Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Planner's Guide: Wedding Casualties Part Two

I was utterly astounded at the incredible response I had from last week's post in The Planner's Guide series about my relationship with my father, divorced parents and dispelling some of the tension between divorced parents on the wedding day. Thank you for all your comments and support, I never knew how many of you were in similar positions and now I feel as though I can dispel the taboo surrounding "broken families" and the world of weddings. Life isn't perfect and there's nothing to be ashamed of.

So this week has a slightly lighter feel to it, although I'm still going to be uncovering some uncomfortable truths, dealing with friendships, bridesmaids (including being one...or not, but we'll come to that) and for those in the wedding industry, doing favours for friends.


My Best Friend's Wedding

I had a very close friend who got engaged in 2009 and as us ladies do we soon got together to chat all things wedding. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding so I was over the moon when she asked me to be her's. I had promised to help her as much as I could throughout her planning but, in order to have my undivided attention I felt it would be better to charge a small fee if she needed particular attention so that I could schedule her in as a client (mate's rates of course).
Having known each other for over ten years we had one of those fabulous relationships where even we if didn't see each other for months we could still pick up as if no time had passed at all. We knew each other inside out.

Last year I had my son and what with one thing and another, I fell apart. Trying to juggle my business keeping clients happy, adjusting to a tiny being having total dependency on me, nightmares breast feeding and it all got too much. I ended up on anti-depressants and the best I could do was put on a front and do the absolute basics. I was just about functioning. It was inevitable, then, that my attention as a bridesmaid would slip somewhat for my friend who was getting married the following August. I gave as much advice as I could, from sourcing possible venues, pulling together ideas for design, marquee companies etc, but I told her quite clearly that I had too much on my plate to organise her hen weekend abroad (nevermind leaving my son) make her dress appointments, provide constant support as well as for my clients and keep my head above water. I thought she understood.

1 week into motherhood
© Sara Thomas Photography

Fast forward to spring 2011. It's hectic. I've just taken on an intern to help with the work load, my sister is coming up to look after my son twice a week and there are three weddings in immediate succession from the end of May right through to mid June. When I hit wedding season, I have my head down until the dust has settled, it requires all my energy and concentration and that's that-most friends and family totally understand this. I felt terribly guilty that I wasn't around to support my friend, whose planning had been somewhat stressful given the numbers her family wanted to invite and logistics of it all, so I sent a message or two to let her know I was still there and would be back onboard with her after June.
You can imagine my utter surprise then when I receive a message from my friend to say that she felt it was best, given that my priorities had changed, that I wasn't a bridesmaid anymore. Wow. Really? 

As a planner I know all too well how brides can feel overwhelmed at times and that their wedding can completely overshadow rational thinking, but this was something else entirely. She had four bridesmaids to whom she could turn to for support, she knew how much I was struggling and indeed how much I had tried to help her during the beginning. I felt a little as though the main reason she'd asked me in the first place was because I was a wedding planner and therefore available all hours. The fact that she'd decided without talking to me first to un-bridesmaid and "downgrade me" to a guest really hurt and made me question our entire friendship.

To cut a long story short, I asked her not to invite us at all. She got married in August and that was that. I was so sad to have missed it and I mourn over our lost friendship. But they say that people come and go throughout life, perhaps she wasn't meant to stay in mine.

Doing Favours

No doubt there are many wedding professionals out there who have done favours for their friends' weddings, be it a way to gain portfolio, experience or just for the love of it. It's a great feeling to pour your heart into something for a friend and I love to do it as often as I can, be it making their cake, doing the flowers or providing advice.

There comes a time though, when it can all get a bit too much. It is, after all, your job. And whilst it's perfectly do-able to help out on bits and pieces, when it starts to become a little bit too much and you're not being paid to do it, you wonder what it's all for. It can create tension between you too. Have you ever noticed that? Suddenly you start viewing them in another light. A favour is a favour, not a full time job.

How Can I Help On My Terms? 

