Susan Parrish is an Academy tutor for our UK campus as well as being a successful Wedding Planner and business owner. Sue set up her business Eleganza Weddings & Events in 2004 and has gained a reputation for organising successful and well‐planned weddings. She is very committed to promoting knowledge, professionalism and codes of conduct within the Wedding Industry. In this blog post, Sue tackles the dilemma of how to deal with difficult wedding clients and tips to ensure you protect your business.
When I started my wedding planning business, I was so enthusiastic and motivated to get established and get clients that I was too accommodating. I was happy to do most things for clients and I stretched myself frequently to make their day a success. Since I have been in business, I have worked with some really lovely couples. Working with them over the weeks before their wedding has been enjoyable and exciting. For those clients, it’s a wonderful and rewarding feeling to see their wedding all come together so well.
But you will come across the ‘Bridezilla’ or couple from time to time who are very unreasonable and so difficult to work with so closely. They may cause you so much grief over the period you are dealing with them! They will put unreasonable demands on your time and expect so much from you in terms of what you do for them. They will often be negative about suppliers you recommend to them based on their brief and demand things that are impossible on their budget. They won’t have any regard for your time, any other clients and want full on attention. You will begin to dread any contact with them either when you meet up with them or receive an email or phone call. You feel you can do nothing to please them!
But over the years I have learnt that by being too nice and too helpful can sometimes backfire on you. You end up doing more than you are being paid for and very often these clients aren’t very appreciative of what you have done for them. You will find that you spend far more time on these sorts of clients than other brides and grooms you have on your books. These high maintenance clients demanding your time and causing problems will make you feel exhausted and unhappy because you will feel they are taking advantage of you.
It can be impossible to know that a particular client is going to be a “Difficult Client” when you first meet them and sign them up. So there are several things you can do right from the start of your wedding planning relationship with couples to protect yourself and help you with handling them going forward:
1. One of the first things to do is to set yourself boundaries of your business and how you want to run it and your limitations on what you will do for clients. You must keep in mind that you should run your business not the other way around!
2. Set expectations with your clients from the start of your dealings with them and detail the extent of what you will be doing for them. Make sure you do not over promise anything. For example, I have had unreasonable requests regarding high ceiling draping and hanging things from the marquee roof all of which require extra long ladders to reach these high places. I have had to be quite clear that I don’t personally provide this type of service as our insurance doesn’t cover it but I can arrange for someone that will do this for them.
3. Set your hours of business within reasonable office hours and specify which days of the week you work. Otherwise, if you are too available to clients needs then you may find yourself being contacted by Brides at all hours of the day and night including Sundays and holiday days. You will find that you are not getting any down time or time for you to relax. Unless it’s a dire emergency most things can wait until the next day!
4. Make sure that your contract includes all the details of everything you want to be specified in it so that you protect yourself going forward. Including specifics and also what tasks your services or business doesn’t provide for couples. Also, the contract should state things like clients providing you with a meal and refreshments when you are on site for long hours at a wedding. It’s also advisable to include a termination clause for clients that are impossible to work with particularly if they prevent you from doing your job. If they stop or slow down you being able to plan their wedding effectively particularly if they don’t respond to your requests for decisions or they hinder the progress of the planning.
5. Decide what services you want to offer clients and be clear about exactly what they include. You may get a client who wants you to do something that is over and above the tasks and hours included in your services and contract. Politely and firmly advise them if you can help them with that request but it is not in the service they have booked. Tell them what the extra charge will be before you take on the additional task.
6. Be clear about your policy on response times to client emails and phone calls. You will have more than one client at any one time. If you have a client that emails 5 or 6 times in a day and phones you several times a day then you don’t want them expecting an immediate response. They may then complain if you don’t get back to them immediately.
I am sure you will find that most of your clients will be happy and relieved to have a professional helping them with their wedding. However, you will encounter difficult and over demanding clients from time to time and you need to protect yourself so you are able to do your job and be fair to your other less demanding clients.