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Beware of “Friendors”!

By: Patty Speirs, Owner and Planning Genius, Every Last Detail Wedding & Event Coordination 

I recently posted a blog on my website about my experiences with wedding clients who had decided to enlist their friends to help for some element of the wedding.  To be honest, the blog was written out of frustration from a few recent events where everything else had gone perfectly except for the elements handled by non-professionals.  The piece was also written to serve as a warning to future clients.

When I am in an initial consultation with a potential client I always ask if they already have certain vendors lined up or have particular ones in mind.  Whenever I hear “Oh, our friend is going to (bake/cook/photograph/DJ/officiate)…” my question to them is “Do they do it for a living?”  Nine times out of ten the answer is “no”.  Queue the red flags and the hair standing up on the back of my neck because I know what can be in store if we decide to work together and if I’m not able to educate my client to avoid the many issues and potential problems that can come from bringing unexperienced or unprofessional friends into the mix, what the industry has dubbed “friendors”.

Every seasoned professional has a story of having to work with a friend of the couple.  Granted, not all experiences have been negative but there takes a lot more work and hand-holding to make them successful.

An event is only as successful as the weakest link.  The guests don’t know that the food was cold or overcooked because the friendor photographer took too long taking photos.  The blame is unjustly directed at the caterer – which can hurt their reputation and future business.

I feel the best way to avoid these situations – or at least curtail them – is to take the time to educate your client.  I say educate them, not preach to them.  Some people get really defensive if you knock their besties down so instead, consider sharing the following points with them and also include real-life experiences you’ve had - I call them “true stories” and they really seem to hit home.

DJ (and we’ll include band on this one)– So, your friend has DJ’d some great garage parties or a few high school dances, that doesn’t make him/her qualified to DJ a wedding.

A wedding is a completely different “animal” and it takes a lot more than hitting “play”.  Your DJ may have to set up several sounds systems: one for the ceremony to include lapel microphones, one for the cocktail hour, and one for the reception area.  He/she will have to have wireless mics and should have disco lights to create a cool ambiance for dancing.  In addition, this person will serve as the Master of Ceremonies and will need to make all announcements and, along with the wedding coordinator will need to keep the event flowing smoothly and the energy up.

Your DJ shalt not:

  • Bring a posse or party crew with him/her, although an assistant is okay.
  • Be a mic hog
  • Drink – a major NO-NO which often leads to being an obnoxious mic hog and sometimes a few “F-Bombs”.

Photographer – So you have a friend who has a nice camera.  Well, a Smart Phone has a great camera but that doesn’t make anyone who owns one qualified to capture someone’s special day.

Again, a wedding is a completely different animal than photographing kids or rocks.  Your photographer will have to be aware of lighting: shade is good and sun spots and squinting are not, distractions, know how to pose people; yes even the most “photojournalistic” weddings have some level of posing involved, and will have to be on their feet all day and be ready to deal with all the craziness of a wedding day.  They also have to know how to capture all the important moments within the time they have to work with.  No delaying the start of dinner allowed!

Your Photographer shalt not:

  • Bring only one camera.  All pros bring at least two in case of failure.
  • Work without having created a timeline.  If not they’ll have to be willing to work with the one you create and stick to it!
  • Run late
  • Be disorganized
  • Use anything less than a professional color lab for processing all of your prints.
  • Drink – again, they are there to work, not party.

Baker– So, your aunt has a friend who bakes cakes “all the time” out of her kitchen…. This is wrong on many levels but a few points are:

You can’t control the cleanliness of the home kitchen, whereas commercial kitchens are inspected by the local health department.

She/he may not be able to replicate the design you fell in love with.

He/she may not know how to assemble/stack the cake to withstand delivery and hours of being on display.  Cakes have fallen because the “baker” didn’t use the proper dowels to support the weight of each tier which lead to tears….

Wedding Planner

– So, your friend just got married herself and just LOVED the experience and wants to be a wedding planner.  Although every planner had to start somewhere, your wedding shouldn’t be that somewhere.

Benefits of working with a Professional Wedding Planner

Experience.  The seasoned planner brings years of experience with her/him when it comes to working with venues, vendors, contracts, budgets and problem solving.

Resources.  They have a network of valuable resources at their fingertips.  All tried and tested and available to them when they need them.

Organization. It’s what they’re known for.  Every Couple feels better knowing that someone else has a handle on all of the wedding planning and that nothing is being missed.

Access.  You have to be able to call on your planner/coordinator whenever you have a question or concern and get an answer as soon as possible.  Not necessarily an option when your “friend” is juggling other full-time responsibilities.  A true professional only plans full time.

Caterer– So, your buddy cooks up one mean BBQ…Again, wrong on so many levels but to hit on some points:

  • Cleanliness
  • Quality of the product including proper storage of meats, etc. before they are prepared.
  • Running out of food.  A seasoned caterer knows how to determine how much food to provide.
  • Staffing – who’s going to set up the tables and chairs, serve the food, buss the tables, empty garbage, set up and tend the bar.  Oh, and by the way, bartenders must hold certification as being trained by the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Now, ALL of these points and worries can be avoided by just hiring experienced wedding professionals to handle all of the important elements of their wedding day.  As the saying goes “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur”.  Why let them learn a trade at the couple’s expense?

Lastly, remind your clients there are no do-overs for their wedding day and that it’s always best to keep their relationships intact, let their friends be guests, and leave the rest to the pros.