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Refocus

Updated: Jun 5

Hello hello, my dear jellobeans, how are you?


It’s been rare these days for me to post with so little time between, but I wanted to share a little bit more about this past weekend’s wedding. It was such a healing experience! Some of you may know that last year, I had a nightmare client. It drew me to a slump - which thankfully kind of aligned with when I was offered the contracted position with UCI Health.


It gave me a chance to take a break from marketing my business, and I didn’t take on clients that I didn’t personally know. I needed the time to process, heal, and regain my bearings.


I like seeing the good side of people, because I know that we are all sinful - Scripture says that His law is written on our hearts, so it’s only natural for us to strive to be good. However, in a fallen world with temptation, we are drawn towards sin. I don’t like focusing on the negative side of people, because it opens up a can of worms that can fester into anger and bitterness, so I needed space to process what my feelings of unjust were and conclude the situation in my heart. It took a long time for me to be “okay” after this nightmare client, so I never even addressed it here in my blog.


I do think, however, as a small business, it is important for me to share what happened - for other small business owners who may feel alone, for clients to understand their vendors, and more.


This is already such a long-winded post, so I’ll begin with the tea that I’m sure a lot of you are curious about. This nightmare client was a referral; I absolutely love the friend who referred this client, and I know they never intended things to get as out of hand as it did. As a baby-entrepreneur, I was glad for the business, and I was honestly pretty confident after the consultation call. They were nice, and they were open about what they were looking for. They were not penny-pinching for their wedding, and the bride has said she already knew who was helping out and what they were doing, they really just needed a day of coordinator, a helper since it was a larger venue, and help with design.


Since it was a referral, I had comped the cost of the assistant (doesn’t mean I don’t pay the assistant, they just don’t pay me for it). They booked me in the beginning of January for their May wedding so I waived their late-booking fee, since I normally want to have a 6 month advance in my calendar for coordination events, especially if design is included. They let me know they hadn’t sent out their Save the Dates and Invites yet, so that was first priority (most people already knew via word of mouth/text).


I checked in with them multiple times to get information about wording to create their invitations, especially since they paid for design. It would make it easier to make everything coordinated and cohesive for one designer. They sent me many texts but always avoided sending me information, when in February, they told me they got the invitations done already, and planned to send them out. This was after I already had a base of their invites designed, and was just waiting for details they’d like confirmed. The invites they got were a completely different color than they asked me to do, and they had used a vendor who did not want to disclose their font choices. I had to do my best to match the fonts on my own. This happened as well with menus - they decided to just create their own menus, and used a completely different font and style than the invite, their programs, and seating chart - the latter of the two which I created.


They also had me involved with all of their vendor meetings - in person and on-site. That is NOT the role of a day-of-coordinator, but as a new entrepreneur who just didn’t want to offend my friend’s referral, I obliged. The wedding site wasn’t close by to where I lived at all, and I ate that cost - including the $16 parking fee for each visit.


Throughout the planning process, she’d send me “unofficial” photos, asking for my opinion and changing her mind. I had updated her file so many times that I eventually on the week of the wedding, I had to confirm every setting to make sure I had the finalized version. I think perhaps the bride was lonely? She even involved me with her wedding dress shopping and sent me photos asking for my opinion - what could I say other than that she looked amazing? And she did, honestly. She would tell me which one she liked, and I’d encourage her - it felt like a strange need on her end for affirmation, and honestly, that was above my pay grade if she didn’t have friends and family who could be there for her on such an intimate occasion.


A week before her wedding, the bride and groom told me they needed to add a second assistant because they wanted my team to work on tablescape. I told them that I would also need to communicate with catering to see if they’re able to assist with the tablescape, as it’s normally the florist who works on it. My biggest thing with placecards is that it takes up a lot of time, even with the cards all in order, because one tiny mess up, or if the cards fell out of order, can usually extend the process by a lot.


Everything leading up to this was really more of beige flags with flashes of red, and I just attributed it to her being an anxious Type A who wanted to make everyone surprised on her wedding day. That all came to a huge issue.


The first dilemma: the florist. I had, in a CCed email to the bride and groom, told the florist I would meet them at the venue and get the bride/bridal party flowers. The florist seemed just a little late at that point, and didn’t pick up her phone or text. I figured they may have been driving and was running a little late with traffic - they had found a florist in the LA area for a lower price, despite the venue being far south in Orange County. After about 20 minutes of the florist not showing up - and not contacting me - I tried calling her again. This time, she told me the bride told her I was going to drive to her to pick up their flowers before they came to make installations on-site. I told her that was not possible, as I had to be on-site even earlier than her, and she needed to get her team and florals to the venue ASAP. They got there in record time, and they tried to get things set up as quickly and efficiently as possible. The bride had told me that she wanted them to do a “flower cloud” above the space, and they didn’t have the skill set, time, nor manpower to create it, which was very unfortunate, but safety first.


