When It’s Necessary Not to Be Too Nice

Just a few days ago, my esteemed colleague wrote an excellent article about why brides sometimes do blow their tops. There are plenty of reasons to lose it during the wedding planning process. One of the most important things you need to know is when being a ‘nice girl’ simply isn’t going to cut it.

The first thing to do is free your mind of fear of the Bridezilla label. It gets used for everything from genuinely abusive behavior to simply reminding the florist that you already said you’d prefer not to use lilies. In other words, the term has lost its meaning while retaining its power over brides terrified of making a misstep. Forget Bridezilla. She’s only going to rear her head if you’re naturally a rather horrible person, and we all know such a person would never read this blog for long.

So when is it necessary to not be a nice girl?

When you are dealing with any professional relationship, that’s when you need to be firm and clear about your needs. If you do not state your requirements clearly from the beginning, you kind of have nobody but yourself to blame if the vendor fails to deliver. The vendor also needs to know that you know what you want and what you asked for.

This is not to say that most vendors are out to trick or shortchange you. The vast majority of vendors are just people trying to make an honest living, and that means they care about their reputation too much to try to screw you over. Many of them are also genuinely nice people it’s fun to be around, which tempts some of us to assume a more personal relationship than actually exists. However, there’s always that tiny minority that make it necessary to keep a strict eye on the details. It’s way too easy to find that the really, really nice person you’ve been dealing with wasn’t nearly as nice as you thought. There are also professionals who truly do mean well, but just aren’t as competent as they present themselves as being.

Let me say it again: just because someone puts out a shingle doesn’t mean that person is capable of doing the job as advertised. Just because someone is in the business doesn’t mean they won’t cut important corners.

When you begin to research any vendors you intend to work with, be sure to ask for references. Any reputable professional who has been in the business for more than a week should have some former customers who are willing to discuss their experiences. Ask for those names, and call the numbers. Ask whether everything delivered was what was ordered or a reasonable substitution. Find out whether they showed up in a timely fashion and appropriately dressed. Discuss whether or not the company was pleasant and organized to deal with in the time leading up to the event they worked. Don’t be afraid to ask if there were any last-minute expenses that hadn’t been budgeted for and the circumstances involved.

Once you choose your vendor, get everything in writing. Cover not only the costs, names of key personnel, timeline, and dress code, but what would constitute a reasonable substitution. After all, sometimes the unexpected happens. Hydrangeas come out the wrong color, the crop for an ingredient in your main course is wiped out in a freak series of hail storms, and the list goes on. Disasters happen. Prepare for them.

If there is anything in the contract you don’t understand, don’t sign it until you do. It’s tempting to assume that nice lady with the big smile is just handing you that slip of paper as a formality, but once you sign it you are legally bound by it. Ask questions until you understand. Don’t sign it until you are comfortable with everything in it.

If you look at the contract after you understand everything in it and it still makes you uncomfortable, go with your gut and don’t sign it. You’ll never be able to relax on your wedding day if you’re panicked about whether the DJ is really going to show up.

Check back in periodically. No, this is not carte blanche to nag some poor photographer or florist to the point of dementia, but it’s useful to touch bases a couple times between the day the contract is signed and the day of your wedding. Ask if there are any issues you should be aware of and let them know of any changes you wish made. Expect to pay extra for these changes. It’s part of being businesslike with a business.

Have your contracts either with you or in the hands of a trusted lieutenant on the big day, just in case. It’s probably better to hand them off to someone else on the day of so that you can relax. Still, make sure they are readily available and in the hands of someone familiar with the provisions. You may not be able to get precisely what you wanted if the vendors show up on your wedding day with all the wrong things, but at least you can prove them wrong and demand whatever compensation is possible.

Never ever let fear of a stupid pop culture term scare you out of looking after your own welfare. It’s not mean or irrational to be informed and crystal clear in your dealings with vendors. In fact, the really good ones appreciate working with a bride who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask questions before signing on the dotted line.

Be smart. Be professional with your professionals.

4 Responses to “When It’s Necessary Not to Be Too Nice”

  1. Melissa B. August 29, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Twistie, this is such great advice! Our vendors, by and large, did a really great job, but there were two we had some problems with. Following what you’ve outlined above re: contracts and getting *everything* in writing would almost certainly have minimized our difficulties.

    I would add the following tips: First, split payment into a deposit and a final payment *if at all possible,* and don’t be afraid to bail on a deposit if you’re really unhappy with the service you’ve gotten thus far. Some professionals will be attentive and wonderful up until you sign the contract, and then become much less interested in keeping you happy once they have a check and your signature.

  2. KTB August 31, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    I totally agree with this post and Melissa B.! Our vendors, with one notable exception, were all stellar. The one exception was our first caterers, whom I ended up finally firing after reading the excellent MftB post on dealing with vendors! They were terrible with details, not timely in responding to my questions, and the contract drafts they sent were riddled with errors.

    We were under the impression that they were the exclusive caterers for the venue, but as soon as I found out we could use someone else, we promptly dumped the first caterers for ones who knew what they were doing. The lesson from that is to ask questions–find out if your impressions are actually correct.

  3. Twistie August 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    Thanks for a much-needed addition, Melissa B. And remember, folks, the later you back out of a contract, the more it’s likely to cost you financially. Sometimes, though, it’s worth it to lose some money and gain peace of mind.

    Excellent point, KTB. Sometimes a vendor is presented as the person to go with and we therefore assume we’re stuck with them. Always double-check this assumption.

  4. class factotum August 31, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    The two most important things my dad ever told me: don’t stop on railroad tracks and always read what you sign before you sign it. Oh. And he told me if I was going to get laid to use birth control. This was the night before he drove me to college and I thought I was going to be a virgin until I married. Ha.

    Read your contract, read your contract. When we bought our house last year, the closer was very impatient while I read every word of the contract. But I discovered an error: my husband and I were not married yet so we needed to buy the house as joint tenants or something legal like that so that if one of us died before we married, the other one would own the house without legal hassle. Unlikely, I know, but I found that the wording that we had paid a lawyer $500 to write for us was not included in the contract. The closer woman tried to get me to sign anyhow without the change, but I insisted that the contract be corrected before we signed. It took 20 minutes, but we got it done.

    I know that it probably wasn’t necessary, but if my husband had died suddenly, I would have been screwed.