Special Events
Budget bride takes her own photo Photo by Timothy Large / © Getty Images

Wedding Pros Reply: When the Desperate, DIY Bride Comes Begging with a Lowball Bid

Wedding professionals discuss how to deal with bridal couples who ask them to meet the lowball bids from the vendors who have already failed them

A Facebook post about a bridal client who initially turned down a "too expensive" vendor only to return at the last minute in desperation—and asking for the same lowball price the failed vendor promised—has launched a tidal wave of comments. Here, Special Events shares the comments of wedding professionals on how they deal with this dicey issue:

Note: Rental pros addressed this touchy topic earlier this week:

You pick: The price or the package

Linda Ly, Grand Soirees Event Design & Coordination, Irvine, Calif.

"Give them the price for delivering what they originally requested and tell them what they could get with their original budget. They won't get what they want for the price they want, but they could either get what they want or the price they want.

We don't see this too often, but we see it once in a while.

The most common situation we see is overzealous pinning. They've pinned all these great ideas to DIY and procrastinate until they stand no chance of executing it. We've also seen clients try to Craigslist or Friendor their way through an event and have to go through and revamp the team.

I used to try to do the impossible, but I ended up shouldering too much of the burden. As time has passed, I've learned to pass the cost on to the client. They got themselves into the mess. Yes, we can fix it, but it is going to cost them the appropriate amount of money for our time."

And these events are happening--and now!

Erica Prewett, A Big To-Do Event, Atlanta

"I'm doing such a wedding this weekend. The venue has it in their contract that the client must use a wedding planner. The client thought they could just show up and say, 'Oh, I'm sorry--I didn't realize,' and then the wedding would go on. The venue threatened to cancel the wedding two weeks out if the client didn't hire someone. Luckily, I was going to be a guest at this wedding and they reached out to me. So now instead of being a guest, I will be wearing the SuperWoman cape.

In this case, I came up with a package that met their needs (above and beyond, of course) but was very clear from the beginning that my success was going to be a direct result of their level of communication with me and their ability to meet my deadlines for getting information from them.

I was brought in 14 days out, I flew to the venue 10 days before the wedding, insisted that all vendors be present, and walked through the needs of the event. Luckily, we were blessed with great vendors (not friendors) who understood the need to be 'buttoned up.' The wedding is this weekend and the final timeline is going out today--with six days to spare.

I don't get a ton of these requests because if a client has procrastinated hiring someone this long, they likely don't have budget for our services. But sometimes they find budget and tell us it was the best investment they made--and wish they would have made it sooner."

Time to Face the Facts

Carol Rosen, Party Designs by Carol, Los Angeles

"They get the very definite reminder that first and foremost, I have to be brought up to speed. That in itself takes time. And, also, reminding them that I will need to put aside other things I am doing to concentrate on their job a great deal, and that always takes extra time.

I give them my real, regular price, and then I also give them an estimate of what additional time it will take from Day One to the event day. I offer to track the additional hours it takes to produce their vision. I can give them an accounting of the extra time each week, so they can see how it's going. It is not possible to match their original lowball price, and the client needs to understand that right from the get-go.

We just finished a mitzvah party at the client's home. The original call was 'did I know where she could get lounge furniture' for the party. At the initial meeting I discovered they were six weeks out, were doing the service and the party at home, and they were only contracted with a rabbi for the service! They did not have anything else. And--she invited everyone on Evite, so we did not have an accurate guest count until about 10 days out. And, then they kept adding guests up until the event day! From 100 to 145!

They were also the sort of client who needed a great deal of hand-holding, and did not have a clue what would be needed for an off-premise event! One of the things that made it fairly easy, however, was no time for the client to interview vendors. I just supplied the appropriate vendors and signed them up! It was quite intense up to the day of the event--which went off fabulously and was totally beautiful!

I took one or two clients like that 'back then' and realized how much more was involved. The more experience we have, the better we are at estimating costs for a client, and explaining all that goes into an event. And, I think that more established planners are not afraid to lose the business. We know that some business just isn't worth it."

Yes, it can get ugly

Tracie Domino, Tracie Domino Events, Tampa, Fla.

"In fairness to all our clients, we can’t offer a 'lowball price' when there is a mess to clean up. They would be quoted an appropriate price for the services they require.

I once came in as a 'month of' planner to a client who didn’t think she needed one to plan her out-of-state wedding but called when she was about to pull her hair out. Practically every vendor we had to work with on that wedding was the lowest bidder and terrible. I actually had to take the microphone away from the DJ because he was that bad!

Years ago I probably would have met their low price, but over time I’ve realized it's just really not fair to the clients who trusted me from the beginning and paid the standard fee.

The mess is always way deeper than they think it is. They think they just need a little help, but once you get into the thick of things, you realize you have a disaster on your hands. We stay away from this as much as possible."

It's your life, too

Kerry Lee Dickey, Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events, Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I believe every situation is taken on through the lens of what the beholder's experience is. That is, a newbie, first-time event planner may be so eager to take on anything and get as much experience as possible, he/she may take on last-minute work for any price. And that is part of their process to learning and building business. The more seasoned you become, however, you get to know your business and at what point you are actually losing money to take a last-minute project on--and having to also correct all the mistakes from the prior vendor as well as the client.

For me, most of the time, this is why my price can sometimes double or triple if I opt to take on a last-minute booking where another vendor was involved but 'let go.' The key is to review in detail what is involved, state exactly what you are going to do and lastly--and more importantly--educate the client. I feel 90 percent of my time is educating a potential client before they book. If they understand that my fee for 'month of' involves more work than 'full-service planning'--and why--they are more apt to understand why my fee is what it is and not look at price alone.

For me personally, I am fiercely committed to balance in my life. My business and how I approach it actually revolves around my core values--and crisis-management and drama are not a part of it. So, if a client calls me last minute, I like to interview them, get a feeling for their personality, why they waited until last minute, find out what's involved work task-wise, who the other vendors are, how much 'clean-up' is involved on my end, and then if it feels relatively do-able and that it won't interfere with my family life, current commitments I have going on and I can do it--and do it well for the reputation for which I'm known--and be compensated for my expertise so that I autograph my work (their wedding) with excellence--I will take it on. But all things need to line up. If I feel the client is able to understand the value that I bring to their situation, then I know we will have a mutually-beneficial working relationship and their event will sparkle as it was intended and my reputation won't be damaged in the process."

Sometimes you have to say 'no'!

A veteran planner who asked to remain anonymous

"First, with all of us being in this industry that we all love so much and have a passion for, there’s a time that we have to decline. This has had happened to me also; however, you do not put yourself into a situation where you are putting out a fire that someone else created and not properly being compensated.

Professional vendors in this industry should be treated with respect. Why should we meet somebody else’s low prices and give them crème de la crème service? The bride is already frustrated. You’re not going to get any more business from this bride unless it is somebody you truly, personally know.

Again, I would decline. People have to realize they have to pay for good service or cut back on their grand expectation list. This has happened to me, and the client came back for a second wedding for her son. And she said, 'Thank you, you have taught me a good lesson--'cheap' is not always the best experience.'

This scenario has happened once every two months. Some specifics include no-show planners, no show photographers, and very short staff from the caterers. One event had 350 guests with four servers.

And if we take such events on, I make sure we have 75 percent control of the event. We decline anything lower because it brings tension in our establishment that we didn’t create."

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