People tend to do business with those they like, which is the main reason entrepreneurs invest time and effort in building client relationships. When a client invites you to their wedding or that of their son or daughter, consider it a sign of a deepening friendship. You have successfully transcended professional boundaries and are entering your client's personal circle.
A wedding invitation on a professional level is slightly different than when your college roommate or favorite cousin is exchanging vows. It's an opportunity to interact with your client amicably, without forgetting your relationship is based on your business connection.
Follow these seven etiquette tips to help you walk the thin line between personal and professional behavior at a wedding or any other social function.
Whether the answer is yes or no, a quick response will convey the level of importance you place on the invitation. Whatever you do, don't put off RSVPing to the point where the bride or groom has to contact you to see if you are coming. Once you reply, honor the commitment, regardless of other opportunities which may arise.
The best tribute you can pay to the client who invited you is to enjoy the festivities. However, while this is a social occasion, remember you are there because you are a trusted business associate who has become a friend. Don't do anything to jeopardize the professional reputation you've worked hard to develop. Proceed with caution at the open bar; set a low limit and stick to it.
Don't Talk Shop
Your relationship has two sides: business and personal. At a non-work event where the spotlight is on family and friends, your social relationship should be at the forefront. This means to avoid talking shop and be mindful of monopolizing your client's time when they are busy hosting the event. Focus on being a pleasant guest and simply being yourself; you don't have to be "on" as you might in a client meeting.
Keep in mind this is a private family event, not a chamber of commerce mixer. Don't use it as a brand-building or networking opportunity. Make sure to show an interest in other guests on a personal level, not in terms of what they do or how they might help your business. Leave your business cards at home; if you make a connection you'd like to follow up on later, look them up when you're back in the office.
Stick to the Registry
Like any other wedding guest, etiquette dictates you provide a gift. If you don't know the bride and groom well, you can't go wrong by sticking to choices on the registry. Consider the nature of your relationship; if it's a longtime client who makes up a significant part of your business, you may want to spend a little more, but don't feel obligated to blow your budget or go overboard.
Put Away the Phone
Turn your phone off during the ceremony and (if you must) on mute during the reception. Avoid posting images from the wedding on social media; most couples would rather avoid casual or unflattering shots floating around online when they have paid a professional photographer to capture the event's best moments. However, if you unobtrusively capture some fun, candid moments, share them with your client following the ceremony--and thank them again for including you.
Since a more social relationship is developing, keep the friendship going. Invite your client to a social function such as a sporting event or dinner party. Initiate other opportunities to continue growing your professional bond.