Things I learned the hard way: Business to Bride.
I scurried into the elevator, through the lobby and down the grand stairs, pulling back the drops of building tears. I had left the meeting devastated. You mean to tell me I book the venue and thennnnnn you want to halt me on all of my plans? In a walk thru with my mother (aka the brains behind the shindig) we had been told a a million different forms of yes and then no and then yes that we could or could not use the decor we had planned on. Wait, let me get that straight, we couldn't do what we wanted unless we used one of their vendors (aka a 'preferred vendor' aka someone who usually gives the venue a commission when they are booked). I felt discouraged, betrayed and out of my league. The second meeting was almost as ridiculous when the caterers tried to tell me I "couldn't" do a family style seating arrangement but instead could utilize one of their floor plans, you know, their go-to for every wedding, the ones they don't even have to think about. Little did they know I was an interior designer at the time and knew that in fact I could do family style seating, had the measurements down to the inch, and so we would. Because after all, it was our wedding, even thought it was starting to seem a lot like theirs. But the way it was said, with so much authority, they almost had me believing that they were right and I was wrong and I was a silly, silly girl for even asking questions! HA! They are the professionals, let them do their job (which consisted of trying to replicate every other wedding they've done to avoid more work). Hi, my name is Ashley and homey don't play 'dat. And I realized that my lack of knowledge of exactly how this whole planning a wedding thing worked put me at a disadvantage and even came to show certain vendors didn't have my best interests at heart. (And certain ones did, like Josh Gooden, Heather Boswell, and our awesome DJ Dan!)
So I wondered who did. Was it the caterer who scoffed when I asked if we would get to taste the food before we bought it all? (I still don't know if people do that or not. Do they? We didn't. Thankfully it was delicious I hear). Or the Bridal boutique who was all champagne and smiles when I tried on the $12,000 dress but gave me the discounted service and cold shoulder when I got the sample version (and let me just say my gown was Vera Wang and not full price but still a freaking fortune). I went into our wedding planning elated and excited and left it feeling like I had crawled out of a battle. Fighting for what I wanted but getting kicked and tumbled all along the way. Was it me? Did everyone else know exactly what the venue coordinator was supposed to do, what their job was, what they offered, what questions to ask (and heaven forbid what NOT to say) and the caterer knew their place, and all we needed to do was point to a book of mundane options proclaiming "I want that" and fork over the money? Was it the Interior Designer in me that knew what she wanted and how to make it happen paired with the Photographer who had been to weddings and had an idea of the game plan that made it more difficult? I thought knowing what you wanted was supposed to make it easier for crying out loud! (No, really, probably crying. out .loud.)
Over two years later and gazillions of tears afterward, my answer is no. I in fact was a rarity, a Bride that was actually somewhat IN the wedding industry who understood the ins and outs that it takes to plan an event, not the case for most planning couples. When I sit down with couples now I always explain I changed the entire way I do business and approach weddings after being a Bride, and from the bottom of my heart I mean it. I understand that for most this is their first time planning an event and so what is "a given" to most industry professionals is far from that to a newly engaged couple. I make it a point to explain the process of photography from start to finish, outlining the experience, listening to their desires, sharing my expertise, and setting expectations. I vowed to myself to never be a vendor, but to always be the person that has their back. To give the same experience to intimate elopements as those who booked full-day services. And if someone heaven forbid ever has a disappointment, I promise to listen to them, hear their concern, and go above and beyond to make it right. Because I've been there. Sure to some it may sound ridiculously dramatic to admit and honestly it pains me to still think about all the things that just went, for lack of a better term, to shit, but I was simply crushed after our wedding day. I felt the ball was dropped on so many levels and thank goodness for a few creatives who were the saving grace that helped me see past all the wrongs and have a wee bit of fun (one of my biggest wedding day regrets--being so sad about it all that I wasn't able to enjoy myself). Sometimes I feel like our wedding day drama is something I just want to forget (but who can forget the church lady screaming at Del that she was going to 'call the cops' before Dad and I walked down the aisle?). Leaving an interior design consult in the midst of wedding planning, a client took my hand, looked me in my eyes and spoke words that now ring true: "Now just remember, it's an industry honey". Dang. Yeah, it is, and I don't want to be like that.
I always look to that day when I hustled out of the Mint Museum fighting back tears, wondering what I was doing wrong and how other people planned successful events, I hopped in my car, dug my wedding notebook from the depths of my handbag and scribed "Things NOT to do in my business". And as much as it still pains me to recount parts of the day, I know that my photography, my passion, and my heart for couples is much stronger because of our experience. And that makes it all worth it.