When you think about your upcoming wedding day, what single element do you expect to have the largest impact on the outcome? Over the years, we’ve seen weddings that fall all over the spectrum: and we’re confident in asserting that choosing the right vendors (for your location, budget, look+feel, and aesthetic) is the single determining factor in how a wedding turns out. Fabulous vendors can take an average wedding design and elevate it to be spectacular – while issues with poorly chosen vendors can drag down even the most perfectly planned event. “Vendors” here is a broad category, but should encompass all of the people you choose to plan, orchestrate, set up, run, and break down the physical elements of your wedding. Some of the most important vendors to your wedding day include your planner or coordinator, caterer, photographer or videographer, florist, musicians or DJ, rentals company, and venue staff. Here are our top 5 tips on choosing fantastic ones:
1. Start with your venue
Your venue is a perfect place to start with selection, since it will be the backdrop to the entire affair. Many people choose to host their ceremony and reception at two different sites, and others opt to have both portions of the wedding day take place in the same spot. Whichever you choose, be sure to ask a lot of questions of your venue regarding details like charges and fees outside of the main site fee, power accessibility, restrooms, onsite kitchen accessibility, parking, etc. Do they include an onsite coordinator to ensure that the day runs smoothly from the venue’s point of view? Be sure to get a very direct line of clear communication going with the venue representative quickly, so you can make an informed decision. Once you’ve selected a venue, be sure to ask about their ‘preferred vendor list’ (if they have one) – many times, it makes the most logistical sense to choose other vendors from their list, since they are tried and true, and will have experience working there.
2. Shop around, and ask for a few proposals: Options are good
Don’t feel the need to book the first florist you speak to: if you have concerns around ambiguous costs or uncertainties around her vision, ask for a proposal and compare it with other florists you have spoken with. Shopping around is healthy, and will ultimately help you match up with the perfect florist for you and your day. In addition, proposal comparisons will help you get a baseline understanding for how much your wedding florals should cost, based on your taste and requirements for the wedding day. If you find a vendor you cannot live without, however, don’t shop around: many vendors book up a year or more in advance, so if you can’t live without the photographer you just spoke with, book them as quickly as possible. Most vendors will reserve your date with a signed agreement and paid deposit at the time of booking.
3. Understand creative value, and don’t over-negotiate
Nothing takes the wind out of a creative’s sails quite like an endless haggling negotiation over price. I’ve sat through a few consultations where the bridal party is less interested in creative vision, and purely interested in how low they can whittle our investment price for a given wedding package down. Don’t be that bride – your vendors are in creative professions because of their talent and passion. Many of us eat, sleep, and breathe weddings, purely for the beauty and creative potential that comes with each new client and booking. If you think a proposed price for a given service (such as an 8 hour photography package) is too high, ask about what’s included before asking for a discount. Perhaps this isn’t the right photographer for your needs, or maybe you could stand to go with a less inclusive package. Think of the services you’re paying for (floral set up, design creation AND execution, etc) as the highly specialized tasks that they are, and understand the inherent value in each one. If you have a set budget for each vendor, like a $2,000 floral budget, let the florist know ahead of time, so they can cater to your needs. Above all, never offend a vendor over her pricing: the industry is very small and tight knit, and it’s best to be honest by saying “I think you may be a bit out of our price range, but we love your work. Please let us know if you can point us in the direction of someone who may be closer to our budget.”
4. Specific Experience is key
If your caterer has never worked at your venue, and is unprepared, your wedding day is in for a wild ride. Similarly, if you select a hairdresser who does not have experience working with wedding timelines (even if they’re a world famous stylist!), you’re going to run into timing issues and possibly be late for your own ceremony. Specific experience working with both weddings and the venue you have selected should be two of your top qualification criteria for vendor selection. Experience working with the venue is invaluable, because a caterer who knows a property well can then properly instruct his serving staff on how things are done, as well as venue expectations. A planner who is familiar with a particular site or has worked there previously will know the in’s and out’s of a logistically challenging set up, or be able to point the photographer in the right direction when they’re searching for a photo opportunity. Past experience matters, and vendors who have it should be highly considered. If possible, work with your wedding planner to choose vendors who have worked with your venue and each other before, and have a positive track record of success with past weddings.
5. Go with your gut
This one is a little less about tangible elements of a vendor, and more about how you feel about them. Did you personally connect with your florist’s artistic vision, even though she’s slightly out of your price range? Did that world-famous photographer with a beautiful website seem snotty and stand offish in person, or make your fiancé slightly uncomfortable? Take these elements into consideration when making your selection. On your big day, you want to be surrounded by an exceptional team behind the scenes, making the day spectacular and making you feel comfortable and happy. The peace of mind that comes with booking vendors that you actually like and want to work with is priceless.