Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wedding Planner Confessions

Now I've let all of you brides out there (including myself) bitch about the wedding planning process - from the cost to the family chaos. But what about the other side? What about those people who have to put up with brides on a day-to-day basis? It's those people who should be receiving a medal of honor. 

Enjoy I Guess I Do's first installment from those who work behind the scenes and have lived to tell the tales. 

After getting married in 2006, I moved my way into wedding planning at a private event center in a well-known city.  During my years in this job, there were a lot of things I learned about the industry and as a professional.

Wedding Professionals are Humans Too
Your wedding day should be a wonderful, special, memorable experience.  Of course, you want everything to be perfect.  But, try to remember: You are not the world’s first bride.  There are an entire team of people helping to ensure this day goes as you want it – but not all requests are feasible or logical.  When your caterer says “it’s not a good idea for you to leave the reception for two-hours to take photos and keep your guests waiting” – just take the time to consider what they are saying.  This day is a celebration for you, but also for your guests, and does not give you the right to treat everyone around you like a doormat.  And the brides aren’t the only guilty ones – I have been yelled at and insulted by grooms, maids-of-honor, and parents of the couple.  Though I loved my job, it was not the easiest position to be in when some people felt it was okay to treat me like a servant.
I once listened to my colleague, “Abby,” be screamed at over the phone by a client.  “I have left you several voicemails and you haven’t called me back!  It is so unprofessional!”  Abby listened to the abuse for a short time before interjecting: “My mother passed away unexpectedly and I had to travel out of state to handle that.”  Remember: Vendors are people – they get ill, they have family obligations, they experience car trouble and weather issues, and sometimes, they just plain forget or make unintentional errors.  Everyone is human.
Wedding planning is not a two-way street, but more like an intersection with an overpass and a tunnel.  There are a lot of people involved: you, your significant other, vendors, family, friends.  The best way to get through the entire process is to treat others with respect, review orders and information when instructed, ask questions when you have them, and enjoy this time as much as possible.

