» Mistakes Happen, Here’s How to Recover










Photo by Elizabeth Fogarty

We all make mistakes. And, since we can’t reverse time, we have to deal with those mistakes, and their corresponding consequences. In this article, I will be discussing recovering well in the context of business mistakes, and, in particular, a mistake made by you or your staff that affected a couple and their wedding. To be honest, the ability for you and your business to be able to handle mistakes properly is actually a very important attribute. They say you are not tested until something goes wrong, and in many ways, they are right.  

If your wedding business is running in the right way, you have identified your ideal couple, created a customer journey and experience that meets or exceeds their expectations, and every couple is taken on relatively the same customer journey. But sometimes the journey can go awry… it could be your mistake, it could be a mistake by someone else you are responsible for, it could even be something out of your control but within your perceived realm of responsibility. There are many ways and options when it comes to next steps after a mistake but below are 4 keys which I think are really important.

Be prepared before it happens –
It may seem like this piece of advice doesn’t belong in an article about recovering from a mistake, but trust me when I say it does. Having well-developed and properly working systems and processes in your wedding businesses helps reduce mistakes, but no matter how good you are, mistakes can happen.  Determining what the biggest and/or most common and/or most likely mistakes for your type of business, and having a plan of action if they should happen, will help immensely.

Here is a basic example that I am prepared for in my Officiant business. Failure of my iPad (my ceremony delivery tool) – I deliver my ceremonies from my iPad, and although it has not failed yet, there is that possibility. I have the ceremony in both Dropbox and Evernote, to be sure that I’m not relying on a single app on my device. Plus, that means I can also access it on my phone and I could access and print it from almost any computer (e.g. the business office at the wedding venue or a nearby Office Depot). 

Being prepared is even more important if you have employees (or are one yourself).  It provides a course of action, or multiple courses of action, that can begin to solve the problem even before a boss or owner is reached.   

Immediate action –
When a mistake is made, something usually needs to be done to correct it or move forward from it. Of course, sometimes a true solution is not possible, and sometimes a solution that is possible is not practical.  We’ve already agreed that you can’t reverse time and redo that wedding or avoid the accident. However, there are very few things that can make the mistake worse than when there is no action, or no perceived action. You also want to quickly determine the real impact and the perceived impact.  Maybe the mistake seems bigger to you than it really is, and once you discuss it with the couple, they are cool with just moving on. Show that you have it under control and that you are looking for or implementing corrective action.

Empathy, understanding, and be nice –
The first thing I want to mention is that although there may be a difference between the actual issue and the perceived issue, you will most likely have to deal with both. Yes, the missing sprinkles at the ice cream sundae bar is, in the overall scheme of things, a minuscule mistake, but I am sure there is a couple out there who would perceive it as a bigger deal.  Which leads us to empathy and understanding. Maybe it’s a big deal because the bride’s father who recently passed away loved sprinkles, or the couple’s first date involved discussing the difference of sprinkles vs jimmies. By listening, not dismissing the issue as small or petty, and attempting solutions, you are showing the couple that you understand that it is important to them. You also need to be nice in your response, no matter how big or small, real or perceived, the mistake was. This doesn’t mean you can’t state what happened, but you should not be mean, snarky, snappy, or vindictive. This advice applies if you are responding in person, via email, or even responding to a review. You may get blamed for a mistake that wasn’t your fault, but it is your response that shows your character to the couple, other couples who may read it or hear about it, and other wedding vendors. I cannot emphasize this last part enough – your public responses on reviews are more for future couples and potential vendor partners reading those reviews than for that one specific couple who wrote it.

Plus, while it might seem odd to hear, I suggest that you also be nice to yourself. As business owners who are in the very personal business of weddings, I know that we tend to beat ourselves up for a mistake more than our couples could even beat us up.  Learn from the mistake and from the situation, figure out what you might need to change to avoid something similar in the future, and then let it go.

Respond dis-proportionately
What do I mean?  The idea is that you want to impress upon the couple how seriously you take the mistake by impressing the couple with your response. This could mean a refund for the item that is above what the couple paid or a refund plus something additional (like a future family shoot or a cake for their next birthday). Responding with a very thoughtful and generous response will go a long way.

And, although not a key to recovering well, just remember and understand that you won’t be able to turn them all around. Some mistakes can’t be rectified “enough” for some couples. Some people will not care that you are trying to rectify it, and care only that you made a mistake. And in some cases, even time does not heal all “wounds.” But, as long as these kind of mistakes or issues are rare and not your norm, learn from them, deal with them as they arise, and respond disproportionately to take care of people and of your business.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.