Regret: An Email from a Couple Who Booked a Partial Wedding Planner
Today I want to share with you it’s a really really heartbreaking email that I received a week or so ago. It details the client's experience having hired what they consider to be "the wrong wedding planner" after a consultation with me. This particular bride was referred to me by a venue, and while we hit it off really well during our consultation her mother-in-law was insistent on booking a partial planning package.
For those of you unfamiliar, partial planning is a reduced price wedding planning package that some companies offer to clients who have already booked or identified some of their vendors. This particular couple had already identified at the venue that they wanted to be married at, and therefore the mother-in-law to be believed that they didn’t need a full service planning experience. She believed they would be fine in so long as they were booking from the venue's list of preferred vendors.
While there was an opportunity to make great money on the event and to work with the bride that I really did feel like I had a great connection with, ultimately I did not offer partial planning and we went in different directions. It’s been over a year since our initial consultation and this is what I received:
How are you? I wanted to send you this email to let you know how accurate you were about the importance of finding the best planner for your wedding. I already got married (and she lists the date and the place) and I know the only reason we couldn't work with you was because of my mother-in-law only wanting a partial planner. Oh well. I should've pushed harder and listened to you.
I know it has been 2 months and I still feel awful about a lot of things that happened in the wedding. We ended up hiring a different planner that took Partial Planning, I wish we didn't. I thought I'd let you know that every time I get asked by friends who are thinking of getting married in Vegas, I always mention your name as the best planner in town. I guess it is too late now for regrets, it won't change anything including the most important details in the wedding that were "overlooked" somehow.
My sister is getting married in Florida and she asked me what's the best advice I could give her, I told her look for the best planner! No matter what your vision is, no matter how much money you spent for something but in the end you see how the smallest details and even some of the biggest ones were not done, it will definitely make you feel defeated. This was the feeling I had after the wedding (until today, to be honest).
I wish we can turn back time, and if I could, then you would have made the biggest difference in my wedding. I know we never got to meet but I've been following your work and you're definitely an inspiration! Maybe one day I can get to work with you... hopefully.
Hope you are enjoying your weekend.
Isn’t that just heartbreaking?!? It’s so sad!
Let me start by saying that this is in no way meant to disrespect the company that did book her event. Despite my best effort on social media to be as discreet as possible, there were a couple of people who reached out and said that they recognized this client based on the way that she writes. There were some vendors that absolutely raved about this bride and supported her. Other people wanted to give me an opposing view and suggest that perhaps this particular client had unrealistic expectations or made things difficult in her own way.
None of that matters. The fact is that there was a client who had a bad experience on what should have been the most fantastic day of her life. And whether it was her expectations or a personality conflict conflict, it’s a planners job to manage the experience. Not only for the bride, but for the partnering creatives and the guests.
Ultimately, I did the right thing in NOT taking this couple, and they did the right thing in not booking me. Here's why....
They did not understand who I am and what I do. Had they booked me, they would have had a totally different experience in planning their wedding. We would have set up different expectations in the beginning of planning, we would have worked with different teams. Now....Maybe things would have gone wrong, and the mother in law would have said, "See...If we would have done this ourselves these things would not have happened..." Or, it would have been perfect. At which point, the mother in law would have said, "Anyone could have done this. We didn't need such an extensive service."
Either way. These are not my people, and I am not their planner.
But it opens the door for us to discuss a broader topic with is.... What is a wedding planner’s job? There seems to be a lot of confusion about what a wedding planner does. And the market has been somewhat bastardized buy a lot of professionals that are offering various service at different price points, we’re out thinking the room a little bit with titles like "wedding planner" and "wedding coordinator" and "wedding designer" The list is useless in that it can be known to create confusion, making it difficult for couples to understand the services they are booking.
At the luxury level, which is the only level I can only speak to, wedding planning is absolutely a comprehensive, full-service, and very indulgent experience. I truly cater to every need that my couples have. When I am working with a clients, I am getting to know them on an intimate and cellular level so that I can design an experience that only they can have, and only they can offer to their guests. There is an element of artistry in event design, but there are also logistics, budgetary factors, legalities, and more. As the heartbeat of the planning process, I am very much your accountant, your therapist, and your best friend in a box. I serve as your interior designer, your personal shopper, and your business manager. I educate you on every element that we consider for your wedding, I keep you on point when it comes to the task list, and I offer you creative it he and new ideas, and I respect the tradition and the history and the importance of what we are doing together. A wedding planner needs to not only manage the wedding day itself, but the client experience to ensure that an email like this is never sent.
