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How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition
  
 
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Hey all, I will just go ahead and pick everyone's brain a bit.

Each year I always end up booking a Bridezilla despite my effort in filtering them out. I do some basic background checks before calling back or accepting a client, ex: are they referrals, linkedin and other social media profiles. Sometimes I bump into their TheKnot wedding page so plenty of information readily available, so I know who I am dealing with.

This might raise some eyebrows but the intention isn't to stalk anyone. My methods are pale in comparison to the credit and background checks in corporate.

Whenever I see red flags, I tend to walk away as we all know, bad clients always end up being a pain. The mental cost is higher than what we get in dollars, and I certainly don't want more Bridezillas as referrals.

Mine in particular did not exhibit any Bridezilla symptoms, no money haggling, no strange behaviours prior to booking. The client is the type of person who is never satisfied or appreciative of what we do. 99% of the work is great but she will focus on the 1% that didn't meet her expectations (I might say they were invalid to begin with).

Anyhow, just want to see if you have any tips when it comes to detecting Bridezillas during consults and how you manage them.



Dec 06, 2017 at 05:34 PM
ahaug
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


I have no tips. I am often wrong about brides. Sometimes, I think that the bride will be difficult and they end up being great and other times .... its the other way.


Dec 06, 2017 at 05:43 PM
GeoLaing
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


I think you have a big part of it in your post - "...during consults...".

I make an effort to meet all potential brides/couples in person before any money changes hands and contracts are signed. A face-to-face meeting is the best way for both sides to decide if personalities mesh, etc.

I think bridal shows are great in that respect also. In that 3-5 minute conversation you and the bride/couple can get a feel if you think you are a match.




Dec 06, 2017 at 05:48 PM
mirrorrim
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


I'll start off by saying I live in VT and believe that my state generally attracts more laid back types. While a ton of business still comes from Boston and NY couples, most of these city couples choose VT because it fits their laid back personalities. So all that being said, I haven't really dealt with a Bridezilla. Definitely a few Momzillas though (but they are easier to ignore)!

You mention a lot of passive checks on your couples, but what about during the consult? What would you say is the ratio of you talking vs them talking during the consult? IE, are you spending a lot of time selling to them, or getting to know them?

I keep my potential clients talking for 90% of the consult. I go through an entire wedding day, asking them how they feel about each aspect of it, what they expect for photos, etc. Occasionally I interject a comment explaining how I do things and why it's best for them. I ask them about friend and relative weddings they attended, and what they thought about the photographer/photos. In their research, what photos made them cringe? What made me stand out? Describe a wedding photo they were really drawn to and love. In their personal photos, describe why certain ones are their favorite. What do they want to do with the photos after the wedding? What are they worried about when it comes to their wedding photography?

I really like going through a whole wedding day because it tells me if they have realistic expectations, and I can stop that real quick before things get too far. It also gives a massive signal to my TOO laid back potential couples that I'm a Type A planner and will not be "going with the flow" for their wedding day. However I do explain to everyone that I don't expect them to know all the answers (sometimes they get flustered because they hadn't thought about a first look, ceremony traditions, DJ vs band yet, etc). It's simply for me to get an idea of what they like and dislike.

Asking about what they thought of a friend's wedding is really helpful. I've found if I just straight up ask "what do you dislike about wedding photos?" they draw a blank or say something generic like "stiff poses." But making them reflect on a wedding they attended and personally knew the couple in the photos, they can come up with lots of specific examples. What they say tells me what I can expect (ie, unrealistic expectations like 'omg we spent 10 whole minutessss doing wedding party photos and we couldn't drink!' or regrets from a sibling's wedding 'the photographer didn't even take a picture of Great Aunt's cousin's niece's brother!!! There were so many photos of MIL!'). And then their favorite personal photo tells me a lot: is it a candid? Them being real or selfie-perfect? Designer clothing at a fancy restaurant or hiking outdoors? Do they still nitpick it or does one of them say they have a different favorite because that other one shows their crooked ear?

I've had some 'tough' clients but I knew about them beforehand, like the couple who didn't have a personal favorite photo "because they are so awkward." Or the meeting at a couple's mom's house, and the mom pulled out the sibling's wedding album and railed on all the mistakes there were made. Luckily nothing red flaggy, but I think it helped a LOT that I set expectations with them very early and clarified how things need to work to give them what they want. And perhaps the couples who were red flags, self-selected out because they didn't like my explanations.

