When clients hire me to officiate or orchestrate their event, they pay a flat fee or an hourly fee based on their needs. These clients are from my first business venture, Texas Twins Events and are often middle class consumers who are accustomed to paying for their services. The “flip side” of my client base are bookings through The Pawning Planners who have no money and choose to barter their event. While I would love to help everyone- I sometimes must decline when the client wants everything without considering the cost of what they are asking for. After all, how many wedding officiants or event coordinators provide complimentary photography (for those who cannot afford it) or loan flowers to ensure beauty at their event? I’ve never met anyone in this industry who is more committed to making a Life Event perfect than I am but expecting me to provide a venue or tables and chairs and even a wedding dress (unless I have one on hand to loan) is taking things a bit far-even for me.
Normally, if a Texas Twins Events client needs to “borrow” a ring pillow, flower basket, bouquets or boutenniers from my inventory- it’s not a problem but wanting to keep an item belonging to me continues to be a problem. I’m always surprised when someone tells me they want to keep something they didn’t pay for but I hear it all the time. Clients “borrowing inventory” must advise me prior to their event to ensure we have not loaned out inventory that you wish to use.If you desire a toss bouquet and are borrowing inventory- you will need to buy one or pay me to create it. Bouquets in my inventory are never used as tossed bouquets because they could be damaged or the person catching them may want to keep them. Because of this issue- all of my websites address “borrowed inventory-property of Wendy Wortham” because I continue to receive requests from people who aren’t clients and want to borrow inventory.
I created an inventory for my clients not strangers and while I’m often surprised by these unusual requests, today’s consumers often feel “entitled” to whatever they ask for. Regardless of whether they booked with me or another vendor. My suggestion is to request borrowing inventory from the vendor you booked with. No one loans inventory to strangers in this industry and neither do I.
This morning I reviewed a message on my FB business page regarding someone wanting free photographers for their wedding along with free photos and cd’s. Can you imagine walking into a business and “going over” what you want while adding that you have no way to pay for your requests? Neither can I.
Although I’ve consistently gone over what’s free as a courtesy for clients and what isn’t- there’s always someone wanting something for nothing who “heard that you help people that don’t have any money.” For some reason people hear what they want to hear regarding my unique venture.
Neither I or anyone on my team planned to spend the rest of our lives working for free. The truth is that this whole “working for free” thing got so out of hand four years ago with Texas Twins Events clients that I had to sit down and plan a way for all of the people claiming to have no money to effectively put some skin in the game! I’m often softhearted to a fault and commit my entire team to a project so saying no isn’t easy for me.
The Pawning Planners changed all of the “sad luck story” emails asking for help but offering nothing in return by requiring clients to offer a trade.
I require an Appraisal Appointment with Pawning Planners clients because I’ve learned that prospects claiming to have no money and NO TRADE weren’t always truthful regarding their situation. By visiting their home, farm, barn, trailer or business- I’ve found that they often had something of value whether they “ponied up” and told me about it or not.
I’ve often “found out down the road” that a previous client who benefitted from services without “putting any skin in the game” just bought a new car or went on a luxury vacation. It’s funny how they couldn’t afford to pay for their event services or photography but “somehow managed to pay for all kinds of other things!”
If your event is at a venue, you are required to pay for services. The reason for this is that I know what a venue costs and if you can afford $1500-5k to rent a venue-you can afford to pay for event services.
Pawning Planners clients can’t afford a venue but Texas Twins Events Clients can which gives you a better idea of the main differences between both sets of clients-money. No event owner will “gift” you a venue-they require payment months in advance. Clients contacting me who assume that I own a venue and will provide it at no cost are confused. I don’t currently own a venue but when I do it won’t be free.
No one (other than me) decides whether or not myself and my team will commit to your event if you have nothing to offer. Sponsored events the past several years have cost quite a bit of money in travel fees, film development and other expenses which is why I’ve “cracked down” on requests.
Fringe Benefits of hiring myself and my team include loaned items because I realize the expense of these luxuries is something Pawning Planners Clients can’t afford. No one gave me my inventory- I either bought it or created it at my own expense. I’ve made many financial sacrifices to create an inventory that is used at 60-80% of all of our events.
617 families after starting Texas Twins Events- I’ve learned to say no because I had to when a client continued to ask for more, more & more without recognizing or understanding that their requests would be an “expensive endeavor.”
Whether you are booking through Texas Twins Events or The Pawning Planners- both businesses require a contract. My reasons for this should be self explanatory but I will explain that if you are hiring my photography team, prints & cds are not included unless you are purchasing a photography package that includes cd’s. Printed photographs are at the clients expense-not mine. This “issue” had been an ongoing problem when Pawning Planners clients “assume” that complimentary photography includes both prints and CDs.
Wants and Actual Needs for services are two different things, last year a client booked me to officiate their wedding. Over a three month window, two photographers, loaned floral designs from my inventory, and the demand to be on site five hours prior to the actual event “to help set up and get photos,” were added on” to the initial oral agreement of officiating the wedding. After the event- printed photos from 5 hours of activity captured by my photography team were demanded without compensation via payment or trade. That event and my continuing to suck it up and say okay have taught me to say no.
A few months ago, my sister accompanied me to a client meeting with Brittany. Brittany brought with her numerous photos of hay bales and decorations that she wanted for her “rustic wedding.”
When I asked where she was renting or buying these decorations, she looked confused and said “I thought you provided the tables, chairs and decorations and I also need at least two photographers!” We do not “loan tables, chairs, hay bales or rustic decor.” If you are planning an event and need to rent items, I’m happy to recommend a vendor.
