Managing Vendor Personalities

By Emily Sullivan, Emily Sullivan Events

If there is a greater threat to an ideal wedding day than conflict between vendors, I’m not sure what it is. When creative types come together, the results can be awe-inspiring and memorable. With that being said, when colleagues lose “that loving feeling,” disaster may find itself right around the corner. 

It’s critical, therefore, that for every wedding collaboration, someone takes responsibility for managing the variety of vendor personalities and creates a cohesive team, typically this is the planner. 

One common conflict, for example, is when vendors bypass a planner to deal directly with the client. 

There are plenty of instances where clients and their vendors working together directly is totally appropriate, but there are also reasons why it’s necessary to include the planner in the details. We bear the ultimate responsibility for what happens on the wedding day and need to be in the know. Also, as a team we have to meet client expectations, and some couples have specifically contracted planners to deal with vendors on their behalf. 

The best way to combat vendors bypassing the planner is to set up clear expectations from the start for everyone, clients and vendors alike. Emphasize that these expectations originate with the client, and ensure that the vendor in question is aware of the chain of responsibility. 

Generally, once all parties understand that working through the planner is the will of the mutual client, and that following this chain of command will give the client the best possible service experience, each of the different parties is able to get on board.

Strangely enough, another of the biggest challenges with vendors is when they are also your friends. Split loyalties do not serve your client well, so you need to set friendly, but firm boundaries from the beginning. Don’t take anything personally. Advocate for your client, but if conflict arises, NEVER sell a vendor out. The damage that you do to your relationship could be long-term, and no matter how important an event is, it is only one of many you will ultimately work together, so keeping harmony with your colleagues is critical. Find an alternate solution and work together to make your client happy while making everyone look good.

Sometimes the source of tension is more concrete. Vendors may be slow to respond to the planner’s or client’s communication. They may disregard timelines and blow deadlines. They may have a different perspective on professional dress and conduct. In all of these cases, frequent and clear communication and establishing expectations can save the day.

Generally, most vendors simply want to feel that they are a part of their clients’ events and that their contributions, talents and skills are valued. Establishing a positive rapport by showing appreciation for each person’s skill and specialty will help build an atmosphere of trust. Trust is the foundation of teamwork and of effectively managing your vendors, so start building it today!

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