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Bridezillas - Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 17

Weddings are joyous occasions, filled with love, laughter, and the occasional clinking of glasses. Or are they?  For a pub owner, hosting weddings can be lucrative, and good fun, unless you have to deal with people wanting champagne weddings on lemonade money. 

Enter the Bridezilla: a ‘term of endearment’ for brides-to-be with exacting standards and sky-high expectations, not just for themselves but for the venues they choose. Pubs, with their unique charm and less formal atmosphere, are often popular for such events but can find themselves in choppy waters trying to meet these demands.

At the Swan we hosted some great weddings when the happy couple chose our pub because of its affordability and ambience and had a clear idea of what they wanted. Some had found their partner having their first date in our restaurant or playing skittles in our 1930’s skittle alley. Others picked us for our central point between various cities.  Others liked the river garden which made a great backdrop for the wedding photos.

We also provided outside catering and/or a bar and were the preferred partners for several venues, including the lovely Salisbury Guildhall. They were often hard work, but lucrative and we worked hard to get accepted on their lists.

I loved the atmosphere when people were enjoying themselves.  However, we had our fair share of Bridezillas, both in the venue and when we provided outside catering. These individuals were really difficult to please, both when they were planning the event and on the day.

One couple booked our inn for a Christmas wedding, beguiled by our large fireplace and spacious function room.  However, a few months later they rang and said they wanted to cancel it because they did not think our clean but dated toilets were up to scratch and asked if we could refurbish them before their big day.  I pointed out that they hadn’t changed since they booked, however, I agreed to cancel it but refused to pay the deposit back.  They denied that I had told them it was non-refundable, however, it was clearly written on the quotation, in the email that accompanied the quote and on the receipt.  So, I politely declined.

Another bride was upset that I personally did not oversee the wedding on the day, leaving it to the general manager.  Although she could not pinpoint anything wrong, she just felt that she warranted my personal attention as owner.

A further Bridezilla thought that a rare lamb steak was under-cooked on the BBQ and stormed into the venue and threw it at me whilst I was serving behind the bar, demanding a full refund. She publicly shamed the poor (very experienced) chef who was trying to cook 400 pieces of meat in a gazebo in horrendous rain. She also complained that we had served the sausages and burgers before the steak, announcing over the microphone that guests should have been given the steak first, until I pointed out that the usual protocol was hungry children were being fed first. She demanded a full refund in writing and would not accept my refusal to do so.  I refunded one meal and gave a little discount, but really she was after a free wedding reception.

Weddings are an emotional business, and when you're dealing with a Bridezilla, those emotions can run high. Pub staff often find themselves doubling as impromptu therapists, mediators, and sometimes, referees.

So, how do pubs manage to host a Bridezilla wedding successfully? Here’s my top tips: -

  • Attend local wedding fairs to attract customers in the first place. Make sure that any marketing materials cater for all couples, not just young heterosexual couples. Don’t stick to stereotypical photographs.

  • Have a specialised wedding package, with a range of options to pick from.  Be flexible but be careful not to over complicate any menu.

  • Set clear expectations from the get-go, being honest about what can and cannot be done.

  • Train staff in handling high stress events.

  • Be empathetic, there is often a lot of pressure on people in weddings, whether they are dealing with demanding in-laws, trying to keep warring factions of a family apart or just hate being in the limelight, you might need to cut them a bit of slack.

  • Put the quote in writing and make it clear that any deposit is non-refundable in writing.

  • Make sure that the full amount is paid at least a week before the event.

  • It is not the day to scrimp on staff, make sure you have plenty.

  • Consider taking a sample of the wedding fare and freeze it, in case of vexatious claims of food poisoning.

  • Ask if you can use a photo to promote your venue online and ask for reviews.

  • Be flexible to accommodate any last-minute changes without sacrificing quality.

  • Think about adding a couple of nice surprises for the couple, they don’t have to cost much, but it shows that you are invested in their big day. Whether it’s flowers and a bottle of Prosecco in their room, a sign out the front door welcoming the happy couple or a small gift at the top table.

A Toast to the Future

Hosting a Bridezilla wedding at a pub is not for the faint-hearted, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can lead to an unforgettable celebration of love. It's an opportunity for pubs to showcase their versatility, hospitality, and creativity.

So, to the pubs out there braving the Bridezilla storm, we raise our glasses to you.  Most brides are lovely and it is quite special and a privilege being able to be part of their big day.

A blue pencil drawing of a close up of a bride's face looking very angry.

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