I advised Brittany of the fee to officiate along with hourly rates for my photography team and the cost of CDs or prints along with recommending a vendor for items she would need.
We never “Firmed Up” a contract with Brittany but did receive an invite to her baby shower. She also asked my saucy sidekick, Cindy Daniel about giving designer clothing from her granddaughter, Madyson Blais to Brittany. Madyson’s mother sells her daughter’s clothing and never gives anything away that she struggled to pay for. Madyson is a brand rep for numerous companies but her clothes aren’t free because Leigh Ann pays for most of her clothing. A few companies “gift” items but not all of them. Brittany isn’t the only one “throwing her name in the hat for Madyson’s clothing” so I’m happy to refer anyone to my niece’s Instagram sales page.
I’m “invited” to all sorts of events that require a gift- if I don’t know you, inviting me to your birthday party, baby shower or other event simply because you want me to come “bearing gifts” isn’t going to happen. My schedule often prevents me from accepting all of the invitations I review.
While we have sponsored numerous birthday parties and baby showers, it should be noted that the families involved were truly needy and not looking for a free ride. I carefully review requests because I can’t be everywhere at the same time and sponsored events are scheduled around paying events. Sponsored families understand that “getting in line” is part of the deal.
Last month I had someone contact me regarding a wedding with photography. Digging deeper, the bride told me she had no money and nothing to trade but needed a wedding dress too “because I heard that you gave Joanna Magee a wedding dress.” Again, there isn’t a “wedding dress fairy” that leaves dresses on my doorstep. The reality is that I often come across wedding dresses at thrift shops or yard sales and buy them for a bride who I know would really appreciate it. I don’t have a closet full of wedding dresses in various sizes to “give” to people just because they ask for it.
Cindy sums up the “something for nothing requests” with her iconic and wildly popular #Cindyism quotes “you don’t pay for a singer and expect a choir.” Cindy has also summed up a few clients who wanted something for nothing with her world famous #Cindyism “You Can’t Make Gravy Outta Water!”While we would love to help everyone, a few of these folks might want to re evaluate getting married. Let me elaborate on this by saying that if you cannot afford a marriage license, you may have a bigger problem than you realize!
Recently, my team traveled to the Fort Worth Water Gardens for an LBGT wedding. As the client requested, my son and daughter in law accompanied me to provide photos of the wedding. I gave a quote of the wedding officiant/photography package two weeks prior to the event and expected the client to pay me upon our arrival. What happened next will surprise everyone- we met the couple and I asked for the wedding license and payment for services, not only did they have no marriage license but they also “did not bring any money!” Although I was shocked, my team and I went through the motions for a wedding that wasn’t legal without the license and effectively volunteered our time and mailed the photos (as promised) but never received payment that was supposedly “in the mail.”
I do not provide marriage licenses- Vital Records requires both parties present and a fee of $75.00 and I can guarantee you that if you tell them you don’t have any money-you aren’t going to walk away with a license! A marriage ceremony without a license is not a legal proceeding. It’s a Unification or a Promise Ceremony.
Another dedicated reader wrote me a message, “I’ve read some pretty hilarious blogs from you and your sister. One of the reasons I’m a dedicated follower is that I never know what you guys are going to write about next!” Well honey, neither do we! Everyday is a new adventure for my sister and I.I created a unique opportunity to give anyone a beautiful event (regardless of their income)by taking trades
because I saw a need but my intention was never to work for free. After all, nothing about my wedding was free or Cindy’s either. We didn’t have “fancy flowers” or photographers and we couldn’t afford a venue or caterers. My reasons for branding and expanding were to address the needs of folks just like us who couldn’t afford a Life Event. My minister charged $400 to officiate (he wasn’t a volunteer). My husband bought my bouquet and his boutennier (they weren’t borrowed). You get the point! I didn’t expect anyone donating their time or giving me a dress or loaning me flowers. I always enjoy answering readers questions and look forward to your input.”Your Pawning Planners Apparel is a unique endeavor-how did you decide to add to your Texas Twins Treasures Inventory by adding new items?” Well, in actuality- we do come across truly needy families who have no money or anything of value to trade and in order to find a creative way to fund them, I “came up with the idea” after my son told me no one knew who he was on location. My son wanted a shirt or cap to identify him at events so Pawning Planners Apparel was created. The multicolor logo was created because all of my businesses are LBGT friendly and I wanted to incorporate my affiliation with the community into the design.
“How do you come up with the quirky titles of your blogs like The Broken Tooth-Bouncing Check Bride?” This blog was based on a bride who wrote me not one but two bouncing checks after I glued her tooth back on –Bouncing Checks & Broken Teeth?
The titles to our blogs are often “tied into” our experiences on location and we don’t plan the titles of blogs- they “come” to us.
Yesterday I responded to a request for event services to better understand what the client needed. She told me that she already had a wedding officiant but needed my team and I to “decorate the backyard of her friends home real nice.” Well, I don’t have chairs or tables or an unlimited supply of garland and decor. Set up and Tear down on location aren’t free either so I advised her to get everything together and meet with me regarding “decorating” the backyard.
Sometimes I need to ask a lot of questions to get the “jist” of what people are actually asking for which is why I write everything down.
Although we have a reputation of helping anyone- people hear what they want to hear and often “miss the part” about what we need in return.
After all, if your friends and family aren’t paying for your event, you will need to find a way to cover your expenses. I didn’t have friends or family to pay for anything and neither did my sister. I’m trying to help people who find themselves in a similar situation and while we want to help you, we need you need to help us too by understanding that nothing is free for us so it can’t be free to you either.
Wendy M Wortham