As a wedding planner, I tend to gravitate toward reality shows that focus on wedding planning and social events in general. I'm addicted to bridal gown shows, and love when reality stars have "events" on episodes of their show. The addiction circles around the design and decor in each event. I love to see what flowers are being used, how trends are being incorporated, and every design element that they show. What I don't love seeing is the planner getting destroyed for the sake of ratings.
With reality shows comes heavy editing, and while every (most) viewer knows that by now, it's not always easy to see what is "real" and what is produced. Did a bridal bouquet really never show up or was that just an easy way to get the bride to freak out for the cameras? Was the groom actually missing or was he just held up shooting another scene? No matter what the problem is, it's ridiculously easy to pin it on the planner.
Now, I'm not saying that some of these problems aren't real... some of them might even be the planner's fault. However, I have seen enough reality shows across different shows and different networks, and it's getting a little exhausting. Some planners have even gotten involved in legal battles with some shows and their cast members. Now that is reality.
As someone that has worked in the reality TV space as a planner, I know firsthand about scenes that are scripted or guided by production. I've seen problems arise simply because the show became more important than the wedding. Planners will always be the ones getting thrown under the bus, because if the viewers knew what really created some of the problems, they might not watch the show anymore. And hey, planners are simply an easy target.
Even though I've been shooting random reality stuff for years, nothing really pushed me to write this entry more than a show I recently saw that featured a "planner". This show was on my radar because I really wanted to see the party planning and design aspects being featured. I also had been called almost two years ago to do this very show, but ended up not getting involved because it just wasn't a fit for me. In any event, whenever there is a planner on a show, I google them immediately. I like to know about the planner and about their work. This show not being any different, I googled the name of the event planner and came up with something very interesting: the planner isn't a a real event planner. I found this person's website, and all of their professional information and not only do they not plan social events, but they don't plan events at all.
To make matters worse, this person was slammed on social media as being a horrible event planner. I read tweets saying that the client should sue the planner/ask for their money back, and there were plenty of comments about how horrible this planner was at her job. But here's the thing..."planning" is not her job. It's not even close. Things that went wrong might not even have been in her control and might not even have been planned by her. None of that mattered though because she was a super easy target and social media was obsessed with ripping her apart. I sat there wondering what her role really was.... because if she wasn't a planner, and probably wasn't in charge of what got planned, then what did she screw up? What did she even do? That is a huge question I have with all of these shows: what was the planner actually responsible for?
Besides the planner not really being a planner, there were some obvious set up interactions that I have seen in many other shows where an event planner was involved. For instance, one scene that happens in "event planner" episodes is the planner telling the client that something is terribly wrong. Often times this upsets the client and then ends up getting resolved at the 58 minute mark of the show. You know what's wrong about that? Planners don't tell their clients about things going wrong. Personally, if something isn't coming together or if there is an issue during the planning process, I will do everything in my power to fix it without the client even knowing anything may be wrong. I am not alone in this, by the way. Yet, in these shows we will see calls, Skypes, and Facetime conversations where the planner tells the client things like the musicians she wants that were promised to her won't be there before the planner even tries to fix the problem on her own. There's never even a solution offered. And that's simply not what happens in the real world.
Another issue with social events on reality shows is the real budget versus the TV budget. Frequently, these events that are shown are tagged with a six figure budget. Viewers see over the top decor, circus performances, and endless wardrobe changes. What they don't see is anyone writing a check. Ever. So, while the entire party might have cost over $100k, that might not be what was actually paid. There are a good amount of vendors that will trade their services and products just to be featured on a show. These vendors also sign contracts that they will not discuss any of these details with the public AND they will allow themselves to look bad on television. It's not worded exactly that way, but trust me, it's what vendors sign on for. The bottom line is, the public thinks that if you're spending that kind of money, that things should be perfect. What they don't realize is the amount of money that not only hasn't been spent, but the amount of work and product that is being given away for free. On top of all of that, sometimes vendors cannot be secured without being paid their full fee, and the client will just forego hiring them because they haven't had to spend much to begin with. That creates a whole new set of problems, especially if that vendor was essential to the event flowing smoothly.
The logistics of a wedding or other social event are also extremely complicated. It can take up to a full month to put together just the timeline for the day and to coordinate with everyone involved. From items like the time the event set up can begin, to when linens go down, to when hair and make up gets started, and dozens of other things, the timing for the day is extremely important. If the planner for the client is a real planner and is actually handling this timing, they are doing the work they are supposed to do. However, that means nothing if on the day of the event there are TV scenes that have to be filmed. It doesn't matter if things fall behind either, because that is likely going to irritate the client, which makes for great television. If the timing falls apart, it's the planner getting the blame and getting yelled at. Doesn't really matter if it's because they were shooting something else and that took priority. Basically, "TV time" takes over whatever timeline a planner has put together. The show becomes more important than the wedding or social event being shot.
For this reason, planners have become the punching bag of reality television. It isn't just one show, or one network. If I were not a planner and was watching these shows, I would wonder why anyone would ever hire a planner in the first place. It seems like none of them actually know what they are doing. As a planner, I find it frustrating that we are the targets, and that no matter what else goes wrong it's easy to tie it back to the planner, and that's what typically happens.
The funny thing is, there is plenty of drama and chaos that could be shown on these shows. Besides myself, I know plenty of planners with incredible stories to tell about events and their clients. However, these shows center around the client/star of the show, and while sometimes they don't look so great in the episode, the planner almost always looks worse. Again, the editing of these shows is a very powerful tool. A viewer could see an argument and really only be seeing half of what happened, while the rest wound up on the cutting room floor. Or, the viewer could see the planner dealing with a situation that isn't real (i.e. the planner telling the client what is going wrong) or even see the planner react differently because they are incredibly aware of the cameras, lights and boom sticks surrounding them. The planners produce the event, but then they get out produced by production. Every time.
Nonetheless, no one is forcing these planners on these shows, and all of us (myself included) agreed to be in production. Of course, it's quite the lesson to be learned and you really have to go through it to understand how crazy it can be. I do feel a pretty high level of frustration though as I watch show after show destroy fellow industry colleagues. There isn't one show I can think of where the planner came out unscathed and wasn't yelled at on camera. It's almost like reality shows have a personal vendetta against social party planners. The saddest part about that is how beneficial hiring a planner actually is. Between these shows and a general attitude that some people have about a planner being a waste of money, it's quite the uphill battle that planners face.
Maybe one day there will be a show about planners and the real drama involved in producing a flawless party. Who knows.... crazier things have happened. I mean, there is a show about hunting Bigfoot!