I’m writing this blog from the passenger seat of my car, with my husband at the wheel, at 1 in the morning. We’ve just finished tear down at the venue for today’s wedding. Our couple had won this amazing and beautiful wedding at a bridal show last January. Vendors donated over $45,000 in goods and services to this couple. We donated an all inclusive full service planning package – and it was the worst wedding of my career!
I mean devastatingly horrible.
Venue – one of the best.
Photographer – one of the best in the biz.
Caterer – superb food, excellent service.
Florist – above and beyond.
Lighting – spectacular.
DJ – rocked the house.
Cake – delicious and beautifully decorated.
Dress – designer lace.
Bridal Party – some of the rudest most disrespectful people we have ever worked with.
Family – absolutely ungrateful.
There is no amount of pretty that can cover up the ugly that these people were. I have literally been crying off and on for the last 2 hours, beginning with the moment that one of the bridesmaids announced to a crowded room that I was the worst bitch ever – and the worst wedding planner ever – and she was going to write a letter. To the magazine that was putting on this wedding so that everyone would know how we “ruined” her friend’s wedding.
You know – the FREE $45,000 wedding.
At first I walked away but that wasn’t enough for her. In her drunken state, she felt a need to continue on. There was no escaping her idiocy. In that moment, I was shockingly aware of the fact that no matter how much you know you should take the high road and not let yourself be affected by bullshit like this, when someone treats you this way it hurts. It cuts deep. You feel small and pathetic and sad. And angry and disgusted and taken advantage of. I was so deeply humiliated by this incident and I was appalled that all of our amazing vendors, all standing nearby, instead of a thank you, received this bold gesture instead.
And so this was the shitty ending to a really gorgeous wedding.
The pictures will be stunning, no doubt. We already have commitments for a full center feature in a bridal magazine. We’ll probably be picked up by wedding blogs that will feature beautiful details and smiling people – but I’d really rather have every last minute that I spent planning her wedding during the last 9 months of my life back. And you can keep the print feature.
You see, this free wedding stole from me.
And it stole from every vendor that participated.
It stole time from our families.
It stole time from our businesses.
And the bottom line is that it stole time we should have spent with our paying clients – that don’t have temper tantrums at social gatherings.
I made a mistake taking on this project. I went against one of my hard and fast rules –
never take on clients that aren’t a fit for our company!
And under normal circumstances these clients would have never made it past our velvet rope. By taking on this free wedding I compromised my standards and the standards of my company. And I’m probably going to be paying for this for a while. Not just financially, but emotionally and maybe even with nasty reviews. We shall see.
And this is why I shall never work another wedding for free again. I have officially learned my lesson. Thank goodness I’m a fast learner.
But I’m not quite the worst bitch ever, though I’ve been given the title just this evening. There is one organization that I will continue to give my fullest to – and at no charge. It’s a group that works to end human trafficking in Austin. They are amazing, and grateful, and generous with their appreciation. And I fully support this cause with all that I am. It’s not likely that I will get any pretty magazine spreads from working with them. But every moment that I spend on their projects fills my soul with a great deal of happiness. I feel down right honored to be able to work for them – for free.
This day (and the past 9 months leading up to it) did not fill my soul. It took a teeny tiny piece of it. Let my total failure be a lesson to anyone reading this – Do not work under the guise of free publicity. If you’re going to work for free find an organization that touches your heart so personally that you would do it even if no one ever knows it. These are the people that will value you. And be grateful for what you offer.
As David Tutera said last week,
“Then don’t waste my time. I’ll spend it on people that are grateful”.
Damn straight David!
Do you have a similar story?
Tell us about it!
I am so sorry to hear about your beyond-disappointing experience!
I have a lot of friends in the art/design industry who have similar nightmares to tell, and I always try to broadcast your same message: do not work for free under the guise of good exposure! I am passionately against unpaid internships for similar reasons, another issue I see rampant in the design and event industries. Sadly, there are many ways to be taken advantage of, so we all must educate each other!
Thank you for sharing your story. Exposure is a very alluring trap, and you have reenforced wisdom that I may have been tempted to ignore so early in my career.
Carolyn Burke - Wedding Liaison says
Yep – I was part of a Radio Contest where the wedding was free to the couple with the most votes.
FORTUNATELY – the couple, family and wedding party were wonderful !!
But getting publicity for the event was not possible.
The contest happened 10 months prior and local media did not care.
Waste of time – good exposure between the vendors – that was it.
Kelly Crum says
I was beyond appalled to hear about this awful experience. It’s truly disappointing and disheartening to invest so much time and effort, only to find you have served such truly ungrateful, undeserving people. Sadly, we can’t control what is done to us, we can only control how we choose to react. People truly do not grasp the level of intensity and work it takes to make these events happen. They also fail to understand that we too are human beings with feelings who actually do care about them and their events not just a paycheck. Fortunately there are many good points and lessons to be learned from this experience. As event professionals and human beings in general, we should always put forth our very best efforts, whether donated or paid, we owe it to ourselves to offer our best as it is a true reflection of our character and professionalism. By the same token, it’s important to protect ourselves. I know you truly put your heart and soul into every endeavor and will continue to do so and that is what I love that about you. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for always being positive and encouraging to your fellow industry professionals.
Amy Rosato AIFD says
Reading this article made me think of the wedding cake baker, Sylvia Weinstock who came and spoke to us at the AIFD National Symposium in Palm Desert in 2007. She said she was approached by a popular entertainment personality who asked Sylvia to make her wedding cake for free in exchange for the publicity it was sure to generate. Sylvia made no bones about how disgusted she was. She conveyed to us that if you give your products and services away, where’s the value in that? What is the value if you don’t charge for your products and services? There is NO value. Sylvia stressed the point that if you don’t value your hard work, products and services enough to charge for them, then others will have difficulty in finding the value in your hard work, products and services too. Always, always charge for your products and services. And, if you DO give something away, always mention, “THIS IS MY GIFT TO YOU.” You go, Sylvia! Thanks for the words of wisdom!
Kawana Bridges says
I so love your humor. I too had to learn the hard way. I’m a newbie in the industry, last year I provided services that was nearly free of charge. At the end of the event, the client was asked by her guest if they could take home elements of the centerpieces that were “rented” to her. She stuck her chest out like a proud peacock and told them, “Yes, I paid for all of this”, as she waved her hand to display the elegance of the whole room. Not one thank you. I have learned that the folks who pay the least expect the most. Also, during the planning process, she kept asking for add on’s. Really?? Add on’s that she wasn’t willing to pay for! Lesson learned,