Balancing the Bride's and Mom's Wishes

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Missy from Antonia Christianson Events writes:

I have had this question in the forefront of my mind and I was curious for your thoughts on this particular topic. When it comes to planning, do you honor the requests of the parent who is paying for your services or for your bride who has dreamt of their wedding their entire life? I often feel like a tight rope walker teetering between both sides.

This scenario is one that every wedding planner faces from time to time and one that must be handled with care and finesse.  Often wedding planners are called on to play unofficial therapist, helping the bride and mom cope with unexpected emotions that have suddenly surfaced during a time of major life change.  I have literally sat in the middle of tear-filled, heated arguments between mothers and brides.  In fact, it is situations like this that cause many event planners to give up weddings entirely in favor of corporate clients who aren't emotionally invested in the perfect shade of calla lilies.

My main recommendation is to never take sides.  Never, ever.  Do not say to the bride, in an attempt to make her feel better, "I agree that your mom's idea of covering everything with tulle was terrible".  And never tell the mom that you agree her daughter has no grasp of financial reality.  Remain neutral and offer your professional opinion in a tactful manner.  After all, that's what they're paying you to do.

The bottom line is that the bride and groom are your clients.  They are the ones legally responsible and the people you are contractually obligated to.  The parents may be footing the bill, but at the end of the day, you have to answer to your clients.

So, where does that leave us with this sticky situation?  Well, for one thing, it gives you a little bit of room to preempt being stuck in the middle.  I'd recommend making your position clear at the initial consultation, before any of this even gets underway.  In the process of explaining what it is your company does and how you will help them create an amazing wedding, I'd share a hypothetical situation with them and your "policy" on handling it.  You could say something like:

"Many times emotions run high during wedding planning and you and your parents may not see eye to eye on decisions.  This is perfectly normal, so don't worry about it if you run into this.  However, I am contractually bound to the bride and groom, so I want to encourage you to communicate as openly as possible and come to an agreement on different things before telling me what you want me to go ahead with plan-wise."

Managing expectations up front is a method for helping steer the course of wedding planning, however it does not guarantee that you will never be placed in the middle of an argument.  Being in the middle is par for the course in this job, so handle it as tactfully, graciously and neutrally as possible.

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