Behind every dream wedding is an extensive list of wedding vendors who brought all the individual parts together. When planning a wedding, you’ll need to go through a large wedding vendors list to check-off all the details for your big day: ceremony venue, florist, decorator, dressmaker, dress tailor, jewelers, hair stylist, makeup artist, stationer, photographer, videographer, musicians, officiant, reception venue, caterer, cake baker, DJ or band, hotelier, travel agent, and more. While you may not use all these services, you will likely use many of them. This is such a large undertaking that you may even want to hire a wedding planner to help you navigate the planning process, which is another big decision in itself. If you don’t know how to research wedding vendors when you start planning your dream wedding, this process can quickly feel like a nightmare. Having the best wedding vendors possible will make your day less stressful and way more enjoyable. Good vendors are easy to communicate with, transparent, experienced, talented, and fun to work with. When you don’t have to worry about your wedding vendors, you can focus on the most important thing—getting married! So how do you communicate with wedding vendors in the planning stage? What are some red flags to look for as you begin your research, and where should you start? We’re here with the ultimate guide to wedding vendors so you know everything you need to know before you book anything for your big day.
How to Communicate with Wedding VendorsCommunication is key when it comes to wedding vendors. Because you’ll need to coordinate with so many different professionals on your wedding weekend, it’s important to work with reliable vendors who are easy to communicate with throughout the process. If a vendor doesn’t communicate in a reliable fashion when you’re in the research phase, they probably won’t be reliable in the end. Here’s what to expect from the best wedding vendors in the business and how to communicate with them.
- Look for professionalism. Are they easy to contact? Do they respond quickly? Do they have a personable, yet professional demeanor?
- Transparency builds trust. A good vendor has nothing to hide and will be honest with you throughout the communication process. When meeting with potential wedding photographers, ask to see an entire wedding album, not just their best-of portfolio. This will give you a better idea of the overall quality of their shots throughout a single day. Anyone can talk themselves and their work up, but in the end, the work should speak for itself. If they’re reluctant to show you what you asked for? Red flag.
- Don’t expect a mind reader. Transparency goes two ways—be open about what you’re looking for. A single wedding decorator can pull off a variety of visions, from simple to elaborate. Be sure to explain your vision and your doubts as you discuss the wedding details. If you communicate your expectations clearly, it’s more likely that they’ll be met. Don’t assume your vendor knows exactly what you want—every couple is different, so be open in discussing what you like and don’t like.
- Personality is important. When meeting with potential vendors, ask yourself if you like them as a person. Maybe the photographer has beautiful shots, but he or she got on your nerves a little bit when you met. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Do I want to spend eight hours with this person on one of the most important days of my life?” If the answer is no, keep looking. Vendors are people, and you want to surround yourself with people you genuinely like on your wedding day.
- Ask who will be doing the job. With certain vendors, it’s important to inquire who will actually show up on your wedding day. Many large photography studios work with a team of independent photographers to fill the demand. The contact person you met with might not be the person shooting your wedding. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but be sure to ask early on to avoid any surprises. If someone else will be taking the photos, make sure you ask to meet that person specifically and see their portfolio specifically. This situation can quickly become a red flag if the contact person can’t guarantee a specific photographer before you book, or they can’t provide you with examples of their work. Wedding photography is one of the most intimate parts of the day—trust us, you want to meet your photographer in advance.
How to Research the Best Wedding VendorsSo now you know how to communicate with wedding vendors when you start looking. But where do you start looking, and how should you compare vendors to one another? Weddings can be expensive, so you want to know exactly what you’re getting for the hard-earned money you’re spending. Here are a few tips for what to look for when you start researching everything on your wedding vendors list.
- Start your research on Forever Bride or the Knot. These sites aggregate vendors along with reviews of their services, so you can start your research in one place. This can make the initial research stage easier than trying to find all your options through a search engine like Google.
- Read testimonials and look at real examples. Once you branch out to a vendor’s website, be sure to look through their customer testimonials and reviews. See what people praised in their work and see if that aligns with what you’re looking for in that vendor. Look for photos from real weddings they’ve worked on. Don’t stop there, though! Check out the reviews on unbiased sites that aren’t managed by the vendor, too. Sites like the Knot host reviews, but you can also check the business’s Facebook or Google reviews for more opinions. Just because a website looks good or the business shows up near the top of a Google search doesn’t mean it’s the best!
