What Are the Tips on Choosing Your Wedding Vendors?

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For most newly engaged couples, the first part of wedding planning involves selecting your vendors. Think about it: To nail down a date (which is often the very first order of business), you have to decide on a venue that can either accommodate the day you have in mind or, depending on your flexibility, determine the date based on their availability. Either way, you’ll be dealing with vendors shortly after the proposal—something that’s probably brand-new territory for the majority of duos.

That’s why we’ve put together the following guide—it will help you navigate your vendor search with ease. Complete with advice from an expert wedding planner, this comprehensive tip list will tell you everything you need to know about selecting the best possible big-day team for your event. As you peruse the ahead suggestions, keep one thing in mind: Always trust your gut. Regardless of their flawless portfolio or glowing online reviews, a vendor isn’t right for you if they don’t make you feel secure, confident, and excited about your choice. This often has nothing to do with the vendor’s work or work ethic. Just like with romantic partners, you won’t vibe with everyone—and that’s perfectly OK. Need help planning your wedding? Check out our list of Wedding Event Planners here.

Determining if a vendor is, in fact, perfect for you should feel natural. But we know you’ll want to make this decision based on more than just a feeling. From the best ways to research vendors (online, word of mouth, and previous clients!) to understanding how budget factors into your team selection, the following tips will help you curate the ultimate set of wedding vendors; they’ll help you execute the event of your dreams, guaranteed. 

Set Your Date, Venue and Budget First

Before you even think about booking wedding suppliers, make sure you’ve locked in your wedding date, venue and budget first! Ticking off these critical details before getting your heart set on a specific supplier will help you avoid any potential disappointment later down the track.

Picking out your wedding location often gives you access to a slew of tried-and-true vendors since most venues will provide their recommendations. It’s always great to work with folks who are familiar with space—although it’s not 100% necessary. If you’re not feeling the preferred vendor list, feel free to explore other options.

It’s also important to remember that some wedding venues might have locked-in contracts with specific suppliers and won’t allow you to bring in any third parties. If you do have a dream team of suppliers in mind, be sure to check the finer details before signing your venue contract.

Do Your Homework With Your Fiancé and Set a Ballpark Budget in Advance.

Set your budget and the number of guests first so that you don’t fall in love with a venue or vendors out of your price range or can’t accommodate the size of your group. Even if you do end up spending a little more than you had anticipated, it’s better to lay out your expectations in private. You don’t want to put yourselves in an awkward situation where one of you wants to book, but the other is concerned about cash flow, and you’re arguing about it in front of the wedding planner, DJ, or whomever. As you compare the shop, you’ll get a much clearer picture of how much this is all going to cost you.  

It’s also important to discuss your significant likes and dislikes. That way, you’re both on the same page about what your must-haves are — a stellar band, an out-of-this-world menu, gorgeous photos to look back on — as opposed to what would be considered bonuses. Come prepared with a list of questions so that you don’t get so carried away with their fantastic portfolio, film or demonstration that you forget to nail down the specifics.

Prioritise Your Key Suppliers

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Now that the practical details have been locked in, it’s time to start curating your wedding team. So, where should you begin?

Start by making a priority list of any critical suppliers who need to be secured sooner rather than later. Remember, you don’t need to book all of your wedding suppliers at the same time. The most in-demand suppliers that generally book out first include photographers, celebrants and wedding planners, so consider researching these suppliers first.

It would help if you also thought about your overall wedding vision and priorities for the day to help you determine your timeline for booking suppliers. For example, suppose live music and gourmet food are your top priorities. In that case, you’ll want to secure entertainment and catering as soon as possible (and consider allocating a higher portion of your budget accordingly).

Schedule appointments with the most sought-after vendors on your consideration list first, such as a popular venue in your area or a photographer who books up two years in advance. If any, gauge which vendors out of the pool of candidates you’re considering may fall into this category by having an initial phone call to inquire about their availability so that you can prioritise accordingly.

