How to adequately thank a friend for a HUGE favor?
June 12, 2021 11:37 PM   Subscribe

My good friend is a professional wedding planner. She has volunteered herself to do the day-of-coordination for my wedding and will not allow me to pay her for her time. I want to give her a thank you gift, but what would be adequate?

We're having a covid micro wedding with less than a dozen guests, whittled down to only immediate family and best friends. It'll be a pretty simple affair, so I thought I would be okay to forego hiring a planner.

My friend, as a pro wedding planner, has naturally been asking a lot of questions about my plans since our pre-covid engagement. She was originally invited as a guest to our larger planned wedding, but even back then she said I could ask her anything I wanted and she would be happy to help. My micro wedding is coming up in a few weeks now, and she announced that she is going to coordinate for me. She would not accept a no nor any payment.

She is absolutely awesome and well sought after. I know her rates are not cheap. She has already reviewed my vendor contracts, reached out to each vendor to introduce herself as the coordinator and take over communications, and will be there the whole day to take care of all the details and direct the vendors.

I was thinking of giving her a $500 gift certificate to her favorite spa and a heartfelt thank you card, but based on my google research, I think she probably charges more in the neighborhood of $1000+ for her time (though maybe that would be for bigger events?). She's always been extremely generous and is not the type to expect anything to return, but I want to acknowledge what a huge favor she's doing for me. I don't know if it would be a bad thing to seem as though I'm trying to indirectly pay her for her services? I want to make sure I do right by her as she's been a wonderful friend for many, many years.
posted by keep it under cover to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My mother used to tell me that sometimes the most generous thing you can do is to allow someone to help you or give you the gift that they want to give you.
Your friend loves you and gets pleasure from helping you. Thanking her, maybe giving her flowers or chocolate or something else small you know she'll appreciate is good, but nothing more. Look out for opportunities to pay it forward to someone else.
posted by Zumbador at 11:48 PM on June 12, 2021 [56 favorites]

Make sure she's acknowledged during the speeches.
posted by trig at 11:51 PM on June 12, 2021 [25 favorites]

Also, you can do something especially nice for her birthday or other upcoming events. That might make things seem less transactional and more an expression of how much you value your relationship. Until then, I'd probably just go with a real hug (covid and personal preference permitting).
posted by trig at 11:55 PM on June 12, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I personally wouldn't try to pay her anything close to what she charges for her services. For one thing, they're probably a lot. For another, in my experience it's a joy to share my professional expertise with friends -- it's easy for me, and I feel like I have a lot to offer, and it would feel frustrating not to.

I would instead recognize her in the speeches, and yes, maybe give her a gift certificate, but I'd go more at the level of "a night or two at an Air BnB" than the "trying to help pay her mortgage" level. And I'd definitely give her a nice card...

Basically, she's doing this for love, not money, so I'd reciprocate in kind.
posted by slidell at 12:06 AM on June 13, 2021 [9 favorites]

I think your thank you gift idea is lovely. I would wait and let a little time pass so that it's out of the blast zone of feeling like a payment, and it is clearly a thank you gift. Forget all about the presumed value. You are trying to be fair but you are literally looking a gift horse in the mouth! She wants to do this for you, you should let her! Your thank you gift sounds appropriate to me (presuming you can afford it) and from the heart. I would include a card that makes it clear that it's a thank you gift: "your generous and lovely gift brought me and spouse so much comfort and joy, we wanted you to have something comforting and joyful too!"
posted by pazazygeek at 12:14 AM on June 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Write her a card and tell her how much you enjoyed your wedding, how much you appreciate her doing xyz. Be sure to name an example of a particularly thoughtful thing you noticed her doing.

People who volunteer their skills - most of all they love to know they're appreciated.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:55 AM on June 13, 2021 [10 favorites]

If this is in lieu of a wedding gift, then accept it with gratitude and without needing to pay her back. I don't know if it's the same in North America, but in the UK it's customary for the bride and groom to give bouquets of flowers to their mothers, grandmothers, and any other female (outside the bridesmaids) who have been important in the wedding/family, and this is done when the speeches are made. So if there's a plan to do that, you could acknowledge her in the speeches and give her a bouquet.
posted by essexjan at 2:04 AM on June 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

How about treating her to a special day trip with you, e.g. spa day together?
posted by ktkt at 2:05 AM on June 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

A lot of good ideas above -- mentioning her in the wedding, and maybe something like flowers etc appropriate to the event.

