When Bethenny’s assistant Julie called me, iit was about four weeks until the wedding day. I believe Julie found me on the Knot.com; she looked at my website, interviewed me over the phone and said she would set up a meeting for Bethenny to come to my office. Before we hung up she said, "Oh there’s one more thing, this will all be filmed for Bethenny’s new reality show."
When she called I was shocked that I was even in the running to be Bethenny’s planner. In the back of my mind I was doing cartwheels. I knew who Bethenny was from watching Martha Stewart’s Apprentice and The Real Housewives of New York City. I knew it was a great opportunity and I knew I would have my hands full. However, when I found out it would all be filmed for her reality show, I did a double take. After hanging up the phone and talking with my partner Michael, I told him I didn’t think I would do it. It was enough to plan a wedding in four short weeks, but to be put under the reality TV microscope was pushing my comfort limits. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for something like this.
Michael and I chatted for what seemed like hours, I "slept on it," and next thing I knew Bethenny was in my office for our first meeting. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up, it was a challenge and I knew if I could plan her wedding successfully in four weeks I could do anything.
When Bethenny walked through my front door, the magnitude of what was happening hit me and nerves took over. Normally I don’t get nervous when I meet celebrities; I have always told myself that they are people who just happen to be in the spotlight. They put their pants on one leg at time, just like me. As my father says, "Their poo stinks too." This was different, it was Bethenny Frankel, one of the most loved Housewives in franchise history! I knew she would say what was on her mind and not hold back; after all, that's who Bethenny is. She tells it like it is, thus my nervousness. I don’t always say the right things when I get nervous. I become an idiot, which is not the most professional quality when planning a celeb wedding.
Julie had given me very little information about the wedding, so I had no idea what Bethenny wanted. Due to her tight schedule we only had about 45 minutes in our first meeting together to discuss what normally would take two hours. Further, she informed me that our time together in the coming weeks would be limited because she was trying to finish her book (amongst other projects she had on her plate). As a wedding planner I really take pride in getting to know my clients, and this comes with spending time with them. A relationship isn't built in 45 minutes, it takes weeks. On average my clients are with me ten to thirteen months from contract until the wedding day. I had four weeks. Already I was at a disadvantage in knowing who Bethenny really was, I wasn't familiar with her likes and dislikes, and her exact tastes.
The meeting was off to a great start. I was being honest when I said I had never planned a wedding in four weeks - two months yes, but four weeks? NO. Several years prior I had been to The Four Seasons Restaurant to scout it out for another client, but I had never heard of the "famous" cotton candy. Then there was the question that brought everything to a screeching halt. Had I ever seen their cotton candy? Nope. One thing I admire about Bethenny is she knows when someone is BS'ing her. She called me out without hesitation. I will admit this was not the best way to earn a client's trust.
I do indeed come from the school of "yes," not a school of "no." I rarely give a client a no answer, rather, I tell them yes and then investigate and work hard to make their request happen. After all, it is their wedding day. Due to nerves and limited time getting to know Bethenny, I mistakenly gave her the wrong answer. I quickly realized I screwed up and it would take a great deal of work to regain that trust.
When the meeting concluded I had mixed feelings on how it went, but I had little time to worry about the rights and wrongs that took place. I had to quickly find a venue for Bethenny and Jason. After much searching it was slim pickings, most venues were booked or were outside of Bethenny and Jason's budget. In my gut I knew the loft (white warehouse) was not what she wanted, but I couldn't tell her that there were limited options. The loft was available, we could make it work within her budget and we could create a very classy New York City wedding. But the moment we walked through the door I knew it wasn’t for her. She didn't love it, she wasn’t glowing and I knew showing her the loft was a big mistake. Again, my hands were tied ... there were not a lot of options. When we sat down she made it perfectly clear that loft wasn't for her. For a product launch maybe, for her wedding, no! Yet another strike! Although she didn’t say it, I could tell she was getting nervous that she hired me.
Prior to the site visit with Bethenny I had heard rumors she had limited family. However, I didn’t know to what extent. So often a client comes through my door and I have to ask if they a product of divorce, or if a parent has passed. As a planner, these questions are never easy. You're sitting with a client discussing what should be a very happy event and then I have to bring down the mood with difficult questions. Why do I have to ask these things? Because there are so many things that are related to family when it comes to weddings. Who will walk you down the aisle? Will you have the father/daughter or mother/son dance? Will dad be giving the champagne toast? As a planner, I also like to incorporate personal tidbits to make the occasion more special, such as using heirlooms like a brooch in the bouquet, or a father’s handkerchief in a boutonniere or pocket square.
Yes, Bethenny did mention that she had "no family." Was it that she was orphaned and literally had no family or was it that she just didn't talk to her family? Very often one person's definition is different than yours. So when I asked if she had heirlooms, that was obviously another strike. In my mind, just because you don't have family doesn't mean you don't have heirlooms. How was I to know she had no heirlooms? How was I to know she wanted to forget her past? Perhaps it was none of my business and I should have let sleeping dogs lie. However, my job as a planner is to make a client's wedding as personal as possible.
When we left the loft Bethenny wanted to take me to the Four Seasons because she felt I just wasn't getting it. It's not that I wasn't getting it, it was that I had previously called the Four Seasons and found out that they only do one wedding a weekend and that Saturday was already booked. They said they might be able to work something out for Sunday ... "might" being the key word. Julian was clear he would make no promises.
When we walked into the Four Seasons it was obvious Bethenny had her mind made up, she wanted only one thing and that was to get married at The Four Seasons Restaurant. She was not taking no for an answer. That meeting was one of the most uncomfortable meetings I have had in my professional career. You clearly see the stress and the uncomfortableness all over my face. She was adamant she had to have the restaurant no matter what the cost, no matter what I had to do to get it. I think there was even chatter that I should sleep with Julian. For me, that was NOT an option!
With the time crunch of finding a venue and with all cards laid on the table I was no longer coming from the school of yes. I was being honest when I said I would see what I could do, but I made no promises. However, after our visit it was clear I had to make this happen and it was clear that if I didn't she would "rip my balls off."
When it came to the wedding dress, Bethenny wanted something classic that would show off the "bump." She wanted to embrace the bump, and why not? She was pregnant after all, a product of the love she and Jason felt. When I met Carol, Jason's mom, I immediately saw the joy she was feeling. She clearly embraced Bethenny and she was a beaming mother-in-law and grandmother to be. There was love and it showed. Bethenny was at ease in Carol's presence and Carol was obviously the mother and family that Bethenny never had. It was at that moment that I was able to know Bethenny just a bit more. My nerves were settling.
When Bethenny put on the dress, Bethenny, Carol, Amsale and I all knew it was the right one. It was perfect and I finally understood Bethenny's style and taste. This was a clear moment for me and I hoped the experience we shared would make planning the wedding easier for both of us moving forward.
What we covered in the first week we would normally cover in a month or two, and it was clear the wedding planning was taking its toll on Bethenny. It was also clear that I had to step up more than I ever had before. For any critic out there, I challenge you to plan a wedding in four weeks, to get to know your client inside and out in 45 minutes and make absolutely no mistakes. I challenge you to put your name on the chopping block - not many would do it, and it was way too late for me to back out.
I may have been off to a rocky start, but I knew in my heart I was ready for the task at hand. I knew I was going to do a fabulous job and in no way was I going to let the stress win.
Two strikes and a third on the way. Only time would tell if I could regain Bethenny’s trust.