You and your partner are the focus of your Big Day, but there are a lot of other people in the background who help turn your dream wedding into reality. We are talking about your wedding vendors, from photographers to wedding planners, and everything in between. Being able to communicate your vision and entrust them with executing it perfectly is no small effort.
Sure, setting your budget and reading online reviews is a great place to start, but there are other less obvious ways to help you decide who to hire. Sometimes, it requires exploring your priorities a bit deeper, so you’ll know what vendors matter most to you and your soon-to-be spouse. We’re breaking down the essential steps to vetting your wedding team so you can happily hire vendors with no regrets afterward.
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Here's How to Figure Out Which Vendors You Need
While we all like nice things, the reality is that most of us cannot afford to have every single high-end vendor package that we want. So, it’s important to speak with your other half and figure out what aspects of your wedding deserve a more significant chunk of your budget.
Once you’ve prioritized your key vendors, list out ones that would be “nice to have.” This is in case you end up with more wedding savings than you expected or a family member offers to pitch in. To help, here is a list of some of the most popular types of wedding vendors:
- Wedding Officiant
- DJ or Musicians
- Wedding Planner
- Makeup Artist
- Transportation Company
- Lighting & Event Production
- Furniture, Décor, or Linen Rentals
Depending on how you envision your wedding day, there might be many other vendors you'll want to consider. Or, maybe you’re going the DIY route and can cross a bunch off this list. This is your day, so do what feels right for you and fits your budget.
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You Made a Vendor Wishlist. What’s Next?
Now it is time to start researching local vendors in each category. The more time you allow for hiring vendors, the better team you’ll end up with. If you’ve decided to go with a wedding planner, we recommend making that your first hire. Once you’ve signed a contract with them, planners can help you book other vendors. They can also recommend professionals they’ve worked with regularly and even negotiate discounts or extra add-ons.
Most wedding planners take on a limited number of weddings each season and are typically booked over a year in advance, so start early. While it might be tempting to save by booking a day-of planner, we advise against it. It’s hard for someone to show up on the day of your wedding and be able to execute everything clearly. You’ll get much more from a full-service planner who can speak with your other vendors to create a collaborative team early on.
Next, focus on your caterer, photographer, and officiant. These vendors usually only book one wedding per day, so you’ll want to start reaching out early. This way, you can lock them in for your date before someone else does.
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Where to Find Wedding Vendors You’ll Love
You know your budget, the types of vendors you want to hire, and have an idea of who to hire first. Yay, that’s a lot of progress! Now it’s time to find quality vendors you want to work with.
Think of some recent weddings you’ve attended. Did the band keep you dancing all night long? Or, did the food make your mouth water? Ask the couple for their vendor’s contact info; nothing beats seeing a service provider in action at an actual wedding. If word of mouth isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. Most venues keep a list of preferred vendors they like to work with, so use it as a starting point.
Sign up for wedding industry expos, relevant online forums, and Facebook groups. These are great places to meet vendors, keep up-to-date with the latest trends, and get references from other brides. Check out real weddings you love on Instagram and read the captions to find the vendors who put it together. Also, check out award-winning vendors on sites like The Knot or WeddingWire to help you narrow down who to hire.
Another great place to find vendors are news articles and wedding magazine editorials. You can also check wedding advice from experts in the industry on TikTok or Pinterest. Once you’ve connected with your ideal vendor, ask if they have other pros they could recommend for the different services you need.
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How to Hire a Quality Team
Since you’ve narrowed down the people you want to hire, it's time to reach out and ask if your date is available. Loop them into your wedding vision and inquire about packages they might offer. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you thoroughly vet them. Here are our top 10 tips for doing just that:
1. Scope out their Recent Work
The first step should always be to check out their website and official social media accounts. It’s the best way to see your vendor’s recent work. It’ll also give you good insight into their services and creative style. Some vendors will even list packages and price ranges on their websites too. If everything seems to be in order, move on to step two.
2. Read their Reviews on Third-Party Sites
Sure, they might have reviews on their website, but you’ll want to check out some third-party sites to get the full picture. Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews are good places to look. Be wary if there are no reviews or something seems off (like owners leaving reviews for their own business).
