As wedding vendors we get asked to perform quite a few last minute, inconvenient or sometimes impossible tasks by our clients. It’s easy to get defensive, especially if the request doesn’t fit with our brand or will cost additional funds the client would rather not pay. Our clients have a vision for their event that isn't always realistic, and it’s our job to guide them towards a solution that satisfies everyone. The quickest way to squash their dreams, and consequently their trust in our expertise, is to tell them "no." So how do you make everyone happy without compromising your integrity? How can you say no in a way that makes them feel you actually said yes?
It's really pretty simple: lead with the positive. Start each response with something like:
“We can absolutely…."
“I would love to..."
“That’s a great idea..."
..or any other accommodating, feel-good phrase.
By saying yes first, you create options which imply the client has a choice and control over the situation, something that's important in making them feel heard and respected.
Here are a few real life scenarios to see how it works:
The week before her wedding, the bride would like to add three bridesmaids to her contract for hair and makeup services. There are only two hours allotted to get everyone ready, and the bride has only booked one hairstylist and one makeup artist for herself and the maid of honor.
The "Yes" Answer: “I would love to make everyone beautiful for the big day. In order to be finished in time and ensure everyone loves their look, we’ll need to arrive earlier in the day. If that’s not an option we can always add a stylist and makeup artist to your package. Both options would require additional fees. Would you like me to add this to the final balance?"
Note: Sometimes it’s difficult to ask for money, especially when it’s last minute and you know the budget is already stretched, but it has to be done. Your skills are valuable. The client can always opt not to add services or, in this case, perhaps the bride can ask her bridesmaids to foot the bill. The point is that you're offering solutions to her problem, and she has the opportunity to utilize those solutions or keep her contract as-is. She has power and choice.
The couple doesn't want to see each other before the wedding, but does want extensive portraits throughout the grounds of the venue, requiring travel to multiple locations and the accommodation of a large family portrait list. By the time the ceremony ends, it will be dark outside.
The "Yes" Answer: "We can absolutely photograph some night portraits after sunset; however, in order to take advantage of all the beautiful locations on the property you might want to consider doing a 'first look' and then having some images taken before the ceremony. This will allow you to get great photos, and still enjoy your cocktail hour and relax. If you really want to see each other for the first time at the ceremony we can come up with some alternatives for indoors or limit the amount of portraits."
Note: Here we’ve given the couple a choice. They can stick with their initial plan or they can find an alternative. Either way, something they want will have to be sacrificed but they will ultimately make the decision. Sometimes they don’t choose the option you recommend, in which case you'll have to honor their decision but ultimately they will respect you for not forcing the issue.
The couple’s uncle would like to sing a song at the reception. He has a CD he presents during cocktail hour but doesn’t know which song to queue. You are getting ready for the introductions.
The "Yes" Answer: “That’s a great idea! Right now I’m getting ready for the introductions, but if I have time during dinner we’ll see if we can queue up the song. If you could find the CD jacket with the song names that would help me out greatly.Thanks!"
Note: In this situation, what you’ve done is set parameters on the request. You’ve let him know you are still willing to perform the task as long as it does not interfere with your duties, and you have requested that he share the burden of this unexpected request. It instills a feeling of cooperation and even if it doesn’t work out, he'll still feel you gave it your best effort.
The above scenarios may sound corny (though all of them are true), but the ultimate goal of saying "yes" is to put the decision in your clients' hands. When they have options, they feel in control and you eliminate any negativity that may arise from denying their request. Sometimes you have to compromise, but ultimately you will win your clients' respect, loyalty and referrals.