Budget, done. The guest list, check. The venue, secured. Now we get to the fun stuff… picking your all-star vendor team! Researching and meeting with different wedding professionals is when your wedding vision really comes to life.
The challenge is finding the right vendor for you. There are as many wedding vendors as there are…. well insert any analogy about there being a lot. They all vary greatly by style, price and years of experience.
In this post, we will talk about how to hire your squad including where to start, what to ask and how to communicate with them effectively.
HELP SELECTING THE BEST VENDORS FOR YOUR WEDDING
Defining Your Vision
By this point in planning, you should have or are starting to create, the feel and vibe for your wedding. Are you boho? Modern elegant? Disco circus? Whatever you are, own it. The best weddings are the ones where the couples let their personalities shine through.
As you define your vision, save inspiration. This can be from bridal magazines, wedding vendor profiles or real life. When you see something and think, ‘yes, I want that at my wedding’ or ‘no way Jose is that happening’ write it down. This inspiration will be key for when you meet with vendors.
It is not imperative you have a vision, but it is helpful. We are not just talking colors here, we are talking about the overall aesthetic and experience. Wedding vendors will help you refine your vision, but they can’t make the decisions for you. After all, it is your wedding. The more you know what you do and don’t like, the easier time you will have during these vendor meetings.
Example time! Here is a great real-life wedding vision we worked with last year – “I want an enchanted forest with pink fog and rich colors. I want everyone to be wined and dined, and dance all night.” Here is a bad vision – “I like the color pink. And I picked my venue because it was the first one I saw and it looked okay.”
You can easily see how one vision gets the creative juices flowing, while the other leaves you going, ‘uhhhhh….’
Finding Your ‘Ones’
You have your vision ready… time to research vendors. Almost everyone thinks about floral and décor first. Unless your wedding will be an explosion of floral and décor, this can wait.
The first vendors you should look into are what I call ‘the ones.’ These are the people who can only take one wedding per day. This includes:
- Wedding Planner
- Transportation (if you want a specific vehicle)
Unless these people have associates, who handle their own weddings, these vendors are usually only able to take one wedding a day. Caterers, florists, stationary designers, hotel blocks, etc., can all handle numerous weddings.
Still, this is a pretty lengthy list of ones. We recommend looking back at your priorities and start with your #1 ones. If band/DJ is critical to you, look into and meet with them first. If photography is where it is at for you, then start there.
What to Look For
Outside of Google, there are numerous valuable wedding planning outlets. The two you are likely most familiar with are The Knot and Wedding Wire. There are also local wedding publications you can consult. All of these will give you a good flavor for what is available in your city. A friendly little note here, vendors pay to be in all of these websites and magazines, so don’t think because someone is in these they are instantly credible.
Many of these websites will allow you to sort by price, aesthetic and location. Much like looking for a house or a car, we recommend looking only at vendors in your price range. Don’t be surprised if you see “starting at” or “contact us for pricing” on vendors’ websites. With every couple’s needs being different, many vendors want to understand what you need prior to telling you the cost.
From there, look at their aesthetic. Have they done a wedding similar to yours? Do they have the type of photography style you like? Check out their websites and more importantly their social media. We all update our online presence in this order – Instagram, Facebook, and the website.
Beware of vendors whose online presence is all stylized shots. You can 100 percent tell when an image is from a real wedding versus a shot. For example, stylized shots contain really unique ideas like balloon arches or there is only a bride and/or groom in the majority of the photos. Stylized shots are great, but they are no substitute for real wedding experience.
Also, don’t forget to read those reviews. Wedding vendors live and die by reviews. These are written by couples vendors have worked with so what better way to get a feel for what that vendor is all about.
Okay, the big question, how many vendors should I contact per category? We recommend reaching out to 2-3 vendors per category. This will give you a good flavor for what different people offer. Keep in mind, the more people you contact the more information you have to go through and follow-ups you will receive.
When you reach out to your top choices provide them the following information. Trust me, they will love you for it:
- Wedding Date or time of year you plan to get married
- Location/Venue, if known
- Budget range for their services
- What you are looking for
What to Expect
Once you hit send, submit or leave a voicemail, it is time for you to slip into observation mode. You can tell a lot about a vendor by how quickly they respond, what they say and what they send over.
Let’s start with how quickly they respond. In our opinion, vendors should easily be able to get back to you within 48-72 hours. A few major caveats here:
- Contacting Friday-Monday – This is highly logical, but most brides forget this… wedding vendors usually work when? That’s right, the weekend. We are typically prepping for weddings on Friday, working them on Saturday, breaking down or recuperating on Sunday and then taking Monday off. If you contact us on these days, please be kind and give us a bit more time.
- Busy Season – Also give vendors more time during our busy season – September and October. Some vendors will have weddings every weekend and be working 100+ hour weeks. Don’t feel pity for us, we love it!
- Holidays – Don’t expect a response on major holidays… like seriously to the bride who emailed me on Christmas?! We are either working (we don’t get guaranteed holidays) or taking a bit of much needed time to spend with our family.
When the vendor gets back to you, they will likely ask you a few questions as well as send you a packet of information. Thoroughly look through the packet of information, and really look at what packages they offer.
Let’s use photographers as an example. Most photographers break their packages into wedding day hours, i.e. – 6, 8, 10 or unlimited. In addition, some include engagement sessions and books/frames in their packages.
Compare and contrast the packages you receive. Ask additional questions and don’t assume. Keep in mind, we are sizing you up as much as you are us. Once you feel confident in what that vendor offers, set-up an in-person meeting or phone call.
It is of vital importance to actually speak with your vendors before hiring them. After all, these are the people you are trusting to pull off your wedding. We tell all our couples to hire the vendors they click with. If you don’t feel like a vendor is for you after hearing them out, that’s okay. What matters is finding vendors you know get you and will work their absolute hardest for you.
Signed, Sealed and Delivery
You like the vendor. They like you. It is time to go all the way… and ask for the contract. Once you receive the contract, look through it thoroughly. Everything in the contract is there on purpose.
Do they require you to feed them on the wedding day? Do they need you to provide them with tables and linens for their equipment? Do they have an hour limit? Do they have a limit on how many times you can meet? Do they charge service fees or taxes?
What you see and agree to in the contract is what you will get. Again, don’t assume anything. If it isn’t in there, ask about it. If you aren’t sure what a section means, inquire. And take notes about what they require or will charge you additional for. This way when you are in the weeks leading up to your wedding, you are not surprised by costs or requirements you might have forgotten. The better prepared you are, the less stress there will be.
A Word of Warning
During your vendor search there might be some red flags or uneasy feelings that creep up. Trust your gut.
If a vendor, sans hair and make-up and officiants, don’t have a contract, we would advise you to steer clear. If they don’t get back to you in a timely fashion, this is likely an indication of what it will be like during the rest of the planning process. If a vendor’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I cannot say this enough, you get what you pay for in the wedding world. If someone has a way lower price than everyone else, it is likely because they are new or not that good. Many vendors only make it in this industry a few years before calling it quits. You can tell who the seasoned pros are by their reviews, how much they charge and how they handle themselves. Trust me, real professionals are worth every penny!
In our final blog post, we discuss the top mistakes couples make when planning their wedding.
Sarah Quinlivan is the owner and lead planner of Quintessential Events, an award-winning wedding and event planning firm that does events throughout the country. From classic to over-the-top, Quintessential Events prides itself on creating weddings that are uniquely you. Why have the day others have already had? Focus on having the day; only you can have. For more information, check out the company’s website and Instagram.