disgusted bride

When our wedding professional friend (we’ll call him David) shared his internet horror story, my jaw dropped.

Five years ago, David was a well-known, successful videographer specializing in weddings.  One of his brides called him to complain after her video was delivered; the video was late, footage was missing and she wanted a refund.

Because the video was high-quality and he’d delivered everything that was promised, David refused.

Here’s where the story turns horrific: the groom turned out to be extremely knowledgeable about SEO.  The couple got their friends to create multiple accounts under assumed names, and they began posting bad reviews and lies about David’s video company in every wedding forum they could find.

Within a month, if you typed “David Rose Video Productions” into Google, the top 3 results had the headline, “David Rose Video Ripoff.”

Six of David’s clients cancelled their wedding contracts after reading the “scandal” online, and other wedding pros stopped referring him.  He was unable to book any events for over 18 months, and there was nothing he could do.  All because of ONE unhappy couple.

How to Stop Unhappy Couples From Attacking Your Wedding Business Online

It’s scary recognizing the power brides and grooms have in the age of the internet.  One disgruntled customer with a vendetta can absolutely ruin your business.

What can we do to prevent something like this from happening to US?

1.  Listen to your gut to avoid booking the Bride and Groomzillas in the first place.

Most couples getting married are normal, fair people (thank goodness!) but a few of them are bound to be complete nut jobs.  Crazy people get married, too.  :)

Look for the signs and listen to your gut; don’t work with those difficult couples.

I remember one mother-of-the-bride who emailed and called us obsessively before we’d even met, wanting to control every aspect of the wedding.  It was a clear sign of trouble and we politely declined the job.  It’s a good thing, too; we heard through the local wedding grapevine that the wedding was a disaster!

If you get a “bad feeling” about a couple, don’t book them.  You’ll avoid numerous potential issues.

2.  Be crystal clear in your expectations both verbally and in your contract.

Most nightmare customer situations can be avoided with clear communication by both parties.  We often assume that couples read our contract (most don’t) and understand what to expect (they don’t do that, either–studies show that up to 80% of communication is misunderstood!)

Make a habit of explaining everything clearly, especially if there are any sticky spots where there is a potential for couples to be confused.  Explain it clearly in your contract, but don’t rely solely on your contract to avoid misunderstanding.  Take the time to explain and repeat as necessary through your verbal and written communication.

3.  When a bride or groom brings up a complaint, listen and feedback their words BEFORE responding.

Weddings have a way of bringing out the drama in even the most sedate couple.  Sometimes the complaint is legitimate, and sometimes the bride or groom just needs somewhere to vent that wedding frustration somewhere.

Whenever a couple comes to you with a complaint, bite your tongue and listen before you speak.  Let them completely spill their guts and don’t say a word until they finish.  Don’t defend yourself and don’t interrupt.

Then, and only then, repeat back what they said exactly.  “So you’re upset because…”

Sometimes simply having their complaint heard and understood is enough to quiet the raging storm and resolve the issue before it becomes a real problem.  If you’re known for your temper, read Non-Violent Communication to learn more about using this method to resolve conflicts.

If the situation continues to escalate…

4.  Sleep on it.  Get calm and clear before responding.

This is where most of us go wrong when faced with a disgruntled customer: we respond out of emotion, usually anger or fear.  This always makes things worse.

Give yourself the time and space to get clear before responding.  It’s perfectly fair to express to the disgruntled bride/groom, “Please allow me 24 hours to respond.”

Then calm yourself down.  Find a place of peace in whatever way works for you.  It might be prayer, meditation, yoga, playing music or going for a run.

Once you’re still and calm, you can act consciously rather than being driven by emotion.  Ask yourself:

  • What is the ideal result I want?
  • What can I do to resolve the situation, even if it’s not my fault?
  • How can I express this is a way that is calm, clear and fair?

Taking action from this place of peace makes conflict resolution much easier.

5.  Make an offer, even if it’s not your fault.

This can be painful.  Even if you are 100% sure that you are in the right, make a concession to resolve whatever complaint, real or imagined, that the couple may have.

Reflecting on his horror story years later, David told me, “I should have just given them a refund.  $2,500 would have been a small price to pay to avoid the loss of over $100,000 of income and damage to my reputation.”

Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and compromise, even when it’s undeserved.  Most times, offering at least a partial refund is enough to keep the couple from plastering the internet with bad reviews about your wedding business.

If you’re able to follow these guidelines, you’ll prevent most conflict and bring swift resolution for the issues that do come up.

What do you think about dealing with unhappy couples?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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3 thoughts on “Weddings Gone Wrong: 5 Steps to Avoid Bad Reviews”

  1. Great advice Thanks so much. We all need to hear this .

  2. This is another reason it’s so important to collect a lot of good testimonials. Put them on your website and get clients to put them on Google places and other review sites. That way, if you have a nut job on your hands you have a whole bunch of great reviews to dilute it. Hotels and restaurants on trip Advisor have the same issues (there was even a documentary on it in the UK). People will accept a bad review if it’s 1 in 20 good ones.

  3. Jim says:

    If you do end up giving any sort of refund you should make sure that it is worded as “without prejudice” which can help limit your liability in the case of them deciding to take it further. It effectively says that you are not accepting any liability or blame.

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