Personally, I get more worried with the couples who have no answers or very generic ones. I love the ones who can get specific, even it's something like "I really hate my back but I'm going to wear a strapless dress." Then I can be prepared and talk things through. The "I dunno" couples WILL know after the fact what they like/dislike, and by then it's obviously too late.

------------

And you didn't bring it up, but I think your website should do the most to ward off red flag clients. We all know "show what you want to shoot," but make sure that is really true. And make sure your text, About Me, Blog, Stated Philosophy, etc all touch on the things you value and why your couples are attracted to it. Too generic = easy for red flag couples to 'fill in the blank' with their own assumptions that you have no clue about.




Dec 06, 2017 at 07:29 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


When they bring their parents to consults
Any kind of control freaky, stressy and uptight behaviour
"I hate myself in pictures"
A pinerest board that looks like a someone with multiple personality disorder created it (bonus: none of it looks like my work either)
Ones that try to negotiate price

Bad ones have often when I'm left thinking "why are these two people getting married?"



Dec 06, 2017 at 08:31 PM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Appreciate your time mirrorrim for writing such an insightful reply.

In addition to passive checks, I have the habit of scheduling a phone call prior to the meeting. My consultation stage is split into two phases. By the time we meet, I want the client to feel ready to book otherwise it would have been a waste of our time.

Other active checks occur on the phone. Despite my effort in being a good listener, I do spend considerable time answering questions but I do redirect the conversation back to their wedding day. While I learn a great deal about my clients, I look for unreasonable expectations as red flags. For example, the client may express desire in getting sunset photos but reception starts at 5:00pm and it will be in summer, plus they picked a venue in downtown core so it ain't happening. I will gently bring the issue to their attention and gauge how they respond.

Unless the client insists in talking about price, I will save it for last but I will go over my pricing (again, don't want surprises at the meeting stage). I am not opposed to price haggling as explained in an older thread but there's a difference between:

"We just graduated so funds are a bit tight as we are trying not to have our parents pay our wedding. We really love your work by the way so please let us know if you are flexible with the pricing..."

and

"We are tying the knot at the Four Seasons and we got a few quotes earlier. I can't tell the difference between the photos but I wonder if you can match the other photographer's (lower) pricing..."

Ultimately both are asking for a discount but how they value photography, and whether it's a priority, can be a red flag in my opinion.

Recently I am being wary of brides who are constantly insecure of their physical appearance. Those who ask for extreme photoshopping to shed 10 pounds, refuse to be posed or share picture perfect Pinterest blogs especially when they look nothing near that. This might upset some folks but I am not trying to be mean here. I am also not saying to book only photogenic clients but I have no interest playing psychiatrist to mentally unstable brides. I had one but only found out after the e-session, it was too late but learned my lesson.



mirrorrim wrote:
I'll start off by saying I live in VT and believe that my state generally attracts more laid back types. While a ton of business still comes from Boston and NY couples, most of these city couples choose VT because it fits their laid back personalities. So all that being said, I haven't really dealt with a Bridezilla. Definitely a few Momzillas though (but they are easier to ignore)!

You mention a lot of passive checks on your couples, but what about during the consult? What would you say is the ratio of you talking vs them talking during the consult?
...Show more




Dec 06, 2017 at 08:39 PM
Ziffl3
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


For me.... bridezillas really all come from how you react to any of their demands.

Be professional + fun even a little crazy but don't jump on the marry-go-round when the drama rolls in.

State and keep your boundaries.

-Mark



Dec 06, 2017 at 11:40 PM
Mitch W
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


In the 7 or 8 years that I shot weddings I never encountered a Bridezilla. Not one. I can't be alone. (Momzillas, that's a different story!) I think for me it came down to really setting expectations well in advance - during the consult, in communications, and in the contract. It became second nature. Anytime I encountered what I thought might be a red flag, or potential future issue, or something that might impact photo quality, I'd make a point to discuss it and set the expectation then and there, and often give them options on how to avoid the potential problem. BIG believer in setting expectations. I've since gone into commercial photography full time and do exactly the same with clients as we discuss assignments. It's a critical part of the process.


