By Emily Sullivan, Emily Sullivan Events
There aren’t too many industries as deeply personal as event planning, and wedding planning in particular. Our clients are anticipating once-in-a-lifetime events. They are excited, overwhelmed, and fully committed to their celebrations, and they expect their planner to be the same. In the wake of their enthusiasm, they can lose sight of the customary business-client relationship. It is the planner’s responsibility, in all cases, to set appropriate boundaries for clients to both maintain order to ensure that we keep feeling personal satisfaction in the work we do.
Think about this all-too-common scenario. You have a new client, and during the first week or so, you find that she is calling you every single day (sometimes multiple times in a day) and texting you late into the night. As a service-minded planner, your first instinct is probably to respond to all calls and texts right away.
Planning a wedding, however, is a process – and sometimes a very long one. Is this amount of contact truly appropriate considering the scope of services you’ve promised? Is it healthy for your planner-client relationship? Is it healthy for your personal life and the home life that it disrupts? Of course it isn’t.
Instead of letting the client get away with this behavior over the long-term, begin by setting your boundaries clearly from Day 1. Outline your planning processes, your expectations of clients, and what they can expect of you before you ever sign a contract. Keep in mind that this can and should be done in a most hospitable way. For me, it isn’t stern or harsh but more a guideline of what they can expect.
After you’ve established your “rules” and procedures, you’ll probably find that you’ll need to reinforce them during the first few weeks of planning with new clients. In the example above, for instance, it’s critical that you condition your client to expect that calls and text exchanges will take place at reasonable intervals and only during business hours. Don’t pick up the phone every single time she dials you up, and hold off on answering those texts until the next business day.
You’ll find that most clients are very understanding, and many didn’t even realize that they were crossing the line. Occasionally you will find one that comes along with completely unreasonable expectations. Instead of ignoring the situation and hoping it gets better with time, have a frank conversation with your couple and find out if working within your parameters is going to work for everyone or not. If it just doesn’t seem to be going the right way, the most professional thing for you to do is to part ways amicably. Not only does it free you from a potential customer service nightmare, it allows the couple to find someone who is a better fit for them.
The consequences of failing to set boundaries with your clients are sacrificing your personal time and energy, which can lead to tension with your couple and dissatisfaction with your job. Don’t let this happen to you. Simply lay out your expectations early and stick to your guns. Both you and your client will ultimately be happier and more likely to enjoy the big day!
Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere.