So, just the other day, we read a really sad story about a bride needing to pay out over $100K in damages for putting her photographer on blast online. Long story short: the bride was unhappy with her experience with the vendor and didn’t exactly handle it well - to say the least. Her discontent and disparaging words about the photographer inevitably led to the vendor being practically blacklisted by brides and having to close her business a few years later. Sad day for everyone. While we certainly won’t get into the gossipy cattiness surrounding the circumstances, we can all learn a huge lesson: communication is SO important when it comes to entering into a client-vendor contract. Without it, everything breaks down, and let’s be honest, breaking up with your vendor is the last thing you need.
Communication is the cornerstone of all successful relationships. Happy couples work towards it. Horny couples talk things out. Dialogue is ever-important. Well, for couples who are starting a courtship with a wedding professional - be it their venue, photographer, florist, stationer, x, y and z, really - it’s important to have as effective and seamless communication as possible from the first email to last goodbye following the wedding. It can be the difference between a friendship that lasts well past the wedding or sour grapes felt on both sides.
Here’s how to ensure you and your I Do dream team are totally synced, and what to do if you aren’t.
Find YOUR person.
Okay, this is a little removed from communication, but still tangentially related. Before you can start talking it out and moving forward with a vendor, you have to find the right people to outfit your wedding tribe. Do your research, look through vendor reviews and website testimonials, poke around as long as you need to to vet through a pool of vendors and make sure that you’re being gracious with your initial outreach. Shameless plug: find some inspiration from our vendors here. Show that you’re excited about meeting them and potentially working together. If you can make that first bit of discourse a friendly one, then you’re likely to have it returned. And if you meet with the vendor and have great chemistry right off the bat, followed by vibing expectations, then tell them about it. Get them excited too!
Set up a communication cadence.
One of the best things I’ve seen in my years in the wedding industry, was at a bridal show I helped one of my own wedding vendors at last year. A couple was very interested in booking her, and wanted to open lines of communication up right away. So they came prepared with contact info on a sticky label, and placed it down on her sign in sheet. Included their names, wedding date, address and email - a special one for all wedding-related exchanges. This couple was so prepared. Anyway, it’s a great idea to start an email account for any/everything specific to your wedding - for ORGANIZATION PURPOSES - (example: BridesNameGroomsNameWeddingDate@gmail.com). And also talk about ways that you both like to talk, whether that’s best over the phone, over email, over social media (some vendors loveeee sliding into their clients’ DMs, don’t judge!), through text. You both are busy, so you’ll want to know the ideal ways to get in touch with each other.
Look, nothing good can come from holding things back from your vendor. If you say you have X amount in your budget to book them, then don’t turn around a few weeks / months later and say ‘whoops, just kidding.’ This goes for sussing out your wedding style, too. I was out to dinner with my friend (who’s a wedding planner) earlier this week and she told me about a bride she was working with who unfortunately had her venue fall through for very unsuspecting reasons. The bride had a very particular vision of what she wanted, but started to settle when it looked like she was running out of venue options. And my friend could pick up on her passiveness right away. She obviously wanted the bride to have her dream day, so she pushed for places more reflective of her OG style. The last thing both of you want is to be on different pages for the wedding day.
Get things written down.
One of the biggest issues this bride and her photographer dealt with was a contract that wasn’t buttoned up. All of the services that the vendor will provide, at what times, with what crews or tools or whatnot, should be outlined in the contract and explained to the couple - for complete understanding and clarity. Deadlines for payments should be detailed, as well. So that nothing is left up to chance. A lot of vendors do send contracts over as an email attachment, to be executed by the bride and groom at their own leisure, but it’s an even better idea to do it in person. So that any questions can be asked/answered together, and both parties feel comfortable about the terms and agreement.
Just like word of mouth and referrals are some of the biggest motivators for choosing a vendor, vendors LOVE it if you can give them concrete, tangible and/or visual cues for what you want + don’t want. They’ve likely worked with tons of couples for their weddings before yours, and guess what, they have great memories - their minds are seriously like photo albums and memory boxes of their jobs in the past - so if you can find one of their weddings with elements that you’d like to see in your own day, give them the heads up! Show them color palettes, discuss your preferences for candids over posed portraits, show them pictures of flowers that you absolutely LOVE or, conversely, can’t stand. They should file all the information away for safekeeping. And once you’ve gone over all of this, couldn’t hurt to send some sort of follow up, like “hey XX, loved meeting today, hope you find the photos useful. Oh, and also, I know we spoke about filler flowers and you suggested hydrangea. Could we find something else? Keeping a tab list this can keep everything streamlined and guide-worthy.
Take opportunities to workshop things.
This doesn’t always apply - but for a lot of vendors, there’s always a junction where you can see examples of their work, have demonstrations, ‘test them out,’ so to speak. So, if your photographer offers engagement sessions, if your hair and makeup girls do trials, if your florist offers to do a sample centerpiece, or take you to the floral market/distributor with her (mine did that!), then take them up on their courtesies. You can learn a lot from these experiences, troubleshoot any problem areas. Practice makes perfect!
Respect each other.
This one’s a big one. Remember, both of you are in this together - working towards a stunning and extraordinarily special day. So if you’re being too much of a helicopter//micromanaging bride or your vendor is totally blowing you off, dismissing your questions, falling off the map a little too much for comfort, or vice versa, then make sure you address it but never too aggressively. If you have a problem, be open honest about it. Write an email, follow the concern up a week or so later (if timing permits), step up your assertiveness, but always try to approach it in a conciliatory manner. You want to preserve your relationship, make it work, so when you reach out - share that you’re growing concerned about lack of communication, misunderstanding in your styles, etc. and ask how you can come to a solution. If you can keep a calm demeanor, neither of you will feel threatened and ultimately want to find a way to fix the issue(s).
Don’t air grievances.
This goes without saying, but do your best to be professional about any matters that can’t come to resolution simply. If you need to break a contract, go about it as tactfully as possible. Part on good terms. Wish each other well. Turning to social media to vent your regrets is never a good idea. Just. Don’t. Do it.
Front page photo courtesy of Daniel Lee.