It’s essential to meet face-to-face, and if that isn’t possible, whether because you’re throwing a destination wedding or you need to book now, then set up a Skype chat. Reading a potential vendor’s facial and body cues will give you a better sense of their demeanour.

Follow the same etiquette that you would for a meeting at work: dress professionally (no sweats!), respect the vendor’s time (call if you think you’re going to be late), and be courteous and hear them out (even if you know they’re not “The One” after just five minutes).

Then Tackle Your Core Team

After you nail down your venue, you’ll want to select the team that will—quite literally—bring the rest of your wedding day together. We always say to nail down the core vendor team ASAP. This would be your photographer, videographer, florist, caterer, stationer, and band. We’d add planner and event designer to that list!

Do Some Research Online

If you’ve started your vendor search, you’ve likely already turned to the Internet. Big-scale search engines like Pinterest are significant for big-day research—peruse popular wedding blogs for more information. Many of them have vendor sections you can search in your area.

Instagram is another great vendor mecca. Look at hashtags for your venue and other venues in the area to see who people have been using.

Determine If Your Personalities Mesh Well. 

Let’s say that you and your fiancé evaluate their work and find that it’s top-notch and in line with your wedding style. Great! Another not-so-obvious consideration is whether you have chemistry with this person. You’ll be entrusting them with an essential service (not to mention the high monetary costs involved), so it’s crucial to be comfortable around them. Remember, you’ll be interacting with them on what will likely be the most emotional day of your life, so you want someone who will be able to put you at ease, not stress you out even more.

If something feels “off” and you’re not sure what it is, that may be your subconscious telling you to keep searching. Beware of the following red flags: disparaging talk about a current or past client (who’s to say they won’t bad-mouth you, too?), it takes ten phone calls to get in touch with them, or they make judgmental assumptions about you based on your budget, whether by trying to strong-arm you into adding more features or making you feel bad that you’re on the lower end of their client roster (e.g. “Well, most brides I work with spending $2,000 more on their flowers”).

Consider Your Requirements

As you begin narrowing down your supplier short-list, you’ll also want to think about precisely what you’re looking for in each supplier.

Start by making a list of requirements for each vendor and outlining your specific wants and needs. For example, maybe you want a photographer specialising in candid, documentary-style images or a wedding planner with previous experience at your venue. Knowing your priorities for each supplier will help you streamline your research and make the process much quicker and easier.

Do Your Research Online and Offline

Researching wedding suppliers both online and offline is a great way to find your perfect fit. Spend some time browsing wedding directories, wedding blogs, social media and search engines to learn more about local suppliers in your area. Be sure to check out their galleries and testimonials from past couples to get an overall indication of their quality of work.

You can also take your research offline through referrals and word-of-mouth. Reach out to any recently married friends or family members, or ask your venue and other suppliers for their recommendations. Wedding expos and fairs are another fantastic way to find suppliers you connect with!

Ask for Client Referrals.

The adage of “you get what you pay for” isn’t always necessarily true — you might find that a $10,000 videographer is just OK, whereas one that costs only $2,000 could blow you away. This is where other brides’ testimonials come in! Ask vendors to provide contact info for recent clients who can vouch for their services. Don’t forget to pay it forward when you’re married by writing glowing reviews, along with thank-you notes, for those who went above and beyond to make your big day special.

Since many vendors work closely together in a given region, you could also ask others you’ve already booked if they’ve worked with this particular person before and if they would recommend them.

Get Everything That’s Included in Writing, Down to the Smallest Detail.

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To truly understand what’s included in a quoted price, the vendor should itemise everything for you. For example, if you know that you want orchids, garden roses and hydrangea in your centrepieces, then all of that should be listed. Although this might sound slightly over-the-top, this information will safeguard you in the event of a dispute or if the items you requested aren’t available during that time because of unforeseen issues.

When reviewing the contract, look out for any hidden costs (wording such as “additional costs may be incurred” and “plus the cost of setup and delivery” are dead giveaways). Ask for clarification if anything is unclear. You’ll also need to know their policy on late fees if the ceremony or reception runs later than you expected. 