The second dilemma: the appointed assistance. They had appointed 2 college age girls who had likely never been an adult at a wedding to man the welcome/check in table. They were almost never there and never passed out the programs, I saw one of them in flashes and I told her multiple times to make sure the gifts were hidden behind the desk and people knew to dig the guestbook and take a program. Despite telling the bride and groom that I would need a few people to help out, I was just really left with the bridal party (who was away mainly for photos), the two college girls, and the officiant. But more on the officiant later! During this time, my assistants were downstairs in the cocktail space, crawling under tables and putting rocks down to keep everything from flying away, and I was also making sure people were staying away from the glass windows while the bride and groom were taking pictures, running up and down between the floors to get people through security because they opted to not pay for that service with the venue, and setting up candles to be ready for “The Flip”.


The third dilemma: “The Flip”. Everything else was kind of just elementary play until “The Flip”. Anyone else who has had a wedding that had a ceremony space flip to a reception knows that this is a HIGH STRESS time for the vendors. We are literally clamoring to get things set up and pretty so that the photographers and videographers can grab photos BEFORE the guests are allowed to get a seat and rest. It is usual for rental companies to set up the tables/chairs and the catering staff to get tabletops ready, florists/coordinator teams work together to get decor on the table. The rental company refused to move the tables. When my team and catering - due to time being of essence - began to move the tables and chairs, they complained that it was not the finalized draft of the layout that the rental company sent. I told them we had the bride’s layout and that supersedes his, but he demanded that his team make sure that nothing was out of order from HIS layout. This dragged everything out, and when we were finally able to tablescape, I was told that the bride changed her mind about glass chargers - something I had not heard, but I was not unfamiliar with their erratic change of minds - so I did not put much thought into it. However, just as we were getting the last things placed, the glass chargers appeared out of thin air. And the rental team frantically started messing up all the tables aping to put the chargers over the the set menus and placecards.


The venue coordinator overheard the rental company manager yelling at his staff, and what we found out was that the rental company FORGOT the chargers, and told the caterers that the bride changed their mind. The reason they didn’t want to move the tables was because they needed to set up staging; the guys who were supposed to move the tables were sent on a mission to get the chargers, so they were short staffed.


Now, just to remind you, we are now behind schedule, we know guests are probably dying for a seat, I’ve been running back and forth from setting up and letting food vendors in from the high security venue, and the layout has been pushed and maintained at a non-bride given layout. She marked 5 guests as VIP that she wanted specifically close to the dance floor, and I put the rest of the tables according to their logical numerical order as close to her diagram as possible. We had no time to readjust, and the rental company was breathing down our necks yelling and bullying us for even trying.


We ended up with a 17 minute delay to reception, and we kept one table clear of people for an extra couple minutes for photo and video purposes.


That third dilemma dominoed into the fourth one that basically set the whole wedding on fire: the sister in law. With the rearrangement, Sister-in-Law’s family was placed in the back, and she was not having this kind of disrespect. They stormed up to the venue coordinator, who came to me with what happened. I spoke with the brother of the groom (husband to SIL), who explained that they were really upset about not being closer. I apologized, and so that I didn’t throw other vendors under the bus, I told them that due to spacing guidelines, we had to shift a couple tables, and that the bride and groom sincerely intended them to be closer to them. I worked with the venue coordinator and offered to set up a table closer for them, to which they refused and said that “it’s okay”. I apologized profusely, and they seemed to be okay after that.


…Only to find out that they were not okay and apparently took it upon themselves to ruin the bride and groom’s big day and complain about being disrespected. I don’t know what feral relationship they had prior to the wedding, but that did not sit right with me that they would angrily complain about something as petty as seating to the bride and groom on their big day.


The fourth dilemma: Vendor meals. Because of the whole flipping situation that took catering out of their work, their main focus was, rightfully so, feeding the guests and prepping their plates. That meant vendor meals were not in their periphery, but that also infringed on labor laws and costs… and caused issues. The vendors, except for the band who requested extra rest time to cover for the late meal and refused to “work” and plug in their MP3 to cover dead time, were all very understanding and generous, and delayed their meals. But that also meant the videographer didn’t get to eat until after their work was done, which resulted in an extra 30 minute cost on their end. And then they apparently had a missing vendor meal, which my team member saw the OFFICIANT eat! Since I hadn’t had time to eat, I gave up my vendor meal for them.


