Wedding planning software: How we helped Blush by Brandee Gaar simplify processes and streamline her wedding planner business
Contrary to popular belief, running a wedding planning business isn’t just one job … it’s really three: 1) running a business, 2) managing clients and 3) planning weddings and events.
And unlike most other creative businesses (like design and advertising agencies) that employ separate staff members manage each of these things (business management, client management, creative development/project management), wedding planners usually have to do all three themselves - unless you do such a high volume of business that you can hire on additional staff.
Because each of these jobs comes with hundreds of details and tasks that need to be tracked, executed and measured, wedding planners often look for help in the form of software and tools to keep them organized.
New wedding planners typically turn to single-purpose software and free wedding apps and business tools to get the job done. But once their client list starts to grow (along with the pressure to keep up with waves of details), they quickly find themselves buried in a tedious system of disconnected applications, files, emails, whiteboards and handwritten notes, essentially creating a fourth job.
Brandee Gaar, who runs her own wedding planning firm called Blush by Brandee Gaar as well as her own business consultancy for wedding planners, understands the frustrations of working from multiple business and project management tools and free apps.
“We started Blush by Brandee Gaar in 2007 and it took off quickly,” said Brandee. “I had been a corporate event planner prior to that, so event planning definitely wasn't new to me. But when we started, we were trying to figure things out. So, we ended up having all these different tools like Google Docs and Calendars, Dropbox, AllSeated, Trello and a bunch more. There was so much room for user error.”
As Brandee’s business expanded, she started to see that her DIY system of single purpose software tools, free wedding apps, Gmail and Excel hindered her and her team from growing the business and focusing on other important wedding tasks for her clients. So, she started to look for alternatives.
“We do about 200 weddings a year now, and last year I said to myself, ‘There's gotta be something out there that does everything better.’”
When Brandee discovered Planning Pod’s all-in-one online wedding planning software, she knew she had found her solution. Our event planning software platform integrates 20+ essential wedding event planning and business tools so that Brandee can perform all three of her jobs (running her business, managing clients and planning weddings) from one central location. No more tedious double-entering of data, manual updates or missing details.
Our comprehensive online wedding software enabled Brandee to streamline processes, simplify her workflows, serve her clients better and keep up with her quickly growing wedding planning business.
“Planning Pod really is an all-in-one tool for planners and venues that intuitively thinks about the things you may not be thinking of because there is already so much built into it,” said Brandee.
In this article, we will walk you through the four major challenges Brandee faced in managing her growing business and planning events, including:
- Struggling with process gaps caused by disconnected applications and tools
- Getting past the the “Beginner’s Dilemma” that comes with opening a wedding planning business
- Overcoming automation frustration from convoluted manual processes and workflows
- Finding the time to deliver dream weddings and incredible client experiences without clocking in lots of overtime
If you experience the same or similar challenges that Brandee and her team faced, you’re not alone. That’s why we created a comprehensive wedding planner software platform to help you streamline all your workflows and simplify running your business. Sign up for a free trial!
Challenge 1: Struggling to manage events and run a business with scattered applications and tools
When Brandee’s business began to grow, she knew that her internal system wasn’t where she needed it to be to serve her clients in the capacity that she wanted. She also found it difficult to find a management tool that fit the unique needs of a wedding planning business.
“When we started looking for a CRM system six years ago, nothing worked right, and nothing was the way I wanted it to be,” explained Brandee. “We ended up having a tool built specifically for us by an IT guy in our industry who built it off of Zoho CRM. But it wasn't user friendly at all, like zero-percent friendly. If we wanted to make changes, we ended up trying to write code, and we don't do that because we are wedding planners.
Brandee needed a system that seamlessly integrated the various software tools she depended on and that made it easy to update, manage and customize details, reducing time-consuming redundancies.
For example, her husband Ira, who runs the back office of the business, was tangled in a lengthy and laborious system of paperwork and procedures.
Each new contract would take him roughly 20 minutes just to transmit the data to their various programs. For one deal, he would need to: update Quickbooks; manually create and send an invoice; create and send the contract from another application; save the signed contract in a folder; and finally, save the date of the client’s big day on the calendar and mark each payment due date, which would need to be tracked manually.
“Just to write a contract, I would watch him go through all these crazy processes,” she said. “I thought, ‘There is no way it should take us this long to process a contract.’”
Often, these toilsome processes cost wedding planners more than time. Manual transmission of data creates disconnects and process gaps leading to lost leads, missed details and eventually, unhappy clients.
“Our sales team was also incredibly frustrated with our previous system,” Brandee added. “They would sign a client and if my husband wasn't at his desk, he wouldn't be able to get to it until night, and so we might not be able to turn it around for 24 hours. It drove me crazy.”
