Your wedding day is meant to be the happiest day of your life; yet for many brides trying to perfect every detail can turn the experience into a nightmare. Wendy Daoud El-Khoury is a wedding guru dedicated to creating an immaculately prepared day with superb attention to detail. She runs Wedded Wonderland, the largest Wedding blog in Australia with over 900,000 followers, from brides-to-be to wedding industry insiders.
We spoke to Wendy about how she built up her wedding business, the greatest lessons she has learned and how to make passion into profession.
image via Wedded Wonderland
RESCU: When did you discover your passion for weddings?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: When I discovered my love for dresses, beauty and romance. I guess you can use the cliché ‘when I was a little girl I dreamed of my fantasy wedding’. The real passion started when I commenced working as a planner in the Wedding industry in 2010 and discovered the wonders, emotion and talented artists that work in this fabulous industry.
RESCU: What inspired you to make a career out of it?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: When I was planning my Wedding I found it really difficult to source suppliers to really execute my unique, fashion forward, eccentric taste and style. I remember saying to designers ‘I want a dress to wear to my Wedding, not a Wedding dress’. I also found the industry really struggled with communicating their products and services on a daily basis without having to pay a mint for advertising. I wanted to be that channel. A voice for the brides and the industry alike. I found my niche and calling.
RESCU: What did you do before starting your own business?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: Wow ok, I worked in retail for seven years, I’m a teacher by education (Business, Economics, Theology and History). I am also a Certified Project Manager and worked as one for five years at the Commonwealth Bank. I then went on to Wedding Planning when my brother purchased the Wedding Venue ‘Grand Royale’ that was my training ground as a Wedding Planner/Venue Manager.
RESCU: How did you educate yourself or train to get the skills necessary to achieve your business goals?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: When I started working at the Grand Royale I thought of executing a Wedding the way a project manager would. I found my background in management easy to adapt to the Wedding industry. What I found difficult was managing the emotional rollercoaster brides experience when planning their big day. Working in Sydney’s West exposed me to the most beautiful intricate Weddings. The rights of passage and traditions that exist in different cultures made me aware of all the important factors that hold true to why a Weddings is such a celebratory and magnificent day in one’s life. I was tested and challenged many times with large weddings, intimate weddings, cultural weddings, Indian, Pacific Islanders, African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, you name it, I’ve worked on it. I wanted to know and learn the names of every tradition, food, rites of passage, key people, key ideas, I can recite them in each language. I wanted to know what the bride wanted, the mother of the groom wanted, the sister of the bride etc. etc. Because I have an educational background I needed to understand truly what feeling the family and bride/groom specifically wanted to achieve through theming, lighting, program, entertainment etc. I wanted to offer them as many options as possible in this regard. I wanted to know everyone that worked in the industry and build relationships with them, understand what their strengths were, and let me tell you there are some brilliant people that have dedicated their lives (weekends) for the past 15-20 years to Weddings.
I learned on the ground. I bought books, every Wedding Planner, every Magazine, followed every Website. If someone was talking about a Wedding somewhere I wanted to know about it. The designers were an easy part, I’ve been obsessing over couture for many many moons. So I started consulting to the Wedding Industry, educating them on how they should be communicating to brides. How they can utilise Social Media to draw a following, presence, own their own PR. People used to call me Wedded (my real name is Wedad) and I always thought I was Alice in Wonderland (dreaming in a daze). That’s where Wedded Wonderland came from.
RESCU: What do you love about your industry?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: The passionate people that work in it, the eagerness and delight of a girl engaged. The excitement is never ending… I love hearing love stories, happy brides who have been treated well by suppliers and overwhelmed with excitement and joy on their Wedding day.
RESCU: What mistake have your learned the greatest lesson from?
Wendy Daoud El-Koury: When I booked a supplier over the phone for a Wedding and they said ‘Not a problem I’m free that day, locked in my diary’ I didn’t follow up with a confirmation email (verbal agreements between planners and suppliers are quite common in the Wedding Industry). I then contacted them one month out from the Wedding to confirm a time to meet with the couple and discuss their requirements, and the supplier said to me ‘I don’t have anything in my calendar, what are you talking about, I also don’t have an email?’
ALWAYS CONFIRM IN WRITING! And pay a deposit, that way your supplier is contractually locked in. The Wedding industry consists of many small businesses which often makes the couple quite apprehensive in booking suppliers, the ‘are you going to be around tomorrow’ question comes up often. Suggestion and lesson learnt is always go with a reputable supplier, someone that has been referred or you have met with and confirmed all requirements of your Wedding!
RESCU: Do you have a business coach or mentor?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: I have people I bounce ideas off. The late Anthony Del Col was a true mentor and inspiration for me, I think of what he would say to me whenever I’m in a pickle. I’d love a business coach that could keep up with my superfluous ideas and energy!
RESCU: What advice would you give to someone who would like to make their passion their profession?
Wendy Daoud El-Khoury: Think about what is missing in that market, what is your point of difference, research the industry locally and internationally, really understand what will drive your business and how to keep your passion alive. And for the Wedding Industry specifically, just work hard and treat your clients well, word of mouth exists both traditionally and through the Social Media realm.