Agree exactly what you're going to do from the outset so that you both understand what's expected of you and what's outside of your agreement. 

Discuss what you're willing to do for free and what else will be charged for. 

Talk! For crying out loud, communicate. If either of you are unhappy with each other for whatever reason, talk about it before things reach the stage they did for me. Losing a friend is an awful thing to have to happen over such a happy occasion. 

Tell me about your experiences. Have you fallen out with a loved one during your planning? Are you trying your best to help a friend with their own and it's proving difficult?

Grant-Riley Weddings


  1. Nikki@KnotsandKisses23 September 2011 at 09:13

    Another fabulous post! These sort of honest comments really help out other brides who are feeling like planning their wedding should be plain sailing!
    As a wedding professional myself my business started with work for a friends wedding ... I was very fortunate that she said from the start she wanted me to treat it like a business transaction and, although I obviously offered mates rates, it went very smoothly because of that. I know tell any friends and relatives from the start that this is how it works and generally that seems to have helped.
    I agree with you ..set out your terms from the beginning and communicate :)

  2. Well said! I always have this problem. I am a graphic designer and am constantly being asked by friends to 'just design this'. They are doctors, pharmacists, hairdressers etc and I would never dream of asking them for a free check-up or cut. Thanks for the tips.

  3. I will do everything I can for my friends Weddings and like you I hope that at difficult times they understand. They have so far! I don't charge friends. I am a singer. That is my job. I have sung at a friends wedding and given them use of our PA for the speeches and my husband played piano for the choir and for the first dance and we lugged the gear around the venue! It's what they wanted and we made it happen. We didn't however give them a gift! We would normally charge a few hundred quid for that service but I would hope my friends would do the same for me...

  4. Well that got me going! I'm sorry you have found your first year of motherhood so difficult at times. lol
    The way I see it is that you have 'A' list friends and then you have the rest. My 'A' list friends I will do anything for, for free, for nothing, and I make this clear. For everyone else, apart from maybe a small discount, it's business as usual. It's kind of; I don't care if you work with my husband, you are not a personal friend and you will pay my going rate. Do I ask you to come and mend my plumbing, sort out my computer problems or organise a legal matter for 'mates rates'. Will I be offering less care and service than I usually would? No.

    I think
    with your so called 'friend' the mistake was to charge what you did. She paid less but expected more. There in lies the problem with friendship and business.

  5. BTW, the lol was meant to be after my first sentence, not the second! *red face*

  6. good post. I make it very clear from the beginning, I have a standard friends/family discount or completely free to others, but I decide straightaway and stick to it and then treat all as normal brides, discount or not, that is the key. Never had a problem yet. I can understand it's a bit more difficult with the service you give to be so defined.
    Flo & Percy

  7. Very helpful post! I have just had two of my own bridesmaids get engaged and both have asked me to be a part of their wedding and to be their planner. They have both insisted that they pay me but now I see that I have to set some parameters though. Thanks for the insight and hoping that motherhood is going well for you!

  8. boo. does sound a little bit to me like she asked you to be a bridesmaid cos you were a planner...well even if she didnt do it intentionally, that she EXPECTED you to help/plan her wedding for her cos you are a planner!

  9. I am currently helping out my sister in law who is getting married next year. she dosn't live where the wedding is and I do, so I have offerd to help out. I really don't mind as I want her to have the best wedding possible, but it's hard when someone isn't paying you to do a job as I don't feel I can offer my opinion so freely. when a bride is stuck or I think she is doing something wrong I will tell her and offer my advice because that's what they are paying me ofr! when it is for free or thay havn't asked for it, I kind fo feel like I have to bite my tounge......very hard. I sometimes feel I don't want to be involved as much, but I feel resposnible for their wedding day. Also the issue of budget is a tough one, they are very unrealistic in their expectations and want me to barter for them, with suppliers I work with regularly, which is making me uncomfortable!

    Anyway this was basically to say that doing favours is never easy, and should be avoided if possible.