Today on “Meet the Wedding Expert” I’d like to introduce you to Melanie Kiani , who runs Bellissimo Weddings. I know Melanie really well, as not only does she run Bellissimo, she runs Beach Weddings Bournemouth and Simply Events! Now, because Melanie’s always running around I decided the best idea would be to meet up for a coffee and I’d record our conversation ….. hmnnn. Anyone who knows Melanie can vouch that she’s never lost for words, so guess who had to do a load of transcribing for this week’s interview? Anyway, enough from me, let’s hear from Melanie …
Tell me a little about yourself and Bellissimo Weddings.
A. Bellissimo was established in 2008, originally based at my home in Throop but now operating from my office in Westbourne. I decided to step away from my legal career after becoming disillusioned with the law and wanting a big change. Whilst I was training to be a solicitor I’d worked in hospitality, restaurants, worked for a catering company on weddings, worked in bridal retail – had a love for weddings & decided I could use my organisational skills to build a business. There didn’t seem to be anyone around seriously planning and events weddings (they were mostly doing things on a part-time level, perhaps as a hobby) so I decided to start to try to offer something that was really customer service based as a full-time business.
What services do you offer?
A. We tailor our services for our clients. On our website we have 3 different services, starting from a full plan (which is what most of our couples tend to use us for), right through to on-the-day co-ordination. But, it’s only intended to be a guide as we tailor our service to whatever the couple are looking for. Every couple are so different and we have to fit around what they’ve already planned when they come to see us, things that they might be struggling with, things that they want to do themselves and things they’d rather hand over us to organise! So the service is tailored to what the couple are looking for together with their budget.
What’s your typical day like?
A. If it’s a wedding day it’ll be something like a 5:30am start! With a Bellissimo wedding if it’s somewhere like Lulworth Castle (where we’re the preferred planner), we’ll have probably been there the day before, taking over props and styling items and running a rehearsal for our couple. If not, we’ll be there really early, meeting up with the caterers, setting out tables and chairs for the reception and then setting out the chairs for the ceremony itself. Then we’d normally be touching base with the Bride, making sure the Bridal party’s getting ready on time and that there are no emergencies, making sure the Groom’s awake/up/dressed (!) and just generally making sure that everyone’s doing what we’d planned. We’ll then be making sure things run smoothly through the day until we finish in the early hours of the next morning.
Outside of wedding season, or on a day when we’re office-based, we’ll be dealing with phone calls and emails, for either Bellissimo, Simply Events or one of our wedding venues. Enquiries, quotes, speaking to our Bellissimo couples – a lot of them we’ll be speaking to during the week, probably via a phone or Skype appointment discussing the details of their special day. It’s such a varied day, always different, darting around, meetings, buying things for our weddings, tracking down the most random items to style somebody’s wedding! I remember one wedding last summer where we were trying to find old-fashioned lampshades that one of our Brides wanted for styling a tree at her venue. But that’s the nice part, because no two days are ever the same – however, within that you need to have some structure so I “try” to schedule time for things like marketing, social media and working “on” the business as opposed to working “in” it. It doesn’t always work out so well, as you end up dealing with the “now”, talking to clients on the phone and making sure things get done. So, every day is very different – crazy hours …. early starts, late finishes and no lunch breaks! And no days off between April and October – 7 days a week – but I love it!! 🙂
What trends have you noticed for 2014/15? What do Brides want when they come to you?
A. We’ve been to a few national wedding shows to see what people are up to in London as that tends to filter down to us eventually! We are always keeping in touch with blogs and social media too to see what’s hot for the new season. Still seeing a lot of the lace dresses with arms and amazing detail on the back – still quite Kate Middleton but that English elegant look is what we are all about so we love it. We think flowers are going to be taking more of a centre stage at weddings. It’s very much budget dependant – if we have a wedding with a healthy budget then I think the trend is going to be people spending more money on things like elaborate flower walls and installations, big “statement pieces” – but that’s not going to be the typical wedding. I still think that the romantically soft will be popular, with pastel colours and a romantic feel. We are noticing the use of meringues in cakes and meringue favours which is fun. Sparkle for your tables is great and we are seeing a good use of that on cloths and overlays and with stationery and table styling – that’s right up our street!
What changes have you noticed in your field of business in the last 3 years?
