Landing the perfect client can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. And while not all are “perfect,” most business owners can settle for good customers. But to build a client base of people who align with your values, you must learn how to identify—and turn away—those who aren’t a good fit.
“Recognizing the signs of difficult couples and their families and setting boundaries and high communication tactics are crucial to creating an enjoyable wedding day for all parties,” assures Sarah Jobe of Twickenham House and Hall. “Although wedding seasons are stressful, screening clients and conversing about challenging topics is important and fair to clients and business owners.”
After all, you want to give your clients the best day possible—and you can only accomplish that when they are respectful and willing to follow your lead. If you want more clients that trust and appreciate your value, keep an eye out for seven red flags that can come up in the booking process.
1. Poor communication skills
Planning an event involves ongoing communication about essential details, decisions, and timelines. Clients that are hard to reach or unable to express their needs will inevitably lead to a difficult road, so take note of their behavior during the sales process.
“If the client seems to be very slow in their communications, you end up spending more time chasing them than them working WITH you,” explains Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “You may have to put up your own guard rails on the timing and the speed of the project (or event) and decide if this is going to be worth the investment.”
Jobe agrees, noting that those who “communicate harshly or ineffectively from the beginning stages become challenging clients to satisfy or plan alongside.”
But slow response times are only one side of the coin. The Renaissance’s Thomas Waters warns event pros to steer clear of those who demand too much communication.
“Setting up a call for ANY time is always welcome with our team, but calling out of the blue anytime after normal business hours on a regular basis is not very realistic, reasonable, or sustainable,” Waters says. “Emergencies, of course, are a different story, but for prospective clients, this is a huge red flag.”
Look for signs that your prospective client communicates in a manner that aligns with your style while respecting your boundaries and allowing you to lead the conversation.
2. Penny-pinching behavior
Everyone loves a good deal, but there’s a point when frugality becomes disrespectful to a service provider. People that always seem poised to cut corners and ask for discounts are focused only on a dollar sign—not your hard work or skilled expertise.
“In my experience, potential clients asking for discounts on their wedding services who view themselves as "influencers" is a signal that there will be problems after the wedding,” shares Sharon Yancey of Flor Amor.
Kimberly Sisti of SISTI & CO. agrees, adding that "a customer motivated only by finding the best deal will not respect your quality, process, or expert insight. They only care about the bottom line.”
So if you encounter a potential client that consistently pushes back on your pricing, let them know you’re not the right fit and wish them luck. You’ve set your pricing for a reason, and there’s no reason to allow others to define your value!
3. A sense of entitlement
Nobody can come into your business and tell you how to run it. So if you’re dealing with a prospect who wants to call the shots, experts say it’s best to let them go before it evolves into a more significant issue.
For instance, “if a client extensively redlines your contract, certain modifications may be reasonable,” notes Sandy Brooks of Timeless Event Planning. “But if they attempt to alter everything, it is a clear indication that there will be problems down the line.”
Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss shares this sentiment, adding a reminder for event pros: “You have verbiage in your contract for a reason, so stick to it! Not only will the clients likely still sign, but you will gain their respect by standing your ground.”
Expecting different treatment or trying to change how you operate are clear signs that a person does not respect you and your business. So say goodbye, and don’t look back!
4. How they talk about other vendors
During the booking process, your potential customers are undoubtedly looking through the market and getting to know other industry professionals. While there’s no denying this fact, listening to how they speak of other vendors can clue you into how they’ll treat you when all is said and done.
Sarah Chianese of Mangia and Enjoy! cautions against those who speak poorly of other vendors. “There is a certain professionalism and diplomacy you can expect from the clients you wish to work with,” she says. “When they speak poorly of other vendors they have 'fired' with far too much information on details that constantly blame 'others,' it is likely you will end up on that list after all is said and done.”
On the flip side, be wary of those who consistently praise the work of a competitor, as it could signify that they feel like they’ve “settled” for your company.
