I'm a professional destination wedding planner, and therefore, a member of a service industry. My customer relations skills, and those of my staff, have to be top-notch. Actually, we have to be better than that because sometimes brides and grooms lose their cool on us about things that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with our wedding planning services. I am just gonna go ahead and say it (watch out for lightning here, folks): The customer is NOT always right. Especially in the 60 days prior to the wedding, when everything in life seems to be going haywire.
The thing is, I am here for my clients. No matter what's wrong, I'll listen to them and try to offer assistance where possible, and good advice when there's nothing I can really do to actually fix the problem. Sometimes, a bride is struggling with something that I or another client has actually experienced and I can be a big help. When a bride (or groom) is sweet about it, I'll just about move heaven and earth for that couple to have their dream wedding. Sometimes, it's a money issue, and I can help them work through it and cut some expenses. I've even been known to call and scream at a bridal shop in Massachusetts when necessary -- and with some success.
Unfortunately, some couples act like flaming idiots in the home stretch, hammering out wedding planning with unreasonable requests and forgetting their "pleases" and "thank yous" along the way. I'm not saying you have to kiss my butt to get good wedding-planning services (planning your wedding is my job), but I'm saying that if you told me you didn't need a hairdresser each of the six times I gave you the option during the nine-month planning process, you oughta be very, very sweet when you get to the island and suddenly change your mind and want me to have somebody give you (and usually five bridesmaids) wedding day up-dos on 36 hours' notice. I'm well within my rights (and sanity) to tell you it's impossible and you missed the boat. But if you're nice about it and treat me with respect, you'd be amazed what sort of rabbits I can pull out of my hat. Whatever you do, don't blame us for problems that aren't our fault. Especially when the problem you're having is a direct result of you ignoring the advice we gave you during the planning process.
For example, we cannot help the fact that you have just found out -- three weeks before your wedding -- that a wheelchair-bound aunt who wasn't invited will be attending and needs access to your totally handicapped-unfriendly wedding venue. Do not blame us for the problem when you're the one who chose the villa with 6,000 stairs. Be nice, explain the problem, and ask for our help. We'll have ideas. I have been known to bring in very large men to lift motorized wheelchairs into venues when necessary, and in one case, create a ramp. We can solve almost any problem -- even the ones that don't technically belong to us -- if you're nice about it. But nobody wants to help some bitchy, demanding bride with anything. Let's face it, none of the portrayals of the brides on Bridezillas was ever flattering.
Destination wedding guests would do well to heed my advice on this, too. Let's face it: They're often the problem children of the weekend and, at the end of the day, it's up to me how much I want to do to make their lives (and my clients' lives) easier. I always go to the hospital with my clients or their guests if an emergency arises, but I'm not obligated to do that. I've magically conjured up private bio-bay tours in just a few hours, made sober van rides appear as if by magic at midnight (a serious challenge here), and in one case tracked down missing wedding rings left on a dock on another island in an unmarked black suitcase (see: "Your Engagement Ring Belongs on Your Left Ring Finger, Not in Your Suitcase"). I've even hijacked the governor's helicopter to transport a dangerously ill mother of the bride on national television (Stroud Township mom's reality TV debut was one adventure too many) -- and that was very, very real folks, not something made up for TLC's Wedding Island. All the little miracles we pulled off on the TV show were real, but they are really nothing compared to what goes on at weddings on a regular basis. The difference between whether something causes a hiccup or heartburn at a wedding often lies in how your professional wedding planners can step in to triage the problem for you. When the brides, grooms and guests are nice, we can make miracles happen. If they're mean and nasty all weekend and then ask for a favor, it might be too difficult for us to accomplish. Just sayin'.
This goes for dealing with vendors for your wedding, too -- whether you're with your wedding planner or on your own. Be friendly to the gate attendant at the airport and your gown may ride in first class, even if you don't. I assure you that being sweet and all excited about your wedding to the guy behind the counter at the rental car company will help you get that lime green Jeep you're eyeing in the parking lot, even if you'd been assigned the hideous orange one. And offering your van driver a bottle of water after you've made her wait 45 minutes in your driveway for your group to get its shit together in 95-degree heat is a nice way to start out that relationship, too.
Remember the people who are working on your wedding are really trying their hardest to make sure you are happy and your guests are having a good time. If your mother is making you nuts, your fiancé is being a jerk, or your MoH is making things about her (as usual) and you're ready to scream, do not scream at the wrong person. Your bartender at lunch could very well be the very talented guitarist who will be playing your wedding music as you walk down the aisle the next day. The waitress serving your lunch could be your photographer. And the wedding planner you just eviscerated because your future mother-in-law pissed you off may, or may not, be able to find a spare garter in her stash tomorrow when you realize you've forgotten yours. Karma, baby, karma.
I'm not giving you this advice as any kind of implied threat to my own clients -- please don't misunderstand me. If you've followed my blogs or saw me on Wedding Island last summer, you know that I will track down your missing rings and stay up all night at the hospital with your alcohol-poisoned sister even if you've been nasty to me during the wedding planning process. I will assist you in sorting out a problem with your security deposit even if your sister and her friends threatened to kick my ass at your wedding reception. And I will find last-minute accommodations for any ridiculous guests who arrive on the island without reservations. But not every wedding planner is like me, and not every company is like Weddings in Vieques. So mind your manners, or you might find you're not as lucky as my clients.