A. We’re dealing with more Grooms during the wedding planning process, which has surprised us. In the early days we didn’t think we’d deal with as many Grooms as we do. On the Bellissimo side, in the early days we dealt with more Brides but when we deal with Grooms we’re finding that they’re getting REALLY involved. On our Beach Weddings we tend to deal with Grooms more often than the Bride, but I think that’s because of the type of wedding venue it is – the guys feel more comfortable with it.
I think people are, as a general rule, now a bit happier to spend more money that they were 3-4 years ago. On the Bellissimo side if people say they want “x, y and z” we have to manage their expectations regarding what they can have within their budget. We always ask people what their budget is and they don’t always know because they’ve never planned a wedding and they don’t always know what they should be spending. We work with the budgets we are given and make sure we are savvy with our clients’ money where a budget needs to be met. Equally we are very happy to work where there are no budgets to stick to – that’s fun!
What are the advantages of using a professional wedding planner as opposed to going down the “DIY” route?
A. There are far too many to mention! We’re not saying that people can’t plan their own weddings, take their own photographs and make their own cake. The way we look at it is that you are only doing this once so you’re not expected to know everything. You might know a little bit about making a cake, or making a dress, but putting the whole thing together? Not many people have experience in dealing with that and I think that when you’re using somebody that knows the best suppliers to use (and the ones to avoid), the way to approach suppliers, the best way to use the budget you have, it makes life easier. Why would you not want to have somebody involved who could make everything seamless and stress-free, organising things with suppliers and avoiding the pitfalls and making mistakes? All too often we hear people say “We wish we’d had you at our wedding”- “Wish we’d met you 6 months ago”.
It’s difficult to succinctly describe what we do, but over the years I’ve honed it down to …. think of it as hiring a wedding assistant, dealing with all of the things that you don’t like, that don’t interest or motivate or inspire you – you can hand those to us, but you can still have control and involvement on the pretty/nice things that interest you. Another way of looking at it is to compare our role with that of the conductor of an orchestra – you couldn’t have an orchestra working properly without a conductor, and why would you try? It just doesn’t make any sense.
What advice would you give Brides regarding choosing a planner for their wedding?
A. Couples should definitely hunt around when they’re considering hiring a wedding planner. The price ranges for planners can be huge, but I think that’s very much relating to their experience and the different levels of services that they can provide. You really have to get on with the person who’s planning your wedding, much like a photographer, because you’re going to work really closely with them. Have a face-to-face or Skype meeting with them – we don’t actually meet most of our couples until quite late in the process because they live out of the area and have busy lives, so the majority of our initial contact is done via Skype or phone. As a couple you have to make sure that you can get on with the planner and that they get to know you (and what you want)and make sure this is the right kind of planner that you’re looking for – there are many different types of planners in the wedding industry. I’d say we’re particularly strong on logistics, operations and organisation. We excel in organising and making sure that things run smoothly on the day.
What tips would you give a Bride currently planning her wedding?
A. I’d say one of the biggest mistakes people make is not being realistic about how much they’ll have to spend. When you set a budget you need to stick to it and allocate that budget to different sections of your day. As a general rule we allocate 50-60% of the budget to the reception – hiring your venue, catering, drinks. The remaining budget you’ll need to allocate between everything else. Work out what’s most important to you, things that you really, really care about and things you don’t care about and allocate your budget accordingly. I think another mistake that couples make is booking too early – I think that planning too early is like getting ready for Christmas in June … by the time you get there you may be a little fed up with it. I actually like weddings that come to us with maybe 6 or 9 months lead-in time – it’s actually nice to work on those weddings because couples are more motivated, make decisions quickly, there’s not so much choice available and they’re just keen to make things happen. Sometimes we get enquiries for 2017 or 2018 and think, if it’s 3-4 years ahead do you really need to start planning? You might not even like each other by then! I would say don’t book your wedding too early, save for it, definitely (and we appreciate that some venues and services like photographers need to be booked in early) but don’t get too bogged down with booking too much, too early. Don’t let it consume you. Obviously, you could always hire a good wedding planner and you’ll be fine! 😉
Just for fun – which celebrity wedding would you like to be (or have been) involved with, and why?
A. That’s a difficult one! George Clooney’s would have been nice (and everyone thought you were shooting it Ian, as you were out in Venice!) but I guess our style would suit something elegant instead of “celebrity” …. so perhaps Prince Harry! He’d be good fun as well.
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Phone: 01202 533014
Meet the Wedding Expert – Bellissimo Weddings