Because most of us don’t plan a wedding more than once or twice in our lifetimes, the process tends to be not only fiercely overwhelming and confusing, but somewhat counter-intuitive. This morning, I want to share four tips about what really helped me through the process of choosing wedding vendors, and what I’ve learned from watching other brides.
1. Ask for Referrals
Why re-invent the wheel, if someone you know already did the hard work? Ask your recently-married friends about their vendors, and if they would work with them again. Make sure the style matches yours before you book that vendor–things like flowers and photography are so style-dependent that you may not agree.
When you hire a vendor you love, ask them who they love. They will most likely know who will take excellent care of you. My photographer told me where to shop for my wedding gown, and she was spot-on. I would have never known about the shop or the amazing experience I could have. If you are working with a planner, she or he will have a list of greats, too.
Another great thing to ask the married friends you trust: would you change anything about how you spent your budget? So much is thrown at us with advertising, and “you have to do this”, and “these favors will make your guests love you”, and “your bridesmaids will never speak to you again if you don’t buy them this”, etc. Speaking to friends who are no longer in the emotional planning process may give you ideas on how to maximize your budget to the things you will remember and carry forward with you.
2. Go to Bridal Shows
I love great bridal shows. Not all shows are created equal, or are meant for your style, so do some research before you go. Visit the websites of some of the featured vendors and see if you are interested. I chose over half of my vendors from two shows I went to in Portland, and I also found so many great ideas I would have never thought of.
Smaller bridal shows, like Very Engaging, The Art of Weddings and Rocked, allow you to meet vendors and create a connection with them. Ask them questions, have them show you their work, make an appointment to go see them after the show. Don’t just stuff a bunch of cards and handouts in a bag and throw that in the back of a closet after the show–take time to pull out the people you really bonded with. Why start from scratch again in three months when you can’t remember which florist blew your mind with their style?
Bring your girlfriends. They will help you see things you may have missed, and it’s fun! Only bring your fiancé if it’s something they are interested in–bridal shows can be loud, crowded and full of girlie stuff. Don’t ram it down their throat if they’re unwilling–you’ll both have a miserable time.
3. Love Your Vendors
A wedding planner I work with recently had a couple of major catastrophes occur between a ceremony and reception. The caterer saved the day by literally running down to the street where the flower delivery vehicle had been involved in an accident, grabbed all the flowers, and got them in place before the bride and groom arrived to the reception site.
There are many times when florists, caterers, makeup artists, photographers, DJs and other vendors go considerably outside their job descriptions and contracts to make sure the wedding goes smoothly. If you hire people who you feel truly care about you and your day, you may never know just how much they do for you.
When you’re interviewing wedding vendors, take the time to go beyond price. Hire people you can’t live without, whose style you love, who you get along with. Remember, some vendors choose to provide better services to fewer brides–you may pay more, but you will get not only a vendor who will do an incredible job, but will also care so much about you and your wedding that they will do whatever they can for you.
One last personal note on this: I believe your vendors should love weddings. Because of the high-stress, perfectionistic, emotional environment, weddings are not for everyone. Those of us who love weddings also understand them and what we are likely to face that day. We are ready to take on challenges with grace and a good attitude, instead of increasing your stress by freaking out or not giving you the support you need. This is a great measure of whether a vendor is a good fit for you–talk to us about it during the interview.
4. Call References!
Let me refer you to this story. Many vendors will take great care of you, but you may also run across some indifferent and/or malicious people. Ask for references before you book, and call them. Call more than one! I was thrilled early this year when one of my brides asked for two references. She called both brides, and they were my best advocates. All vendors should feel this way about their references, and should support you in your decision to verify quality.
When you do call, here are some great things to ask:
- How did the planning process go? Were they supportive and helpful when guiding you through decisions?
- Did they answer phone calls and emails in a timely fashion?
- Did you have any issues with them, and if you did, were they resolved gracefully and in a timely fashion?
- Was the service and/or product what you wanted?
- How were they with your guests (if applicable), and you? Did you enjoy working with them?
Now, go have fun and get ready for an amazing wedding!