Dec 07, 2017 at 12:58 AM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Mitch W,

How much time do you spend during the consultation?

I feel that there are simply too many things to cover. I am all in for answering questions or setting expectations, but when brides book a year in advance (some cases two), the priority for me at least is to secure the booking.

I don't want to say a bunch of things where the client will most likely forget because the date is so far away.


Mitch W wrote:
In the 7 or 8 years that I shot weddings I never encountered a Bridezilla. Not one. I can't be alone. (Momzillas, that's a different story!) I think for me it came down to really setting expectations well in advance - during the consult, in communications, and in the contract. It became second nature. Anytime I encountered what I thought might be a red flag, or potential future issue, or something that might impact photo quality, I'd make a point to discuss it and set the expectation then and there, and often give them options on how to avoid
...Show more



Dec 07, 2017 at 01:54 AM
Mitch W
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


TheyCallMeJ wrote:
Mitch W,

How much time do you spend during the consultation?

I feel that there are simply too many things to cover. I am all in for answering questions or setting expectations, but when brides book a year in advance (some cases two), the priority for me at least is to secure the booking.

I don't want to say a bunch of things where the client will most likely forget because the date is so far away.



After my first 2 years in business I started holding all consults in my home studio. That right away removed 95% of the tire kickers, and maybe Bridezillas. I found that those that made the investment of time (and often a bit of gas) to meet with me raised the quality of client two-fold from when I used to drive to them, or halfway, to meet at a coffee shop or restaurant. Consultations averaged 90 minutes. I would also give every client a kind of a "what to expect on your wedding day" brochure which of course outlined what to expect. But it was also my opportunity to tell them what I encouraged and discouraged - for example I encouraged uplighting at the venue (which can turn a plain venue into a beautiful one in photos), and discouraged the DJ's laser lights during important dances to avoid having them have bright dots of color on their faces. I'd also cover videographers, and which types I found mesh the best with my style of wedding day work. These are all factors that could potentially affect my images, so I covered them. I'm positive it helped avert problems down he road, and problems are a big part of what brings out a Bridezilla. But again, the process of setting expectations for me was a never ending process, on up through the wedding day.



Dec 07, 2017 at 01:11 PM
 

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ZachOly
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


If the goal is to really "set expectations", then why not straight up tell them the honest truth? There's only so much we as photographers can do. If you're a kinda dull couple, and your bridal party are awkward, and it rains, and the ceremony and reception are in a undecorated conference room, then don't expect miracles.

I think too many photographers use the "setting expectations" time as a way to instill the idea of a fantasy wedding ; which quite frankly, doesn't happen very often. I don't think most clients want to hear the truth about what to expect.



Dec 07, 2017 at 01:32 PM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Some just don't want to hear the truth. If I were to be brutally honest, I am afraid that I wouldn't book many clients. Brides are being bombarded by fantasy imagery (blame social media and wedding blogs), many of which aren't even from real weddings and they set false expectations. Like you said, if the client doesn't want to invest into the venue, a timeline that allows us to take creative shots or simply a dress tailored to your body type, there isn't much we can do.

I had one who flat out refused to discuss plan B locations. She was absolutely certain that it wouldn't rain on her wedding day... Luckily it didn't but if it did rain, I wonder who gets the blame?

Is this something that can be discussed during consultation? Yes, I suppose. However, if you haven't retained my services, why should I bother going into full planning mode? Last thing I want to hear is "we found another photographer but thank you for taking the time in planning our day and for all those amazing suggestions for our portraits, kthxbye!"


ZachOly wrote:
If the goal is to really "set expectations", then why not straight up tell them the honest truth? There's only so much we as photographers can do. If you're a kinda dull couple, and your bridal party are awkward, and it rains, and the ceremony and reception are in a undecorated conference room, then don't expect miracles.

I think too many photographers use the "setting expectations" time as a way to instill the idea of a fantasy wedding ; which quite frankly, doesn't happen very often. I don't think most clients want to hear the truth about what to expect.
...Show more



Dec 07, 2017 at 02:03 PM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Thanks Mitch W, the brochure idea is a good one. Saying something is different from having it written on paper.


