Watching the royal wedding earlier this month reminded me of my own almost 11 years ago. Ours was obviously not nearly as grand and since we didn’t want a church ceremony and had young children, we opted to tie the knot at a zoo. Although we had gone for a more casual affair, we still hoped it would be perfect. Sadly, it was anything but.
So many things went wrong on the day and leading up to it that I don’t know where to start. Because this is a tale of service providers failing to do what we hired them to do.
Perhaps I should begin with the catering. The zoo’s wedding planner had always seemed so capable and in control. She’d done it plenty of times before after all. But my first inkling that something was amiss was when I headed for the canapés after the service. Too busy, excited and nervous to have any breakfast or lunch, I was starving, yet my hand hovered over the tray uncertain what to pick first. “What are these?” I asked the rather surly-looking teenage staff. Whatever their reply was, I realised none of these canapés were what we’d ordered and as we were vegetarian (now vegan), we decided not to risk eating any.
More was to come. The wedding planner mixed up my plans for the soft drinks, so there weren’t as many options as there should have been for dinner. And half the guests were children or driving. All the bottles of wine my husband and I had bought were opened before the evening meal, when the idea was to open them as needed. This meant we had to give the left-over wine away the next day to friends, family and neighbours so it wouldn’t go to waste. And all the truffles were placed on tables at the start of the day so that by the time coffee was served, they’d almost all disappeared into the greedy mouths of some of the younger guests.
But long before coffee, the wedding planner apologised for interrupting my main meal and asked if I wanted her to serve pudding. Rather dumbfounded I replied: “Of course, it’s included in the meal plan we ordered.” “Well,” she replied, “in theory, yes. But I forgot to actually write it down on your order form and you didn’t notice.” Given that pudding was fruit salad, I think some of the animals at the zoo might have had a more limited choice for their tea, because my guests did get something at my insistence.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s ok to cut corners
Speaking of fruit, we had booked a giraffe feeding experience for us and our children between the ceremony and the evening meal. But, disappointingly, the giraffes didn’t seem very interested in what we were offering them. “That’s because their favourite is bananas,” we were told by the keeper. Yes, you guessed it. Unfathomably, they were getting us to feed the giraffes food they weren’t overly keen on.
Earlier in the day, the photographer had already got my back up by refusing to photograph my mum, the children and I getting into the lovely silver vintage Rolls Royce outside my mum’s house as he wanted to rush off to the venue instead. He needn’t have worried about being late as when the car came, the driver told me we couldn’t go on the motorway and asked whether I knew a different route to get there. Are you kidding me? I’m getting married in an hour and hired you to drive me and you haven’t worked out how to get there or how long it’ll take on the back roads? Luckily I did know the way, so instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride, I was peering out the window telling him where to go.
I didn’t arrive late, thankfully, although we were cutting it fine. Unfortunately, the country was suffering another foot-and-mouth outbreak at the time, so rather than driving in style through the zoo from the front entrance to the venue (an old house in the middle of the zoo where Jane Seymour’s family used to live. There, that’s my royal connection!), we had to drive through a back gate where there was a tray with disinfectant. My guests also had to walk through disinfectant, which ruined some ladies’ shoes, apparently (sorry).
But four important guests who did arrive late were all in the same car. It was driven by my maid of honour’s husband, who insisted on using his Sat Nav rather than following the large signs at every turn telling you how to get to the zoo. Ignoring my sister and her partner’s instructions from the back, they almost ended up in the next city. By the time they did make it to the ceremony, they’d missed the “I dos” and my friend was, therefore, not allowed to sign as a witness because she’d seen nothing. My mother signed instead. I’d been wondering where my maid of honour had got to as she should have met me at the door to the ceremony room and walked down the aisle before me.
Clients want you to do what they’ve hired you to do
Back to the photographer, another person incapable of following the simplest of instructions. I’d made him a list of who and when to call for photos and he completely ignored it. Why didn’t I say anything? Well, I was incredibly busy greeting people, many I hadn’t seen for a while, and trying to find something to eat (remember those incorrect canapés?) and honestly didn’t fully twig until I’d calmed down later.
Then there was the band. They’d been giving me grief for weeks while I chased them for an insurance document they needed to provide to be able to perform inside the hall at the zoo, and which they obviously didn’t want to spend any money on. After a number of emails back and forth and frustrating phone calls, they eventually got their paperwork in order, but our relationship had become quite frosty. My heart sank when my wedding planner informed me there was no sign of them with the planned start for their first set rapidly approaching. They did just about manage to turn up on time, however, and played well. But I’d obviously never want to hire them again.
It wasn’t until a few days after our marriage that we found out why the catering had been so awful. The wedding planner had not been very receptive to my feedback, so I decided to pay the outstanding invoice in full (I didn’t want to seem as if I was complaining to shirk paying) and email her boss instead. He admitted they’d had to fire the chef on the morning of our wedding (a Sunday) and was terribly sorry this had resulted in a negative impact on our special day. We also received a partial refund.
Imagine how happy clients would be if you went that extra mile
At a time when just doing your job properly can make you stand out, it’s particularly galling to see articles on LinkedIn telling translators that quality isn’t important, not to make any comments on translations as that slows you down, to take on as many jobs as possible and skip a final reading because details don’t matter. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s OK to cut corners to make more money and that success depends on your bank balance. Clients want you to do what they’ve hired you to do. And imagine how happy they’d be if you even went that extra mile.
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