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Archive for September, 2009

Lesson #3 from the Wedding Industry Trenches

Sometimes even the best intentions can backfire. We all want to make the client happy, and take pride in knowing our work is top notch and appreciated.

But there seems to always be that one client each wedding season. No matter what we do, how far we go, it just isn’t good enough.

Here’s a personal story, from a Fantastic Florist, who recently dealt with this exact client. It’s made him really think about how to counteract these types of situations, with civility.

I had an initial consult with this bride to be about 4 months before her May wedding date. May is a busy month to begin with, and this was another Saturday wedding that I added to my roster to accommodate her.  

She presented her ideas & wants. Most were quite elaborate, included huge pieces to adorn the arch, stringed petal pieces for the aisle, and large displays of flowers for each guest table, of which there were 10. She also had 4 bridesmaids, 4 groomsmen, 2 flower girls & a ring bearer. Pretty standard sized wedding party.

The clincher? Her budget was $600. And she was adamant about not going over one penny.

Now, I’ve worked with budgets this small before, and always take the time to educate the bride on the overall cost of flowers in general, and the pieces that she’s gung ho about.

I put together some great ideas to capture the mood she wanted, but using flowers that were much less cost, than say roses or orchids.

She was somewhat abrasive, a bit pissed off, but this is pretty normal when you break the news that all their wants don’t fit their budget. One item that was completely tossed out was the stringed petal pieces for the aisle. She decided to do something with tulle instead.

Within a week she sent in a deposit to hold the date. I didn’t think anything more about it.

I ordered the flowers a week before the wedding, and went to work on other event orders.

I received a call from this bride to be, in tears, 5 days before her big day.

She hadn’t been able to locate enough tulle at a fabric store in the blush pink she wanted, and was looking for some advice. I felt really bad for her, and offered to supply a complimentary runner, to dress up the aisle. She was elated!

The flower arrangements turned out beautifully, and I dropped them off, completed the set-up of the larger pieces, and displayed the aisle runner the day of the wedding. The presentation was really stylish, and I knew the bride would be pleased with how everything turned out.

At least that’s what I thought.

The following Tuesday, I received a handwritten note, that was FULL of insults + petty threats. It really took me aback, and shook me to the core.

She stated that the aisle runner was of poor quality, and not the color I’d promised {I’d only ever said white}, she wondered why her bouquet only had 8 additional stems of flowers beyond that of the bridesmaids, why was there only 1 bag of petals for both flower girls, and on and on.

I certainly wasn’t going to respond in a handwritten note – so I sent a polite email, reviewing what the original order was, what the contract contained, and that they aisle runner had been a complimentary item.

She responded with an email message that said:

 “I know important people. I will submit reviews, post on message boards, and blog all about this. Unless, of course, you provide me with some kind of refund.”

This blew me away. Never have I been ‘threatened’ before. I thought long & hard about the situation, and at first blamed myself. But, then it dawned on me. This was classic Bitch Bullying Behavior.

Even if I remedied the situation with some kind of refund, or whatever – this was the type of disgruntled client that would blog, review & the like in spite anyway.

I politely sent her a final email, stating that the contract had been fulfilled, that I was saddened by her words and innuendo, and that I wished her & her new husband the very best.

And you know what? I’ve never heard from her again. Nor did she EVER do any reviews, blog posts, etc.

It took me standing up for what I’d done {providing a quality product & a complimentary service}, to end the bully mentality. I’m now more confident after dealing with the situation head-on.

Lesson Learned:

  • Kill them with kindness, but keep your own self respect. Take a step back, and let them make the next move.
  •  Stick to the facts, and remove the emotion. Veil threats are just plain ugly. Don’t give into them.
  • Always remember – You are a business owner. You know in your gut if you failed in presentation or product delivery. If that’s not the case, don’t let bully behavior create self doubt.
  • Hash it out with another trusted vendor, and get some feedback.
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Lesson #2 from the Wedding Industry Trenches

Careful what you pay for.

What do you do when your client’s contract isn’t fulfilled by another vendor, the day of the wedding?

This puts you in a difficult position, makes you feel like a bit of a tattle tale, but your loyalty lies with your client.

Here’s a personal Vendor story, from a Coordinator in Seclusion:

Even with all her preparedness, she had no idea what was really in store for her.

‘My client, a brilliant & detailed couple, had paid many extra fees at their chosen venue .

It’s a highly regarded, and sought after space, due to its ‘blank canvas’ appeal. I was very excited to work at the space, given I’d only heard fabulous things – and seen gorgeous pictures of past weddings.

Here’s how the Wedding Day went down…

What transpired upon my arrival was stunning. To say the least.

I arrived promptly @ 2pm, to help the event assistant my client had paid additional $ for. Her décor was rather intricate {hanging 30 paper lanterns, large soft seating lounge area, personalized linens, signature photo area}.

She’d also paid for the use of a digital camera, projection system, sound system, etc.

The entire layout had been planned by her + the staff, and she’d asked me to provide supervision for the larger décor jobs. She wanted to make sure the layout was done to spec.

Upon my arrival, I was confronted by a Venue Manager who stated that the Event Assistant would only be available for 1 hour, and that putting all the hanging lanterns together in clusters, tying them with fishing line, and taking them down at the end of the evening {from a 20 foot ceiling}, would be my responsibility.

She stated that the Bride + Groom hadn’t paid for that.  

Wow. Talk about shock. I’ve planned & coordinated over 25 weddings, at all different kinds of venues, and never have I been so shabbily treated.

It was however, perfect preparation for the rest of the evening.

The venue provided my client with 2 Part Time staff for the evening, who were continually overwhelmed with all of the technical aspects of the evening {though this venue BOASTS about its capabilities}.