“Sometimes you were not the client's first choice, and that is okay,” says Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs. “But if a client wants you to emulate the work of another wedding professional (especially if your pricing structure is lower), it might not end up being an ideal situation.”
Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio agrees, adding that “whether or not they think they can get it less expensive or whatever the reason may be—no one should ever be asked to copy another person’s work. Clients should come to you for your talents and creativity or not at all.”
You have a unique skill set built on experience and your one-of-a-kind style, so don’t let anyone convince you to mimic someone else’s work. Instead, work with people who value what sets your business apart rather than those seeking a carbon copy!
5. Self-proclaimed micro-managers
We all know people who are proud to announce their controlling behaviors. In some cases, they are valuable assets—but when you’re in charge, micro-managing clients can create friction throughout the planning process.
“Those who say they are type A personalities can be controlling and want to do their process of planning vs. your process of planning,” confirms Chandai Raghunauth of Chandai Events.
Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning seconds this notion, highlighting the importance of trust. “If you can’t feel confident that your prospective customer has faith in your process and abilities, it’s probably time to look elsewhere,” she states. “Trust must be the top priority, and they must be willing to follow your processes.”
And if you don’t heed these warning signs, Bite Catering Couture’s Vijay Goel suggests that controlling behaviors will persist.
“Prospective clients who fight your system at the beginning will usually struggle with it the whole way through, making it stressful for all involved,” Goel promises. “It’s usually better to direct those prospective clients to other vendors that are a better overall fit with their worldview.”
Remember: You are the professional! Your ideal clients want to hire you for your talent and experience, not because they want an order-taker to follow their instructions. Demonstrate your expertise, and your customers will recognize all you have to offer.
6. Discord between clients
Sometimes, the red flag isn’t how clients treat you but how they treat one another. Working with a couple prone to fighting or an executive board that can’t agree on anything doesn’t bode well for the planning process. From getting stuck in the middle of an argument to playing therapist, client discord can pull you away from the work at hand.
“Pay attention to how a couple communicates,” encourages Brandon Alley of Bunn DJ Company. “If they aren’t on the same page with wedding planning or they are disrespectful in their communication with each other, the odds are good it will spill over into working with their vendors.”
Wedding Venue Map’s Shannon Tarrant elaborates, noting that “there are moments when a wedding pro can see they are clearly not on the same page. Look out for when one of them loves your company, is happy with the value, and wants to contract your business immediately, and the other doesn't. When there is a conflict in the choice of a specific vendor, it oftentimes leads to one-half of the couple not being satisfied.”
Signs of trouble during the sales process often evolve into a greater conflict down the line, so it’s best to avoid stepping into the middle of any potential disputes.
7. Potential scammers
There are bad prospects, and then there are fake ones. While pursuing an ill-fitting lead might waste time, falling prey to a scam can leave you and your business with financial losses and security concerns.
“There are numerous scams circulating, particularly through inquiry forms,” Brooks confirms. So if you notice anything suspicious in your inbox, it’s best to delete it and move on.
Event hairstylist Alicia Igess Jones warns about booking prospects “when they only want to pay through a bank or wire transfer.”
“Sometimes, this request is made upfront in the initial email,” Igess Jones says. “Sometimes, they ask a ton of questions, and when you respond, they act as if they are ready to book, then they tell you they have to pay through this wire or bank transfer. A credit or debit card isn’t an option. Essentially they want your bank account number.”
To evade scammers, enhance your business’s cybersecurity practices with tools like password vaults, virtual private networks (VPNs), and automatic software updates. In addition, learn best practices for recognizing phishing attempts and avoid giving out sensitive information online.
Let’s be real: Getting the sale feels great! But if it’s followed by months of disagreements and conflict, you’re better off missing out. So be intentional about detecting red flags from the start, trust your gut, and remember that your peace of mind is worth far more than any paycheck.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.