Everything you NEED to know about vendors, before you book! (Part 1)
So, I am starting to find that this is a controversial subject but one I feel needs to be addressed as so many of my clients and friends that I speak to seem a little lost over it all.
The first thing I will say is, there are a lot of "wedding vendors" out there. With the invention of the Interwebby, (wait, does anyone these days even remember life without it, is it even relevant to talk about the invention of it, as if we know what life was like pre-web?.. I digress) it is all too easy for one to create a (free) website, buy some semi expensive equipment they learned how to use online and whoosh - they are a wedding vendor!!! However, in my humble opinion and speaking from personal and professional experience, it takes so much more to be a great wedding vendor.
Let me make one thing clear, I am not saying all vendors who are just starting out are bad, everyone has to start somewhere. I am sure when I first started in this career I was terrible at it (sorry early clients) whereas many people I know hit the ground running and were amazing at what they do from the get go. So don't let me put you off hiring that newer wedding planner who is giving you a great deal while they are launching their business. If they went to school to learn all of the in and outs, have done at least 5 weddings for friends/family and you know they have done an amazing job, there is no reason they can't be the perfect vendor for you. You just have to do your research.
Research can be a boring and time-consuming task but it is absolutely essential to making your wedding run smoothly and achieving the end product you really want. And I am not just talking about reading yelp reviews. While I love yelp for many reasons, they cannot be the extent of your knowledge on a vendor. People rarely take the time to go online and write a review about a service they were "OK" with. Mostly, I find reviews online are either angry rants or really really excited, happy clients who got everything they dreamed of. But neither tell the complete story.
I use the example of one of my best friends who got married last year. While she did not have a terrible experience, she was not entirely happy with the photographer she chose once she finally received the wedding pictures. She had painstakingly compiled a list of photos she really wanted to have taken and most of these were not captured. (Which was strange because most of the bridal party have said they remember posing for said photos) My friend had booked this photographer after her friend had used them for her wedding the previous year. That was the extent of her research. She loved the photographs of her friends wedding and based her decision solely on that. She did not go online and tell other clients to be aware of the issues she had, although it made her unhappy, it was not enough to tell others about.
My point (that I am taking a long time to make... stick with me people) is that you need a complete picture and the only way to achieve that is to do your research, lots of research.
Before you begin with research, you have to do more research. Haha - sorry not sorry. What I mean by this is, you have to have a good idea of what you want/expect from your vendor. For instance, do you want a DJ who will play exactly the songs you hand select regardless of his advice that your mostly 60+year old guests will not enjoy hip hop music during dinner or do you want a DJ that will play to the crowd, MC the event in just the right way to keep guests informed but not spend the whole night pretending he is a radio DJ and not shutting up for a minute? You might want to research the different wedding photography styles available, do you want classic style, dramatic, documentary?
Once you have an idea of what you want your wedding to be, you still can't start your research. I know, right? I am telling you research is the most important thing but not letting you get started!!! Patience, grasshopper, I promise all will be revealed.
Something even more important than research in choosing your vendors is budget. To me, budget is the number one most important part of wedding planning (with the exception of having fun throughout the process of course). You will need to sit down with your fiance and discuss what budget you will set for the wedding. It is important to be realistic, we would all love to only spend $500 on our weddings but what are we really going to get for that. Once you have set a reasonable budget and know what you are willing to spend on each item for your wedding, then the fun (research) can begin.
But where to begin? The first thing I would suggest is deciding if you have the budget for a wedding planner or if you really even need a wedding planner. 99% of the time I think it is the best thing you can do for your wedding. Finding the right planner should save you money, as they will be much more experienced at negotiating costs with other vendors. Not only does it save money but it can also save you all the time I suggested you spend on other research. Your wedding planer should have a list of trusted vendors that they have worked with countless times, so your research is done for you.
To find the right wedding planner, start online. Reviews are a good starting tool, then ask friends for referrals. Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few to call, ask the prospects if they have past clients who will give testimonials. Also, ask if the planner has vendors they have worked with recently - especially venues and call those vendors. Ask if they would recommend them. (If you want to be really vigilant, check reviews on these vendors too. You don't want to take someone's opinion if they don't know what they are doing either). The same research can be done for all of the other vendors if you are not hiring a planner.
I say 99% of the time. If you have a strong idea of what you want for your wedding and are not only willing to put in the time to research every detail but actually excited by the prospect, then by all means jump right in. Many wedding venues come with a "day of" coordinator who can help with many parts of the wedding, including coordinating the entire wedding day. If this is the case, a wedding planner may not be something you need or want. I would highly recommend discussing this with the venue you are considering, and having a clear outline of the duties performed by the on site coordinator, Not all of them are going to provide full service, so definitely have this discussion before you book your venue.
In the next part of this post, which I will post next week, I will give you research tips for the other vendors you might need, as well as additional costs that you might incur but not know about in advance...