Finding the Best Wedding Planner – The Bride/Planner Relationship

Best Wedding Planner and Best Wedding Client.

This isn’t a story about a single particular client or experience we have had.  But I have had one or two in my 22-year career and we have talked to many other vendors and share stories with them.  Consider this an amalgamation of many brides from many different stories all cobbled together into one very hard experience for everyone.

It’s happened to everybody  – from cake bakers to photographers and from planners to caterers and to the client.  If you’re in this business long enough, eventually, a client will be unhappy with what you have provided.  When do you realize they’re actually never going to be pleased? What can you do?  What should you do?  When you’re a client and you think you’ve hired your best wedding planner, how do you work with them if you’re unhappy?

Picture this…a bride & groom come to you and sit in front of you at your studio.  They are a referral from somebody you’ve known for a long time.  They are nice enough, everybody is on their best behavior.  This is the honeymoon stage of the relationship.  They seem to like you, you seem to like them back.  They sign a contract with you and pay you the retainer.  All is well in wedding planning land.  You have 8 months to plan them a fabulously delightful event.

But sometimes into the planning, generally during the food tasting & design appointments, you realize that there isn’t anything you can say or do that would make this person be excited about their event.  No amazing, never-before-seen idea is good enough – they’re met with a shrug of the shoulder and a slightly inaudible “meh”.  The tasting is fantastic but they are nit-picking the smallest nuance, like the tray it’s served on.  The floral design meeting is tanking, they have a vision for their event that they have not previously discussed with you, so all the work you’ve done to get you there is now out the window.

Once you get through those, the comments become more and more obscure – they can’t let anything go:

  • Self-describes as passive-aggressive during a phone meeting shortly after signing your contract
  • at the food tasting, there is too much sauce on the mini-lobster roll and the bread needs to be “breadier”;
  • at the cake tasting, just a half dash of salt needs to be added to the salted caramel;
  • at the decor meeting, the shade of teal green you’re suggesting is just this side of too blue;
  • and the napkin fold needs to be 1/4″ less square and more oblong;
  • they don’t personally like the music that the couples chose for the wedding highlight films the videographer is showing;
  • the officiate was too friendly – they don’t want to be his friend, he just needs to marry them;
  • when finalizing lighting, she asks “why can’t you hang chandeliers in mid-air without wires? I don’t like the wires.”
  • what do you mean peony is out of season in August?  Why can’t you get it from somewhere else?  Their friend grows them in their backyard year round;
  • and if the DJ plays one single song off their mandated list, they will go ballistic.
  • the bride held auditions for cute flower girls, she didn’t want ugly flower girls.

You’re deflated.  Worried.  You want to be the best wedding planner you can be.

They send you back to the drawing board – over and over.  You’ve been to umpteen food tastings, through multiple vendor meetings because nobody seems to be the right fit and spent more than 250 hours before even getting to the wedding.  And the wedding day… you feel dread.  Will they like it all pulled together?  Is it you?  Do they just not like you?   All of your excitement for their wedding has been lost.  Your love for the process feels shattered. You’ve been charming, you’ve been reasonable and handled the client with aplomb. Never let them see you sweat.

Fast forward to the wedding weekend.  Everybody makes it in one piece.  You’ve scrambled to avoid weather disasters, personally delivered bottles of wine to all the neighboring houses with handwritten notes so that they don’t call the cops at the curfew, hand delivered welcome bags (apparently 4 hours later than the bride wanted them delivered), been onsite for four straight days of setup. You’ve got a 17-page timeline with directions, parking info, tabletop design, gate codes and every other possible thing you could need – what could possibly go wrong?

Guests are arriving.   There’s a small glitch with transportation  (shuttle drivers never listen and arrive earlier than expected) but you’re ready.  The decor is amazing, guests are smiling, everything is running on time, everybody is happy.  Or are they?  You check in.  She’s smiling.  {insert sigh of relief – she likes me, she really likes me}

Guests are RAVING about the event.  It’s the best they’ve ever been to, and they’ve been to plenty of events.  You and your team are killing this event.  You’re on top of all the guest needs, you’ve checked in with your client every 20 minutes just to make sure she doesn’t need anything.  Guests are asking to meet the planner.  The most shocking part, is they almost all have one question for you.  And it’s not to ask you for your card, it’s to ask questions about the process.  Things like:  “How did you pull this off, working for HER?” followed by “She’s tough.  I couldn’t work for her, congratulations to you.”  and even “Is she happy?  are you sure?”.

When you realize that it’s nothing about you personally.  Nothing you could have done differently would have changed the process.  Nothing you could have said would have made the person happy.  Not different pricing, not a different design, not a different dress, not a different day, not a different hors d’oeuvre, not a different planner.

My suggestion for brides looking for the best wedding planner for them and for vendors working with difficult clients:

Don’t take everything so personally – it’s easy to say and hard to do.  I know a lot of things about my business but mostly, we always do our very best to make it perfect.  We put together the best design we possibly can for the client and work with them to find the best possible fit for their vendors.  Our events are as close to flawless as is humanly possible.  That knowledge makes it easy for us to work with any type of client personality.  I have heard that some planners will fire clients because they don’t think they’re a good “fit”.  That isn’t our policy.  We plan events for all personality types and we know that we do a stellar job.  We believe that all clients can be a good fit as long as we can learn to work together to get to the wedding day.  Once you understand that you always do your best regardless of the situation and confrontation, it’s easy to realize that you just can’t please them all but you sure should keep trying.

Sasha Souza Events is an award winning event planning company considered one of the top event design & wedding coordination companies in the US. Sasha Souza Events has offices in Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Francisco & Los Angeles