Beware of the wedding vendor who claims to be all things to everyone. What do I mean by this? I mean you can either be a wedding planner, or a minister, or a caterer, or an innkeeper, or the DJ, or the florist, or a travel agent, or a photographer, or a hairstylist -- but you cannot do more than one of these jobs effectively at the same wedding.
Do you remember the old "Andy Griffith Show" or "Beverly Hillbillies" or "I Love Lucy" episodes where somebody got into trouble in a small town, and the sheriff was the magistrate and the Justice of the Peace and the local barber too? They'd actually switch hats to make it funnier as they forced some poor couple to get married after some imagined crime against someone's virtue. The only way to get out of trouble was to get married right then and there, or the "groom" got arrested.
That's the visual you should have in mind if a wedding vendor tells you that they can plan EVERYTHING for your wedding. It's simply not possible. Nobody is an expert at executing every aspect of a wedding and if you believe that they are, you're setting yourself up for a true wedding disaster.
I've always preached this -- and warned potential clients about it. I tell them: "Whether you hire me or not, take my advice and do not trust the manager of the boutique hotel you've contacted to also be your wedding planner. That person has enough on their plate just keeping your guests happy during your wedding weekend. Do not get bamboozled. Hire real vendors."
Remember: Anybody can be anything they want to be on the Internet. I've rescued clients from horrible wedding planners at the last minute when the planner led them to believe they were an experienced, full-time wedding planner and then research revealed the planner was brand-new and didn't plan weddings full time. In one case, she was a risk management analyst for an insurance company. That certainly explained why she never returned her clients' emails and calls before 7 p.m. I saved that wedding in six weeks but there was a lot of stress for the client.
To appear to be a wedding planner online, all you need is a website with pictures. The onus is on brides and grooms to do their homework and research ahead of interviewing that person. REAL wedding planners allow clients to post reviews on Wedding Wire (the best known site for real client reviews) and they have legitimate testimonials from happy clients on their website. With a little bit of creeping, you should be able to track down some of these brides and grooms and find out what they thought of their planner before you even contact the wedding coordinator.
Sometimes, you might find out the pictures featured on the website do not even belong to the wedding planning company featuring them. They make deals with photographers who need exposure to use their pictures. It's unethical, it's trashy, and it's misleading. And furthermore, even with the photographer's permission to post those pictures, a wedding planner who represents another planner's work as his or her own will find themselves in HOT legal water.
I based my first wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques, on a small island seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. To say the variety of vendor options is limited would be the understatement of the year. There are a few ministers. There are a few good caterers. There was one florist when I arrived here.
My husband and I both got ordained to perform weddings our first year in business, not so that we could perform weddings -- we don't have time to do that during a real wedding because we're busy cuing the musicians and sending the wedding party down the aisle -- we did it because I was terrified that someday I would have a minister call in sick with 75 guests arriving at a ceremony and I needed to be prepared for that eventuality. It's never actually happened and we've never had to do a ceremony rescue. We have each, however, performed a few ceremonies for personal friends and upon request of very special brides and grooms. When my friends Dwayne and Rodney got married on my reality show "Wedding Island" on TLC, they asked me to marry them so I did. But I'd known one of the grooms for 15 years when I agreed to do that. For the rest of our clients, we have a great group of ministers to choose from for their weddings.
Could we sell our officiant services to all of our clients and make more money? Absolutely. But that would be irresponsible because we know how much effort it takes and where we need our team to be right before and during a wedding ceremony. And that's troubleshooting from behind-the-scenes, not trapped in front of the wedding photographer.
Ten years ago, this multi-faceted, all-purpose wedding planner didn't exist. Why? Because the economy was better and the guest house owner wasn't DESPERATE to make an extra few thousand bucks off feeding and watering the wedding guests on the wedding day. Now, with tourism down in many destinations, more vendors are trying to provide a vast array of services to try to make up the shortfall. Unfortunately, they don't usually deliver the level of service that brides and grooms expect for their biggest day. When a vendor tells you they can do everything for you, RUN LIKE HELL! Odds are, they're not that great at whatever their primary business is or they wouldn't be trying to take on a new career.
I broke my personal rule a second time several years ago when I opened a flower company on Vieques Island. I didn't have a choice -- the only florist on the island kept sending the wrong flowers to my brides' weddings and they were pissed!!! I knew exactly how they felt because I'd used that same florist for my wedding and he royally screwed me. So why did I ever use him? There wasn't another option. But when he refused to make Gerber daisy bouquets when Martha Stewart was featuring them and every bride wanted them, I reached my limit of patience. He said I had "K-Mart Brides," referring to Martha's housewares lines in that store. I found it downright insulting and I couldn't let my clients pay money to such a demeaning jerk. So I became a florist under duress.
But I didn't just say "Hey, I'm a florist." I did the homework. Found the suppliers. Learned how to make bouquets and centerpieces (with a LOT of help from my friends at Potomac Floral Wholesale). And I hired other people and taught them how to do the flowers so it wouldn't be my responsibility during the wedding weekend when I needed to be 100-percent focused on the wedding activities taking place at the same time the flowers were being assembled. I didn't make a profit on flowers for the first couple of years because I always over-ordered to make sure I had enough coverage for things that died or any mistakes we made. It was painful and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't unless I absolutely had no other option. That's why I did it in the first place - not because I wanted to call myself a florist. Believe me, if I could never smell big quantities of baby's breath ever again, I would be thrilled. But now I'm an expert on wedding bouquet triage even when I'm not doing the flowers at a wedding.
Most places you have a wide selection of wedding vendors to choose from and you wouldn't even consider hiring your caterer to also arrange your music, but when you're planning a wedding in a remote destination you have to use an entirely different filter when making your hiring decisions. Don't just trust what you read on the vendor's website unless you're dealing with a well-known, long-established company. Do your homework before you talk to the vendor, trust your gut when you do your consultation (which should always be free), and then check their references again. See who they offer for referrals, and actually talk to those people and make sure it all sounds totally kosher. You don't want to accidentally hire an unproven wedding vendor because of a stellar reference from their cousin who wasn't really a client.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!