The Wedding Planner Vs. The Bridezilla

by admin on September 30, 2013

I have a set of friends that got married several years ago. I am a wedding planner by trade, and as a wedding gift to them I offered to be their wedding planner. As you are a wedding planner, Miss Jeanne, you know what a substantial gift that is, and I gave it out of love. I planned a beautiful, small wedding with a very tight budget. Before any deposits had been made, the bride and groom canceled the wedding, stating that they would rather spend the money on buying a house. I personally thought that was a wise decision. I just wish I hadn’t spent 40+ man hours giving free services to them for a wedding that never took place. :/

They stated at the time they were going to elope instead. Their plan was to go to the courthouse and then a honeymoon after. About a year after the original wedding date passed, they decided to elope on Easter weekend. I mentioned to her that I would be gone on my vacation at that time too. About 4 weeks before the elopement date, the bride starts changing the plans, bit by bit. Four weeks before the elopement, she decided to invite parents and siblings to the courthouse. Three weeks before she decided to go to a fancy dinner after . I assisted her in finding a beautiful, very expensive restaurant that was exactly what she wanted. I figured since it was just a handful of people, they could afford the cost. Two weeks before she decides to book a free chapel in the area and ask 50 guests to come (no invitations – just a phone call). She wails and wails that she can’t believe that I won’t be there. This baffled me, as my vacation had been planned for over a year and she knew that when she planned their elopement-turned-wedding.

Finally, the worst part of this story is that she decided to invite the same 50 guests to the fancy, very expensive restaurant after the wedding and tell them (by word of mouth) that they were expected to pay for their meals. She told them that this would be their wedding gift. I was mortified when she told me her plans, since I had planned wedding #1 and wedding #2 and didn’t want my name anywhere close to such a tacky event. I tried to talk her out of it and told her that was the tackiest of the tackiest thing to do. I told her if she couldn’t’ afford to pay for all 50 guests, then she should just invite the guests she could afford to pay for to the restaurant. She wouldn’t hear of it and told me to “get with the times”.

I was relieved I was out of town and didn’t have to deal with any of it. Had I been in town, I would have been tempted to not attend.

After I returned from my trip, I was informed of a “scene” that was caused by her new in-laws. The groom’s mother and father had sent over their part of the bill for dinner. At $50 per person for a dinner + drinks, a couple attending this dinner was looking at a minimum of $100 for the event. The bill sent over from her in-laws was short by about $20. She sent her new husband back over to his parents at the other table and told him to inform them that “they knew the deal” when they came to this dinner and needed to pay for their part in full.

Miss Jeanne, as a wedding planner can you give any advice at all for what to do with brides like this? How do you talk them out of such an etiquette atrocity? Any advice you have would be MUCH appreciated. 0927-13

 

The older you get and the more weddings you do, you’ll discover ways to get yourself out of sticky messes with bridezillas.   For example, your wedding gift was the 40+ hours you spent planning the first wedding.  The fact that the couple changed their plans completely does not negate the value of the gift you gave them.   I personally would have declined the invitation to plan the second wedding as this was yet another gift of time.   If you give your time away too freely, people will come to believe it is nearly worthless.

If we could dissuade all bridezillas from their tacky plans, there would be no EHell site.    Etiquette Hell started some 15 years ago when brides came to an online community to ask questions, were told their plans were utterly tacky/greedy/heinous and these brides declared they were going to do whatever they wanted anyway.   In frustration I began to joke that we needed to throw these brides into “etiquette hell” for their knowledgeable acts of tackiness and greed, someone asked me where this “etiquette hell” was and I created a simple web page with a link to submit new stories.  The rest is history.

I learned over time to inquire in depth at the start of the process as to their plans and beliefs and to communicate clearly that, by hiring me, they were agreeing to be receptive to advice that was intended to keep them from offending friends and family.  Have you ever read my book, “Wedding Etiquette Hell – The Bride’s Bible To Avoiding Everlasting Damnation”?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Mae September 30, 2013 at 11:40 am

You helped the couple plan a wedding, the couple cancelled it in favor of an elopement, then they decided to do a wedding anyway and you helped them again? Why would you help them a second time?
I understand she’s your friend but I would have passed on round number 2.

Also, they cancelled the first wedding, stating they wanted to use the money on a house but then for the second wedding, they booked an expensive restaurant? Did they ever get the house? As soon as I read “expensive restaurant”, I knew what was coming.

