"Hey I'm looking to get married in the future and I'd like a circus tent, something relatively close to the size of Ringling Brothers, as I plan on inviting everyone I've ever met. I'd also like it catered by Top Chef contestants (winners only) and a 20-piece orchestra that only plays jazz versions of 90s pop songs. Oh, and it must be located in the south of France where the venue includes airfare for all of my guests - and I plan on paying nothing for these accommodations. Looking for an all inclusive, VIP - free type - experience.
I look forward to working with you!"
The above was a comment a friend emailed me as a way to bust my chops about how difficult some clients can be. Truth be told: she's not that far off.
As a planner, I am often drowning in difficult and unattainable requests from clients. While I'd like to think that I'm great at handing the impossible and making dreams come true, there are some things that clients do that just take it to the next level of impossible. I'm betting that plenty of other planners would agree... and for that reason, I am sharing my top 10 list of ways that you can or will drive your planner crazy:
1. Keep the Budget a Complete and Total Secret.
I cannot tell you the countless times a client wants something, but when I ask what they want to spend, the answer is "I don't know." Here's the thing: of course you don't know what things cost, you're not supposed to. That said, there's always a number that you have in your head, and if there isn't, that's the first thing that you need to work on. What's the point in working on a full design and putting ideas in front of you, only to give you sticker shock? We don't want to show our clients what they can't afford, but we do need them to disclose what they CAN afford. Too many times the budget is "unknown" and we can price out a design concept only to be told by the client that they can't afford that. So that means that the budget actually isn't unknown then, right? You wouldn't keep medical history a secret from your doctor, so don't keep the budget a secret from your planner.
2. No "heads up" to the fact that your brother/sister/nephew is a raging alcoholic/racist/sexist and will be at the wedding.
Planners need to know your guest list. They need to know about any potentially explosive situations. I have seen fist fights, table flips (I am in Jersey, after all) and plenty of other drama happen at receptions. The good part? I've been prepared for all of it. Planners aren't there to judge you, because trust me, we have seen it all - and we know that weddings can bring out the worst in people. However, if you don't tell us what to expect, when Uncle Bobby rides in on a cow shouting obscenities, there isn't a whole lot we can do. We want to prevent these things before they happen, and if they happen anyway, we want to be ready for it.
3. Ignoring the Advice of a Planner.
"Why did they hire you?" is a question I hear from others in this industry when I have clients that go rogue and do whatever they want. Listen, it's your wedding, and a planner wants you to have whatever you want, but there are ways to get these things. One of our jobs is to put together a comprehensive timeline with all of the vendors so the Big Day goes smoothly. In order to do that, we have to correspond with your vendors to know what time hair and make is done, what time salad is served, what time the first dance is, when family portraits are being taken, where they are being taken, and so much more most people don't even think of. If we see that your timeline is looking a little rough, and advise (based on my experience and the experience of the vendors) that we make some changes, we are not trying to flip your wedding day upside down. When you hire a planner, you place a lot of trust in one person for one of the biggest days of your life. You have to have full trust in that planner, no ifs ands or buts about it. We can see the problems before they become problems, we want to fix them, and we want your Big Day to be perfect for you!
4. Ignoring Vendor Recommendations.
Personally, I do not take commission from my vendors. This means, that the vendors I recommend to my clients are people that I trust implicitly to give you the service you deserve. No one can pay me to endorse them because I am honest and transparent. That said, if I put 3-5 qualified vendors in front of you, all of whom are within your budget and what you are looking for, why are you asking your cousin Betty whom she would use? What does it matter? Why is her recommendation stronger than mine? Planners, generally speaking, are not opposed to working with new people (I do it all of the time) but we can't guarantee their professionalism and service. And, isn't that why you hired a planner to begin with? A planner's Rolodex is his/her strongest weapon and the deals, discounts, and amazing service you will get when a planner brings in their team, is a lot stronger than anything Betty can guarantee. (I swear!) Plus (industry secret coming right now), a lot of vendors don't want to work with planners because they can be *cough* difficult *cough*. If you bring in someone we don't know, they might not play nice with us, and that will affect your wedding.
