Have you ever worked a wedding or event where Uncle Bob was the photographer, Aunt Sally was the florist and Grandma was the caterer? If you have, you know how incredibly difficult our job can be when working with non-professional event vendors. Here are six tips to help the event go smoothly without losing your mind.
1) Introduce Yourself
As soon as your clients hire you, take time to introduce yourself through phone or email to all vendors that your client has already chosen, including non-professional vendors. Often, the family or friends who are helping with the wedding may not respond to email so take time to make a phone call and introduce yourself.
While you are introducing yourself, take a few minutes to educate Uncle Bob, Aunt Sally and Grandma on what you do as a professional event planner. Let them know you are a resource for the vendors as well as for the bride and groom during the planning process and on the wedding day.
3) Get Clear on Their Job
Most likely, these non-professional vendors have not worked at a wedding before. It is helpful to talk through what they will be doing on the wedding day. For example, helping the photographer understand that he will need to organize family photos and that you have allocated one hour for those photos will be very helpful in avoiding timing issues on the wedding day. This is especially important with catering.
If grandma is catering with the help of other family members, who is going to be serving guests, keeping the buffet stocked, emptying trash cans and bussing tables throughout the event? Also, the catering staff is typically responsible for clean-up of the venue at the end of the evening. It is very important that Grandma knows this and that you, as the planner, are helping the couple to plan for this either by hiring service staff or making sure there is adequate coverage from family/friends who have volunteered to help. I have also run into catering staff issues when a restaurant caterers an event. They often don’t plan for service staff to assist with bussing tables, emptying trash and clean-up of the venue.
4) Talk Through the Timeline
Take time to not only share the timeline with the professional and non-professional vendors, but also talk through it in detail with the non-professional vendors prior to the wedding day. They may not have worked with a professional wedding coordinator and may not understand the importance of sticking to the schedule.
5) Floral and Decor Setup
One of the biggest issues you may run into is when Aunt Sally agrees to make all the centerpieces but then doesn’t plan for help to setup and tear down the floral and decor at the actual wedding. Communication with Aunt Sally and your clients is the key to ensure everything gets done on time and you aren’t left trying to clean up all the floral and decor by yourself at the end of the night.
6) Where are the Vendors Sitting
Professional vendors do not sit with wedding guests however, when friends and family members are acting as vendors, it can be tricky to know where and how to seat them. The best way to approach this is to ask the bride and groom what they prefer. Would they like these helpful friends and family members to sit with the wedding guests or is it preferred that they sit in another room with the professional vendors during dinner?
It can be significantly more work and stress both during the planning process and on the event day to work with non-professional vendors. When booking a new client, keep this in mind when you are pricing the event. If you prefer not to work on events with non-professional vendors, specify in your wedding planner contract that the client must hire professional vendors including a professional caterer with service staff and a professional florist who handles setup and break down (and any other vendor categories you feel strongly about).
Have you worked on weddings or events with non-professional vendors? Please share your experience in the comments.