I've done wedding cakes for almost 20 years, and recently stopped doing them because that's long enough...From what I hear from people in different places, my experiences are pretty common, so I thought I'd share a few of the things that you should know if you're just starting in the wedding industry.
1. Wedding businesses, by nature, are largely fueled by ego and insecurity.
The nature of weddings is that you're going to have to find customers over and over. This isn't a repeat-business industry for the most part. You can have the same family come to you for multiple events, and if you branch out into other things you can sell your services to the same people, but for the most part, new customers are going to be the bulk of your client base.
In addition, there's a finite number of people getting married each year, so your potential clients are limited.
This means that everyone is in competition for the same pool of new clients. Which makes people nervous, which makes people worry about their businesses all the time. Add to that the fact that people tend to get into weddings because they're creative, and you have a big old mess of roiling insecurity trapped under a layer of white linens and roses. It looks pretty on the surface, but if you pick up the edge of that tablecloth and peek underneath it's a hot mess. Know what you're getting into.
2. Wedding businesses aren't all about the love, they're all about the money. (And that's not bad)
This sounds harsh, but honestly, it's a BUSINESS, and the people who know that will do the best. The people who do weddings because they "love to make people happy" will burn out fairly quickly, or will go get another job after their first unhappy customer bursts their bubble. To do well in weddings you need to know what your costs are so that you can make a profit, market yourself so that you can find customers, do good work, and...oh wait, that sounds like running a business. THAT'S BECAUSE IT IS.
3. You have to keep an eye on your six. And know who you can trust.
My husband and son play Call Of Duty, and they're constantly yapping about keeping an eye on your six, which is just watching your back and what's coming up behind you. I can't think of a better way to describe what you need to do if you're a wedding pro...There's always going to be someone who wants to take your ideas, your customers, your status, whatever. It sounds paranoid, but anyone who's honest will tell you that playing your cards close to the vest is a good choice. Ask the wedding planner I know whose fresh-on-the-scene competition stole her cell phone out of her gym locker, or the baker who trashed his competition behind their backs before hugging at them at networking events.
Keep your mouth shut about business at networking events and observe the interactions until you figure out who you seem to click with on a personal level. Find someone who you can ask questions to in a mentoring capacity, maybe online in a different city. Study your local industry by going to wedding shows and talking to people informally. Investigate people before you decide to partner with them. Which leads into point 4...
4. Awards really mean nothing. Don't believe the press.
When you can vote for yourself until you get onto top ten lists, bride's award lists, or "best of" lists, those awards really aren't that meaningful. I've "won" these awards over the years, and they give you a nice little bling to put on your email signatures, but they don't mean that you're the best. Don't let an award go to your head.
Don't be intimidated by another business who has a lot of awards, either. I can think of a few businesses off the top of my head who were given tons of awards and who were out of business within a couple of years. Because they really weren't the best of anything, they just advertised with the people who gave out the award. Or voted for themselves, or begged for votes online, or whatever.
5. Weddings are hard work.
I've talked to wedding planner wannabes who were jolted back to reality by the simple phrase "you realize that you'll have to work every weekend, right?" Weddings are hard work, people. A wedding cake takes more overall effort than a regular party cake, and way more time and stress. Working weddings takes a lot out of you, so don't decide to go into the industry because you're thinking you'll be able to work less. I know too many people who have moved on to other things because of the stress and the physical effects, and I have to say that since I've eliminated the wedding cakes I'm enjoying my weekends waaaaay more. Plus, I'm rid of the chronic back pain and I can feel my right hand again, so that's nice.
Any comments? Tips for wedding newbies? Post them below.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.biz and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com