Don’t Overlook Word of Mouth.

Ask your friends!. Chances are some of your friends have already gotten married—and referrals are some of the best ways to find great vendors. Don’t blindly accept your loved ones’ referrals; however—make sure their personal and wedding styles match your own: If your friend stresses you out, maybe avoid their vendor recommendations. But if you have similar personalities, get as many as possible! Another tried-and-true word-of-mouth method? Chat with your prospective vendor’s previous clients on the phone to get a sense of who they are beyond their portfolio.

Ask Questions

As you begin making contact with different wedding suppliers, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be upfront and open with your wants and needs, including your style, priorities and budget. Touch base on anything you might be unsure about and ask each supplier to talk you through their process and contract.

When it comes to wedding suppliers you’ll be spending more one-on-one time with (such as your photographer, planner or celebrant), an initial consultation is always a good idea. It’s important to choose suppliers you genuinely get along with, so take the time to jump on the phone or catch up for a coffee to find people you feel relaxed and comfortable around.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate.

Already have tons of beautiful photos of the two of you that you’ll be able to use for your save-the-date or other wedding elements? Skip the engagement shoot or, if that isn’t possible, ask if you can use that photo session for your future child’s birth announcement instead. Unsure about whether you need a two-hour wedding video? Inquire about whether you can get an edited highlights clip and raw footage if you change your mind at a later point in time. Using the same vendor for multiple services (e.g. music and lighting) may also help you save a bundle.

You’ll never know unless you bother to ask — keep in mind that a bit of kindness goes a long way.

Trust Your Gut—and Don’t Overwhelm Yourself.

Trusting your gut is one of the most prominent vendor search tips. If you’ve hit it off with a vendor, mark them as a strong candidate. But if you don’t, listen to that feeling—and cut them loose.

Limiting the scope of your research is just as important. Don’t look at too many people. Start with one to three options, and if you do not love anyone, expand your search. Sometimes too many choices can feel paralysing. Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help you organise a stress-free wedding.

Break up Your Vendor Budget Based on Priorities

Vendors cost money; most of the time, they cost a lot of money. But you’ll want to keep your priorities in mind when creating a budget—and highlight those must-haves before you go into your vendor search. You want to sit down with your partner and your families and determine what your priorities are. Pick your top three and know that that’s where you will commit a decent amount of your budget. That said, put together an overall budget before you start booking vendors to have a general sense of what you can allocate to each vendor.

There Isn’t a “Most” Expensive Vendor.

The vendor that gets the most significant piece of that budget pie is up to you—and mainly depends on the style of wedding you’re having and how many guests” you’ve decided to invite, says the planner.

You are generally speaking. However, there are a few vendors that come with consistently heftier price tags. Flowers can certainly start to add up if you’re doing multiple days or have lots of guests. Bands will always be more than DJs, and photography can become pricey as well, depending on your locale and how [much coverage you need. Depending on your printing methods, paper can add up—but you can keep this element cost-effective by checking out some semi-custom or ready-made options online!

Watch Out for Red Flags

If any of the following red flags crop up during the vetting process, seriously consider not hiring the vendor and not responding to your emails in a timely fashion, a general sense of disorganisation, a bad attitude, and defensiveness. Again, always trust your gut!

Trust the Process

Once you’ve secured your dream team, trust the process and move forward with confidence! Remember, these people are experts in the industry and work with engaged couples just like you for a living. With the right team by your side, you can rest assured your big day will be everything you envisaged and more.

Once you have your dream team of vendors in place, give them clear directions and let them do their jobs while you enjoy your loved ones, and more importantly, the beginning of your new life with your partner. 

You’ll Know When It’s Right.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your vendors during the planning process—and on the weekend of your wedding—so you want to love them! The right relationship—like your romantic one—will develop naturally, she says. You’ll “feel at ease when you’re with them, especially since they know what they are talking about and what they are doing. Looking for the Top Wedding Planner in Melbourne? Look no further and check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners here.

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