Just a little bit of sugar goes a long way in wedding planning. Now I know I've written before about getting the most bang-for-your-buck with your wedding planner, and how to best work with your photographer, and how to get the most out of your DJ, and in all of these blogs I've explained that being nice will get you just about anything if you're a bride and groom about to be married. So if I've explained this all over and over again, what is it that these Bridezillas and Groomzillas are missing?
I am dead freakin serious here. And it's not just me. I've been talking with colleagues in the industry and we're all wondering the same thing -- has seeing brides and grooms misbehaving on reality television given everybody the idea that it's okay to behave as though you were raised in a barn just because you are the clients? The answer is no. Being a bride does not give you a license to be rude.
Here's the thing... some of my sweetest, most fun-to-work-with brides are the ones who have been known to flip on me on a dime. It's not my imagination -- you should see the expressions of the other planners in the room on the conference call with me when it happens. And when it's done via email, usually little Miss Sweetness & Light will CC every member of your staff she can get ahold of. Yeah, because really, it's appropriate to tear your wedding planner a new asshole and copy her interns. You'd like it if somebody did that to you at your job, wouldn't you?
The funny thing is that 99 percent of the time, the client looks like a jerk to everybody on our end because they're usually upset about something we warned them was a bad idea in the first place. For real. And often, when I write back a polite email with information to make them feel better, most clients reply that they're sorry -- they were having a bad day and didn't mean to take it out on me.
Quick life tip here folks: Use the 24-hour rule when something pisses you off and you want to fire off a nastygram at full speed. Sometimes tone gets lost in an email and when you re-read the message later, it's not what it first appeared. And even if it is, you'll have cooled off enough to send a reasonable, professional response to their outrageous message. Nobody likes to receive a flaming email, but it's all in how you respond to it that make the difference. I've made the mistake and I cannot stress enough how important it is to wait to hit "send."
But wouldn't it be nice to avoid these horrible email exchanges in the first place? I know that I never want to have a bride mad at me -- but it's especially frustrating when it's not something that is my fault or that I could have prevented. Feeling the ire of the bride before she's arrived puts the fear of God in our entire wedding planning staff. And maybe that was your goal -- God knows I've used fear as a business management tool over the years. But when you're a destination bride who MUST rely on her wedding planning team for everything, is it really such a fab idea to make them hate you before you arrive?
Here are some tips for things that brides and grooms can do to make their wedding planning experience fun and enjoyable for everybody. I guarantee you that a planner who adores you will move heaven and earth to help you unf*ck something that she's not even responsible for, while somebody you've been abusing via email for the past six months will likely not have any nail polish to lend you in the shade you're requesting... even if you see it on her toes. A little bit of honey goes a long way...
- Do your homework. The planner will give you lists of things that ONLY YOU can complete. She will give you deadlines. Adhere to them. She's answering to vendors on the other end who want to know where your ceremony plan, DJ playlist and dinner orders are.
- Follow instructions. Your planner will send you forms to complete. Fill them out as instructed. Don't handwrite a marriage license form -- type it in on the computer and email it back. Don't create your own ginormous spreadsheet of everybody invited, attending, dinner orders, accommodations, birth weight and sexual preference. We don't need that information. We need you to provide the specific information requested in the format it was requested in. On the actual forms we sent you.
- Read and return contracts in a timely manner. When you get a contract from your planner, for them or for another vendor, review it and respond with questions within 24 hours. Or respond with a completed contract and payment within 72 hours. The vendors are holding a date/timeslot for you based on your wedding planner's word -- don't be irresponsible about responding with contracts and deposits.
- Keep on top of your budget. Your planner will be keeping a spreadsheet of some form for you (I hope) and you can ask for an update at any point. With that said, you are the one who is signing all the contracts and you have all the numbers in front of you. Don't play stupid. Plus, shopping like a madwoman at home and buying two wedding gowns and ending up with 25 more guests than you'd initially budgeted for are not the wedding planner's problem. Taking it out on her might make you feel better (after you've already fought with your fiancé and parents about it), but really, is that the best way to handle things?
- Use the words "please" and "thank you." Not just to your wedding planners, but to every vendor, waitress, and staff member you encounter through your wedding weekend. Don't you think that if you take a second to compliment the bartender at your wedding, he's going to take extra special care of you? Don't you think it's a great idea to be polite to the photographers who are going to be shadowing you all evening? Trust me, you don't have to be super friendly to anybody. But common courtesy is expected. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen.
- Pay your bills on time. Unless you've got a reason to question the invoice or the contract, pay your balances as soon as possible when you get your final invoice from the planner. Even if the invoice is late on the planner's end, it's your obligation to get the payments returned quickly. Sometimes those delays are unavoidable and your planner is holding all your vendors or her word -- and sometimes her credit card.
Now I want to make something perfectly clear - the wedding planner is NOT always right, and brides and grooms, as clients, should absolutely question anything they feel is appropriate to question - lack of responsiveness, a problem on a contract, etc. It's the way that you go about doing it that will yield you so much more success.
If your goal is to fire your wedding planner or another vendor, go ahead and call her names and tear her up and CC everybody in creation if it makes you feel better. But it's not going to make life pleasant as she's transferring over all your wedding planning information to you. You will get exactly what is owed to you and not one iota more. And I'm not even speaking from experience on this one. I just know what happens.
Send a respectful email listing your problems and concerns and ask what's going on in a manner that gives the vendor an opportunity to fix the problem with their response email. Fight the urge to get nasty unless you get a nasty reply back. Most vendors say "OMG" when they get a well-written complaint email from a client, and do everything possible to fix the situation to make the bride or groom happy. But if you attack the person -- especially if there's the slightest chance it's not their mistake -- you're not going to get the end result that you desire.
Don't you want to have fun planning your wedding? Don't you want a long-term friendly relationship with your wedding planner? I'm not going to lie and say I've never had a pissed-off client -- but I will boast that the vast majority of our clients have stayed in touch and share baby pictures and good news on a regular basis. That's the kind of relationship we want with our clients. And trust me, you want your wedding planners to anticipate your arrival with enthusiasm, not joke about it with dread for a month before your wedding.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!