Industry News

Dealing With Unruly Vendors: Grace Under Fire!

September 4, 2015

By RF Staff

I have been doing my best to steer clear of the drama that’s been swirling about social media this past week but I can no longer remain silent! I want to begin by offering a giant hug to the photographer, and any wedding professional who has had to deal with a situation like this during the course of his or her career. Handling them with grace is what experienced pros learn over the years. Wedding days are fast paced and emotional, and how you react to them instinctively can either add fire to the flames or quickly be blasted with a bucket of ice water.

For those of you who missed the drama this week, here’s a quick synopsis:

-Photographer is doing his job, notices the DJ has pro equipment and is shooting.

-Photographer politely engages DJ. DJ responds “I’m serving my client.”

-Photographer replies, “I’m the official photographer at this event.”

-DJ replies by basically saying I don’t give a crap, and I don’t work for you.

Who’s right? Well of course we’re going to side with the photographer! Here’s some of the complaints on social media we’ve seen:

-We don’t play music at his event, why should he take pics?

-This is so unprofessional!

-He had no legal right!

-You should sue!

I totally get the frustration we feel about this situation, and also understand it’s cathartic to bitch about it—after all, misery loves company. As photographers, we continue to have to deal with ever growing amounts of challenges from outside “creatives” at these events. IMHO how we handle these situations is what will make all the difference.

I want to offer an approach that in my scans of the interwebs I didn’t see discussed. This approach is the same now as it was 25 years ago when it comes to dealing with an unruly vendor who gets in your way, prevents you from doing your job (which could be anything from a hair/mua to a florist not finishing flowers on time, to a late/pushy limo driver) or doesn’t provide a meal when promised or not providing food described in your contract.

We all have standard stipulations in our contracts that mention our exclusivity at events, and what is promised to us. That said, unfortunately the vendors do not sign it, and they quite frankly don’t care about our contracts.

So…when faced with a situation such as the above TRY THIS:

  • Take a deep breath, remove your emotion from the equation, and approach the vendor in question.
  • Explain to them your problem in a calm, rational way that they are impeding you from doing your job, and it’s nothing personal. In this week’s drama, it sounded as if the DJ went on about serving his clients, that this was a special touch offered as a good deed to his client.
  • It’s at that point you need to breathe in one more time and make a very big decision. Do you want to let it go, and live with this unprofessional hooligan, or do you take your problem to your client. If you decide you absolutely cannot work around this person, again, in a calm voice tell them that you understand their point of view, but you would need to go to the client and explain that you cannot do your job given this situation and they need to address you, or let you go home. Keep in mind, by going to client you’re now creating a stress point for them, so you better darn well have a giant problem with this vendor.

Hopefully the trouble vendor concedes, but if they do not the problem is addressed and is out in the open in real time.

I can tell you these situations have come up many times for me over the years. Over zealous vendors have always been a problem for wedding professionals. I learned this technique from my mentor, and I’ve shared this with everyone I’ve ever run into who had an issue like this. Whether it’s a caterer who doesn’t feed you, to the florist who won’t let you get a room shot before the reception starts, this will work, but I stress that it’s the absolute LAST thing you should do!

On a different note, as we set off for our Labor Day weekends, I wish everyone a safe, successful, profitable, and, most importantly, fun weekend out there!