The potential client I had an appointment with entered the restaurant flustered because she was 20 minutes late. I forgave her because she flashed a lovely smile as she approached me, and greeted me warmly. She immediately started chattering amicably about the reasons for her delay, and in just seconds I knew this was someone I would love to be friends with.

She told me all about her candle stores: how she and her sister had started one because of their love of candles, and how their business had grown to include three retail locations in the city. This might sound narcissistic, but she reminded me of myself: only slightly younger, she appeared optimistic, hard-working, and focused. She had this lovely glow about her, and I am certain that we could easily have spent the afternoon talking and getting to know one another.

However, I was there for the express purpose of selling my services to her – the bride-to-be – so I dove into my spiel. She stopped me after a few sentences and said, “I already know that I want to hire you. But you see, my husband – well, I call him my husband but he’s really still my boyfriend… He’s, well, special.”

She cringed when she said “special”, so I allowed her to elaborate. “He loves to bargain, and he’ll argue about every single price you quote him,” she explained. “Even if I think the price is fair, he won’t be happy until he obtains a discount. I hate when he does that, and it makes me feel terribly uncomfortable because it’s plain rude, but that’s just the way he is.” I smiled, silently giving thanks for the warning.

“And another thing,” she continued. “He’s really picky about quality, and the cleanliness of the food. He will want to be involved in the most minute details of the wedding to know that things are being done the way he wants them.” Sounds charming, I thought, but I asked myself how bad he could be if this lovely, talented, and outgoing girl was marrying him.

As I chatted with her about my services, an older man, just under 50 years of age, approached the table. She smiled lovingly at him, and he sat down without even acknowledging my presence.

“Hi,” I offered with a smile, not knowing his name and waiting for an introduction.

“Let me see this,” he told the bride, taking my information sheet from her. She gave it to him without a word, and looked my way nervously. I smiled and sat patiently while he browsed through the information.

“We already chose the location for the wedding,” he spat out after what seemed like an eternity. “They’re providing the tent, tables, chairs, food, drink, and servers. So, why would we need to pay you that much money to coordinate our wedding,” he demanded, pointing in disgust to my modest consulting rate.

I took a deep breath, not about to be intimidated by this moron, and went into my well-rehearsed wedding planner spiel. I explained the challenges of planning a destination wedding, and offered him a host of reasons why hiring a wedding planner was a smart investment.

“That’s all fine and well,” he countered. “But I think we only need you for the day of the wedding. Is that something you can do?”

I smiled sweetly. “You are getting married on one of the busiest Saturdays in July. If I took your wedding and charged you for my ‘day-of’ package, I would very likely be losing a customer who is willing to pay my full rate. I’m sure you understand the difficulty of this situation, since I only work one wedding per weekend and no more than three events per month.”

He grimaced and scratched his greying mustache. “Well, I really don’t see the need for a wedding planner. I’ve been married twice (!!!), so I know the drill. After all, other than food and drink, what other important vendors should we really consider?”

My patience was thinning, and I looked over at the bride. She sat in meek silence, obviously mortified by his insensitive tone of voice. She would reach out to him occasionally and try to subdue him with the touch of her hand and a soft “Honey…”.

Unfortunately, her strategy wasn’t working and she seemed to tense up with every harsh syllable her boyfriend uttered. Where had her gregarious and sparkling personality gone? And more importantly, why did I have the oddest feeling in the pit of my stomach? It wasn’t fear, exactly. It was more like defiance, a desire to come out on top.

Refocusing on the interview, I quickly reviewed the list of services my vendors can provide, and countered with my secret wedding planner weapon. “Look, having a wedding planner is not something everyone can afford, and I understand that. But if you’re making a sizable investment in a seven-hour event, don’t you want it to be professionally orchestrated?”

His eyes narrowed, and he coughed. “Well, yes. You have a point. *cough, cough* And, really, we do have an ample budget.” He fidgeted in his seat, and I thought, Aha!! I kicked him where it hurt! Men are so easy to read!

“I’m sure you do,” I said with a calm smile, and turned to the bride, who by now was nothing more than a quivering lump on her chair. “Now, if you don’t have any more questions for me, I really must go because I have a meeting in a few minutes. Please contact me if you have further questions and let me know when you’ve made your decision.” I gave the bride a warm hug and a kiss, and turned to give the bastard my best “kiss my ass” handshake and stare.

As I walked out the door, I realized why I had those strange feelings of defiance. As I sat between that couple, I was witnessing my marriage playing out in front of me! It was all there: the insecure scumbag who thought he could feel superior by making others feel inferior, and the joyous, optimistic, and talented girl whose lack of self-esteem and “disease to please” had driven her into the arms of someone unworthy of her love and kindness.

The man was almost two decades her senior (as in my case), and she obviously felt that she could be a positive influence in his miserable life (hello, two divorces?). I thought back to the countless times I had touched my husband’s arm with a soft, pleading “honey…”, while he used his most arrogant tone to intimidate everyone into submission.

The part of me that suffered enormously wants to write her an e-mail sharing my story and telling her to run for the hills. However, the part of me that’s older and wiser knows that she would never listen – just as I didn’t listen some years back. I believe each of us was placed on this planet to learn certain lessons, and it is only through first-hand experience that we can truly assimilate those teachings and become better human beings. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

I sincerely hope that I am wrong about the path their relationship is headed in. But tonight I’ll say a prayer in hopes that she’s blessed with the support and unconditional love of family and friends, which she’ll desperately need when she realizes her mistake.

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