Mitch W wrote:
After my first 2 years in business I started holding all consults in my home studio. That right away removed 95% of the tire kickers, and maybe Bridezillas. I found that those that made the investment of time (and often a bit of gas) to meet with me raised the quality of client two-fold from when I used to drive to them, or halfway, to meet at a coffee shop or restaurant. Consultations averaged 90 minutes. I would also give every client a kind of a "what to expect on your wedding day" brochure which of course outlined what
...Show more



Dec 07, 2017 at 02:07 PM
mb126
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


mirrorim and mitch, both lots of useful information.

One thing that I know has worked well for me is actually NOT talking about the wedding. Especially when I meet for the first time. Generally, if I can have drinks with a couple and click with them in casual conversation then I'm going to be a good fit for them personality-wise. But I need to see it without the "wedding" front. I need their true selves and their dynamic together. I also want them to know me a little better and not just as a photographer.

Then we can talk wedding stuff and as long as I don't see anything completely unrealistic (come on, everyone is a liiiiittle unrealistic early on), I'm probably their guy.



Dec 07, 2017 at 02:22 PM
LeeSimms
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


The term bridezilla gets confusing to me, like the word 'candid' to describe photography. The words mean different things to different people. I reserve Bridezilla for someone who goes crazy about you on social media and with that mark we've had 1 in almost 700 events. We learned a lot from that bride, as we do from all negative comments (we solicit full feedback from all clients) and know ours is a customer service business, not an aloof you-should-be-glad-to-have-me-at-your-wedding business.

We shoot 'em all fun folks you'd like as friends and our share of hard to please folks. Best you can do is show the types of images you are consistently good at delivering, and be clear about your limitations both verbally and in writing. I can size up someone quickly and know if we'll have a good day together or not. There are certain ethnic events I'm better at than others, but view everyone as a challenge and enjoy the 'amateur anthropologist' aspect of the day. I just like people and can blend it. Bill Clinton, with a camera.

I know photographers who won't shoot someone's wedding if they don't like them, personally. Of the 100 or so I shoot a year, that would take me down to about 10 a year. Photography is our 100% revenue source for a comfortable family of 4, so it's not in our best financial interest to be picky about customers.

In the end you have the business (and create the reality) you want.



Dec 07, 2017 at 05:21 PM
Mitch W
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


LeeSimms wrote:
The term bridezilla gets confusing to me, like the word 'candid' to describe photography. The words mean different things to different people. I reserve Bridezilla for someone who goes crazy about you on social media and with that mark we've had 1 in almost 700 events. We learned a lot from that bride, as we do from all negative comments (we solicit full feedback from all clients) and know ours is a customer service business, not an aloof you-should-be-glad-to-have-me-at-your-wedding business.

We shoot 'em all fun folks you'd like as friends and our share of hard to please folks. Best
...Show more

Bridezilla - an angry, unreasonable monster with unrealistic expectations, leaving squished things in its path.



Dec 08, 2017 at 12:03 AM
LeeSimms
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


With that definition, it doesn't sound like you need a guidebook to identify one - lol


Dec 08, 2017 at 12:49 AM
mirrorrim
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


TheyCallMeJ wrote:
Appreciate your time mirrorrim for writing such an insightful reply.

In addition to passive checks, I have the habit of scheduling a phone call prior to the meeting. My consultation stage is split into two phases. By the time we meet, I want the client to feel ready to book otherwise it would have been a waste of our time.



Sounds like we are similar then, however I get most of the basic stuff out of the way in my inital email response (it is lengthy, talking about my style, links to Facebook previews, links to 2 full galleries, reviews, my pricing, and a blog post about choosing the right photographer).

Responding to other comment topics:

"Feeling like the bad guy/bursting their bubble so they don't want to hire me:"

I'm constantly bursting bubbles. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but when put gently and giving a solution that I think still appeases them, my couples are very appreciative. It sets me apart and they really like how much thought I'm putting into their wedding day, especially compared to others who may have been blowing smoke up their asses. I'm sure my honesty has hurt me a bit, but if true that's all the better, because this post is exactly about avoiding those unrealistic people. But really, because I'm bursting their bubble sooo early, the bubble hasn't gotten that large yet. And I'm always offering a solution to make them happy.