So that leads to the bride and groom complaining to me and requesting a full refund of all services.


Their complaints:

  1. I should have went and got the bride and groom to get involved and get the layout straight despite them taking their cocktail hour family photos.

  2. I should’ve never let the layout deviate - which I agree! But things happen, and they said my explanation wasn't a viable excuse - which I am fine with accepting blame for. I should have been firmer.

  3. They blamed the florist miscommunication on me, despite saying they didn’t see that my text should have given any confusion to the florist. Not to mention the fact that the florist had said it was the BRIDE’S words that confused her… I’m sure they went to the florist with a bone to pick as well about the installation that couldn’t be done.

  4. They blamed me that I was completely wrong about “The Flip”, and that catering was always supposed to be in charge of the tables and chairs. I had written notes, texts, and emails where it said the rental company was doing “The Flip”, and I even confirmed it with both the catering and rental company verbally the day before! At which point the bride told me that “The Flip” just referred to staging and dance floor, and that the rental company was right about not being in charge of moving anything else. No one else was on the same page…

  5. Candles they paid for were unlit and I need to pay for them. I had explained it was too windy so they kept blowing out. Not to mention we’re already delayed, so it made more sense to keep them unlit. They said that was not an excuse.

  6. The speeches took too long, and they told me they wanted them short and sweet. I should have interrupted and stopped the speeches if they went over the 3 minute allotment. The speech givers were the Best Man (Groom’s brother with the upset wife) and Maid of Honour.

  7. In serving their 250 guests, catering took about an hour to serve salads and entrees. They pulled up Instagram posts from a 6th grader who said “Yay, finally food!” As proof of everyone being famished and mistreated under my coordination. They also claimed I ordered for a pause in service, which was why it took so long. Venue coordinator and catering both backed up that was never done, and they even invited them to try and see the pace of fine dining and scale it for their event. The bride and groom were apparently appalled that the food was not all served together and that the guests had to wait through salad being served first, then the entree, etc. Despite recognizing the timing lined up with service, they continued to push the narrative that I must have ordered for a pause in service and that I should’ve asked them to serve everything quicker for the sake of guests. Or at least the 6th grader who clearly hasn’t been to another wedding or had many fine dining experiences.

  8. Alcohol bill was up - the venue had asked if they wanted to keep the open bar after their tab was up, and they said yes! They blamed it on the extended cocktail hour, which was my fault as the coordinator. The alcohol bill I ended up discussing with the venue was actually right on the nose with what I had told them in the beginning - one glass per guest per hour, approximate 5 glasses per wine bottle. Not only that, but the venue coordinator told them they’re sorry that they’re so upset and fronted the “extra” alcohol bill. The bride and groom tried to make me still pay for the “excess” alcohol bill after the venue waived it.

  9. In the beginning of set up, I needed to grab a few chairs for the string quartet, and the chairs were squished between tables. My assistants were helping arrange other things, so I asked if the officiant (who was sitting down) if he could help me slide a few chairs out. He helped me carry them out of the room, but apparently complained to the bride and groom that I was asking him to help me with things that could have risked him getting sweaty and ugly for the ceremony.

  10. People went across the street for ice cream and fries during the cocktail hour. Mind you, the cocktail hour was scheduled to be 1.5 hours long, and the shop was in the same plaza as this high security venue. They said it was because there were guests standing in front of where food comes out of who ate all the food once it came out, and my team member should have asked them to walk away so others can have a chance at getting food.

  11. They tried to say that they had to pay for extra vendor meals because I lost all the meals. I don’t even know how they could’ve thought I lost the meals, but I checked with the venue, they never charged for extra vendor meals. Not only that, but I didn’t even have time to eat the whole day - I gave my vendor meal up to the person whose meal was stolen by the OFFICIANT.

  12. They forgot to bring their cake cutter and knife, didn’t tell me or the venue. I had gotten them a regular knife to cut, but they complained it wasn’t a good knife for photos, and it was sent back. Catering had to find and dig through their inventory to find a “better” knife.

  13. They were surprisingly not that upset about having to pay the extra 30 minutes, but it was mentioned briefly as well.