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BeachMum September 30, 2013 at 11:42 am

Miss Jeanne, I didn’t realize that this website came from the usenet group. I was married 13.5 years ago and used the usenet group starting just after I got engaged, 14.5 years ago. I was there when it all started and have been a huge fan ever since!

I, too, am regularly amazed at people who as in a public forum if something is alright and then, when told it isn’t, announce that no one knows their situation/their friends/their family so they’re going to do the tacky thing anyway.

In this case, I’m happy for the OP that she was out of town so that she could disassociate herself from this disaster in etiquette.

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Cat September 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

The moral to this is to never offer your services as your gift to the happy couple. Keep it all on a professional level and make sure they get a bill for the full amount.
You gave two gifts for the same wedding couple; and I will bet dollars to doughnuts that, had you come to the restaurant, you would have had to pay for your meal.

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Agania September 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Agreed Cat. I have an evil mind and I’m picturing a scenario that if the planner friend had attended the wedding that when the hat was passed for the bill the planner friend pipes up with: “But I’ve already given my gift. Planning this thing. So I don’t have to pay for my dinner.” Can you imagine bridezilla’s reaction to this? Epic tantrum anyone? Hehehe!

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Cat October 1, 2013 at 9:24 am

Yes, she’d be screaming that, since she didn’t have the wedding the planner had arranged, all she had really done for her was to suggest the restaurant and that wasn’t worth fifty dollars.

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June First September 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

How old is the couple, nine?! Too bad their parents allowed themselves to be taken hostage, instead of keeping the couple on track. Then again, if you raise your children to believe they can demand money from their “guests” and to keep adding expenses on top of an “elopement”, you kind of get what you deserve.

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Kimstu September 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@OP: “Finally, the worst part of this story is that she decided to invite the same 50 guests to the fancy, very expensive restaurant after the wedding and tell them (by word of mouth) that they were expected to pay for their meals. She told them that this would be their wedding gift. I was mortified when she told me her plans, since I had planned wedding #1 and wedding #2 and didn’t want my name anywhere close to such a tacky event.”

OUCH. While I think gifts of services are wonderful and thoughtful, this is a reminder that professionals with reputations to lose need to be REALLY careful how they relinquish creative control over their work!

I agree with Admin that since you gave your time generously in planning the original wedding that was subsequently cancelled, you would have been fully justified in keeping your distance from the revised version. (The original cancellation may also have been a tip-off that this bride was a bit of a loose cannon, perhaps not thinking out her plans too well before going ahead with them.)

However, I don’t quite get what you mean by saying that you “planned wedding #1 and wedding #2″: the letter suggests that all you did for wedding #2 was help the bride choose a restaurant. Which was kind of you and certainly above and beyond the call of duty, but doesn’t seem to me like enough involvement to taint your professional reputation by association with the rest of the bride’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad ideas.

(A bride invites guests via phone call to witness her wedding but offers them no hospitality? Then decides to fake hospitality by “inviting” them to host THEMSELVES at the wedding dinner? Then attempts to disguise the lack of hospitality by calling their expenditure a WEDDING GIFT?—thereby blatantly assuming that each of these guests would even WANT to spend an average of $50 to honor her wedding, even in the form of very expensive restaurant food consumed by themselves?? Then scolds her in-laws at the wedding dinner for not spending enough on “her gift”?! Lady, this dinner is EITHER a no-hospitality separate-checks restaurant outing where each party is responsible for their own tab, OR a wedding GIFT where the donors are allowed to decide how much they want to contribute. Can’t have it both ways!!

Smelling salts are inadequate for this one: somebody please pass me the brandy.)

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Kimstu September 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Oh, P.S. to @Admin: at present the title still says “Wedding Panner”, without an L, and I thought it was going to be a pun involving a bridezilla locking horns with a grouchy guest who kept loudly disparaging the wedding arrangements. :)

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June First October 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

*like*

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JH October 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

I assumed it was an 1890s gold prospector.

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Lo September 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I would have gone to the chapel and skipped dinner entirely if I were a guest at this wedding.

If I’m going to be spending $100 dining at a fancy establishment it’s going to be an intimate relaxing dinner with my spouse, not a dramafest with a greedy bride.

What is wrong with some people…

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Marozia September 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I agree with you entirely @Lo.
AND the OP should’ve charged the bridal couple for her services.

