most helpful to vendors who weren’t able to attend. If you’re looking for a full recap and all the fun stories and commentary included in person, a video will be available soon from our friends at Summit Hill Studios!

Thank you to Jenna for putting on such a fascinating event and to the panelists who were open to sharing their experience and advice!

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