5. Sidestepping the Planner.
One of the best reasons to get a planner is to never have to communicate with a single other vendor more than absolutely necessary. Question about a contract? Your planner is on it. Song list issue? Your planner swoops in for that. Any issue at all? You have a planner. Want to know how to get rid of that planner? Sidestep them and contact the vendors on your own and tell no one (we find out anyway, by the way). Your planner has secured your contracts and done all of the negotiating, and it sends a really bad message when you contact the vendor with issues you are having. The vendor doesn't know what to do... do they deal with you? Do they call the planner? Now who's in charge? Intentionally or not, you've now shifted the balance of power by showing the vendor that you are in charge, not your planner. Why is that bad? Because the planner is the one that will keep bringing business to the vendor, not you. So, if the vendor doesn't have to worry about future business, just about you, things might change in a bad way. Oh, and your planner will probably dissolve the relationship and not continue working with you.
6. Not Believing What We Say Things Cost.
Weddings are expensive, and in my area, the average cost sits around the $50k mark. Sure, you can do a wedding for less, but things cost what they cost. The biggest culprit here is always the cost of flowers. Yes, a planner can explain to you why flowers are so expensive, but does it really matter? We all know you want the lowest number possible, and we want to get that number for you. But the number isn't going to be "0". Asking us to keep exploring other options isn't the answer either. Odds are, your planner is already getting you a pretty sweet deal, and if the number is too high, then work together to adjust your expectations.
7. Telling Us That Your Friends Know Better.
Every couple has what most refer to as "The Peanut Gallery". You know... these people that will judge your wardrobe, your venue, your food, your flowers, your everything. You know what they will judge you on the most? The price that you are paying for everything. Pretty soon you're calling your planner with "Aunt Chrissy says that I shouldn't be paying more than X dollars for the mountains of peonies that I want hanging from the ceiling to be later set on fire." The best way to avoid this is to keep your financial matters private between whomever is writing the check, and your planner. Make note: if the person writing the check keeps telling you that you're spending too much, then either let us talk to them directly, or let's revisit the budget.
8. Not Making Decisions.
There are decisive people and there are not-so-decisive people. All of those people have difficulty at one point or another with making decisions during the wedding planning process. This is totally OK. Your planner is there to help you wade through your pages of Pinterest pictures, figure out what works best, what's available, and what's possible. From there, you will all work together to design the day and select your vendors. The proposals you receive all have an expiration date though, and no vendor, no nothing, is held without a signed contract and a deposit. I personally ask that my clients do one thing at a time, which means everything else can be held up if they can't commit to which DJ, which photographer, which color draping, etc. they want. Make it a priority to make decisions and ask your planner for help when you can't. Trust me, a great planner will have a way of getting their clients to realize what they actually want, when they don't even know.
9. Sending Multiple Paragraph Emails Multiple Times a Day.
I love the telephone! I love talking on the telephone! Love. L-O-V-E. Why? Nothing gets misinterpreted, and what could take 47 emails, can be done in a 47 second phone conversation. That said, since many people work (and a high percentage plan their wedding while at work), email seems to be a preferred form of communication. The best way to send an email is to make the subject line what you are talking about, and to keep it short, sweet and to the point. Feel like it's becoming a novel (kinda like this blog)? Shoot off an email and schedule a time to talk with your planner to hash everything out. Also, multiple emails with multiple paragraphs, sent multiple times in a day have a chance to wind up in a spam folder, and that's no good for anyone!
10. Radio Silence.
Please, I beg of you, do not just go radio silent on your planner. There are deadlines to meet and things to be done, many of which will require your attention and, most likely, your credit card. Leaving your planner hanging is never a good idea. Whether you want extra time to make a decision, are rethinking your budget, going on a vacation, whatever it is, don't just go silent. This makes for a sticky situation for your planner - especially if they have vendors on hold waiting for your decisions. Your planner has a reputation to uphold with their vendors and it gets tarnished if they can't come up with answers from their clients. We get it, you're busy...but guess what? So is everyone else. Find the time and get back to your planner!
Whether you are on your search for a planner, or currently have one, I hope this list has given you a good idea on how to keep a stellar relationship going. A planner can be your best asset when putting together a wedding, and while we're used to dealing with some tough clients, these are just a few ways to make things a little easier.