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Stacey Frith-Smith September 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm

OP- You seem entangled in the bride’s gimme games and somewhat loose interpretation of hospitality. Your name cannot be harmed by an event you did not plan and execute. The fact that you were away on a vacation that had been in the works for a year is just icing on the cake of your alibi- should the awful question ever arise of “did You plan that wedding??”. In your case- no harm, no foul. In the case of Ms. Bride- well…you TRIED to save her. What more could you have done?

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NostalgicGal October 1, 2013 at 12:23 am

Related, someone hubby worked with, then they got transferred to another division in another city. When they came back to visit, they decided to offer that everyone COME TO X RESTAURANT if they wanted to see THEM. Yep. We went, and they were in that corner booth over there, about thirty others had shown, and what time with the couple? If you didn’t squeeze in and go to THEIR table where THEY were ‘holding court’ you were S*O*O*L. At least it was a restaurant that was affordable and had food we liked to eat. About a year later, they came back again for a visit, and again offered if you wanted to see THEM come to … this time we skipped it and so did most everyone else. Going to the one stationery outlet store rated five hours of their time, but their friends rated 2 on their own dime as a timeshare. Yep, they couldn’t figure out why nobody showed… oh well.

OP, after the first wedding went sideways, I would day your obligation to them was totally over. The second time was foolishness on your part, as you already gave the gift, and as it turned out they went and did bridezillaness anyways. Good thing you had reason not to be around when it did happen.

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ddwwylm October 1, 2013 at 3:58 am

I had a friend who was a loose cannon bride like that. When she initially got engaged, a very nice fairly well off woman had offered her the use of her house and yard for the wedding. BTB changed the date and the theme at least 3 times and the woman was gracious about it. Then she decided to elope. At first it was a secret elopement, but apparently a week or so before the wedding her HTB decided he didn’t want to get married without his mom there, so they started inviting a few close guests. She called me 2 or 3 days before the wedding, and I couldn’t go. The main reason I couldn’t go was because we happened to be co-workers at the time and we were supposed to do a presentation. We had planned the date for this presentation together, and she decided to elope on that date. So not only did she plan her elopement on a date she had another commitment, she was fulling planning on ditching me to do it all by myself with no notice until she decided 2 days out to invite me to a wedding she knew full well I couldn’t go to because of said presentation. The worst part of it was that she came home from the elopement and didn’t even tell the poor lady who had offered her house that she had gotten married. She carried on for at least a month acting like she was still into planning a wedding until she finally fessed up after the woman pressed her to make concrete plans.

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RC October 1, 2013 at 6:20 am

Oh dear, no! That poor, lovely, gracious lady who offered to host at her home…. And dumping you in it at work…That little story of yours raised all my heckles.

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inNM October 1, 2013 at 10:23 am

The best advice I got when planning my wedding was if I was hiring friends, I should treat them like vendors. That’s exactly what I did: true, I negotiated with them , but every friend who donated their services got paid a negotiated upon price, and we wrote up a contract.. That way, everyone knew exactly what to expect and the gratitude was shown in cold hard cash. Some were very inexpensive, like my officiant, who said “Pay me whatever”, and we decided to pay him with a generous amount for gas ($50) and meals for him, his wife and daughter. (In comparison, the average cost of an officiant in my area is about $300.) But no one did anything for free.
OP, I know you wanted to offer the couple a gift, but very few people appreciate a free gift of time. People think, “Oh, the OP is a professional, she does this all the time, she could do my wedding by snapping her fingers. It’s not going to take away too much of her time.”, and they act like you just spent an extra ten minutes at the end of the day coming up with the best wedding ever. As well, they want it for free but they don’t want the free version, no they want the one with bells and whistles and all the trappings, because it’s for the best wedding ever!
OP, the next time you want to gift people your time for a wedding, consider giving them a discounted rate and get a signed contract. I won’t say how much the rate would be discounted, because that depends on how much you like the couple. But this way, the expectations are clearly stated by both you and the happy couple, and when plans go south, the contract is broken and you can walk away/pursue them to get paid.

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Angel October 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Yes, I fully agree with this. Giving a discount is one thing–donating your time and giving your services away for free is quite another. Your “friend” has got a screw loose. I think at the point when she cancelled the first wedding I would have been done. I certainly would not have offered to help a 2nd time. Even if it was just booking the restaurant.

