Unveiling the Art of Wedding Coordination: Insights from Billie-Jo Clarke at The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne
Step behind the scenes as we unveil the latest instalment of our “Hearing From The Wedding Coordinator” blog post series. In this edition, we had the privilege of sitting down with Billie-Jo Clarke, Sales and Marketing Manager at The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne. Guiding us through the intricacies of her role, Billie-Jo was interviewed by Carys Duckworth, our Sales Manager and Wedding Venue Expert.
Nestled within The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, Billie-Jo and her team are on a mission to turn the visions of nearlywed couples into reality. This luxurious venue is synonymous with elegance and excellence, making it the ideal backdrop for dream weddings.
If you’re curious about the world of wedding coordination, whether as a potential career or simply seeking insights into its inner workings, you’re in for a treat. This interview offers an insider’s view into what it truly means to be a successful wedding coordinator. From the skill set required to the behind-the-scenes magic, join us as we delve into the heart of this captivating profession.
What is your role and what does your day-to-day look like?
My current role is Sales and Marketing Manager. Previously, I held the position of Events Office Manager; however, upon my return from maternity leave, I transitioned to this new role.
While I am more focused on the sales aspect at the moment, my background lies extensively in coordinating weddings. At our hotel, we take a comprehensive approach, overseeing the entire wedding journey from initiation to conclusion. This means that even though I am primarily involved in sales now, I am well-versed in event coordination.
When a couple expresses interest and we engage with them at the outset, we essentially begin the coordination process. This approach allows us to maintain a consistent point of contact throughout, which is crucial because weddings involve numerous intricate details that need to be captured accurately. Handing over such specifics midway can be challenging, so our strategy is to handle the process seamlessly from the very beginning.
In my team, I have three dedicated wedding coordinators who primarily manage the day-to-day coordination of weddings. Meanwhile, my focus lies in overseeing broader aspects such as revenue analysis, package creation for upcoming events, and studying figures and conversion rates. Additionally, I am responsible for implementing strategies for showcasing the venue, promotions, and special offers.
Rather than being directly involved in tasks like confirming table plans with the couple, my role centres more on the strategic outlook. I am responsible for shaping the overall direction and vision of our wedding services, ensuring they align with our goals and standards.
What’s your biggest challenge or frustration in your job?
A significant challenge we encounter is getting interested couples to book an appointment to come and view our stunning facilities. While we present them with beautiful proposals and engage in informative conversations over the phone, the real hurdle lies in getting them to visit the venue in person. And that’s what we’re working on at the moment – what kind of incentives can we use to get them in the door? At our showcases, for instance, we get an enthusiastic response from visitors who are genuinely wowed by what they witness.
How’s the camaraderie within your team?
Our relationship with operations is excellent. I can honestly say that I’ve never been part of a hotel where the sales team, operations team, and even the head chef work so closely together.
We function as a unified entity. Instead of the typical scenario where we might make requests to the chef and receive pushback, here it’s a collaborative process. If we suggest a particular idea to the head chef, it’s met with openness and a willingness to accommodate. For instance, when it comes to menu tastings, he’s more than willing to manage them without our immediate presence. However, we insist on being there to ensure everything aligns perfectly.
This seamless collaboration is essential for ensuring the success of the events we deliver, especially weddings. There’s nothing worse than if you’ve got a clash in the relationship between sales and events. If there’s some minor detail on the function sheet that isn’t correct, it will come back and bite you on the bum.
What do you see looking at the future?
I foresee 2024 as a thriving year for weddings.
📸 Photo credit: John Scofield Photography
What wedding trends do you see to be popular now?
We’re observing a surge in three notable wedding trends: intimate weddings, personalised and tailored packages, and unplugged ceremonies.
In terms of our strategies, we’ve been actively exploring a range of package options. One avenue we’ve delved into is the creation of a sustainable package, a concept that resonates with the prevailing environmental consciousness.