  14. They were upset that while I was debriefing after the first run through during rehearsal, I didn’t propose a rerun before the groom’s mother asked for a re-runs. I told her as much, and that I was debriefing before we re-ran, and she said “we had a coordinator for a cousin’s wedding who was an actual professional, and we practiced more.” I’m not sure what that had to do with anything, but she also complained that the officiant ran the rehearsal. I had advised them even before the rehearsal that unless specified, officiants are the ones who normally run the rehearsal, while the coordinator assists and just makes sure everyone knows their order, rearranges anything necessary, and makes note of changes to communicate with other vendors. They were the ones who told me that their officiant regularly officiates weddings; I am usually just asked to step in if it’s a friend or family member who has never officiated before.

  15. They were upset that someone didn’t make sure every guest got a program, which would have let guests commemorate their big day. No, they did not have favors * They felt I was unprofessional in not having my team take over handing out programs or asking one of the elderly guests who arrived early to pass them out while the teens they appointed at the welcome table were MIA.

  16. And of course, I was at fault for the marital issues caused by the Sister-in-Law, because it was my fault the layout went rogue and didn’t go according to the bride’s drawing. They said I should have postponed the reception longer to make the numbering right, and that in the midst of rushing and making everything look beautiful, I should have caught the fact that I had seated the Best Man in the back… which was ironically also closer to where the toasts/speeches were made. They were not on the “VIP” list mentioned earlier.

After talking to all vendors in their “investigation”; which I know the vendors had my back because they saw me running around and doing my job as a day of coordinator PLUS MORE, they said their conclusion was that I was understaffed and didn’t get enough help, so I sold them the wrong package.

Mind you, I had offered that if they wanted me to do design work, they can go with a bigger package for me to take care of details and have more assistants. THEY purchased a package that didn’t include ANY assistants, I had asked for help from their friends and family, and was given no one and no names. Plus, I waived fees for the two additional assistants. They also did not want to go with a more expensive printing company for signage, so I had taken my own money to material to create wooden stands for signage, as well. I had reminded them that the printing would have been with my other package, so they wouldn't have to worry about it, but they insisted on the more "cost-effective" day-of-coordination package. Honestly, it was only more cost effective because I was comping them for so many add-ons!


They threatened legal action to make me pay for the alcohol, meals, candles, and more if I refused a full refund. I fought them to not reimburse my design fees, as I had put in a lot of time, and even money on crafting the stands on-site the day of on top of the design proofs, but I ultimately refunded them the full coordination fees, eating the cost of my travels, time, administration work, parking fees, my assistants, and material. Emotionally, I was wrecked to the point that I felt too sick to even go to church for a couple weeks. I lived months in depression, questioning whether or not I was good at my job, and if I should just give up. That was about the time when I was reached out to work with UCI Health for their events and Chinese outreach.


Being at UCI Health helped a lot! The environment is very encouraging, and my director often appreciates me for my skill set in managing events behind the scenes. It has been a very healing space for me - I love events so much, and as much as I enjoy throwing them for my friends, one of the things I love the most is hearing the stories of strangers who become my friend for a season - and sometimes longer.


This weekend’s wedding was my first time since that nightmare stepping out as an event coordinator for someone outside of my friend group and the corporate space. I’ve been hyping myself up for weeks to get back into what I love, and I am so thankful for my amazing bride, groom, and her family and friends. They were all so amazing and reminded me just why I first got into the business. When everyone was sharing about how kind the bride is, I already knew from my interaction with her, and how everyone at the wedding was so supportive. Being a part of their wedding process was honestly such a big part of healing, and I’m so thankful the bride reached out all those months back. Quite a few of the guests even hunted me down towards the end of the wedding to tell me that I was an amazing coordinator, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I am not sure how my bride found me, but I’m so glad that God somehow arranged for this.


Looking back, I feel pretty bad for my bride from last year - she didn’t seem to have a support system, and it didn’t seem like anyone in her life has ever been able to be honest with her. Her closest friends seemed just like hype people who were wouldn’t tell her she was wrong or needed to calm down, and it was a repeating theme in speeches that she’s “boss lady”. At the wedding, she was saying very rude things about me even as I was assisting her with breakdown, and her bridesmaid seemed super uncomfortable, and came up to me after to apologize for the bride. Even when we met up to discuss issues of the wedding after the fact, her new husband mainly seemed quiet and looked apologetically at me and my assistant, as though silently communicating that he didn’t agree with all of her points of attack.


I don’t know where they are, and I don’t wish them ill will, but I will say that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other issues happening at the time beyond their sister-in-law. That’s a story I’m really not interested in getting to know, especially after uncovering this story from their wedding.


This experience has taught me a lot about trusting my gut feeling about clients and being able to say “no”, even if they are a referral. As a self-professed romantic, I know what stories I want to tell through events - and these aren’t the types of stories I like re-telling.

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