They were unable to get the slide showing going at the appropriate time, the digital camera projection screen didn’t function the entire evening, and the sound system went in & out several times.

In fact, the venue staff were out of sight for most of the evening, tucking themselves away in the kitchen eating whatever they could {including cupcakes not yet on display}, and even drinking a beer.

I was completely flabbergasted. I’ve never seen behavior like this before.

 All the last minute details of the wedding were completed just in the nick of time, mostly due to the quick & swift action of the caterer, who assisted with multiple aspects of décor…. no questions asked.

I mean, we’re all working this event to make the client’s wedding day special, right?

The icing on the cake?

The venue staff insisted I ‘sign off’ on the final checklist of services provided for the bride + groom.  I reviewed it with a fine tooth comb, and found that they had charged for multiple technical items, décor assistance, and additional staff – none of which were provided. I asked for a full copy of the ‘checklist contract’, and signed with a notation that an updated addendum would follow.

I forwarded a copy of the checklist to my clients a week after their wedding. They were able to resolve all of the issues with the venue, after requesting an in–house meeting with a manager.  

My due diligence resulted in a lovely, unexpected tip in the mail. Now that felt great!’

Lesson Learned

  • Even contracts can’t completely protect you on the day of the wedding. Be prepared for whatever can be thrown at you, or scenario that could go wrong. 
  • Assume that the outside help provided will be of little to no assistance. This will give you a greater sense of control from the beginning.
  • Make sure you & your client have ALL the facts straight about the contracts they have signed.
  • Be an advocate for the client, and a team player with the other vendors. It’s your client’s wedding day, not a trial run.
  • Report back to your client about the issues unresolved, and have them review their contract. Just do it AFTER their wedding!!

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Lesson #1 from the Wedding Industry Trenches

Now, we all know, this is an industry that’s based on relationships. It’s how you can grow your business, look for like-minded business owners, and create a great referral network. It’s based on mutual adoration and respect.

Unfortunately, there are clients that just don’t see it that way. There’s nothing ‘long term’ in their minds. They just want what they want, when they want it. Seeing someone else go down in flames doesn’t make them miss a beat.

Upon reflection, you’ll see there were Red Flags surrounding this ‘bad behavior’ client. It’s your job to really take notice, and keep the fire extinguisher close at hand.

Here’s a First-Hand Account from Planner Incognito:

“I had a client that was very sweet, flexible about meeting times, open to design suggestions, and had a great personality – initially. We got on well, and she hired me for full wedding planning. I started the process by providing her a list of selected vendors {3-5} for each category she requested.

She wanted to review the vendor’s websites, product line, prices & aesthetic.

She chose an invitation designer initially, and I made the appointment for a consult. Now, this invitation designer has also become a friend of mine. She’s talented, intuitive, and creates gorgeous graphically designed pieces. These are not amateur products by any means.

This is how the meeting went…

My client arrived late {20 minutes}, with no apology, or comment on the time. She slammed her purse down on the table, gave a slim smile to each of us, and proceeded to the coffee line.

The invitation designer & I just shared glances, and I covered it up by saying she was probably under pressure from work. You see, this client had told me {more than once}, that she had a VERY high pressure/important position, and just didn’t have the time to plan a wedding, and work. Completely understand that.

So, the meeting proceeded, with my client perusing the invitation designer’s book of past creations, while the designer talked about her process, and asked a few questions of the bride to be.

None of them were answered.

She just proceeded to look at the invitations in the book, slammed the book closed, and stated “These just aren’t the quality I’m looking for. They’re nice, but I feel like I’ve seen them so many times.”

That was it. I was dumbfounded. She was late, curt, and then insulted the vendor. The meeting lasted all of five minutes.

I was so embarrassed, and felt like I’d led the invitation designer {my friend} to slaughter.

I intervened with thanking the designer for her time, and sharing her gorgeous work with us.

I walked my client to her car {biting my tongue}, talked about the other options out there, and bid her a good day. She didn’t comment once on her attitude, tardiness, or lack of couth. Clearly, this was normal behavior for her.

I then ran back to the coffee shop. I was in full apology mode. My working & personal relationship with the invitation designer was in jeopardy, I felt.

We talked about the shock + awe of the whole meeting, and in the end, she was very glad to not have this bride as a client.  She knew that she’d be a continual headache.

All she said was, ‘You’ve got to pity the groom.’

That’s for damn sure.

Lesson Learned

  • Trust your gut. Not every client is going to be a good fit.
  • Don’t be desperate. Walk away if you need to. Self respect is never for sale.
  • Refer a client elsewhere. Be purposeful, and choose to work with the clients that respect your time, your connections, your professionalism, and other vendor’s creativity & product lines.

High School behavior is just not acceptable.

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We’ve all been there.   Had a Snide Bride that completely broke the mold.

Took you aback from your daily routine, and threw you a major curve ball.

Many could easily appear on ‘When Animals Attack’, and feel that their behavior was justified. As a wedding vendor, you must be prepared with a recovery plan, the use of diplomacy, and the delicate art of c.y.a. 

You do not want to be viewed as weak, or as prey.

So, this week, enjoy these ‘Real Life’ stories of Lessons from the Wedding Trenches.

Vendors coming clean with the horrible situations that they lived through, the lessons learned, and the changes it created in how they do business.

Read these carefully – you’ll more than likely see yourself in each and every one.

If not, we can pretty much guarantee, one of these situations will happen………VERY SOON.

And just think? You’ll now know how to handle, tackle, or put a Snide Bride in their place.

It’s like a week of Wedding Industry PSA blog posts. Enjoy!

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