Welcome to a new 2-part FAQ post series that addresses how to find that perfect wedding vendors for you! Finding vendors (and conversely vendors finding clients) can be a lot like dating. Ultimately you are looking for that perfect match, the one who just fits right and you are comfortable with! You want a vendor who GETS you for who you are, and you should love them for who they are too!! One common mistake is hiring a vendor simply because they are a “good deal” thinking you can direct them into changing their style and how they work. So it’s really important you love your vendor for all that they are– talent, work/portfolio, style, price and personality.
As both a recent former bride (I was married in 2009) and a wedding professional, I have been on both sides of the aisle when it comes to vendor selection. I remember clearly what it’s like to be a bride who wants nothing more than to hire the BEST, most dependable, most talented vendors and to do that with a budget in mind. It’s not an easy task. On the other hand as a vendor, I have seen all sorts of brides come my way, some with a clear idea of the vendors they want, others a little unsure of what they are looking for.
It breaks my heart to hear vendor horror stories from brides or to be working a wedding where some part of the day has gone wrong due to the couple not hiring a professional. Often times, this happens when a bride gets overwhelmed in planning and doesn’t think vendor decisions through or is on a budget and opts to hire a friend who isn’t professional but does the job as a hobby. So I’d like to share some tips on the DO’s and DON’Ts of researching, meeting with, hiring vendors. These topics will be addressed in two posts! So stay tuned for more!!
PART 1: Researching Vendors
At the early stages of planning it can be overwhelming trying to find vendors. How does a bride find her perfect dream team?? What avenues yield the best results in finding a reliable vendor? Here’s my thoughts.
- DO: ASK AROUND. Ask friends for their recommendations. A personal referral is almost always a trustworthy one! As a vendor, my favorite clients tend to be a referral from either a past client or a friend-of-a-friend situation. If you don’t know anyone specific to ask, try a shout out for help on facebook or twitter. That’s a good way to get a response from acquaintances and older friends who may not be part of your inner-circle. Always give the people you ask for referrals an idea of your budget (no sense getting a referral for a vendor you can NO way afford). Words like “affordable” or “reasonable” (ie “does anyone have a recommendation for an affordable wedding photographer?”) are not so helpful because to some brides $1500 for a photographer is all they can afford, and other brides find $3500 to be a reasonable and affordable amount. Give a rough range of what you want to spend and see what response you get.
- DO (BUT BE CAREFUL): Look to LOCAL message boards on bridal sites like Project Wedding, The Knot and WeddingBee for advice. However, be aware of the general budgets and taste levels of the crowd on such boards. Some message boards tend to attract a VERY budget conscious bride and the referrals they give out are more based on “low price” rather than value, experience or quality. It’s good to check several boards and also cross check with reviews on wedding websites and review sites like Project Wedding or Wedding Wire.
- DO: HIRE A PLANNER. A Planner is a great resource for a bride. Along with making sure the wedding day runs smoothly, they also are super knowledgeable when it comes to vendors and know vendors in a range of price points. Many of the vendors I hired for my own wedding I found through Paola, my amazing planner!
- DO: Ask another trusted vendor! If you don’t have a planner yet, but perhaps have a venue you love or even a florist or photographer, definitely ask them for referrals. If you hired this vendor because you love their work, are comfortable with their price point, and like their taste, then the odds are you will like whoever they refer you to! All vendors seem to have a group of industry friends they LOVE to work with, so when you ask them for a referral you will surely get a helpful answer. Even better? Hiring vendors who have already worked together before makes the day go extra smoothly.
- DO: Look at wedding inspiration blogs like Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, and The Wedding Chicks, etc! If there is a blog you LOVE go check out the recent weddings, engagements and styled shoots they feature and the vendors attached. You can even search most blog posts for location so you can find vendors in your area. Wonderful vendors are featured daily on these inspiration sites and it’s a great way for brides to see their work and get a link to their site! Most of these sites also have vetted vendor guides which can also aide in finding a vendor in your area.
- DO: Decipher the style you are looking for. Good vendors tend to specialize in a particular style and that’s what they are known for. If you want a more traditional ballroom floral look, do not also continue to look at garden style florists. It is important to figure out what you like style wise and seek only vendors who fit your requirements.
- DON’T: Rely only on bridal shows. Bridal shows generally seem to attract a specific type of vendor. And that’s not always a good thing. Admittedly, I did one bridal show this year, and honestly? It was kinda a painful experience. Most of the other vendors there seemed really cheesy or out-of-date, or just plain desperate. There were also several BIG companies there, the kind who farm out jobs and you never know who exactly you’re working with. As for the brides who stopped by my booth? I only met about two that I really connected with. Because it’s SO hard to connect in that kind of chaotic environment. Bridal shows are fun to attend, and not all vendors who do them are bad, or cheesy, or out-of-date. But so many AWESOME vendors don’t do them…and now I see there’s a reason for that 😉 So if you are only looking at bridal shows to find vendors you are looking in a very limited pool. And a very impersonal pool, which I don’t recommend.
- DON’T: Consider hiring a friend who is NOT a professional. If your friend is a professional wedding florist, designs wedding cakes for a living, or coordinates or photographs weddings as a professional and has a website, well then that’s one thing. In that case, by all means please hire your rockin’ friend! But if you have a friend that is just a photo enthusiast, or sometimes arranges flowers for fun, or likes to bake cakes… please please please do not ask them to work your wedding. I know, it’s tempting. We all want to save money and sure your friend seems talented enough. BUT the real question is, are they experienced in the high-stress world of weddings, and do they have a back up plan if things go wrong? Often the answer is no. And often a part of the day gets ruined. Sometimes, it’s something noticeable like the cake falling over or the flowers turning brown before the ceremony even starts. Other times, it goes unnoticed on the day of, and then you get your wedding photos or video back only to see that they missed key moments, or things are terribly out of focus or improperly exposed. Or there’s no sound on your video. These things can all be devastating. And can ruin friendships. It’s so much better to just pay for a professional. Trust me!!!
Once you look around and have some names on a list, look at the vendor’s site and blog (if they have one). Blogs are FABULOUS because you can see a vendor’s most recent work, and also look back into their past. You can see their style, get to know them and their vibe, and see their journey! It’s pretty cool! You should also look to see if they have any reviews on Project Wedding or Wedding Wire. If all looks good contact the vendor to see when you can meet! The meeting is generally the best way to get to know if a vendor is the true fit for you.
Sometimes you get such a strong feeling from someone online, and that coupled with glowing reviews or a personal referral can often give couples the confidence to hire a vendor on the spot– no meeting necessary. If that’s the case bravo to you for saving some time and for finding that perfect match! I will say about 50% of my couples this year booked me just from the internet this year and they are often THE MOST PERFECT couples for me! So there’s nothing wrong with “just knowing” when it’s right either. Still, I am always happy to meet with potential clients. And it’s actually something I require of couples who are inquire and want more pricing info.
(me with one of my adorable, “perfect-fit” 2010 couples Ryan + Kristina – who by the way booked me on-the-spot at our consultation in 2009)
Next up…. the MEETING and BOOKING your vendors…stay tuned!