Foolproof Guide to Working with Friends on Your Wedding

True story alert! Once upon a time, back in my internship days, this planner worked a wedding wherein a friend of the bride's family designed, baked, and transported a six tier, rose covered wedding cake from Bethlehem, PA to New York City. Said friend forgot his cake supports, and the venue (being a NYC loft) was not prepared for a cake of such scale.  Needless to say, during the event the cake collapsed, leaving only the bottom tier in edible condition.  We managed to salvage it, and the couple was ok with the necessary changes, but it was a lesson learned by everyone involved.  This cautionary tale, and many others have got me thinking. Is there a way successfully work with friends and family as vendors on your wedding day?  How do you avoid the above disaster? I've discovered a way to make it happen.

Five Ways to Avoid Wedding Day Disasters When Working with Friends and Family

1) Be super specific about your needs and expectations.  

Discuss in detail exactly what you are looking for from this transaction. Of course they are your friends, and you trust them, but to be unclear is to be unkind. Get as much info as possible! Treat this as if you were working with a pro. Ask them the same questions.

If a friend offers to take photos, ask the following questions: - What time they will start shooting? - What photos are they planning to take? - Will they do formal portraits and candids? - Will they will be doing editing and post production? - How long will it be until you see a finished product and is an album is included?

If you need forms to use to outline your needs, ask your wedding planner. They should have some simple forms that outline everything that needs to be discussed.

2) Get all of the above written down in a contract.

I know, I know...contracts seem weird when it comes to friends, but this is an absolute must! Get all agreements and understandings in writing. Everything from what said friend has agreed to do for you, and how much you'll be compensating them, to what they should wear and when they need information from you by. Writing it down makes it real, and avoids the "I don't remember saying that" situation.

You don't need to go to a lawyer to draw up a formal document. Just a simple outline will do, with both of your names and all relevant information. Both of you should keep a hard copy, and provide a copy to your planner as well.

3) PAY THEM!

I know that they may like to give you stuff for free, but come on! Considering all the work they will likely be doing, they should be compensated for their efforts. Yes, even if they say "Don't worry about it!" Please do the right thing and give them something. It can be as simple a gift card, a basket with a nice bottle of wine, a handwritten thank you letter... something!  Here's why: Getting something for nothing feels weird… even if it doesn't right now, it will. Same thing with giving something for nothing. It can affect the friendship, and honestly the friendship is much more important than getting "free" anything.

4) Keep the lines of communication open

It is tempting with all of the details that go into planning a wedding, to get something squared away and then push it out of your mind. Don't do that. Instead, check in every once in awhile, making sure that each of you has all of the information that you need. Ideally, you'll have this check in schedule all worked out ahead of time and written into the contract mentioned in step two.

5) Feel free to say no!

You don't have to accept every offer of help or "free" wedding anything that comes your way.  Yes, the budget is important, but your sanity is much more important.  Go with your gut. If it is telling you to take another route, do so.

A few quick things to remember::

- If this is a hobby for your friend, he or she may not have all the required credentials. Many venues require outside vendors like DJs and photographers to carry a liability insurance policy.  There are ways to work around this. You can obtain a one-day policy from many insurance companies for minimal cost.

- If you are working with a wedding planner, understand that not all planners will coordinate the work of non-professionals.  For some it is a risk they are unwilling to take.  Others have no problem doing so, and actually take additional steps to ensure that everything runs smoothly. For those that do, please let them know that you have a friend or family member on board as soon as possible so that communication can begin.

-Be gracious and grateful. The pressure for a wedding pro to perform well for a friend or family member can be tremendous.  Keep this additional pressure in mind when you are working out details and communicating during the planning process.

Having friends work your wedding can be a joy with enough thought and preparation.  Follow the tips above and you'll be good to go!