Ceremony design process

Veronica has had a pretty rough trot with a renewal couple:

They were one of my first bookings after becoming a celebrant. I was really unsure of how a renewal should run…only that it would be similar to a wedding just really without the legals. Since our first meeting in September, I have met with them four times, multiple messages and numerous phone calls. They sent me their desired ceremony plan. Which essentially had me as an MC…introducing a number of speakers and readers. They had also put my name against a couple of tasks. So based on that I wrote a script (as not very good at ad lib) and went to meet with them for a “rehearsal”. They almost tore the script to shreds. They had also added and removed things from their original plan without telling me and wanted to know where I planned on putting these new ideas in the ceremony. Not liking my suggestions and especially suggesting that it was getting a bit long. Decided to sit back and let them decide. We finally came to a mutual agreement and now they want to see my amended script so they can check it all over before finalising.

So, feeling a little flattened and that I have had to work exceptionally hard for my fee (which is less than what I charge for a wedding). Did I miss something? Should I have asked questions differently? Really not wanting to go anywhere near Vow Renewals any more. How should I have handled it all?

Part of what happens when we start a new business is we very quickly learn that some of our well thought out processes don’t work as well as we thought they would 🙂 This is a pretty awful situation for any celebrant to be in, but I think Veronica and others will learn a lot from it.

I think one of the first things to note here is that this is not about vow renewals as a whole. I see this as a process issue, and this couple could have been getting married and there would have been the same issues. So don’t throw out vow renewals altogether!

I’ve talked in the past about how incredibly process driven I am. I map out for my couples from the very beginning of our time together when and how often I’ll meet with them, how I’m going to work with them to create their ceremony, and give them plenty of resources to help with their ceremony creation.

What this all boils down to is that I am generally in control from the very beginning of the relationship, and I think it’s important to assert your authority.

I’m not sure what Veronica did to gather information to build the ceremony, but from her question it sounds like the couple just sent a ceremony plan out of the blue. Yes, some couples will try to take control like that, but if you have a strong process you could potentially avoid it.

I have no problem at all with Veronica writing a script, I write scripts for every ceremony, but I would recommend sending it to the couple before turning up to the rehearsal, so that they’ve got time to read and digest it, and send you back their comments, before you’re sitting in front of them. I always plan to have the ceremony script finalised before we get to the rehearsal stage. I can only imagine how awful it was for Veronica to have her script torn to shreds in person; it would be much easier to deal with that by email.

And yes, I’ve absolutely had clients who’ve entirely rewritten a script, and it definitely stings, but I remind myself that it’s their ceremony and the whole reason for me giving them a script beforehand is so they can make any changes they like.

So in a nutshell, if I were Veronica I would be looking again at my process. Did I tell the couple how many times I was prepared to meet with them? Did I give them suggestions of how a ceremony generally works? Did I use a questionnaire or a checklist to gather information from them about what they wanted included in their ceremony? Did I ask them how long they wanted it to be? Did I give them a timeline for when I would send a script and when I wanted it finalised by? Was I in control? Did I set boundaries?

Now it’s absolutely possible that even with the very best process in place, this couple would have been difficult. Some clients just are, and there’s nothing we can do about it other than paste the smile on our face, do the very best job we can for them, and remember that not everyone is like them. Sometimes we work harder for our fee than others. My mum always tells me I don’t have to like all my clients, as long as they pay the bill 🙂

So my advice to Veronica is do your very best job for this couple and remember you never have to see them again, go back and look at your process, make sure you explain your boundaries and the way you work to future couples, and don’t give up on vow renewals!

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