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Notes from Underneath: Wedding Planning Chilean Style

Notes from Underneath

A California girl in Chilsters (that's Chile to you)

Friday, January 15, 2010


Wedding Planning Chilean Style

Oh Chile.

You are many great things but I have to say, the least of all is efficient. Chilean people are many great things, the least of all, is responsive (especially when they should be!)

Take for example the vendors I'm TRYING to work with (because I can't actually say I AM working with them) to get my wedding even slightly organized. Let me preface this with stating that the wedding industry in Chile is in diapers when compared to that of the U.S. Things that are a standard option in my world (i.e wedding coordinators or "day of" coordinators) are an anomaly here. Forget about the ideology of "anything goes" and personalization for one's wedding. Out the window here! Weddings and wedding options are like pre-packaged services that remind me of the houses in the movie "Edward Scissorhands."

See this? .... In my world this = Yawn.

But this is exactly how I can best describe the options brides and grooms have for planning a wedding. Everything from the dress to the flowers to the decorations in general are whittled down to Option A, B, C or the "fancy" D (which is never all that fancy or different anyway!) So if there's a bride like me, for example, who grew up elsewhere, who saw different kinds of weddings and receptions where it's ALL ABOUT personalization, you come to this town and think "color me bland" and then break down and cry.

...After the meltdown, you realize that you just have to get creative and above all else, you have to CHASE.THESE.VENDORS.DOWN. We chose our wedding venue because of the space, the food and the amazing wine. We're all about feeding our peeps great food and having them drink amazing Chilean wine. However, the decorations offered at our venue are, at best, so boring you want to gouge your eyes out. See an example of another wedding at this same venue (note: ACTUAL event picture follows:)

I hope I didn't lose you in the blandness. Now, for those of you out there who are OK with this, I think that's awesome. It's awesome because YOU are ok with it. But G and I are outside-box thinkers, at least for Chilean standards, and this is definitely not ok with us. So we decided to search for companies who could take the decorative ambiance switch and turn it up about 20 notches.

We found one which we noticed had done pretty good work, both creative and fun, as far as we could tell. So we went to their office and explained our general ideas to them. They then showed us an array of events they had done in the past year, and when all was said and done, we agreed that they would send us a proposal within the week. One week passed, then two. I called. Had to remind the lady of who I was... then I was told we would get the proposal within 48 hours. One day passed, two, three - until another week passed. We emailed. Another day passed. THEN we got an email with a lame excuse (of course), saying they'd get us something "as soon as possible." Pray tell, what does that EVEN mean in Chilean standards? This email was followed by the actual proposal, all of 30 minutes later mind you, but it was obvious that they had merely removed one couple's name in the document and replaced it with ours. It was so bad that I actually had to create a power point presentation, detailing each area of the venue, with example pictures of the kind of decorations we want and send it back to them asking "Can you do any of this? Can we meet this week? Does X day work for you?." What happened? NO RESPONSE. Three days passed and I had to call and believe it or not, I had to REMIND the lady of WHEN my wedding was taking place and when I told her April 17th, she replied with "Oh dear, yes well we've got to start working on this."
#@#*&!%#!!! YA THINK?!!!!

I won't keep detailing what a nightmare this has been but let me just say that the coordinator at the venue itself has had a similar attitude... don't get me started on how much information he's promised us and we still haven't received! Just yesterday I had to email him again, reminding him of the info he promised to get us, telling him we'd be on holiday on x,y,z days and that following that, I'd be in the States on other days and that PS - after that, it was February. As I'm writing this blog, the coordinator finally responded to my email with this (and I'm only SLIGHTLY paraphrasing here):

"Dear A & G,
A thousand apologies for not responding sooner but the truth is that I've had to travel a lot and I simply haven't had enough time on my hands. I have a series of outstanding emails I need to respond to and I promise, without fail, I will get you the information promised to you by end of day."

And on that note, let's talk wedding invitation vendor: those designing and printing our wedding invitations. The same company who informed us that they are on vacation the ENTIRE MONTH OF FEBRUARY. The same ones who we keep and keep and keep chasing to get us the proofs ASAP so that we can have our invites so that WE CAN SEND THEM OUT IN FEBRUARY given that the response deadline is March 1st!

