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Building Your Wedding Salon Business

by Antonio Gonzales on Friday, May 13, 2011

antonio gonzales

I was born in Trinidad in the height of a hurricane. I spent my childhood surrounded by the sights and sounds and smells of Carnival and the other Indian, African and Spanish festivals of the Islands. Loving the amazing costumes, I got my start dressing my sisters and doing their hair and makeup. An opportunity came up to work with Trinidad’s leading costume designers, makeup artists and hair stylists. After I left the Island, my career evolved with work in Munich, Los Angeles, New York City and now Miami. Vogue magazine recently named me as one of the rising hairstylist stars in New York, I was awarded the best haircut of 2008 by sheckys.com, Gotham Magazine called me a Shear Genius and Allure Magazine featured me as one of the Best Cuts 2009.

When I worked in Manhattan I was asked to improve our salon’s wedding service. I was more than happy to take on this challenge.  I knew it was a service lacking in most salons, and thought how wonderful it would be to create a service that I knew would make us more profitable.

To specialize in any service, you must first research every aspect and find ways to make it special.  I discovered when wedding salon services are done right, everyone wins. You can comfortably charge what you are worth, and the bride feels like she is royalty.  How fun and wonderful is that?! On that note, I cannot stress enough that every salon should have in house bridal sessions for sharing your knowledge on dressing hair for weddings. Not all of us love doing bridal hair, and those of that do may need some extra training.

I decided, like hairstylists and their bridal skills, I needed to start from the beginning, but wanted to go beyond the obvious.

The Basics

1. Create a special event board

The first thing your salon needs is a bulletin or magic erase board to post special “events.”  Every upcoming bride is to be posted with her full name, the number of people getting their hair done and any additional details. It is important for every staff member to know the bride’s name and when she’ll be walking in the door. I find it annoying when you have a bride getting her hair done in the salon and other hairdressers walk over and ask “Are you getting married?” No, she’s getting an up do for her divorce. What do you think?  

When the entire staff is aware, they can congratulate the bride by name. Having awareness across the salon also allows other staff members to keep and eye on the hairstylist working on the bride and offering help when needed. This extra detail in service will help the bride relax on her big day.

2. Build a bridal kit

Every hairstylist should have a well stocked bridal kit including hair/bobby pins, elastic bands (of all colors), curling irons and a variety of hair sprays.  Please do not try to put black bobby pins on a blond.  Be prepared.

3. Include the bridal party

Most of the time, a bride will ask to have others in the bridal party have their hair done as well. If not, then suggest it immediately. The more you can handle, the more money the salon can make. Most times the bridal party would love the opportunity to have a snack, so every salon should have a couple of slick serving trays, an organized selection of basic menus if food needs to be ordered, wine glasses, ice bucket and calming teas to help with those pre-wedding jitters.

curly bride

The Wedding Planner

Designate and train a salon employee as a wedding planner. His job is to serve as the go to person for the bride, as well as coordinate and promote all the wedding salon services for the bride and her entourage. This is key to help increase your level of service and ultimately revenue. You must also properly train front desk staff to handle any bridal question. 

Common Questions

Every front desk should have a laminated list of questions and answers to properly inform clients on the phone or in person. 

When is the date and time of the wedding?

Once the receptionist has the dates, I highly recommend finding out which hairstylists are available. It may be well in advance, but the last thing you want is to say yes to the job and then to find out you have no stylist available. 

Would the bride like to have her hair done in the salon or would she like to have the stylist come to her location?

If it’s an in-salon service, sell your salon well and have additional services ready on the tip of your tongue. If it is an on-location service, inform the bride that she will be getting a hairstylist who is not only talented, but will show up on time with everything they need (extension cords, hand mirrors, a full bridal kit to handle any hair type, etc.) 

What are the prices for both situations?

Being very clear on pricing is extra important when dealing with brides and bridal parties.  Even the wealthy ones are dealing with budgets. Be upfront. It is up to you, but if the bride is bringing in a full bridal party, you may choose to offer a discount at your discretion. 

Do I have to pay for the trial?

Yes, you must charge for your trial since it’s a full service.  Time, product and skill goes into a trial as well as other costs.  Offer a trial at a discount if you must, but use your discretion.  Why should a full service be free?

How long will the wedding day service take?

Knowing what time the photographs are taken will give you a great idea on when the bride needs to be ready, and what you need to do to get her to the church on time. I call it “back-timing.” If the client is coming to the salon, I recommend giving her an hour and a half to travel after the service is completed. Do not include make-up in that hour and a half of travel.  That should be above and beyond if her make-up is not part of your salon service that day. If the service is being provided on location, consider travel time for the stylist, the length of time the service will take, and “back-time” it all to when the photos will be taken. Timing is everything.   

Is there a look book so I can see the hairstylist’s work?

Always document your work since it will help give the bride an idea of what your staff can do. It does not have to be a professional photo shoot—a basic camera can do the job. If you have the budget, have your team each do a model, and bring in a photographer to do some head shots. If it’s not in your budget, then barter with a photographer by offering your services in exchange for images.  This is a marketing tool that will help you build your client base, even above and beyond the wedding target demo. 

Can you cater for a bridal party while they are getting their hair done?

The short answer should always be yes. Simply contact a neighborhood restaurant and have hors d’oeuvres delivered. Make certain to go over the choices of food and the budget with the bride.  She can pay separately, or include it in her bill.  If she facilitates it, you can pass it through at cost.  If you facilitate it, you can either do it at cost, or charge a +15% fee for service.  If she’d like to bring her own food and simply serve it, keep an inexpensive but pretty set of dishes and serving utensils in house.  It’s all about offering more that your competitors. 

Can you recommend any florists, photographers etc.?

Having a list of your favorite wedding specialists can make your brides life so much easier. It’s also a great way to cross promote each other. 

The Wedding Folder

Once the bride-to-be shows interest in taking the next step and possibly booking the wedding with you, seal the deal by offering her a wedding folder filled with all the information she wants and needs.  Brides love it!  Include a questionnaire with simple questions, including what type of tea she drinks, what music she likes and if she or anyone in her bridal party has any allergies or special requests. These few questions alone will make your wedding planner the go-to resource and act as a trusted agent for your salon by showing her just how specialized your service is.  It also makes your life easy by offering the bride-to-be answers to her questions in an efficient way.  No confusion and no last minute calamities from panicked bridezillas.  

In my next installment, I’ll go over how to deliver the best wedding trial and the common mistakes many salons make in loosing a bride before she books the service, or after the wedding day has passed.

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Top Tips for Businesses
Top Tips for Businesses

Business Building Techniques

Begin having frequent staff meetings and collaborate on business building techniques used by others that you work with. Every salon has success right inside. Get the top booker to explain how they do it. Pair the weakest with the strongest and let them work next to each other. They can learn from what they hear and see. Do the same with retail sales. Share the ways that the top stay on top.

With cross marketing other services, know who the salon leaders are and copy them. Your staff becomes a resource to each other and by sharing dialouge that works, we all win.

Geno Stampora, Stampora Consulting Inc.

Top Tips for Businesses