She and her staff of six wedding planners were also finding it challenging to get day-to-day wedding tasks done on the events side.
“One of my new planners said to me, ‘Why do we have so many software tools?’ and I said ‘Unfortunately that's how many it takes right now,’” said Brandee. “To be honest, I hate to have to open so many software applications to do one thing. If a planner were to leave our company, we would wonder where they saved timelines and files.”
Unsatisfied with the functionality of her many applications, Brandee and her team went back to the drawing board to find something that could handle the dozens of different processes involved in managing a wedding planning business and planning the perfect wedding for clients.
Solution: An all-in-one wedding planning software that integrates all necessary tools into a single consolidated platform
When Brandee began searching for a tool that could alleviate some of her pain points, she didn’t expect to find the perfect wedding planning software that included everything she needed in just one easy-to-use program.
“I was shocked by how much Planning Pod had already built into the system for planners and event professionals,” said Brandee. “It really is everything in one place.”
Before Planning Pod, Brandee and her team experimented with other programs popular among professional wedding planners, like Honeybook and Aisle Planner, but still felt like they were only adding to the list of management tools that didn’t do everything they needed.
“Honeybook is probably the most popular in our industry among wedding planners,” explained Brandee. “But Honeybook doesn't have the planning functionality. It's more of an invoicing and reminding system, and I need me and my team to be able to do EVERYTHING in one place, which is what drew us to Planning Pod.”
Planning Pod features event management tools curated to meet the specific needs of professional wedding planners for tracking and planning events:
- Calendar and Tasks - The central event calendar lets you manage all events, appointments, payment due dates and more. The task manager includes customized task list templates that can be imported into each new event, with tasks backed out from the wedding day. You can also set reminder notifications that can be emailed or texted to staff assigned to the job, preventing details and deadlines from being missed.
- Schedule builder - Easily create detailed event timelines for each event that include dates and times, assignments for vendors and venues, and file attachments for each item. It can also include automated email and text reminders to send to staff, clients and third-parties - like caterers and florists or contacts at wedding venues - so that everyone understands what’s going on and remains in sync in real-time on the wedding day.
- Vendor and venue management - Track all vendors and wedding venues assigned to your events, making it simple to track and find their contact information, assignments, tasks and even billings with the built-in wedding budgeting tool.
- Files and notes management - Compile additional files and documents in one place and keep them organized with internal folders that can be accessed by other staff members if needed. Also quickly add and access notes for each wedding event.
Planning Pod also incorporates all of the business management tools wedding planners need to run their business and stay on top of essential details...
- Lead and CRM manager - Manage all leads coming in from your wedding website, social media or other channels and track them through the entire sales funnel to close more deals. With Planning Pod’s CRM functionality, you can store and manage contact information and necessary details for each prospect, client, vendor and contractor.
- Proposal and contract building - Template builders enable you to create customized proposal templates and line item templates for your frequently used packages. Easily pull templates into a new proposal, make necessary changes and send it to the client for their review in a matter of minutes. Our online wedding software also allows clients to instantly sign and return proposals and contracts electronically.
- Invoicing and payments - Turn a proposal into an invoice in a single click, email it to the client directly from the system and collect payments instantly online through one of our merchant processors - PaySimple, Stripe or Square. You can even schedule installment plans for clients with automated payment reminders or scheduled charges directly to a credit card.
“My sales manager thinks Planning Pod is amazing,” said Brandee. “She can send out her own contracts, and she knows when they viewed it, when they signed it and when they paid their invoice. She can turn them into a booked client within minutes. It really is amazing. And my husband now has very little involvement in those areas, which has freed him up to do other things in the business.”
Challenge 2: Starting a wedding planning business with limited knowledge of where and how to start
Virtually every new business owner (including wedding planners) face the Beginner’s Dilemma, otherwise known as the “you don’t know what you don’t know” conundrum.
Even entrepreneurs who have previous experience in the industry - like Brandee, who had worked in corporate event planning prior to launching her business - don’t always know every minute detail about how to run and manage that type of business. Instead, they often spend months, or even years, in a cycle of trial-and-error to find the right market for their services and the correct processes and tools needed to optimize and grow their business.
Many entrepreneurs try to combat the Beginner’s Dilemma by conducting research and interviews and creating extensive, well-detailed business plans. All this preparation helps, but once you finally open your doors and start taking in clients, you quickly begin to identify gaps and challenges that compel you to adapt your processes and tools to overcome them.
Brandee understands what it feels like to not know what you don’t know. For her first six years in business, she made do with her DIY collection of tools and processes. It wasn’t until 2014 that she decided she needed to make a big change to advance her business and adopt her first CRM system.