Pay attention to negative reviews to see what went wrong and how the vendor responded. Hopefully, you’ll find glowing reviews from past brides and be ready to proceed.
3. Pay Attention to How They Communicate
Keep an eye out for how your vendor responds to your initial inquiry. Do they answer promptly and address all of your questions? Or, are you getting a template response that leaves you scratching your head? These are all signs of how they will communicate with you leading up to and on your wedding day.
You’ll want to hire vendors who are great communicators, make themselves accessible beyond just an email or two, and are proactively engaging with you to set expectations and ease any concerns.
Photo Credit: Rene Asmussen, Pexels
4. Connect with Past Clients
If the vendor has passed all of the steps so far, that’s a great sign! But, this next step will really help you feel confident in your decision. Quality vendors love showing off their work, so they’ll likely have some recent clients who won’t mind raving about them on a short call.
Ask the vendor if there’s a couple they can put you in touch with or if they have some real wedding galleries to share. This will help you get a better understanding of their process and service. It will also fill you in on how experienced and established the vendor is.
5. Ask a Lot of Questions
These days, more couples are bucking tradition and looking to celebrate their nuptials in unique, meaningful ways. For this reason, you might have questions that haven't been asked before. Communication is a two-way street, so we urge you to ask those important questions before signing a contract.
The best way to do this is with an in-person meeting or video conference. If that is not possible, then aim for an extended phone call. Make sure you vibe with this person since they will be there on one of the biggest days of your life.
This is also a great chance to communicate your preferences, budget, and vision to them, so you are on the same page. Here are some questions to consider when meeting with your vendors:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many weddings do you book in a year? Do you book more than one wedding per day?
- What is your booking process, and do you have a sample contract?
- What services are included, and what is out of scope?
- How do you manage deliverables leading up to and on the wedding day?
- How much is your retainer, and what is your payment schedule?
- What is your backup plan if there’s an emergency or you get sick?
- What is your cancellation/rescheduling policy?
- Is your company insured?
6. Trust Your Gut
If the conversation is strained or something feels off, don’t second-guess yourself. Move on. Even if a vendor seems perfect on paper, they might not be the right fit for you and your partner. Weddings are stressful enough; you want to hire someone who puts you at ease on your Big Day.
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7. Compare Their Service Offerings
Even if you love the first vendor you meet with, we’d recommend meeting with at least one other if time allows for it. This way, you can compare what services are offered and their associated costs. You’d be surprised to find how different pricing can be. While higher costs often equate to higher quality, that is not always the case.
Pay attention to the included deliverables and scope of work. If a vendor is priced much higher than their competitors, ask questions to determine why. You might even open the door to negotiations and stretch your budget further than expected just by inquiring. Be reasonable and consider their responses and work quality as seen in their galleries, website, and referrals.
8. Don’t Make Any Assumptions
If something seems like it should be included but is not explicitly listed, like photo rights or prints, do not make any assumptions. Instead, always ask and get the answer in writing.
Don’t assume they know what you expect from them unless you’ve previously discussed it or it is listed in your contract. Just as you want your vendors to be great communicators, you should also aim to communicate effectively. This way, you’ll prevent any unnecessary surprises on your Big Day.
9. Try to See Them in Action
For vendors like transportation and rental companies, florists, DJs, and musicians, there might be an opportunity to see them in action before your wedding day. Ask for tours of vehicles or rental warehouses, if you can preview work during set-up for another wedding, see samples of bouquets, or copies of delivered wedding galleries. For musicians and DJs, find out if they have any gigs at a local venue where you can see them perform. Even if they say no, it still never hurts to ask.
10. Give Vendors Space to Deliver Your Vision
So, you’ve fully vetted and hired your dream vendor! Before you celebrate, there’s one last thing to do: take a step back. Rather than micromanaging your team and limiting their creativity, we urge you to trust their experience and talent.
Once you’ve communicated what you expect for your wedding day, give them the space to deliver your vision and the freedom to make some recommendations. You might be happily surprised by your vendor’s ideas. We are sure you’ve made some excellent choices with these steps, and your dream wedding will be well on its way.
Photo Credit: Maria Gloss, Pexels