We also anticipate a continued prominence of intimate weddings. Following the ebb and flow of the pandemic’s impact, there was a shift from larger gatherings to more intimate affairs. While larger celebrations regained popularity as restrictions eased, many couples are circling back to the allure of intimate weddings. To accommodate this we’ve proactively extended our offerings well beyond 2023, securing pricing structures up to 2025 for intimate weddings.
How have the shifting expectations in recent years influenced your approach?
Couples’ expectations have significantly risen in recent years. With higher investments and the profound influence of COVID-19, their motivations have surged. It seems that the pandemic has fueled a desire for extraordinary experiences, sometimes bordering on unrealistic. Sometimes you just have to kind of reign them in a little bit.
What do you love about being a wedding planner?
I love being able to turn couples’ dreams into reality.
What’s the craziest / most unusual thing you’ve seen at a wedding?
The bride and groom were Harry Potter fans and we arranged a barn owl as their ring bearer.
What’s your proudest moment?
My proudest memory always takes me back to a magical proposal I planned before COVID. The woman was from Eastbourne and he had no clue about weddings and it was a real fairytale story. They were coming to stay at the hotel and he just gave me a quick call and said, I’m going to propose, what shall I do?
I meticulously arranged every detail – from the proposal itself to a romantic dinner, and an overnight stay, and even thoughtfully placed a wedding brochure in their room. They eventually held their wedding at our venue, and I was privileged to play a role in their special journey. That was a lovely moment in terms of weddings.
Alongside this, we’ve also celebrated a string of accolades. Awards such as “Top Rated 5 Star Wedding Venue in England 2020” and “Wedding Dates top-rated venue in East Sussex 2019”.
What do you think are the most important skills to have as a wedding coordinator?
Being a successful wedding coordinator boils down to a core set of skills, notably being a people person and having a keen sense of empathy. It’s about tuning into different needs and staying adaptable – a trait that’s worth its weight in gold. Flexibility, in my opinion, is paramount in this role, and being authentic plays a vital role too.
The essence of personal connection can’t be overstated. When a couple is making a choice between you and another venue, your genuine connection might just tip the scales in your favour. This is why I always advise my team to be themselves, to exude enthusiasm and warmth, and to ask thoughtful questions. When a prospective couple walks into a hotel and is met with a stern face and a curt “yes” to their questions, it’s hardly inviting. On the flip side, when you approach them with a warm smile, a glass of bubbly and a heartfelt “congratulations,” you create an immediate sense of rapport.
Making an appointment or conversation about more than just weddings can also work wonders. Taking the time to ask about their lives beyond the wedding planning, asking about their recent experiences or simply how they’ve been, promotes a more meaningful connection.
Any advice for someone who wants to pursue a career as a wedding coordinator?
A cornerstone of this role is being organised. This can significantly reduce the stress factor and contribute to a smoother workflow.
Another tip is to strike a balance when presenting ideas to couples. While upselling is part of the game, don’t give them wild and wacky ideas. A few years back, we had a bride who loved Gin and Champagne. So I thought, perfect. Why don’t you have a bespoke Gin bar and a Champagne tower? The idea was met with enthusiasm, but I must admit the Champagne tower brought its challenges, a detail I hadn’t anticipated. Apparently, it is the world’s worst and hardest thing to provide.
📸 Photo credit: John Scofield Photography
From the intricacies of crafting dream weddings to the art of fostering genuine connections, Billie-Jo’s perspective shines a light on the heart and soul of this fascinating profession. We thank her for graciously sharing her experiences and wisdom with us, and we invite you to continue exploring the captivating world of weddings through our ongoing “Hearing From The Wedding Coordinator” series.
Whether you’re embarking on a journey toward a career in wedding coordination or simply intrigued by the magic that goes on behind the scenes, we hope this interview has provided you with a deeper understanding of what it takes to orchestrate unforgettable moments.
Connect with Carys Duckworth, our Sales Manager and Wedding Venue Expert on LinkedIn, book a demo with her or contact her at email@example.com. For more news and updates about WedPro by WeddingDates follow us on social media:
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