People always ask why I quit doing weddings. There wasn’t just one reason. Part of it was that weddings just got out of hand. TV shows like Bridezilla and Platinum Weddings ruined them. Brides started to think they were supposed to yell , scream and stomp their feet to get what they were entitled to. Couples with a $7500 budget wanted $750,000 weddings, and they felt cheated if they couldn’t have them.
When you really think about it, every wedding is planned on a budget. Some budgets are just more generous than others. I always tried to get my brides to figure out what was most important to them; what was non-negotiable? What aspect of the wedding did she have to keep in the budget in order to make the day what she wanted it to be?
It may be a certain photographer, an awesome band, or exotic flowers. A few had a dress or a cake that was the pinnacle of happiness. But usually if we could figure out the most important element for the day, then we could trim the budget elsewhere to make it come together.
Of course, to do this, it helped if the wedding couple had some tiny little shred of common sense and decency. Something that was non-existent with a bride we’ll call “Toni”.
Toni contacted me to say she had seen my work in a magazine and wanted me to coordinate her wedding. She hired me over the phone (should have been a warning light for me), and we set a time for later in the week to visit the location they had booked and discuss budget.
When the numbers were laid on the table, I nearly fainted. She had spent a full 30% of her entire budget on my fee. Add to that the location she had already contracted, and we had less than half of her budget left for food, entertainment, invitations, flowers, dress, EVERYTHING!
I offered to tear up her contract and return the deposit so she could use it for the wedding. “No way!” she said. She had always wanted a wedding coordinator, and she just couldn’t do this without me. She begged me to stay. (I should have changed my name on the contract to Sucker.)
As we starting planning, it became clear that Toni had GRAND ideas of what her wedding would be. Her vision included satin chair covers with bows, satin table overlays, extravagantly tall centerpieces, twinkle lights strung across the ceiling, and satin panels draped along the walls.
Oh, wait, did I say walls? I’m sorry. Because there were no walls. Her location was outdoors, on a lake, in a pavilion with a wooden deck and a tin roof. Beautiful venue, but hard to pull off satin elegance. Especially royal blue and lemon yellow satin elegance. And especially on a so-limited-it-is-almost-nothing budget.
I tried to suggest that perhaps we should scale back the décor, maybe just do the overlays or smaller versions of the centerpieces, but she would hear none of it. Her vision of satin opulence was her non-negotiable, and she proceeded to follow my standard advice, (unfortunately), cutting in other areas to finance her most important priority.
Here’s a few tidbits of what it was like planning this lovely event. Hers are quoted; mine are what I would have liked to have said, but that professional filter kept kicking in.
Toni: “Can we just serve the kids’ menu to all the adults since it is cheaper?”
Toni: “Can we just have fried chicken breasts in some kind of gravy and not have any side items to make it cheaper?”
Um, no. Your guests are flying in for this party. The least you can do is feed them well. Even KFC includes sides with its chicken. Does it really matter if your guests are seated amid satin elegance if they are starving? No one should leave a wedding saying, “The food was terrible, but boy, that satin carnival tent sure looked elegant! Is there a McDonald’s close by?”
Toni: “How do we word it on the invitation so they know not to bring their kids? We don’t want to pay for their kids to eat.”
Um, well, you’re asking people to fly to Orlando, the number one vacation destination in the world for families with children. Most parents are not going to take time off work and fly to the home of Mickey Mouse and not bring their kids.
Toni: “Can’t they get babysitters here? Don’t they have people that come to the hotels and do that?”
Yes, they do. But perhaps we could cut out some satin so you’re not asking your closest family members to fly to Orlando and pay total strangers to babysit their children in a hotel for your wedding. (and then serve them a chicken breast with just gravy and no sides?!?!?!)
Toni: “Can I put on the invitation that the kids have to eat off their parents’ plates and that we are only paying for the parents to eat?”
Um, no. The caterer needs to have an accurate count of how many people are eating. It’s not fair to the caterer or your guests to have the kids eat off their parents’ plates. And there’s only so many bites in one chicken breast.
Toni: “Can we ask them to eat before they come so they won’t eat much?”
WHY INVITE THEM AT ALL?????????
So after much deliberation, gritted teeth on my part, and threats to quit from my caterer, we finally settled on a menu that included adults and children and also included side items along with the chicken. ;o)
Toni: “How do we word our announcements so that those people know they’re not invited and can’t come to the wedding?”
Well, you send out the announcements after the wedding has happened, so it pretty much makes it clear that they weren’t invited.
Toni: “Well, that won’t work. We want to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon, and we need their wedding gifts to pay for it. So we gotta send out announcements to everybody that isn’t coming so they will send us checks before the wedding.”
If I hadn’t already tried to quit this wedding several times unsuccessfully, I would have quit again right then. I had reached the end of my rope and lost my professional filter. I answered as sweetly as possible that perhaps she should just type up the following:
“You were not important enough to invite to our wedding, but we really want your money to pay for our honeymoon. Please put a check in this self-addressed, stamped envelope and mail it back to us as soon as possible.”
Toni: “Oh, we can do that? I thought that might be rude!”
And people ask me why I quit doing weddings.