And um... did I mention that we've paid all these vendors a pretty hefty deposit?

In the end though, I will say that not 100% of the vendors we've dealt with so far have been as irresponsible and UNRESPONSIVE as this. Our photographer has been amazing since day one, even reserving our wedding date before we paid her the deposit. In fact, her price includes an engagement session, actual wedding and a post-wedding session and she's been the ultimate communicator since we met. We have our engagement session scheduled for next week and she's been so amazingly helpful with questions G and I have had and just overall, she rocks our world. Not to mention her style of photography is EXACTLY what G and I have always thought of when we pictured our wedding shots. Grateful, grateful, grateful! And the cherry on top is that now she's even managed to find us a potential "day-of" coordinator!! Oh sweet, little, chocolate covered photog!
Also, our band has literally rocked our world! They kept their appointment with us, came to our house, pulled out a contract and detailed from A to Z exactly what they need from us and what we can expect from them. They have been constant communictors as well, which trust me, is so important to us. Sound standard to you? Well, my experience has been that THIS type of business practice is a novelty in Chile.

What can I say? I'm frustrated. I'm scared that the laissez-faire attitude of most Chilean vendors will absolutely RUIN most of what G and I have worked so hard to accomplish and reach (hello? Those who know, remember the evil ex stories). What do they care? To them it's standard and all about $$$. Well, you'd THINK it's all about money but even THAT doesn't seem to motivate most of them. Why are they even in this business if they don't have the motivation to help couple's plan their "dream" event?

But I'm not even asking for that miracle at this point. Right now, at this very moment, all I want is responsive, sympathetic vendors...the equivalent of just getting a hug and hearing the words "Everything will be ok."

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Oh my gosh, those pictures on your photographer's website are AWESOME!! She is truly spectacular. If nothing else, you'll have great photos!

I think you're doing everything you can, other than bullying them and telling them you want your deposit back because they are not holding up their end of the bargain! I'm sure your persistance will pay off, but how stressful! Are you sure you don't just want to elope? ; )
I'm so sorry to hear this. You have no idea how much I understand you...we're having major problems with the church we're trying to reserve and are having NO luck getting in touch with them!!! It's so frustrating! And I'm just starting! I'm dreading trying to deal with Chilean vendors as the wedding gets closer!

I hope you can manage to keep your chin up through these stressful times! Just keep thinking about how wonderful the wedding day will actually be, no matter what you do, and the awesome honeymoon that will follow!

Amen to having such a great photographer!!! I can't wait to see your engagement photos up on Kyle's site!!!
Everything will be ok :)

It's frustrating, and the added element of difference in style does mean that even when they get back to you, it might be a struggle to get everyone on the same page. But I think people will get it if you just drive it through their heads enough. The women at my dress fitting yesterday commented on my (not white) shoes asking if they were the same height as my wedding shoes. When I explained that actually those ARE my shoes and in the US it's sort of normal these days to have shoes to match your wedding colors (another newish concept here), they loved the idea! So I have faith that we're merely helping future brides have the kick ass weddings we're used to back home.

Just keep calling - e-mail is easier to ignore - and I promise by the time April 17 rolls around it'll all be great.
Some gringa should just open a business in this. I mean, will there ever be an end to all of us crazy gringas falling in love and marrying a lovely Chilean man?? :D I don't think so. If I had the bucks, I would do it, it would be so fun!

Sorry you are having such a hard time, I hope everything falls together for you.
Awww, you're so nice! I love you guys too! And I think I should start marketing myself as a "sweet chocolate cover 'tog," hahaha, that will totally make people hire me!

The people who are your possible day of coordinators (who, btw, responded and said Friday's good, I'll email you both manana to coordinate) had a really amazing wedding and also very kind of against the Chilean grain. They pulled it off, so I know you can too!
Whoa. How can they just up and go on vacation for that entire month? See, I've been missing Chile like it's my job lately, but when I read posts like this I get irritated all over again. I guess the weddings I've gone to have been a bit bland, but I assumed that was because the bride and groom wanted it that way, not like there was nothing else to choose from. It must be sort of like how you can shop the entire mall and still find most of the same items repeated just in slightly different colors and with different labels. Sad. I hope you find a way to pull it all together and really make it your own!

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