The Wedding Industry is not a Non-Profit Business
If you hire a true professional, you can expect they will be just that: Professional.  Along with the experience and expertise they encompass, they also have knowledge of things that will and will not work.  Trust the advice of your vendors: You may not like what you are hearing, but they are trying to do what will provide you with the best services and selections possible.  But, those services and selections cost money. Vendors have to cover their cost in products, staffing and labor, wear-and-tear, insurance, equipment, utilities, clean-up, and more.  When asking for something out-of-the-ordinary, your wedding professional may have to consider any additional costs incurred for training, gas, products, and any other part of your request that continue to reduce their profits.  After all, they can’t stay in business if they give everything away.
Most wedding vendors aren’t in their role as a hobby – this is their career.  And a career means a reputation.  Think about this before asking a caterer to remove items or ingredients from the menu, or requesting a photographer to give you access to all digital copies of photos so you can ‘just print them online.’  Quality of work is very valuable for wedding professionals, and they want to keep it that way.  Referrals go a long way, and it’s hard to attain those when clients continuously ask vendors to cut corners or cheapen their product and/or service.  Professionals want to put their best foot forward, but there is a different between “bending over backwards” and “sacrificing integrity.”
My venue once dealt with a client who bashed us online for A FULL YEAR after her wedding because we refused to offer her a “skimpy” version of one of our higher-priced menus for a cheap dollar mount.  It was not a fair offer and it did not display the best capabilities of our culinary team.  After this snag in her planning, she found anything and everything to complain about because she definitely had a “champagne taste on a beer budget.”  By the time her wedding day rolled around, her Event Manager (and the entire company) were exhausted from her continuous unreasonable demands.  Though she eventually admitted her actual wedding day was perfect, she had a very hard time ceasing her negative reviews, I believe, because she failed to be realistic about what could and couldn’t be done.  And when it was all over, she had nothing left to do but go on a rampage.  
And by the way, reminding your vendors about how much money you are spending isn’t the best way to get what you want either.  If I could count the number of times I heard a father say “we’re spending [insert number] dollars with you,” I would have more money than he actually spent on his daughter’s wedding.  Spending money doesn’t require any wedding professional to give you a discount or a special deal – it means you are paying for what their products and services are worth.  Be pleasant, understanding, and patient – and they just might be willing to throw in a few freebies!
Beware of Online Reviews
One thing I rarely consider now: Online Reviews.  Believe it or not, some vendors can pay to have negative reviews taken off a website – so be cautious when a wedding supplier has nothing but glowing reviews.  It could very well mean they are top-notch, but it could also mean they found a way to have those nasty criticisms removed.  And, let’s not forget: frustrated clients tend to complain a lot faster than blissful clients tend to spread the word.  Remember the ol’ phrase “there are two sides to every story?”  Well, there are.  Although I might be biased, my venue was a terrific place – well-experienced sales and event management, a seasoned chef and culinary team, accounting and legal experience, and positive relationships with local photographers, florists, hotels, etc.  Even so, I can recall a few times I read a negative comment from a bride or groom (or a guest who knew nothing about the requests of the couple) and could quickly recall the specific event and exactly what had happened.
“They didn’t tell us there was a 20% gratuity!”  (Well, service charge is different than gratuity, and this is notated in all menus and special offers, which you received.  It’s also found in the Contract and Final Event Order, which both have your signature beneath “I understand.”) “When we sat down to eat, our food was cold!”  (Um, because you were busy talking to guests and ignored our numerous reminders that your food was waiting for you.  No food will stay piping hot on a porcelain plate for 20-minutes.) “I hated the appetizers – they tasted awful!”  (It’s unfortunate this client didn’t like the appetizer.  Chances are, they contained an ingredient that didn’t appeal to this particular person.  My husband hates spinach and I love it, so his review of spanakopita would be very different from mine.  In some cases (not all), it could be that the taste buds are to blame – not the Chef.  )
One of the worst cases was when a bride told me everything was fine when I approached her several times throughout the day and night.  We did have one miscommunication regarding her champagne for the dressing room and she assured me it was okay.  But Monday morning, she sent her mother and new husband in to give me a lengthy list of problems from the ceremony and reception – none of which, anyone addressed on the actual day of the wedding.  It’s impossible for me to correct a problem if I don’t know it exists.  If you have a real problem – one that is truly going to affect the day – address it with your vendor on the spot (in a polite manner) or just let it go.  Don’t wait until the opportunity to resolve it has lapsed.
Some reviews are valid, it’s true.  Just remember: Most vendors NEVER have the opportunity to defend themselves against complaining clients who didn’t read their contract or final order thoroughly (a common mistake), didn’t listen to advice regarding vendor concerns (remember, they know what they’re doing), failed to provide proper instructions or directions, or realized they just spent $25,000 on a day that they’ll never get back (some brides actually experience depression afterwards - seriously).  It’s okay to think with your heart, but remember to think with your brain!
Remember What This Day Is About
I loved my job and seeing the outcomes of the wedding planning.  But after three short years, my husband and I relocated, and I realized: I was ready for a break from weddings.  I witnessed countless couples who argued through numerous planning meetings, who stretched their budgets too thin, who spent more time talking about linen colors than their vows, and who seemed extremely stressed every time we spoke.  It saddened me to see clients so engulfed in the material aspect of this event, that they forgot what was truly important and experienced numerous emotional breakdowns.  When going through your plans and encountering a problem, simply ask yourself: “Will this issue really matter in a year?”  Even in my own wedding, I stressed over my DIY table d├ęcor, and 7 years later – my husband can’t even tell me what it looked like!
When it comes down to it, please don’t forget what this day is all about.  Yes, you want it to be beautiful, and fun, and memorable.  But if you relax and think about what’s really important – THE MARRIAGE – your day will be nothing but beautiful, and fun, and memorable, and perfect.

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