Wedding Planning 101: Avoiding the Bridezilla
There’s nothing quite like on-the-job training. At QC, we try to prepare our students for a time when they’ll be working with clients and vendors, but try as we might there’s no way we can prepare you for every single scenario. Most will agree that the first year in any business is the toughest: when you’ll make most of your mistakes, and where you’ll also learn most about yourself. This is especially true for wedding planners.
Understand, a bride hires you as a wedding planner to help bring her vision to reality for the most important day of her life. She’d love to do it all herself, but has bigger fish to fry and trusts that you’re WAY more qualified to do the job right.
So you fly in with your inspiration boards and list of vendors (maybe you’re wearing a cape), ready to make her dreams come true… Only to find yourself buried in mounds of emails and 3 a.m. phone calls for the next 12 months.
“How in the world did I get here!?” you might ask
Likely you made the same mistake that a lot of wedding planners have made before you. In trying to be accommodating, you forgot to establish clear boundaries with the bride-to-be. This can lead to disastrous results.
While you’ll never be able to fully eliminate the possibility of a bride going off a deep end, setting clear expectations through a contract or the initial consultation can be a lifesaver! Here are a few points you’ll want to cover with your clients up-front.
#1: You’re her wedding planner, not her friend.
This is a tough one. Over the course of planning you’ll get to know the bride very well, and you’ll come to care for her deeply. Likely she’ll feel the same way, and she might end up seeing you as her “wedding therapist”.
Obviously you’ll want to approach this in a very delicate way, but the bride does need to understand that she has bridesmaids and family to talk to, cry with, and get her through whatever stress, doubt, or anxiety she may be feeling. You need to focus on making sure everything with the event runs smoothly… for her sake!
#2: Set a clear communication schedule, and stick to it!
When you agree to work with a bride, one of the first things you’ll want to do is explain the dos and don’ts of communicating with you. Give her a schedule she can follow.
Example: You’ll speak with her on the phone twice a week for 1 hour per call, you’ll meet with her in person on X, Y, and Z dates, and you’ll be in touch with her via email regarding all other topics, between times A and B.
Make sure you set clear expectations here. Take the time to walk the bride through this schedule, 1-on-1. She needs to understand that while this is your career and you’ll work very hard for her, you have a home to go to at night and friends and/or a family of your own to care for.
A quick note on giving a bride your cell phone number: Try to avoid this until you get to know your client a little better. You want to be friendly and obliging, yes, and be available in case of a wedding planning emergency, but unfortunately the definition of “emergency” is different for every person. Once you’ve worked a little with the bride and you’re confident she’ll respect your space, then you can give her your number and trust her to use it under extreme circumstances only.
#3: On the big day, you’re still there to work.
At the actual event, many brides will want you to join them and share in the festivities. From their point of view you can understand: they’re having a great time, they’re grateful for your services, and they want you to benefit from what you’ve spent months planning.
You’ll want to explain to the bride that your job doesn’t stop when the wedding starts. Quite the contrary, actually! While she’s having a wonderful time dining and dancing, you’ll be busy coordinating with the caterer or keeping the band on queue.
Just make sure she understands that if you don’t sit down for dinner or enjoy a drink with the wedding party before the ceremony, it’s not because you don’t care about her!
#4: Screen your clients carefully
Ok, this should actually be step zero.
When a bride goes to you for a consultation, she’s interviewing you. She wants to see if you’ve got what it takes to pull off planning her wedding. This is where you put your best foot forward and pull out all the stops, but it’s also a chance to interview her and decide if she’s a client you want to take on!
There’s nothing wrong with refusing a client if you don’t believe you’re a compatible match. I know it’s tough to refuse a job… but if she doesn’t seem like the type of client you’ll be able to work with for whatever reason, it’s better for everyone if you take a step back right away. Consider referring her to another wedding planner, if you know any, who might be better suited for her needs or her personality.
In the end, you’ll likely have to cut the bride some slack on a few of these points. The truth is most brides are wonderful to work with and are extremely respectful of their wedding planner. She KNOWS she could never do it without you!
But a wedding is a stressful event for anyone, and even the most well-tempered bride can lose her nerve once or twice leading up to the big day. Following these guidelines will hopefully make the planning process a little less stressful… for all involved!