They say that some of the smartest people in history were known to talk to themselves. If this is true, I must be a genius.
You can catch me rather frequently babbling quietly to myself (I promise, it’s not as peculiar as it sounds). While some of my mumblings have to do with the next item on my to-do list, 90% of the time I am actually rehearsing.
Rehearsing for what, you might ask? For the conversations that will take place within meetings with my clients.
In addition to admittedly holding full-fledged conversations with me, myself and I, I am also a self-proclaimed people-pleaser. This means that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what I am going to say to my clients, how I am going to say it, and how I can do everything in my power to make their wedding or event exactly how they envision it to be in their minds.
When my wedding and event planning journey first began, I did not dare to ever utter that one word that tightens the brow of many clients—that one word that so many of us have trouble saying with confidence: NO. If a client asked for something, I obliged without a second thought.
“Yes, I’ll hand-make those decorations for you for no additional charge”
“Yes, I can set up the sundae bar in the middle of the ballroom, during the reception”
“Of course you can switch the guests at three of your tables an hour before the wedding. No problem!”
But time and experience has taught me that sometimes, saying “no” is a necessity. A “no” without an explanation may leave a sour taste in a client’s mouth, but a “no” backed up with solid reasoning that can be trusted because you have worked to build a strong relationship with your client will leave all parties involved very thankful that someone was brave, strong, smart etc. enough to put their foot down.
There are two very important sides to this conundrum:
1) The Bride Side: It is important for brides to know that your wedding planner has a very good sense of what will work well and what will not. While you may see something unfolding one way, your planner may tap into past experiences and suggest a better way. For example, you may really love the idea of providing your guests with the ability to “order” food off of a menu during the reception, but a planner will know that this will delay dinner service and potentially lead to a shortage of food, as kitchens often do not prepare enough of each choice for all of the guests. After dinner service, you may want the venue staff to setup your dessert in the middle of the hall where all of your guests can see it, but your planner will know that staff crossing the dance floor with trays, tables, etc. will be an eye-sore for your guests. This does not mean that your planner should not try their absolute hardest to make your wedding dreams a reality. However, after the planner takes all of the factors into account, assesses the situation, and weighs the different options, a “no” might just make your wedding night flow that much smoother.
On the other hand, as a bride it is also crucial to avoid being talked into things by your vendors that you really do not want. The difference here lies in personal taste versus functionality:
Bride: “Okay, I see what you mean about the favors working better at each place setting than on their own table. That way, the guests won’t miss them on the way out.”
Bride: “I know that you highly suggest adding them into our package, but we do not want the strobe lights at our wedding”
2) The Planner/Vendor Side: In early March, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2015 CaterSource conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was here that I was able to converse with others in the business, listen to the stories of their successes and learn a great deal from their past hardships. During a session with Delaware-based wedding/event planner and business owner Tiffany Chalk, the repercussions of my complete inability to say “no” really hit me. Because Tiffany’s lessons were so helpful to me, I’ve decided to share them with you:
a. Know your worth. While your client may ask you to work within their tight budget, you still have to know the cost realities of your materials, your labor, and most importantly, your time. If this industry were an easy one, no one would need an event planner/DJ/Photographer, etc. Charge what you are worth!
b. Trust your gut. I know that our dessert stations function best in our greenhouse space, but I still have let clients talk me into setting them up in the ballroom. Why? Because I didn’t want the ever-ominous “no” to tarnish our vendor-client relationship. While they may have been happier with their ability to sway my decision at the time, I, my staff and the guests now have to deal with lugging the materials through our busy ballroom to set the items up. If I had trusted my gut back then, the reveal of the dessert station in the greenhouse would have been a huge hit with the couple and their guests. Thankfully, I have learned this early on and my current brides are now thanking me for the strong suggestion. Trust your gut and know that on the big day, the couple will see why you made the suggestions that you did.
Saying “no” will most likely never come naturally to me. However, first-hand experience and the advice of others has helped me to see that “no” is not always a confrontational word. In fact, one simple “no” can make the difference between a hectic event and one that flows as smooth as silk.