One of the realities of being a wedding planner is that you put yourself in the middle of things as a profession. No, we’re not talking about unnecessarily inserting yourself into situations. Rather, we’re talking about your position as a go-between, an intermediary, a buffer between your clients and vendor partners.
The worlds of engaged couple and wedding industry professional orbit each other until the day that they all of a sudden collide. And, when that happens, it’s your job as a wedding planner to ensure that it’s not explosive. So today, we’re talking about the ways that you can help create an effective working relationship between your clients and partners by managing expectations as well as ways to navigate through any rough seas you may encounter.
We’re going to start off with one of the “easiest” ways to manage expectations – by clearly defining and understanding what the deliverables are. And, this pretty much always comes down to the contractual agreements that your clients enter into with their vendors. Be sure to encourage your clients to thoroughly read each and every contract they consider signing (i.e. don’t treat it like an iTunes Terms of Service agreement) because not understanding the fine print is what can get people into trouble. Make sure that your clients provide both you and your vendor partners with a crystal clear outline of what they want. And, as you lead them through the booking process with each vendor, be sure to confirm that they know what is included in the scope of the contract as well as what isn’t. (Scope creep is real so part of managing your clients’ expectations is also about making sure that changes to the scope affects the overall budget.)
And, what would a conversation about managing expectations be without talking about communication? Start by helping your clients learn how to communicate their ideas to different vendors because (believe it or not), effectively communicating creative ideas is a skill that many people don’t have. By teaching your clients how to do this, you can effectively work to avoid creative misunderstandings (which can sometimes be caused by the notion that wedding vendors can read minds and know exactly what each of their clients want). Second, let your clients know what they should be reaching out to you about and when it would be appropriate to get in touch with the vendor directly. We all have pushed responding to certain emails down the list of to-dos because we didn’t think it was our responsibility. So, as a planner, make it clear what should funnel through you so that your clients can avoid the frustration of sending emails that don’t get responded to or phone calls that don’t get returned. Lastly, make sure that your clients understand that not everyone may return emails or phone calls as quickly as you. Because, while you might only be working with a couple clients at the same time, other vendors might be juggling a lot more active projects. Encourage your clients to have appropriate expectations on how quickly people may get back in touch.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to weddings so, cooperation and collaboration are the name of the game. No wedding is planned, set up, and torn down by a single person and, with so many people involved, it is important for your clients to know who the need to get in touch with and for what.
You most likely position yourself as the main point of contact for everything (hello, professional go-between!) but in the event that your clients must get in touch with vendors directly, we recommend giving them the resources they need to get in touch with the right people. And, you can start by making a comment under each vendor record in Aisle Planner about who the main point of contact is with each vendor they are booking. (The great things about starting with this is that they will receive an email notification about the comment so, you can be sure that the information makes it to them.) The other thing we recommend doing is creating an “day-of” contact list. While you may want the list to just be contact information for you and your team, it is never a bad idea to include the entire chain of command. Consider structuring it as a hierarchy, ordered by who they should get in touch with first (you, obviously) and then the next in line. Be sure to include a few “if this, then that” notes so that someone doesn’t go running to the caterer about linens when you rented them through the florist.
At the end of the day, it is your expertise that is going to help each of your clients successfully get through the planning process while maintaining those oh-so-important relationships with your vendor partners. Do you have tips or tricks that you use to manage expectations and keep the peace? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!