When I first discussed this on Instagram and on my podcast, there were a lot of conversations about the fact that I effectively walked away from the table when I refused to offer partial planning. A lot of people have asked me why...Why didn't I just do the partial planning? Especially if the client was willing to pay what amounted to my full rate. There was this idea that I should have just done it.
This is insane and infuriating...and it's what gives this profession a bad name. Taking a client that I don't fully connect with, and that I don't believe I can properly service is a money grab; plain and simple. It is the highest level of disrespect, because what I am saying is that my contributions, what I believe, and what I know don't matter. I'm also saying that what you want and the type of experience you are looking for doesn't matter. All that matters is that you pay me and that I cash a check. This disrespects you as a client, and it disrespects who I am and the work that I do. But more importantly, it disrespects and takes away from the clients that HAVE committed to the process, that ARE all in, and that I have committed to. And I can't do that. I won't do that.
So why don't I offer partial planning? The snarky but very accurate explanation is… Have you ever hired a partial doctor to give you treatment for something? Would you hire a partial contractor to build half of your house after you lay the foundation on your own? Do you have a partial accountant? Or partial lawyer that has you write up you own briefs but they just file them? No! Of course not. So why does anyone think that it is acceptable to have a professional wedding planner take full responsibility for the outcome of an event when they are only compensated for part of it? At the end of the day, this particular bride is not blaming any other service provider associated with her wedding. Her entire complaint is about the wedding planning company, when they only provided “partial“ services. How is that fair?
I have friends and colleagues that offer a partial planning and even day of coordination. I don’t now nor have I ever offered either of these two services for two reasons:
1. I have zero desire to do anything unless I can do everything. The only way that I can guarantee the outcome of your event, and that I can be comfortable in producing the most important day of your life and the most expensive party you will ever throw is if I have my hand in absolutely everything. I need to be Oz Behind the Curtain. I need to touch and see and approve of every element of your day. Because when something goes wrong – and something always goes wrong! - everyone in that room is going to look at me. In order to have a viable answer I must have full power and authority to control the universe and bend it to my will. I can’t do that partially.
2. I don’t believe that either of these services are viable way to manage a high end event, or a sound way to run a business. Consider the situation of partial planning this way. Perhaps you as a client have selected your venue, and maybe even your photographer or your florist. What does that mean for your wedding planner? Do they never ever have to see these people? Do they not talk to them? If your planner no longer required to send them a timeline or manage them on site? Of course they have to do all of these things and more! I would still have a responsibility to join you at your tasting. I would still have to walk through that venue and manage both the load in and the teardown. I would need to work with your photographer to arrange for all of your formal portraits, to make sure that they have a detail list, and even worry about getting them a break so that they can go to the bathroom and eat something during a 9, 10, or 12 hour day. The floral and decor still needs to be received and set up properly, the band still needs power and to be supervised during sound check. All of those things that you think you have done still need to be managed. Decision still need to be made. These tasks require time and attention, and it is often times more difficult for a planner because they now need to play catch-up and fix whatever mistakes may have been made before they were invited into the process.
For more on this topic, and to hear my entire diatribe which includes why I don't consider Day Of service providers "wedding planners" please subscribe to my YouTube Channel or my podcast! I have about a 20 minute discussion on this topic that I think you will find interesting.
A final note to couples considering me as a planner....
I expect you to go into the trenches with me. Wedding planning is a full contract sport, and I expect you to get dirty. We are going to have hard conversations where we talk about money and sex and family relationships and friendships. We are going to have to talk about expectations and hopes and dreams. Sometimes I have to tell you know, and that sucks, but in the end we are going to do amazing the work together. If that doesn’t sound fun, if that doesn’t sound like something you would enjoy, and if you don’t want to be a part of that process, and I am not your planner.
And if you are a couple that is currently in the middle of working with a company – and I don’t care if that is your venue, your planner, your florist, or your caterer – and you are uncomfortable with the process please get out of it. Get out now, at all cost, no matter what. Because the only thing more difficult, more costly, and more heartbreaking than having to do the uncomfortable work now is to be sitting back a year later and writing an email like this.
If you are a couple and you have any questions whatsoever about wedding planning whether it is with me or with anyone else, please leave your comments below. And if you are a wedding professional I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you agree with me, if you don’t agree with me, if we want to have a healthy debate and we want to talk about all the different types of services that we can and cannot offer, the space is for you please let me know send me a message leave a comment shoot me a DM I am here it is an open door policy I am 100% transparent I want to let you all in so that you make the best decisions you possibly can. Information is power, and the more information you have the better you will be at celebrating life, Luxury, and above all else. Love.
Until next time my friends...Always....
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