Wedding host Althea Leonen understands that weddings can burn a hole in couple’s pockets, so she offers relatively reasonable rates to clients.
But earlier this week, the 27-year-old emcee received a strange proposition from a prospective customer — Leonen will not be paid for her services, and at the same time, she’s expected to pay for her own accommodation.
In a now viral post that has been shared more than 7,000 times, Leonen showed screenshots of what she said was a text conversation with the wannabe client. The conversation, which was in a mix of Filipino and English, turned quite ugly.
The client, presumably a woman, was the one who got in touch with Leonen. She wrote: “Hello Ms. Thea. A friend of mine referred you to me as a wedding host. She recommended you. Can we book you for our wedding in September?”
“Hello! Sure, I have nothing scheduled for September. Which date in September and where? And may I know who’s this and which friend recommended me to you?” asked Leonen.
The prospective client responded: “Wow! In Batangas. It’s a sunset wedding. It’s September 15 but we have booked hotel rooms for the entourage. You can book your own room so that you won’t have a hard time [hosting] after commuting. So that you have time to get ready. Because it’s a sunset wedding.”
Now here comes the clincher, where Leonen will be told that she will not be paid for her services and she’s responsible for paying her own room. No kidding.
After giving her and her fiance’s name, the client wrote: “I can also book for you. Then you can pay for your room over the counter. And then is it okay if I will just pay for your transportation? I will just recommend you to my friends who will get married in the future. Hehehe.”
Understandably surprised and confused, Leonen replied: “Let me just confirm. I will also pay for my accommodation? I could adjust my fees within your budget but I am not a charity.”
Instead of backing down, the client insisted she should get Leonen’s services for free.
What she texted next are best described as ludicrous.
She wrote: “My friend said you can agree to offer your services for free. Yes, you will pay for your accommodation. You are not part of the entourage [so we will not pay for your room]. And we don’t have a budget for a host that’s why we reached out to you. We will pay for your transportation [anyway].”
Leonen didn’t back down of course, and told the messenger that she didn’t know her personally and the whole proposed arrangement was “unfair.”
The client responded with an ad hominem attack: “You will never become famous. Talent fees of hosts are not that high. You think you’re so pretty in your IG [photos].”
Leonen shot back: “Just so you know, the minimum talent fee for a host is PHP5,000 (USD$93.28). I can go lower as (sic) PHP2,000 (USD$37.31). I would have agreed. But you’re demanding free service and you insulted me. No thanks.”
The comments to Leonen’s post were sympathetic and many were outraged at the client’s sense of entitlement.
Wrote Kathlyn Izel: “Is this bride serious? Crazy. She has money to pay Acuatico [the venue] but she doesn’t have the money to pay the host?”
Wrote Rg Pajela: “I hate ill wishing (sic) other people, but I hope this bride trips during her ceremonial walk.”
One netizen said it reminded him of the case of Jameson Blake, the actor who asked for free artwork from graphic designers in exchange for a shoutout.
Wrote Roy Verdolaga: “It’s like the one who was asking for free graphic design who will be paid with a shout out? Hahaha.”
In a message to Coconuts Manila, Leonen said she was happy about the supportive comments that she has been getting online. “Honestly, I feel encouraged and comforted by the online community. As I felt so down after my conversation with the bride or whoever she is,” she said.
There were naysayers too, as she learned that there were some wedding vendors who thought the whole SMS conversation was a fraud.
“[T]here are comments from [an]other wedding suppliers’ group [page] where my post is being shared where people were saying it’s all a gimmick.”
Leonen denies the accusation of other wedding suppliers that the incident was all made up.
“What will I get out of it if I make it up? If that was my intention, I would have posted it on those group [pages] and not on my own [Facebook] wall,” she said.
She understands that weddings have become unreasonably costly, but she sets boundaries that clients need to understand. “I know it’s expensive to get married. But for me to pay the accommodation, that’s unfair,” she said.
The incident comes at the heels of the Blake “shout out” fiasco and the experience of singer Patricia Ivy Peñano, who was asked to perform 20 songs at a wedding for free.
Seems like a lot of people still don’t understand that professional services are not for free.