Is It Okay to Befriend Your Event Clients?
There’s one thing no certificate in event planning can totally prepare you for: the clients! Yes, your event planning course taught you all about conducting consultations, creating event concepts, and managing client expectations. But when it comes down to it, every event client is unique. Quirks, habits, concerns, attitudes…
The people are what make you love your job, but they can also cause some major headaches. We’re not talking about event planning nightmares today, though. We’re looking at the total opposite—the event clients who are just so cool you want to hang out even when you’re not on the job!
On the one hand, event planning is a social career. If you’re marketing yourself to your dream client base, friendship is natural! On the other hand, there are reasons why doctors aren’t allowed to date their patients. Okay, you’re not a doctor, and you just want to invite your client to your monthly book club, but maybe that professional-personal mix just isn’t a good idea.
What’s the right call?
The Golden Rule
When it comes to friendship and event planning, all you need is one easy-to-follow rule. Until you’ve completed that cool client’s contract, that certificate in event planning always comes first.
Especially if you’re in the wedding industry. As a professional wedding and event planner, you’ve got firsthand experience with wedding stress. Brides and grooms need emotional support during the wedding planning process. And since you’re heavily involved from start to finish, sometimes they try to fall back on you.
It sounds harsh, but you have to remember that acting as your event client’s best friend or personal therapist just isn’t part of your contract. Your job is to handle the logistics of planning the wedding, and you can’t do that if you’re constantly on call for listening to emotional rants and delivering inspiring pep talks. That’s time you could be spending on planning work (you know, your actual job)—or on your own personal life. Even the most passionate planner needs some downtime!
But I love bonding with my event clients!
Oh, we know—that’s what draws many planners to the job! But setting boundaries doesn’t mean you have to stay totally disinterested. Chances are, you’ll get to know your client pretty well while you’re working together. You’ll definitely hear about some of their problems, too—why the groom’s aunt absolutely can’t be seated near his best friend, the obligatory problem guest who’s going to be such a pain, or the bride’s frustration at finding the perfect bridesmaid dresses to suit her whole party.
Absolutely be supportive—but until that event is over, know when to draw the line. Aside from stressing you out, acting as your client’s emotional lifejacket during the planning process is sure to lead to disappointment. After all, on the big day you’ll be busy getting the venue set up, making sure the vendors arrive on time, managing last-minute emergencies, and getting people where they need to be. You won’t have time to sit around and hold your stressed-out bride’s hand. Leave that job to her bridesmaids!
Setting boundaries keeps you from getting overloaded with your client’s emotional baggage, but it also helps manage expectations. Right from the start, indicate (politely!) to your clients that you’re their wedding planner—not their best-friend-for-hire.
Still not convinced? Check out Caribbean wedding planner Sandy Malone’s post on why she waits to finish the job before getting friendly with her clients.
And after that?
Like we said—you get to know your clients pretty well while you’re working with them. Once that contract is closed, there’s no reason not to keep the friendship going. In fact, it’s not uncommon for wedding and event planners to end up with a few long-term friends who started out as clients.
Just focus on delivering incredible service before you start inviting them to dinner parties. No matter how much you like your client, your initial relationship is always going to be a business one. Your client is paying you to bring your high-quality planning and coordination skills to their event. Part of your client’s experience with you includes how you present yourself—and it’s much easier to keep up that professional reputation if you maintain a little bit of distance!
Keeping that professional distance while you’re working with them can help your event client avoid “planner withdrawal” after the wedding. Once your clients have set off for their honeymoon, though, there’s nothing wrong with staying in touch and getting to know each other outside of the office.
What does a “professional distance” look like?
Of course, the way you interact with your clients depends on the way you run your business. Sticking with more formal methods of communication—emailing instead of texting, for instance—is one way.
It can also mean politely declining invitations to go out with your event client for lunch or a drink. Unless you’re meeting them for something related to their event, it’s often easiest to avoid getting together in social situations.
On the other hand, you don’t want to get too distant. Part of what makes a professional wedding and event planner stand out to a client is the personal connection. By getting to know your clients, sending anniversary or holiday cards, and investing some time in staying in touch, you can build strong professional relationships that will benefit your business!