“It's funny because you start out in business, and you are trying to figure it all out and do what you can, where you can,” she explained. “We had this huge whiteboard in our office, and my husband put electrical tape lines on it, so we had about 30 lines with all these different sections. Mind you, this is a dry erase board, and we have three kids, so I would put leads up, and sometimes the kids would decide to doodle on it or erase something. Plus, since it was a dry erase board, you couldn't instantly move people around, so things were out of order often, and it was just messy because we couldn't track where they were in the pipeline very well.”
Most business owners have stories similar to Brandee’s, and all of them would have preferred not to have learned things the hard way. The quicker you can progress through the growing pains of opening a business and start making strides with business development and infrastructure, the faster you will grow.
Solution: Expert processes and resources prebuilt for you by successful wedding industry experts
Planning Pod is a comprehensive wedding planner software tool that equips entrepreneur planners with everything they want and all of the other things they don’t yet realize they need so that they can hit the ground running with their new wedding planning business.
“I work with so many new startup planners, and Planning Pod is such a great system, especially for someone new, because there is so much in it that you would otherwise have to recreate from the ground up if you were starting out,” added Brandee.
Since 2007, Planning Pod has been filling the gaps left by other event management software apps by listening to and working with hundreds of professional planners to create a true “business-in-a box” that serves the needs of new and experienced planners alike.
In addition to the comprehensive library of tools, Planning Pod also offers wedding planners a catalog of curated, pre-built templates that can be easily customized, including wedding budgets, timelines, seating charts, task lists and worksheets for tracking rentals, vendor details or other items.
“I love that you have pre-built templates in there,” exclaimed Brandee. “Instead of my team having to go in and build a timeline from scratch, you already have one there, and it’s really good and accurate. A lot of what you guys have built in the software as templates was a great and welcomed surprise for us.”
Brandee also remarked that having these kinds of user-friendly tools and expertly designed templates would have been extremely helpful in jump-starting her business back in 2007. Now, she recommends it to other entrepreneurs looking to enter the world of event planning.
“As a new planner, this would be gold,” she said about Planning Pod’s comprehensive event management software. “The templates and every tool they need is in one place.”
Challenge 3: Getting entangled in interminable manual processes and overwrought workflows
Many wedding planners know exactly where their processes bottleneck and when their workarounds aren’t actually working. The problem, though, is because they are so busy (and the inefficient processes only make them busier), they simply don’t have the time to find the right solution for their issues.
“Automations were our biggest challenges,” said Brandee. “I am a time junkie, so everything has to have a return on my minutes. Watching how difficult so many things in our business were when I knew the technology existed to simplify everything was the biggest struggle, because I knew we were making things more difficult for ourselves.”
Automation frustration, the aggravating feeling when you know you are wasting time but don’t have time to waste to fix it, is a common phenomenon for event event planners who strive on organization and efficiency. Although wedding planners have crazy-good organizational skills, the combination of disconnected tools, long processes and a lack of time prevents them from finding the solutions they need to truly streamline event planning workflows and business operations.
Further, using more stand-alone tools that don’t integrate with planning tools - like electronic calendars, task managers, Excel spreadsheets, documents and email programs like Gmail - usually only end up making the processes even more complicated and time-consuming.
Solution: A digital assistant that connects the dots and automates processes for you
Brandee not only craved a way to automate her internal processes, but she also wanted to find ways that she could automate various segments in her client-facing processes. She knew that with a good wedding planner software system, she could offer more value and touch points to client interactions without adding on hours or additional steps for her and her staff of planners.
“We want our clients to feel like we are constantly reaching out to them and touching base and feel like we are their best friend,” she explained. “But we want to be able to do this in a way so that some things are automated, like sending tips and checklists and tasks. That way, they are getting help from us without each planner manually reaching out to them.”
After spending a few months comparing wedding planning software, she narrowed her search down to two: Planning Pod and Aisle Planner.
“When it came down to it, I needed something that worked well for me and my team to manage our events and our clients, and Planning Pod is a much more robust system than Aisle Planner because it allows me to automate so much more,” said Brandee.
Some of Planning Pod’s automated features that Brandee loved include:
- Automated email and text reminders - Send automatic reminder notifications to clients, staff and third-parties for items like task due dates, vendor payment due dates in the wedding budget tool and invoice payment dates. Add text or email notifications to itinerary items so you and your team are in-sync every minute on each client’s big day. You can even set up autoresponders for incoming leads and payments so clients and prospects feel heard in every step of the process.
- Dashboards - Know at-a-glance and in real-time about upcoming, overdue, waiting and recently-completed items across your account with colorful visual summary dashboards.