- Ask your newly-married friends. Newlyweds love to gush about their wedding. Ask them who their favorite vendors were and what they liked about them. The testimonial of a good friend could prove more valuable than the opinion of a stranger online. And while everyone wants to remember their wedding as a peachy experience, your friends might share details about their vendors that help you decide who was not so pleasant to work with. Take their advice with a grain of salt, though, unless you have the same vision for your wedding as your friends. Every bride has a different aesthetic—maybe the opulent florist was perfect for your friend’s wedding, but if you have a simpler aesthetic, that florist may not be perfect for you.
- Look for wedding vendors. When researching your wedding vendors list, look for businesses that specialize in weddings. A local photographer who also does weddings might not be as comfortable with the shooting situation of a formal ceremony. A DJ who normally does high school proms but can do weddings might make your dream reception a bit awkward. For best results, find someone who’s experienced and comfortable working in the wedding industry specifically.
- Know what you’re looking for. Obviously you’re looking for a great wedding caterer, but what kind of food do you plan to serve at the reception? Whether you’re dreaming of a Mediterranean feast, Southern comfort food, or vegan-friendly entrees, look for caterers who specialize in this. The “best” caterer might not have a menu that suits you, or a caterer that is highly reviewed for their barbecue might not do vegetarian goodies as well. Don’t waste time looking into highly rated vendors who don’t have experience in the specifics of what you’re looking for, whether that’s food, décor, music, or any number of other things.
- Ask questions. When you’re researching the best wedding vendors, it’s important to ask questions about their experience, their approach to the job, their style and flexibility, their specialties, etc. Wedding Shoppe bride Dani advises that you should treat this like a job interview, because it is!
- See what they can do for your budget. When meeting with a vendor who deals in visuals, ask to see weddings they’ve done for your price point. This helps you compare what they can do with what they can do for your The elaborate decorations you see might be beautiful, but if they’re out of your price range, this doesn’t matter. In general, watch out for vendors who aren’t transparent with you about cost—you want to work with someone you can trust. They should respect your budget while being open and realistic with you about what flexibility you might need to achieve your vision. It is also possible to utilize a wedding registry service like Zola to create a cash fund for vendors. This is a great way to help reduce wedding expenses and select the vendors you want.
- Be wary of a bargain. If a vendor is far below market price, there’s probably a reason. They might be inexperienced, or they might not work with market-standard materials and/or technology. They might just do this job on the weekends to help pay the bills, which means their “years” of experience could actually represent far less than a full-time newbie.
- Get professional recommendations from other vendors. Unless you also work in the industry, these vendors have probably been to far more weddings than you, and they’ve certainly learned from that experience. They’ve also built a network of trusted colleagues who work in other services. If you’ve found a vendor you trust, ask them for professional recommendations. Trust me, the wedding photographer you just booked has seen flowers good and bad, DJs fun and obnoxious, and makeup elegant and cringeworthy. See who has impressed them the most and continue your research there.
Everything You Need to Know Before Booking Wedding VendorsEven if you’ve done your research on the individual vendors and their services, there’s more you should know before you book. Most vendors require a non-refundable deposit to secure their services, so make sure you know these top tips before you put money down for anyone on your wedding vendors list.
- Some wedding venues have vendor restrictions. Maybe you have to use their in-house catering, or they have a contract to only work with certain wedding photographers. You found the perfect church for the ceremony, but they only allow members of their pastoral staff to officiate. Inquire with your venue before you book anything else, lest you pay a non-refundable deposit on a caterer you can’t end up using. To avoid this, pick a venue that is flexible with vendors so you don’t feel stuck as you move forward with your planning.
- Determine your priorities. You have a lot of vendors to book, but a limited wedding budget. What’s most important to you? Photography? Music? Flowers? Catering? Cake? Decorations? With your spouse-to-be, pick your top three and prioritize them in your budget so you the details you care most about will be like you’ve always dreamed. The other important reason to prioritize your vendors is that not every vendor will be available on your date. If your heart is set on a certain venue, florist, or wedding band, you can book these things first or even plan your day around them. Once the most important things are booked, the other details can fall into place as they are available.
- Make it official. A professional, experienced vendor should have some form of written contract (and likely a deposit) to confirm your booking. The invoice should be itemized and clearly explain any potential additional costs so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you sign.
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