THE BLOG
12/13/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

You Can Save the Date, But You Cannot Have All of Them

Oh boy, it's that time of year again. The vast majority of engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. And then everybody who got engaged over the holidays will be madly researching wedding dates and venues at the start of the new year, and in a lot of cases, blocking dates at numerous venues and with several wedding planners, while they try to make up their minds as to what is the best choice for their wedding. That is very poor "wediquette."

My first year in business, I didn't know about the annual phenomenon, whereby newly engaged brides and grooms who want destination weddings somewhere in the Caribbean, plan their winter vacations to visit every potential wedding destination island while the weather is cold up north. They want to block their first choice wedding date at every venue and on every single island that appeals to them -- and yep, you guessed it, they want to hire the best wedding planner on every island they're considering. And why shouldn't they? They're the bride and groom, right? It's all about them. Actually -- it's not. It's about every bride and groom, not just them.

If you're an independent planner like me, and not a hotel, cranking out cookie-cutter weddings three times a day for brides who picked their festivities from a "Choose Option A, B or C" wedding menu of services, it's impossible to hold wedding dates for undecided clients without some form of non-refundable deposit.

I didn't actually have a formal policy about how long I would hold a wedding date, until I accidentally found out through another planner on the big island that she was also holding the same wedding date for the same bride on her calendar, too (oh yes -- we do talk)! I'd turned away a couple of new potential clients, because I couldn't handle more than one per weekend back then, and at the end of the day, the client didn't hire either one of us -- she got married at some cheap all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, where you can get your wedding for free if you have enough of your friends book their stays there. Ouch! Lesson learned.

Weddings in Vieques has a firm first-come, first-serve policy now -- meaning that whoever asks for a contract for a particular date first, gets it. And, as soon as you turn that contract around and get it back to me with the deposit, you're locked in, and we start the planning. Not before. If you drag your feet, or don't return the contract and deposit, we'll send you one courtesy email, meant to get you to send in your paperwork immediately, or we'll give your date away. Don't even play, because I have done exactly that since the policy was first implemented. More than once. It has to be that way.

Let's face it, if you're at the point where you're going to ask a professional wedding consultant to send you a contract for her services, you should be serious about hiring her. By then, you've had the benefit of a free consultation on your ideas, and she's shared her thoughts and expertise. If you're not going to use her, you owe her the courtesy a thank you, and letting her know as soon as possible, so that wedding date can stay open for her book another potential client.

Another note for those brides and grooms who plan to "island shop" their weddings -- don't plan on having a professional planner drop everything to spend a day touring the island and venues with you for free. If she has the time to do that, she's probably not got that much experience, and isn't that busy. We're happy to meet with potential clients on the island -- it's great to meet my brides and grooms face to face before the big day -- but we aren't going to spend two days coordinating with rental agents and property managers, to spend a day chauffeuring you around the island to peek at every possible villa, when you haven't yet decided to hire us. Don't misunderstand -- if you want to do that, I will be happy to be of service. But we charge a fee that can be applied to your overall wedding planning bill if you end up hiring us after the tour.

You can narrow down your destination choices before you start seriously interviewing your planners. And you should be sure of your destination and date before you reserve anything with anyone. Don't ask anybody to write a contract if you're not certain you're going to hire them, it's just an additional waste of time. You wanting to have a copy of my contract to compare to somebody else's on another island, really isn't my problem -- and yes, we know that's exactly what you're doing.

Remember, most professional destination wedding planners are going to be willing to give you several (if necessary) free consultations, and it's up to you to treat them in a professional manner and with respect. If you don't like a planner you talk to, send a polite, "Thank you, but we're going another direction," email. Do not ask her to send you a contract, and hold the date to satisfy your bridal ego, in case you change your mind.

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