Putting Yourself Out There, Pt. 2: How to Build Your Portfolio and Gain Exposure as an Officiant
Published: Thursday, Aug. 22nd, 2019
You have become a wedding officiant! You have successfully celebrated your first wedding or handful of weddings! Now you want to make this a hobby, a side hustle, or a full time profession, so what can you do? I will be sharing tips and advice from other professionals within the wedding industry and beyond, and I will also share my own experience in growing my business (which is still quite the ongoing process).
This is Part 2 of a 5-Part series about how to best grow your presence as a wedding officiant.
Part 2 will focus on connecting and building a network with other wedding professionals so you can all work together to help your presence (and business) in the wedding industry grow.
Part 2: Building Relationships - Making Connections and Creating Your Network
You have a name for your business, maybe even a shiny new logo, business cards and a website. How can you spread the good word among the wedding industry that you exist? It is time to start building relationships with other wedding professionals and getting your business and personality out there.
Note: I prefer to use the term “Wedding Professional” over “Wedding Vendor” simply because it better describes who we are. We are professionals living our vocation, not just selling a service. Wedding vendor is a common term you will encounter, however, but in this and future articles I will continue to refer to us as professionals.
I prefer the term “Building Relationships” over “Networking” simply because relationship better implies what you should be doing - supporting other wedding professionals while also inspiring them to support you. Networking implies you are sending out your signal for others to distribute for you, but you also need to be receiving and sharing theirs if you want to have a strong, lasting connection with other professionals.
I spoke with the amazing Wedding and Event Planner Marie Rios of MTR Event Design, and she really stressed this point. “Relationships take two people, not just one. When you meet a new professional, do not just tell them about you, ask them about themselves. Take the time to get to know them. When people are asking me questions, they stand out in my memory the most.”
When you meet a new wedding professional, you should of course exchange business cards and/or contact information, but take the time to learn more about them - what makes them stand out from other members of their specific profession? Why did they join the wedding industry? What is their philosophy? What do they love the most about their job? A GREAT question you can ask is: “What can I as a wedding officiant do to make your job easier/better/more enjoyable?”
That question will not only give you an answer that helps you grow as a wedding professional, but they will remember the person who took the time to ask them about how to be a supportive team member. If they have not worked with you yet, these questions will make them want to have that opportunity.
When you give out a business card, take a moment to write a note on the back about something you two spoke about, or when or where you met. When they look at that business card later that day, week, or whenever, that will help them remember exactly who you are.
Do the same for them - I always write a quick note on a new business card I am given about something that person said to me that really stood out. If I worked with them for a wedding, I also put the couple’s name on the business card. This helps me remember who they are, and what we can talk about or follow up on when we connect again.
An example of how I use the space on the back of my business card to write a note; this one was personalized for my wife. [Photo by Maria Villano, logo by Chad Yarish, cards by Overnight Prints]
Wedding planners and wedding venue coordinators are usually the wedding professionals a couple finds before hiring any others. Planners and coordinators also work directly with every wedding professional involved in the wedding, so they are the most able to connect you with other professionals. Make the time to sit down with a wedding planner and talk to them about your philosophy, your method, and your ideal client, and of course ask them all about theirs.
Make appointments to meet with the event coordinators of popular wedding venues, and have the same kind of conversation with them. Get a group of professionals you know together and book a tour at one of these venues. If they have a “Preferred Vendors” list, ask what you can do to be on it. Building relationships with wedding planners and through wedding venues can help you to quickly connect with many wedding professionals.
I have found that in building relationships with wedding professionals, it really helps to enjoy emailing and drinking coffee. When you trade contact information with a wedding professional, be sure to send them a follow-up email. Include what you enjoyed talking about with them, and links to promotional content of yours that you think they would enjoy (website, social media account, a blog article you wrote, etc.). Have meet-ups over coffee, and ask them more questions about their business, background and philosophy (and share your own answers to those questions, too).
Really take the time to get to know them. If you are emailing and meeting for coffee, chances are you will want to work with them or already have enjoyed working with them. But the more you get to know them, the better idea you will have as to what types of couples they will work with and for the best, which will help you be able to accurately refer them to the right couple. Which leads me to…
Referrals: Give as Much as You Get
One of the best and most common ways to find couples to marry is to have another wedding professional refer you to the couple. This is another reason why relationship building is so important - the more professionals who really know you, the more referrals you will receive. Many times, a couple will find and hire most of their other professionals before finding an officiant. While this can be frustrating, the glass-half-full way of looking at it is that a couple will meet and speak with a whole lot of professionals who can refer you during this process.
Whenever a couple tells me I was referred to them, I always ask who it was, and then I reach out to that professional and thank them for the referral. Even when the couple does not always choose to go with me as their officiant, I still take the time to send an email, text, or an in-person check-in to let that professional know how much I appreciated the referral. I also keep a list of which professional referred me to which couple so I can keep that professional updated on how the planning is going, and eventually how the wedding went.
I believe in giving as much (if not more) than I expect to get, so I am constantly giving out referrals. When I meet with a couple, I always ask if there are any professionals they do not yet have lined up, and then give them a few names. I also contact the professional(s) I have referred and let them know the name of the couple, so they know that I am the one sending them potential business.
Whenever I have friends or family who announce an engagement, I reach out to them and let them know I have some great referrals to give them if they need it, and I again let the professionals know I have referred them.
If a friend or family member chooses one or more of the professionals I have referred, I reach out to the couple after the wedding and let them know how much a positive review would mean to them, and I again reach out to the professional to let them know how much the couple enjoyed working with them and if there is a new positive review about them that they should check out.
I want other professionals to know how much I support them. Not only is it just good business practice to be supportive of and positive toward other members of our industry, but I have found that professionals are more likely to refer me and want to work with me if they know how much I am getting the word out about them. Again, these are relationships - be sure to give at least as much as you get!
A Quick Note about Networking Groups
I was extremely lucky when I first launched my business as a wedding officiant. The day after I announced my business, a family friend invited me to a local wedding professional group, where I was immediately connected to and started building relationships with an amazing network of supportive, passionate people. When you meet other professionals who you know you want to work with, ask them about networking groups to which they belong.
There are some great nation-wide, formal groups that charge monthly or yearly fees, but when you are just getting started you may benefit from groups that are less formal and are free or at-cost. Attend meetings, ask questions, get coffee with one or some of the members who really stand out to you, and you will quickly have a network of great people.
Also, do not be afraid to step up. Two months into meeting with this group, I was asked to take over promoting our monthly meetings. That placed me in a position where I was working with very experienced wedding professionals who got to see up close how I work in a team and under pressure, which helped them get an even better picture of what I am like as a wedding professional.
My beloved local wedding pros group, on location at a great local wedding venue. [Courtesy of Trek Winery]
Relationships Take Work: Getting Experience and Keeping Your Network Updated
Like any relationship, you are never “done” with the effort required to maintain one. Be sure to stay in contact with the professionals in your network. Networking groups can be very handy for this, but so can the occasional email, social media shout-out, venue visit, or coffee meet-up. During the “off-season,” when business is slowest for everyone, it is most important to remember this.
It is also important to keep everyone updated, as you will evolve as an officiant and as a business. When I added Toast Coaching to my list of services, and again when I added Officiant Coaching, I made sure that the wedding planners in my network knew I offered this so they could keep me in mind for nervous wedding party members asked to give a wedding toast or first-time wedding officiants who needed help getting started on creating a ceremony.
Another great reason to stay in contact with your network is that as you grow and evolve, the professionals with whom you most want to work may change as well. Purpose Coach Joey Chandler, who helps professionals and entrepreneurs in all industries find their purpose and apply it to all aspects of their life, has this great advice:
“As your purpose becomes more real for you, you can work with other partners and vendors and connect with those that share a similar message and sensibilities as you. That will be the foundation for a business that works for you, your clients and partners in the long run.”
Make sure that the relationships you have built really reflect who you are and keep you connected to the professionals and couples with whom you really want to work.
FInally, nothing connects you to other professionals more than the experience of working on a wedding together. When other professionals see how you collaborate, improvise, and deliver under pressure, it will help strengthen not only their view of you as a professional, but the bond between the two of you.
After you work on a wedding, be sure to reach out to the other professionals involved and thank them for the experience. Make sure they have your contact info, and be sure to keep in touch with the professionals who really stood out to you as people with whom you want to work again. Nothing promotes your business like people seeing you in action and being at your best.
Teaser for Part 3: Social Media - Putting Your Personality Out There
The next article in this series will focus on using social media to make and build relationships, promote yourself and your services, and really let people know who you are as a professional and as a person. Please contact me with any specific questions or topics you would like to see covered, so I can best help you put yourself out there!
This article was written for American Weddings by guest contributor Matt McMurphy.
Matt is a professional wedding officiant living in the northern Bay Area of California who creates and leads wedding ceremonies personalized for the couple that help everyone recognize, declare, and celebrate the love that is between the couple and ever-present in our world.
In addition to performing beautiful wedding ceremonies for every couple, Matt offers coaching in writing and presenting wedding vows and toasts, so that couples and their loved ones are confident and prepared for the big day. He also offers a NEW service coaching first-time officiants in crafting wedding scripts and delivering the best ceremonies for the families or friends who have chosen them for the honor.