I fired my wedding planner less than three months before my wedding because she wasn't doing her job. Vendors from Vieques in Puerto Rico were calling me in DC to find out if my wedding had been cancelled because they hadn't received deposits. Fortunately, I'd lived on Vieques for work and had friends there who could help me find the things I needed to pull off a wedding from a distance. Not every bride and groom are that lucky.
Yesterday I got an email from a random bride asking me how to fire her wedding planner. She only has a verbal contract with the planner (first mistake) and she didn't think she would get her deposit back (good guess) but she was worried that if she didn't dismiss the planner and take control of her wedding, the entire thing would be a disaster when her guests arrived. Probably a pretty good bet. While I'm not Dear Abby, I did take time to write her back and give her some advice worth sharing with all the brides and grooms out there.
Written agreement or not, you're probably not going to get your deposit back if the planner can justify the time she has spent working for that fee. You may not be happy with the quality or quantity of work, but most planning deposits are non-refundable... one of the many reasons to make sure you have a planning contract in writing so you have some standards and expectations to look at when you're trying to hold her feet to the fire later. Going off of your handwritten notes about "dream wedding" and "low budget" and "happy to help plan honeymoon" won't help you justify why you hired her in the first place, much less why you're terminating the services.
But make no mistake, brides and grooms -- making the decision to terminate the services of your wedding planner halfway through the planning process is a HUGE one. Whatever you do, and no matter how mad you get, do not lose your temper and fire your wedding planner on the spot. It can only make your life harder if you do it that way.
First, you really need to think things through and strategize with your fiancé about the game plan. If you're doing a destination wedding on a small island or in a small town, it's entirely possible that you will lose a bunch of your other vendors if you cancel your wedding planner's contract. If she's the only deal in town, you could find yourself up baking cupcakes the night before your wedding. Or the musicians might just never show up at your wedding ceremony if nobody ever confirmed them. If you have a bunch of other event coordinator options, cut the cord AFTER you have found and contracted another wedding planner to step in and clean up the mess.
Do not bite off more than you can chew if you cannot swallow it. Seriously, if you're getting married someplace other than home in less than 60 days and you're even considering cutting off the one lifeline you've bought for yourself, stop and rethink the consequences of your actions first.
- Do you have the name, contact info and confirmation information for each and every vendor that has been engaged? Do you have copies of the executed contracts? Are they subcontractors or do you have direct contracts?
- Do your vendors speak the same language you do? Can you communicate with them?
- How much do you know about your actual wedding details?
- Have your deposits been given directly to the vendors via check or credit card, or were you paying through your planner's company?
- What does the planner's contract say about when you terminate the contract? Sometimes you're still responsible for the full balance of the planning fee if you're within a certain time window such as 60 days out from the event.
- Who will step up to the plate for you? If there's somebody else you can use, are they available and are they willing to do it? Again, in a small town, even competitors occasionally refuse to "rescue" you because they don't want the favor returned by the other planner a month later.
If you have solutions and answers to all that I've put before you, then go ahead and fire away! Move on, start fresh, do whatever you gotta do to have some fun with your wedding planning. But if you can't answer the questions, like who is providing your shuttle services and how to get beach umbrellas, then you should start out by writing your wedding planner a very direct email explaining why you are upset and what he or she can do to fix the situation. Sometimes you get what you want if you ask for it directly.
- Tell your planner what you're angry/frustrated/worried about -- for example, is her lack of responsiveness to your emails making you crazy?
- Be specific -- if you're worried about deadlines, say which ones. Use examples.
- Be direct about your concerns -- tell her if you don't believe the quality of the work you're getting is up to par. Are documents poorly written? Bad advice on invitation wording etiquette? Tell the planner what she has done specifically to lose your trust and make you consider such a drastic change.
- Give the planner a solution to the problem -- for example, you might say that you need every deliverable item within a couple of days. You don't need to say the "or I'll do this" part of it. That's implied.
Remember, your wedding planner may be in the middle of somebody else's wedding when they get your email bomb, however well deserved. You have to respect the other bride enough, despite your own desperation, to give the planner a couple of days to respond. I know that when I'm in trouble with clients (and let's face it, I'm not perfect and clients get mad at me), the best thing I can do is make time to do my homework and get all caught up so that when I do get on the phone with that upset bride, I have the tools in front of me to make her a much happier client before the end of the call. I really hate it when brides call me out of the blue to yell at me because I have more than one client named "Katie" and I can't tell who is tearing me up until halfway into the call and I probably don't have her file in front of me anyway. It's much more effective to write a very specific, direct email and then follow up on it if you don't get a response. You should get a relatively immediate response to your concerns although you may have to give the planner a couple of days to totally rectify the problem to your satisfaction.
If your planner is responsive, solves the problems and gets things back on track, remember that. Go to your destination with a good attitude and don't assume that just because you feel she let you down at some point in the planning process, anything will be less than perfect when you arrive. She will probably be working twice as hard to make sure you're happy with the results of her work.
I'm not telling you to keep or fire your wedding planner -- I'm telling you it's not a decision to be made lightly. Your destination, the availability of other resources, and how much time is left before your wedding are all considerations before you make that big decision. It may be the right decision, but make sure it's an educated one.