If there’s one industry where the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” applies time and time again, it’s wedding planning. After all, you’ve got a mom who’s fronting the bill, a sister who’s living out her wedding dreams vicariously through her engaged sister, and a mother-in-law who’s never afraid to chime in with her opinion. You basically have a multitude of players on the field who might not even be playing the same sport—and suddenly it’s your job to get them playing for the same team. This common wedding-planning woe is why being a Master Communicator is such an important role you have to fill as a wedding planner. Today, then, we’re breaking down our top tips for getting those wily, unruly players on the same page...and keeping your couple happy (and covering your own butt) as you do so.
Come up with a communication game plan that works for your couple
Everyone communicates differently and has different needs, which is why to be a great wedding planner often means to be a chameleon. When you first begin working with a new client, ask them how they prefer to communicate. Maybe the bride is an E.R. doctor and never checks her emails, so she prefers texts. Maybe the groom is an attorney and is always on his computer, so he prefer emails. Maybe they both work crazy-busy jobs and prefer to setup lunchtime conference calls that they can both hop on together. Whatever their preference is, make sure you understand it from the beginning. Being clear on communication styles/preferences from the get-go is key when it comes to avoiding crises down the road.
Recap, Recap, Recap
After every single in-person or phone meeting, take notes and then share a clear-and-concise recap of what was talked about with any major players in the planning process (the couple, along with the bill-fronter if necessary). You’ll also want to list clear action steps with deadlines (and who is responsible for each). We love using the Aisle Planner wedding tools for this—we use the notes section to track what was discussed in each meeting and then use the checklist feature to assign our couples action-items and due-dates. This really helps to keep everyone on the same page and on track with their assignments.
When in doubt, clarify.
Don’t be afraid to clarify or ask something twice if need be. If you’re confused as the captain of the wedding-planning ship, there’s a chance no one else on board knows what the heck is going on either. Though text and email are convenient, things can sometimes get lost in translation. If this happens, be sure to clarify what the client is saying, asking or requesting.
When things get tough, get on the horn
When you start hearing two different perspectives or stories—i.e. the bride says the floral budget is $10,000 and her mom says it’s $5,000; or the groom says the DJ has been secured and the DJ says he hasn’t received the signed contract back—pick up the phone and clarify. The same goes for anytime you feel a sense of conflict in the air—maybe the bride seemed irritated with your suggestion during that last meeting, or the groom seemed unhappy and confrontational with a vendor for whatever reason. Texts and emails are easy, but they’re not always the right communication channel when it comes to conflict resolution. Save yourself the unnecessary written communication and pick up the phone instead—simply hopping on a quick call to clear the air is imperative to simple-but-effective communication
Listen to what is not being said.
Did we mention you’ll need to be a psychiatrist/therapist as well as a Master Communicator? Reading between the lines and analyzing body-language, hidden fears, or below-the-surface issues is also imperative when it comes to figuring out what’s really going on with your couple. Maybe the bride is always super quiet when her mother-in-law starts talking about the cake—could it be because the bride doesn’t actually want a cake but wants a modern dessert table instead and is too afraid to bring this up for fear it will upset her traditional mother-in-law? Maybe the groom gets quiet and fidgety when vows get brought up—is he nervous about reading them allowed and, if so, how can you help him feel at ease? Sometimes, the most telling communication of all is the one that’s not actually being communicated. You have to get to the root of this in order to resolve it.
Overall, remember that you’re the one with the wheel here—and it’s your job to get the entire bus (crazy characters and all) where it needs to go. Being an effective communicator is all about a willingness to be clear and firm from the get-go. Recap often, clarify whenever necessary, and use those superhuman detective skills of yours to read between the lines when there’s a big, fat, wedding-worried elephant in the room.