Challenge 4: Finding extra time in busy schedules to deliver above-and-beyond services to their clients
Smart wedding planners gauge success by a few key business metrics, but probably the most rewarding one is measuring the size of the smiles across the faces of the newlyweds.
Creating that above-and-beyond, magical experience, though, requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work with vendors and venues, and a lot of facetime and collaboration with the clients themselves.
“It's a big deal that we want our clients to feel that they are our only client,” said Brandee. “Each one is that important to us.”
“Because of this, we make ourselves very available to our brides. We may do a lot of weddings, but each of our planners takes only one wedding per weekend. In doing this, we can offer things like giving a bride 24-hour access to her planner the week leading up to their wedding.”
Unfortunately, trying to create a truly one-of-a-kind experience for each bride can often lead to overdelivery overtime - when you want to go above and beyond for a client but it often comes at a price. Sometimes it means you have less time to follow up with new leads or to devote to caterer, vendor or venue management. Other times it means you add more hours onto your week to fit everything in (hence the overtime in order to overdeliver).
To provide this kind of open access to planners and prevent them burnout, Brandee has had to put tools and processes in place to both free up more time for them to spend on the extras and to simplify how they collaborate and communicate with clients.
Solution: Communication tools and client-facing tools that enable smooth collaboration
Eliminating communication and collaboration barriers both streamlines the workflow for the wedding planner and makes the experience more enjoyable and personal for the clients.
“I want our customers to find it easy to work with us and easy to give us the information that we need, and Planning Pod does that for us,” said Brandee.
Planning Pod’s unique client portal makes it easy for customers to work with you (and for you to work with them, too). With this tool, the client can simply log into their private portal to view and sign proposals and contracts, view and pay invoices, keep track of tasks and timelines, mark items on the wedding planning checklist as complete, share and upload files and much more.
Wedding clients and planners can also collaborate using the following tools:
- Questionnaires and forms - Collect input and ideas from clients upfront with electronic forms they can complete inside their private client portal. Then notify your planners automatically when forms are submitted.
- Attendee lists - Clients can upload guest lists, track RSVPs and review meal choices for guests.
- Wedding floor plan designs - Planners can provide clients with precise floor plans of seating arrangement and other set-up and clients can then make adjustments and create easily assign guests’ seats directly on the platform.
- Vision boards - Planners and clients alike can upload and label images for online virtual brainstorming, and both can categorize and comment on images.
- Wedding websites - The webpage builder lets engaged couples create a colorful wedding website where guests can easily RSVP online, streamlining how couples can manage their guest lists. These websites also integrate with social media follow functionality so people can quickly “like” your site.
The event floor plan and seating arrangement tool in particular stands out with clients for two reasons. First, it lets them easily visualize what their event will look like so they feel more connected to the planning process. Second, it integrates with their guest list so they can assign attendees to chairs and create a custom seating arrangement. And professional wedding planners like Brandee love the fact that our wedding planner software packages include the floor plan tool so you don’t need to purchase an additional external tool like AllSeated.
“One of the things we are loving about Planning Pod so far is that brides can track their RSVPs through it so we can see how many people have RSVP’d for their wedding and where clients are at with them so we don't have to ask them constantly,” said Brandee. “We have brides using the seating chart function and they really love it to seat their guests and get an idea of the layout of their reception.”
Planning Pod’s event planning software platform also offers an email communications tool that functions like your inbox but keeps messages attached to the CRM system to streamline processes and so that your entire team can stay atop of changes. You can even integrate your team members’ current email addresses so that each person can send and receive email messages from inside your Planning Pod account.
Launch and grow your wedding planning business with Planning Pod’s all-inclusive wedding planner app
As Brandee will tell you, having the right tools and processes in place can make all the difference for launching, growing and maintaining a successful wedding planning business. And unlike our competitors Honeybook and Aisle Planner or free wedding resources like WeddingWire or The Knot, our system provides planners with everything they need to operate their business, plan their events and close more deals in one single, connected program.
From advanced CRM tools, lead nurturing systems, billing and payment automations, to beautiful templates, collaborative communication tools and fun extras like floor plans and visions board creators, Planning Pod’s wedding planning software has everything that new and experienced professional wedding planners want and need (even if they didn’t realize it before).
Plus, our cloud-based system also makes it easy to update, track and share information on the go. Staff, clients and vendors can all easily find and update the information they need from a computer, iPad, iPhone or Android device.
If you’re new to wedding planning or are an existing wedding planning firm that’s grown frustrated and tired of inefficient systems, join the hundreds of planners who rely on Planning Pod’s wedding planning software to deliver amazing experiences and keep their businesses growing. Sign up for a free trial!