THE BLOG

Why I Don't Get Friendly With Clients Until After The Big Day

09/25/2012 12:17 pm ET | Updated Nov 25, 2012

My first year as a wedding planner, I learned a hard lesson about not becoming too close to the brides who are my clients until after their big day is over. Don't get me wrong -- I adore my brides and grooms and I look forward to welcoming them back to the island as "friends" when they return for their anniversaries and other special occasions. But until you've gone down the aisle and said your "I Dos," you're my client and I'm your wedding planner, not your girlfriend.

The first mistake of this kind that I made was letting one of my brides get too close to me. She was marrying a guy with a challenging family (my way of saying the MoG was an evil nasty witch) and her own mother and her sister (the MoH) weren't particularly nice or easy people to deal with either. I got this impression long before I met them as I held this client's hand through bouts of tears at all hours of the night. To be honest, I did it because I liked her, and I thought we would probably be friends when the wedding was over with, but I never drew the line in the sand for the bride. And that came back to bite me in the butt.

Everything about her wedding weekend went perfectly -- there were no major bugaboos, no big drama -- but the bride was strung tight as a wire through the whole thing. Sadly, I doubt she enjoyed a single one of the numerous activities she'd so meticulously planned. As a graphic designer, she'd gone way above and beyond with customizing every little element of the weekend, and by the time she arrived on the island, she was physically and emotionally drained. Not the best way to approach your Caribbean destination wedding weekend.

On her wedding day, this bride was a hot mess. The hairdresser called to give me a heads up that she'd spent most of the afternoon crying in the chair at her salon, with the MoB and MoH just making things worse. But what was I supposed to do about it? Every detail of this wedding was a challenge, and I was needed on site at the wedding setup. I gave her hugs and tried to pep her up as we crossed paths, but I was trying to make sure that the place cards didn't blow away and that the table ribbons were all anchored with double-sticky tape (the challenges of outdoor, waterfront wedding venues).

I didn't hear from her after her honeymoon. I was hurt and I emailed a couple of times. When we finally spoke, I asked her what she thought of her wedding (the pictures were amazing) and she started to cry. She told me that while every detail of her wedding was perfect, I had let her down emotionally. She felt I wasn't there for her when she needed me on the big day. Wow. I was shattered. While I knew her expectations had been unreasonable, I was devastated she felt I'd abandoned her.

On a lighter note, that same month, another bride pulled a doozy on me. Back then, my office was in my house and some of my clients had been there. This couple had ties to the island and we'd been out socially with them a few times. At six o'clock in the morning on her wedding day, this bride showed up with her MoH on my doorstep. Drunk as a skunk, sobbing hysterically and having just had a nasty fight with the man she was due to marry in exactly 12 hours.

As there are no rules in the How-to-Be-a-Good-Wedding-Planner guides about how to handle this sort of situation, I brought them into the house and talked her off the ledge while the MoH made coffee. My husband Bill got up and made breakfast (no really, he did!) for our guests while we got her into the shower. After about an hour-long nap, we sent her down to the hairdresser to begin prep for the hours of photos she had planned (she was in need of some serious war paint after all those tears), and I went over to the villa to talk to the groom. End of story -- they had a beautiful wedding that night and they lived happily ever after. And I know this because we are still good friends to this day.

With that said, it was the last time we told clients where we lived before they were married. And I never let myself get close enough to another bride so that she would be leaning on me for moral support on the day of her wedding. That is not my job. Just to be clear -- a wedding planner is an event coordinator who takes the responsibility for facilitating and executing (perfectly) all the little details that come together to create the most fabulous day of your life. A planner is not a therapist, she is not your MoH, she is not your BFF, and she is not the person whose shoulder you should plan to cry on during your wedding weekend. I'm not heartless -- I wish I could be all of those things to every client I have. But the reality is that you have to assign the emotional support role to one of your friends or family members on your actual wedding weekend because my job is to be everywhere you are not, getting things ready for when you arrive.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy