Searching For Vendors? Here's Your How-To Guide.
Asking The Right Questions Will Get You All The Right Answers
In your search for wedding vendors, you’ve got a tall task. For most couples, this is their first attempt at planning a wedding and it can be overwhelming. With tons of vendors lobbying for a part of your wedding budget, you have decisions to make. Where to begin? How many vendors should you interview? What should you look for? Fortunately, you won’t have to do it alone. This guide, along with various online forums (if you haven’t already done so, sign up with WeddingWire & The Knot) will offer advice, suggestions and great tips to get you going. Not all advice will work for you, so use what works and toss away what doesn’t!
I believe the best place to start is to establish what you want from your wedding day. Equally important is to decide what you do not want. Are you planning a religious ceremony or will you retain the services of a non-denominational officiant? Are you thinking ballroom or barn… historic building, mansion or museum? Will your ceremony be indoors or outdoors? Making a few key decisions, in broad strokes, would be best. Then, you can narrow down your choice of vendors to those who are experienced in your style of wedding.
Screen Any Potential Vendor With These Five Characteristics
The five characteristics below present an initial test to determine if the vendors you’ve researched are a good match to consider for your wedding day.
•First Impression – Do you sense that this vendor wants to sell to you or help you? Vendors should listen to your vision first. Otherwise, how can they help create what you want, if they are too busy telling you about themselves?
•Professionalism – From their website to their marketing materials, the overall look of the company should tell you a lot about their professionalism.
•Public/Online Reviews – Read online reviews from past couples and fellow vendors. Are you happy with what people are saying? Here's the Google formula... "VENDOR Name reviews." Then, simply check out the reviews. The more reviews, the better. Someone with only a few reviews is a vendor you should stay away from.
•Responsiveness – When you call or e-mail, do they respond efficiently and adequately? Are you a priority?
•Willingness To Meet – Any reputable professional will meet with you either in person or via FaceTime/video-chat. This is a great chance for you to ask questions and to determine if your personalities mesh well.
Before You Begin
A good bit of your work can be done, either through web searches or e-mail. With a wealth of online resources, you’ll find plenty of blogs, forums and social media groups. You can ask questions, offer opinions and get some great advice. If for no other reason, you can poke around and find information that will draw you in, or steer you away from certain ideas or vendors. Do not underestimate the value of your web research. This will save you lots of legwork, by narrowing down and/or eliminating ideas/choices early in the game. Once complete, you have a more manageable task in front of you.
Do Your Homework
The next step is to screen your list of potential vendors by using the five characteristics above. If any vendor on your list does not “pass” the test, you should move on and eliminate them from the list. Remember, this is your day and you deserve better than to hire a vendor who does not meet or exceed the above criteria. Do you like their website? Are they willing to meet? Do past couples have great things to say about them? Do they respond to your e-mails and phone calls promptly? Keep in mind, your initial impression is a good glimpse into what this relationship will be like in the months leading up to your wedding day, if you choose to work with this vendor. If communication or professionalism lack initially, or they are not accommodating to your request to meet, it may only get worse, once the contract is signed and the deposit is paid. Think ahead as you should look to build a relationship with your vendors.
Questions To Ask
Do You Have My Date Available?
It seems simple, but you should ask this question first. If your date is not available on their calendar, then there is no need to move forward.
Have You Worked At My Event Space In The Past?
Although this is not a deal breaker, vendors who are familiar with your chosen venue, often know what it takes to carry out their particular duties, better than someone who is new to the venue. A caterer will be more familiar with the kitchen and a photographer will already know the best location for that sunset photo. This could be a big plus when booking vendors so be sure to ask!
Are You Insured?
A key component to a company’s viability is a liability insurance policy. This means that the company has invested in protecting all parties, should an unforeseen incident occur. Also, it is becoming increasingly required from venues, that all vendors have a comprehensive liability insurance policy. Often times, the venue will also require that the vendor add to their policy, the name of the venue as “additionally insured.” A vendor with liability insurance is a big plus.
How Many Weddings Do You Book Per Day?
You’ll want a vendor who is dedicated to you on your day. If not, you may end up with a vendor who is either rushing to your wedding or in a hurry to get to the next wedding. You deserve to be at the top of your vendor’s priority list!
What Are Your Deposit & Final Payment Policies?
All vendors will require a deposit. Those who don’t, I’d be wary of. Be clear on the deposit due date and what forms of payment they will accept. It is common for your final payment to be due prior to the day of your wedding. Simply be clear on the payment policy of each vendor and budget accordingly.
Do You Work Through A Written Contract?
While this seems like a no-brainer, you must require that a written contract is issued and signed by both parties to seal the deal. If a vendor does not offer a written contract, this is an immediate red flag. You’ll want to make sure that the contract specifies the vendor's responsibility to you and your responsibility to them. Factors such as time of arrival, number of hours of service, what specific services are provided, the cost for services and when payments are due. These are just a few of the matters that must be covered. In addition, what happens if you cancel? What if they cancel? What if you need additional time? Read the contract carefully and make sure all bases are covered.
What Is Your Cost?
At some point, you’ll want to know what the cost is! This can be tricky. Most often, we ask price first, because that can often be a determining factor in whether or not we will move forward with a particular vendor. I’d like to explain why this should NOT be the most important factor. Price is such a broad question. A vendor’s price is most often directly related to what service(s) you will need from them. For example, when booking your photographer, do you need five hours of service or 10? Would you like one or two photographers? For a caterer, your number of guests, style of meal & other options will determine price. I’ve simplified what they’ll want to know, but keep in mind that before the price question can be answered, they’ll need to ask you some questions to help determine which of their services will match your needs.
Besides The Cost, What Other Fees Are There?
You won’t want to incur surprise costs. Services such as set-up, delivery and other items can utilize some of your budget. Ask so that you are aware of any such fees in advance. This will allow you to plan for these expenses. Some vendors also add an automatic gratuity, which can impact your budget greatly.
What Else Should I Know About Your Service & How You Operate?
After asking this question, you can sit back and simply listen. This is where you will find out the most about this vendor. A lot of the information you want, will be found without asking anything else. Vendors like to talk about their service, so give them the floor. You should hear their philosophy, their goals for your wedding day and how they can help you achieve what you want. Vendors shouldn’t brag on themselves nor should they “trash talk” other vendors in general or by name.
By using this guide, you are on your way to narrowing the field of potential vendors into a workable list with your best choices in front of you!