Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are Your Vendors Taking Notes?

I've meant to do this post for awhile, and hearing a bride's frustrated story on Saturday made me write it now before this happens to someone else. Making sure that vendors write notes about a wedding and having copies available if needed seems like such a no-brainer, but I hear this same story over and over from brides. Backing up a bit, here's how I learned this lesson myself:
Several years ago, our daughter was planning her wedding in Austin, Texas. When Elizabeth Bailey (yes, Elizabeth Bailey Weddings will travel and do weddings in other areas) and I got off the plane, Karen was so enthusiastic about a caterer she had met and wanted to use for her wedding. We went directly to the caterer's office and she was bubbly, enthusiastic, and she said yes to every request and idea Karen had - nothing was too much trouble. After we left, Karen asked if we thought the caterer was wonderful, and we said, well, maybe, but did you notice she hardly wrote anything down? The caterer had taken a very casual approach to the meeting. Karen asked for some very specific things that required some extra effort and surely some extra expense and we wondered whether the caterer's proposal would be detailed enough to reflect the costs of each idea. We weren't sure whether the caterer would even remember to include some of Karen's ideas, since she did not take notes.
The next morning we met with a second caterer that Elizabeth had found through her network of sources across the country and it was a very different meeting. This caterer was ready for us, polished and professional in showing a portfolio, and she took extensive notes about Karen's wedding. She noted when Karen asked for something that would incur extra expense and offered alternative ideas. When the meeting was over, she had their chef bring us a light breakfast while she prepared the proposal. We left the meeting with a detailed proposal, broken down so we could see what each part cost, and a set of notes that made us feel confident that the caterer had a blueprint for the wedding, and that future meetings would build on it.
Almost two weeks later the first caterer's proposal arrived - sketchy, form letter-ish, with none of the details spelled out. I know that if we had gone with that caterer, the relationship would have been rocky, and the details that were important to Karen may or may not have shown up at the wedding.
The biggest difference between the two caterers? One took extensive notes, the other winged the meeting.
Back to Saturday's bride - she is getting married at a country club in Illinois and has very limited opportunities to fly home to do planning. Everything for the reception had been worked out, but she just found out that both the chef and the event coordinator have left the club, and - there are no notes about her wedding. So she is back to square one and having to make another trip to redo everything that she thought was finished and settled.
Every wedding is unique. Every bride has special requests. And every vendor that you meet with should be making a set of notes so that you can always pick up exactly where you left off, and you should be able to seamlessly work with a substitute person if the original person you met with is not available. At The Pleasure of Your Company, after we finish meeting with a bride, you'll see us at our laptops writing up everything from the meeting - the albums and page numbers of the invitations they liked, the fonts and ink colors they might want to use, lining and motif choices, ideas for wording, so at the next appointment we can efficiently pick up where we left off. Every one of your vendors should do the same thing, and I would be very leery of any who are telling you that everything will be just the way you want it, but not writing notes.

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