Beyond that, for me personally, I would just try to proactively find opportunities where I could use my skills to her benefit. Not that I think it needs to be "tit for tat," I agree with the people saying that sometimes a part of gift giving in a close friendship is just...letting them give the gift, but still, if it was me, I would just bump the person up on the mental list of people I'm looking for a good chance to do something really nice for.
posted by wooh at 2:25 AM on June 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Everyone above has excellent suggestions for thanking her without making it feel transactional.

I'd add one more observation about how this may feel from her end. Speaking as someone who works in a different field but with similar job requirements (managing vendors, working with different parties, coordination) and has separately done some event coordination work, I can find myself getting extremely stressed out in situations where someone else is project-managing, particularly when they don't have experience in the area. Many people getting have never thrown a wedding before, so it's completely understandable that they won't know what to check for etc. It's often less stressful and more enjoyable for me if I'm the one in charge of the stage direction, so to speak, so I know I can make things run smoothly and focus on the event.

That sounds horrible as I type it out! But it's definitely been my experience when helping out with the types of things I have experience project-managing. And having been a guest at various weddings, there's always something -- like the wedding I went to where the food got forgotten a 1.5 hour drive from the venue, so there were three hours of hangry guests and someone had to leave the wedding to go get it. I like being in a position where I can spare myself and everyone else that experience.

tl;dr: letting her help is likely in itself a kindness, as well as whatever gift and recognition you get her.
posted by pie ninja at 3:05 AM on June 13, 2021 [15 favorites]

I think the gift card, or anything that feels like a cash-substitute, is probably a bad idea. Your friend has made it very clear that she wants to do this for you as a friend, not as a paid professional, and anything that looks like an attempt to get around that risks feeling like an insult to her offer and your relationship.

If you still feel the need to get her more than a token gift and effusive public thanks, then make sure it's something personal. If you have a crafty hobby, maybe a hand-made gift, or tickets to that band/play/sports team you both love, or maybe buy a spa day just for the two of you.
posted by firechicago at 4:16 AM on June 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It's not a favor, it's a gift. Send a (very sincere) thank you card. Don't make it weird by trying to place a financial value on the present given to you.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:38 AM on June 13, 2021 [26 favorites]

Best answer: One great way to thank a professional who volunteers their services is to rep the hell out them forever after.
posted by srboisvert at 5:09 AM on June 13, 2021 [29 favorites]

Consider writing a great review for her afterwards in multiple places (WeddingWire, The Knot, google, yelp, and any local review sites), and offer to do a video testimonial for her if she'd use it.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:17 AM on June 13, 2021 [13 favorites]

If you are planning a spa day for yourself, include her. I'd probably buy a charm bracelet; they are sentimental and a way to mark occasions, with a cute charm relating to her. I have often seen vintage charm bracelets on ebay, with interesting charms. Or another piece of jewelry to her taste.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on June 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

When our friend DJ’d our wedding and wouldn’t accept any money for it, we gave him a substantial gift card to one of his favorite restaurants. We didn’t try to match how much we would have spent on a DJ, but it feels appropriate to return a generous favor with a generous thank-you. I think your spa idea is lovely.
posted by cakelite at 9:25 AM on June 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

Thank her during the speeches, send her a thank you card then make sure that any time anyone ever mentions having a wedding going forward you drop her name and number. She's doing this as a gift, you don't repay gifts you say thank you for them.
posted by wwax at 2:57 PM on June 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

I would not give her a gift that attempts to match what you would have paid her. This is her gift to you, and anything resembling payment would almost be a rejection of the gift.

A spa gift certificate is lovely. $500 seems like ... a lot, unless this is the kind of thing you'd normally give to a good friend for a birthday.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:30 PM on June 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

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