I never understood why people want to “host” an event like this and make the guests pay their own way. That is rude in and of itself–but to then get offended when guests decline–that just goes above and beyond rudeness. What bridezilla did to her in-laws–wow!

Don’t think any of this reflects poorly on you, though. You can’t talk people out of the craziness sometimes.

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Geeta Murthy October 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

Nothing about this post itself, just wanted some clarification on the usage of the word ‘Elope’. I have seen this word being used in a number of posts on this site, and the context usually means that the couple has decided to skip the traditional wedding ceremony and have a courthouse/civil ceremony without family/friends being present.

I am from India, and the word ‘Elope’ is usually used when a couple weds without the consent of parents. In most cases, the couple actually skip town to get married ! Parental consent for marriage is important in India, and the lack of it can be disastrous for the newly married couple. ‘Honor killing’ has always around in rural parts of India, just that they are gaining more coverage in global media.

So what is the correct usage of the word ‘Elope’ ?

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admin October 2, 2013 at 10:00 am

In the US, “elope” originally did have the connotation of escaping parental restrictions or prohibitions from marrying by sneaking from home and marrying in secret with only the Justice of the Peace officiating. More currently, “elope” means to spontaneously decide to marry, often traveling to Las Vegas or some local wedding chapel destination on a moment’s notice or quickly planned. My father-in-law eloped with his second wife, deciding spontaneously to get married while driving to visit family friends.

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Kimstu October 3, 2013 at 1:06 am

Yep. This original connotation of secrecy and escape is still recognized, as in the classic Calvin & Hobbes strip:

CALVIN: Hey Hobbes, want to see an antelope?
HOBBES: Wow, an antelope?! Where??
CALVIN: (leading the way to anthill on sidewalk) See, she’s climbing down the ladder to her boyfriend’s car!

:) But yes, nowadays in the US “elope” is more likely to mean that an openly engaged couple just decided not to bother with the hassle of a conventional wedding.

A grad school friend of mine once returned from a weekend trip with his fiance and responded to the standard greeting of “How was your trip?” with “Great! I got married!” How often do you get to say THAT? :)

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JD October 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

I’m so glad the OP had to miss that second wedding, although if she had attended, I’ll bet she would have had more stories to add!
I agree with the others; that second wedding would have had no involvement from me as far as planning. If the bride had fussed about my lack of gift for the second attempt, I would have told her that my gift was planning the first wedding — it’s not your fault it didn’t come off. Then I would have told her that had she paid for my services, the cost would have been X amount of dollars, and that price is firm to paying brides, even if the wedding is called off entirely.
We received our daughter’s wedding cake as a gift, but the giver stated clearly that her labor was the gift, and that we would need to purchase the supplies. We did pay her for the supplies, happily, and still saved ourselves a good amount of money on a lovely cake. Everyone’s expectations should be very clear.
However, I think the OP actually handled this pretty well overall. It’s not easy with a bride like that!

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Decius October 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I think the OP ought to send an invoice to her friend that reads something like:
40 hours of work at $XX per hour — $XXXX
-$XXXX Credit as Wedding Gift
Balance–$0.00

If nothing else it makes it clear you gave a gift, and that your work has value.

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mpk October 3, 2013 at 5:32 am

OP – I think even if you want to plan another wedding for free, you should still have some sort of contract so they know what you will and won’t be doing. And have a crossed out price on their (if that’s okay etiquettely) so they can actually see the cost of your “timely” gift.

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Redblues March 26, 2014 at 11:00 pm

I would have attended the wedding and skipped the ‘reception’. I would be sorely tempted to give them a card with a picture of my husband and me enjoying a lovely dinner of our choosing at a restaurant of our choosing with a little note saying that a $50 dinner was not much of a gift so we decided to spend $150 on our wedding gift dinner at Much More Expensive Restaurant instead. Then I’d follow it up with a phone call asking if they’d gotten the gift because I hadn’t heard back from them. (What?! No ‘thank you’ note?!) I said I’d be tempted. In reality I’d just go to the ceremony and leave it at that.

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Cheryl July 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Unfortunately, you can’t deter this type of behavior. What this bride did was embarrass herself, her new husband and her parents. This isn’t get with the times, but some flaky bride who instead of eloping and dropping money on a house like they should have instead she tortures people and is beyond rude. At least she didn’t ask for gifts as well. I am surprised that 50 people showed up, even if it was my brother getting married I wouldn’t be there for this tackiness which would only solidify the brides perspective that she is right.

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