I recently read a great line in a LinkedIn article by the Former Bank of America vice chairman John Thiel. In the article he wrote:
“Pay attention. Listen. Communicate. That is the key to making sure your team and clients feel valued and empowered to make the right decisions. Not only will those you lead start to perform at their natural best, but you will too.”
As it should do, it got me thinking about how I practise this in my business and my approach as a celebrant (and just quietly – I think I do it well).
In this gig, it’s not just turning up on the day with a script, marrying two fine people and then leaving, it’s a journey from start to finish. You’re getting to know not just two people but their friends and family, their whole back-story and getting a sense of what their future story will be too. There's often an overabundance of information and it’s part of our role to guide our couples in the right direction.
Let’s break Johnny Boy’s words down.
PAY ATTENTION: GO BEYOND THE SPOKEN WORD
Getting to know a couple isn’t just hearing their story and what they want for their big day. It’s about being observant and paying attention to interactions and body language, and picking up on these quirks.
By this I mean if you’re talking about a grand entrance, all eyes looking, gushing and excitement to see the walk down the aisle but then you notice that uncomfortable glance between the pair, or them fidgeting or looking a touch awkward, there’s more to the story.
Having all eyes on you on what is hyped to be the biggest day of your life with the added pressure of having to smile at everyone, look lovingly into your other half’s eyes, all without tripping on the layers of tulle brushing around your feet – that’s a hard task and it’s not for everyone.
By picking up on that uncomfortable glance, you’ll save them a whole lot of angst. The solution (because there’s no point pointing out a problem without having the solution) is giving alternatives. Instead of walking alone, is there someone they’d want escorting them down the aisle, or could they enter together?
One of my beautiful brides who had a bit of stage fright, conquered it by being there to greet all the guests on arrival. That way when she walked up to her awesome hubby-to-be, the pressure of ‘omg here comes the bride’ was lifted. There was the added kick of seeing everyone’s faces when they arrived to see her, looking like the absolute knock-out she is in her dress.
It’s not just the entrance that can be nerve-racking, it could be the kiss at the end because PDAs aren’t they’re thing, or it could be an awkward family situation and being sensitive to who’s who in the zoo. If you pick up on something, just ask.
LISTEN: IT'LL WORK IN YOUR FAVOUR
There’s nothing more I love when booking in new clients than sitting back and listening to them tell me all the ins and outs of their relationship, wedding plans, and hilarious side stories over a cup of delicious caffeine or a glass of heaven (red).
While I have a questionnaire that helps to build the ceremony and get the details in writing, it’s the details from that initial meeting that play in your favour.
Most couples book well in advance. We see them upon initial booking and then the months fly by and you don’t see each other again until a month or two out from the wedding. A lot can happen in that time. Details can be forgotten.
Again, my solution - write down the good bits. Revolutionary I know!
Don’t write them down as they tell you though, do it after. Just take the time with them to be present, connect, laugh and sip that elixir of choice. Once they leave, whip out the trusty notepad or space age tablet/laptop and write it all out. I‘m the daughter of two cops so I call these contemporaneous notes.
When it comes to writing out your script, you’ll find a treasure trove of good stuff in those notes. Not only will it help you recall the couple and they’re vibe, but you’ll also wow them with details they’ve a) forgotten they told you, and b) thought you would have forgotten.
COMMUNICATE: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Not too long ago I was listening to the awesome Sarah Aird & Josh Withers in their Celebrant FM podcast. Sarah spoke about the 50% rule – when meeting new clients you should not do any more than 50% of the talking. She’s 100% right and it brings us back to the age old saying of ‘quality over quantity’.
As I wrote above, there’s many benefits to listening and as John Theil wrote, in paying attention, listening and communicating, you’re making your clients feel valued and empowered to make the right decisions.
We as celebrants have a power to help guide our clients in the right direction so that the ceremony is everything and more than they hoped for.
Use the time that you do speak to ask questions and gather the fuller picture then provide suggestions on where to add value.
At the end of the day who better to ask about what to include in a ceremony then someone who lives and breathes them, and who’s seen the great, the good, and the ‘mmmm maybe nots’.