It’s never too late to fire your wedding planner. Technically speaking, that is. If you haven’t been involved at all in the planning, if you don’t know who your vendors are, or if you’ve given the planner carte blanche with all your major decisions and truly are clueless about your details, you might be screwed.
BUT, if you haven’t foolishly waited til the last minute to admit you have a problem and you’re certain the planner can’t execute your events to your satisfaction, you should fire the incompetent person and either bring in somebody new, or do the work yourself. Trust your gut. If it’s telling you that you shouldn’t be trusting this planner with the most important day of your life, make the break. Cut the cord. Fire her.
Tell the planner (very professionally, of course) to hit the road ONLY AFTER you make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Find your new planner before you fire your old one. But never go into your wedding weekend thinking that you’ve hired a complete moron and everything is going to go wrong but hoping for the best. That’s pretty much a guarantee that you are not going to enjoy your wedding, wherever it may be and no matter how it turns out.
I recently stepped in to rescue a wedding at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort on the big island of Puerto Rico for a bride whose mother was based in Australia. The bride was graduating exactly seven days prior to the wedding and she absolutely, positively put the entire thing into her mom’s hands. They’re best friends, and MoB Andrea Jones planned an exquisite wedding for her daughter despite some really intense challenges. Check out this awesome video from behind-the-scenes of us unfucking this whole wedding disaster!
This was going to be THE Titanic of destination weddings in Puerto Rico when I jumped on board to help save the sinking ship about eight weeks prior to the big day. Not only were the wedding details and vendors unconfirmed and big hot mess, but the planner and her idiot travel agent friend had actually put the wedding guests at a hotel more than an hour away from the actual wedding venue – by bus!
Sound like a fun way to spend your time in the Caribbean? Since that was where some of the wedding party was staying, it was going to make it logistically impossible to even have any kind of welcome dinner or rehearsal. The first thing we did after I took over was move the guests to the Gran Melia, fifteen minutes from the St. Regis. Good call.
Fortunately, the MoB is a seriously sharp cookie and she had recognized the disaster that was her wedding planner for what she was early enough on that she’d been doing her own vendor research, requesting information left and right, and had already begun the décor selection process when she called me for help. She had worked on the catering directly with the event staff at the St. Regis, but for a destination wedding with so many moving parts and pieces, you really need an INDEPENDENT wedding planner to make it all come together. There are too many different vendors involved and coordinating them is not the venue’s responsibility.
We pulled it off, but we had to work our butts off to meet deadlines and have it all ready before the guests arrived, every single step of the way. But if this very special video of the bride dancing with her father (coordinated via Skype and YouTube because he was in Australia and she was in Louisiana) doesn’t convince you that the night was perfect, nothing will!
I’d name and shame her wedding planner from Louisiana but she had one of those fine print clauses in her contract that said clients COULD NOT REVIEW her services online. Just fyi, that’s totally unacceptable from any vendor. Clients have a right to review a vendor’s wedding services and potential clients need resources that have real reviews. Any vendor who has that clause in their contract should go straight into your trash can. Never work with somebody who isn’t proud enough to stand by their work. But I digress…
If you’ve read any of the links to the stories I wrote about the whole unf*cking process we went through for this wedding, then you’ve got the backstory and you don’t need me to tell you again about every incompetently planned detail. What you need to know is how to get your ducks in a row before you do or say anything to even make your planner THINK she’s about to get the ax. You should make sure you have the following information:
- Find a new planner before you fire the old one. Yes, you are going to have to spend some money to fix things, but it’s probably going to be the best money you spend for your whole wedding weekend. If you absolutely cannot afford a planner, ask your most organized and bossiest friend to help you and to take the reins on the big day. You can’t do it yourself. I know. I tried. I had to fire my planner and there wasn’t anyone like me who could come to the rescue so I had to do all the work. And I didn’t have fun at my own wedding. Learn from my mistakes.
- Know who your vendors are and have their contact information. Do you have copies of the contracts? If not, you should email your planner a list of contracts that you need her to send you “for your file.” A good planner will be sending you executed contracts as they’re completed. If she doesn’t have these, chances are you don’t have a contract anyway. Those contracts should contain any contact information you’re currently missing.
- Know the planner’s cancellation policies in their contract. Sometimes it’s got a deadline for cancellation or you still have to pay the balances due after a certain date. However, if you have plenty of documentation to prove a dismissal “for cause” should the planner try to take legal action against you, this should not be something that stops you from firing her. If you haven’t documented things well but you still have no faith in the planner, sometimes you’re better off paying a penalty and STILL FIRE THE PLANNER. But know exactly what the contract says before you start firing off vitriolic emails. End of day, you want to keep the relationship as nice as possible so that you can get all the information out of the planner before or when you fire her. If she has half a brain, she’s going to cooperate with you just to avoid a well-deserved, bad review. If she’s cooperative, you’ll be less furious when you’re writing it. But if she’s THAT unprofessional, she could try to screw you and leave you hanging when you tell her she’s fired. Get your ducks in a row first. Then fire her nicely, via email.
Once you’ve fired your planner, you’re going to have to move at 100 mph with your new planner to fix things quickly, especially if you’re working with a wedding that’s just a few weeks away. Plan to pay a premium fee for the unf*cking of your wedding if you’re calling desperate for help within 90 days of the big event. A new planner will have to drop everything and jump in headfirst, pulling a lot of extra hours to save your wedding in the midst of what she’s already committed to with other clients.
Frankly, fixing a wedding that somebody planned badly takes twice as long as starting from scratch. But for the brides and grooms who pay me to do it, it’s well worth the extra money spent.
A tip for when you fire your bad planner: It isn’t necessary to eviscerate her and tell her what you think of her just to blow off steam. It might make you feel better for a few minutes but if you find that you have to contact her to find out some missing detail, you will have burned the bridge completely. Try to avoid that. A very straight-forward, short termination letter that has a list of bullet-pointed problems is sufficient. Be direct and give her a specific (but reasonable) number of days to provide you with a final status report and copies of everything. You should have gotten those in advance but a lousy, incomplete report from her will bolster your file should you need to defend yourself as to why you are not paying for any more of her services.
Sad reality check – you’re probably not going to get back any money for her wedding planning services that you paid as a deposit when you hired her. Unless she’s done literally nothing, she’ll be able to justify at least some of her time. And most initial deposits are nonrefundable – that’s standard in the business. Expect to lose that money when you fire her, but just keep in mind that a BETTER planner will probably save you money in the end with the stupid things you don’t end up having to pay for. Imagine how much all those luxury buses to and from the venue would have been for Bianca and Bryan’s wedding if all the guests had to travel 90 minutes each way? Ay Dios Mio! That alone probably replaced their deposit to the planner they fired.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra! Trust your gut instincts, they’re usually right. And check out some of these amazing pictures from Bianca and Bryan’s wedding and see what having a GOOD wedding planner can do for you!
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. She is also the star of TLC’s reality wedding show “Wedding Island,” . Sandy and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events. She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004. Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas. She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada. Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop). Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients! Follow Sandy on Twitter @SandyMalone_ and @WeddingsinVQS and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SandyMaloneWIV.