We have all had the clients who have crazy expectations from wanting a barn wedding in a ballroom to thinking you have some say over the weather. Unrealistic expectations from clients before the wedding can result in disappointment from your clients after the wedding.
Here are four ways to manage client expectations so that everyone is happy at the end of their wedding day.
1) Don’t Agree with Everything to Land the Client
An initial consultation with a potential client is exciting, nerve-wracking, and stressful. It can be easy to fall into being agreeable and accommodating with the goal of booking the wedding. View the initial consultation as a time that you are demonstrating your style of planning and professionalism. If you start out saying that you can do everything with no problem and they hire you, there is the potential for big disappointment when you have to give them a dose of reality.
2) Set Clear Service Expectations
After a client books, start the relationship with very clear guidelines and parameters about your office hours, response times, how you communicate, and payment schedule. The clearer you are, the less room there is for miscommunication.
You also should outline in detail what is included in the service that the client has purchased. If you book a partial planning client, make sure that they are not expecting full-service planning. Be clear about changes to the contract and what the rate is for things such as increased guest count, venue change, or change of scope of work. A clear welcome packet and wedding planner contract will go a long way to avoid issues later.
3) Don’t be Overly Agreeable to Every Idea from Your Client
Clients will throw out ideas left and right. Some are great and some are terrible. As planners, it is our job to either make their plans come to fruition or educate them on why that will not work. My policy is that unless I know for sure that I can make something happen, I tell my clients I will look into it. If they want 300 paper lanterns hung from the ceiling, do not just say that would be no problem. Evaluate if it fits into the timeframe for set-up, how much extra staff is needed, if you can do a ceiling installation, and if the venue will allow for it! If you say yes and then find out it is out of the question, you have to go back and deliver disappointment.
4) Manage Expectations of Alternate Scenarios
We have all had the couples who are planning an outdoor wedding and simply refuse to accept that there is even the possibility of needing a plan B! Or we have the couple who insists on real candles even though their reception is on a windy beach. I find these couples are often the hardest to manage when it comes to expectations. You cannot force someone to spend thousands of dollars on a tent just in case it rains.
Our job in this situation is to not only offer expertise and advice about what they should do, but also talk them through what the guest experience will be if they do not think of a plan B. For example, if a couple if determined to have an outdoor reception with no tent and it rains, they need to know that it is likely that a majority of their guests will not stay long. If you prepare them for the different scenarios, then it may come as less of a shock and disappointment.
At the end of the day, the way to deal with unreasonable expectations is to educate our clients, set clear boundaries and policies, and manage their expectations as they arise.