"Discussing things a year out is too early. They forget it all:"

As I mentioned, I think I do a lot to attract clients who appreciate my Type A personality. I'd say 10% of my brides each year are the super relaxed/I don't want to plan anything type. But the other 90% aren't emailing me non-stop either. I sometimes worry I'm a bit too hands off with my couples after they book. I send my recommended timeline immediately after our consult, breaking it all down so they can use it to plan and make my life super easy later. I only check in again at 4 months out and 1 month out via email. Because I so thoroughly go over their wedding day at the consult, giving lots of insight and tips, it sticks with them as they start planning the day. I'm usually the first person to mention these things, so they use whatever I said as a template for all other wedding planning. Most all of them will confirm something I said months later when it's time to coordinate with XYZ vendor.

"I don't want to give them all this amazing planning advice, then they ditch me for someone else:"

Ok, sure, I know there are couples like this. Usually the cheapos. I don't get this far with those couples because they've already seen my pricing before the consult. And frankly, my advice isn't that ingenious. It's the basics. It's ok to me to "waste" a bit of time if it means they have a better wedding, and I'm not sweating the idea that some cheap inexperienced photographer is going to pull off my special portrait idea. And many times, I convince them to up their budget and book me because they love that I have their backs and they don't need to worry.

Personally, I think all my advice is setting me massively apart from others and giving me a leg up. If you are equal with someone else photo-wise and you both have likable personalities, how else are you going to differentiate?



Dec 08, 2017 at 04:21 PM
TheyCallMeJ
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Good to hear from you again mirrorrim, also thanks to others that chimed in so far.

I will start by answering your question, how does one differentiate from others? By being the first to ask for the booking. (Not the only way for differentiation, but a significant one)

Everything we do at this stage must lead to the booking, otherwise the entire exercise becomes pointless. Don't be surprised to hear that photographers are actually afraid to book. Asking for a retainer makes them guilty for some reason. The number of websites I have come across without any clear CTA is appalling.

I try to keep the process simple for the client to understand:

1) By reaching out, my work is proven to meet your standards. In other words, if you find my portfolio lacking then you wouldn't bother in the first place. So there's no need to justify or reiterate the quality of my work, doing so will distract or delay the booking. Meeting the client to show more samples products or full galleries is absolutely fine. Quality barrier gone;

2) My habit is to make an offer prior to the meeting so if you are willing to meet, then my assumption is that you can pay my asking price. Price barrier gone;

3) My experience is that clients will book the person who can most likely address their internal pain points. This means the decision is no longer based on image quality or price. My goal is to find out what they are during the meeting. They might worry about the weather (discuss plan B), the hours (discuss timeline), the video (refer vendors), etc. Depending on how they scored in my fictional bridezilla-meter, I might decide to walk away;

To be honest, I would be more than happy to plan your big day down to the minute. I am all yours, but you have to make me yours first. This requires the signing of the contract and the retainer.

All this being said, I have no doubt that you provide tremendous value to your clients mirrorrim. It shows that you care, the hallmark of a good photographer. You have given me plenty of ideas that I will try to incorporate next year. I am not disagreeing with anything you said.

This is where I feel conflicted because in various professional industries, whether legal, accounting or engineering, no work gets done before anything signed. Calling a lawyer for "free consultation up to 90+ minutes" is unheard of, many won't even bother answering if you aren't an existing client.

Among the other wedding vendors, how many offer the equivalent amount of information or value that we give out prior to booking? Does the tailor, florist or baker ever feel the need to provide 90+ minutes consultations and massive information dump to sell their products and services? Some charge serious coin but I have yet to see a florist helping out my bride's timeline.

And they don't even have to spend time worrying about "post processing" like we do...

By giving so much away, and willingly so prior to secure any booking, what message are we sending out to brides as a collective group?


mirrorrim wrote:
Sounds like we are similar then, however I get most of the basic stuff out of the way in my inital email response (it is lengthy, talking about my style, links to Facebook previews, links to 2 full galleries, reviews, my pricing, and a blog post about choosing the right photographer).

Responding to other comment topics:

"Feeling like the bad guy/bursting their bubble so they don't want to hire me:"

I'm constantly bursting bubbles. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but when put gently and giving a solution that I think still appeases them, my couples are very appreciative. It
...Show more



Dec 08, 2017 at 07:48 PM
Mr. Stacey
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · How to detect and avoid Bridezillas, 2018 edition


Brides aged 22 and younger.


Dec 09, 2017 at 08:03 AM
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