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How to Decide on your Wedding Vendors

How to Decide on your Wedding Vendors

Choosing the correct vendors is an essential component to ensuring that your big day runs as smooth as possible. Prior to meeting with your vendors, we encourage you to take a look at these tips so you know what to expect during vendor meetings.

What order should we book our vendors? Prioritize by who can take multiple weddings (list months out from wedding)

Priority– Venue(s), photographer, DJ/Band, planner, videographer (vendors who only have one spot open per day are going to be the first ones to book up!)

Next up – Caterer, Officiant, rentals, florist, hair & makeup

Less  urgent – Transportation, photo booth, lighting, stationer, baker (I put these in the “less urgent” category because these vendors generally have the ability to book multiple events in a day) 

1.) Know, Embrace, and Stick to Your Budget

As we discussed in the Budget Bundle, your budget is a huge factor when determining what services you will need from your vendors. By prioritizing your budget based upon your wants and needs from your vendors can allow you to narrow down which services you may need more of or less of.  If you haven’t done this yet, stop now and go back and complete the Budget Breakdown before doing anything else!

2.) What is Your Style?

Before getting too far into securing your wedding vendors, we encourage  you to begin choosing your color scheme and style for your big day. This component of planning becomes essential when selecting which vendors will help convey your vision of your wedding day. In order to portray the vision you ideally would like to create on your wedding day, it may be helpful for you to bring examples of what you would like your vendor to provide including color scheme, Pinterest links, and any other forms of inspiration.

If you do not have examples of what you specifically want, it is always helpful when portraying your vision to your vendors to know your likes and dislikes. This can help the vendors create exactly what you are looking for.  Most often this refers to the visuals like linens, florals, and design, but don’t forget it’s equally important for your non-design vendors like the musicians and photographers to fit into the personality of the event you are creating.

3.) Do Your Research

When they say that preparation is key, they are not kidding. Doing your research about a potential wedding vendor prior to meeting with them is important. This will give you a general idea of what services the vendor provides, and what you can expect from them. Research prior to meeting with your vendor allows you to see the possible package offers that the vendor provides (and the prices!). Take time to review these services to come up with questions specific to your needs.  

4.) Come with Questions Ready

Thinking about your big day and the services you expect to receive from your vendors comes along with a lot of unanswered questions. Upon initially meeting with your vendors, we encourage you to write these questions down as they come up because your vendors will be more than happy to clear up those questions. Having your questions ready for your vendors and getting these questions answered will give you a clear idea of what exactly to expect from their services. We’ll chat about some common questions to ask different vendors next!

5.)  Listen to your gut

After meeting with your potential wedding vendor for the first time, it is important to remember that you are not set in stone with that vendor. Wait to sign any contracts until you are sure that they are the one. Do not be afraid to ask your potential vendor for other referrals. There is an emotional component involved when choosing your vendors, and if you do not seem to click with them, it is okay to look elsewhere. Your vendors are a huge contributing factor on your wedding day, and we urge you to find the vendor that is the best fit for you.  

 

6.) Personality matters (sometimes)

While it’s great if you can be besties with your baker or stationer, their personalities aren’t going to be make or break on your wedding day.  There are some wedding vendors that can greatly impact your wedding day negatively if you don’t mesh, so make sure that you take this into consideration in the interview process.  These vendors include those that you’ll be interacting with all day, or will be interacting with your guests for a large portion of the event. For example, your photographer and videographer, who will be your own personal paparazzi for the day, and your DJ/Band who will be dictating the energy of the reception.   Your officiant will be the one performing the actual service, so it’s important that they can reflect the energy that you want for your ceremony.

And of course, you’ll be working very closely with your wedding planner/coordinator, whether they are helping you through the entire planning process or just pulling together the final details and there with you on the day of.  If your personalities clash with any of these vendors, it can result in an unnecessarily stressful day.

 

Questions to Ask your Wedding Vendors

Questions to Ask your Wedding Vendors

Meeting with potential vendors can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what to ask outside of how much their services cost.  Here are some suggested questions that you’ll want to make sure to ask vendors as you are interviewing them:

 

Officiant

  1. How do you create your wedding ceremonies?
  2. Do you attend the rehearsal?  
  3. Will you help us write our vows?  
  4. Will we meet in person to create the ceremony? 
  5. Do you have samples of religious and or non-religious readings, vows and symbolic ceremonies?  
  6. What is required to secure your services?  When is the final balance due? 

 

Caterer (if not provided through venue)

  1. Have you had events at our venue?
  2. Are you a licensed caterer? Are you licensed to serve alcohol?
  3. Do we have to work off a preset menu or can you create a custom menu for our event? 
  4. Do you offer event packages or is everything à la carte? What exactly do your packages include?
  5. Does the pricing include plates, flatware, glassware, etc.?  Is this disposible?
  6. Does the price include gratuities for the staff?  
  7. Can you accommodate dietary restrictions, such as kosher, vegan, etc.?
  8. How much do you charge for children’s meals? Vendor meals?
  9. Would we order our additional rental items through you? (Chairs, tables, linens, etc as needed)
  10. Will you provide a banquet manager to coordinate the meal service portion of the event?
  11. Do you provide servers through the end of the night to take care of bussing the tables and taking out the trash?
  12. Do you provide alcoholic beverages and bartenders? Can you accommodate specialty cocktails?
  13. Is coffee and tea service included with the per-person meal charge? What brands of each do you offer and do they include decaf and herbal tea options?
  14. Do you provide ice, water, and all mixers for the beverage service?
  15. How much time do you require for setting up and breaking down my event, and are there extra fees for this?
  16. Are there any fees that won’t be included in the proposal that we should be aware of? Ex. cake cutting, corkage fees, overtime hours, etc.

 

Music (ceremony and reception)

  1. Have you had events at our venue before? 
  2. How long have you been in business? 
  3. What is your pricing? Does this include setup and breakdown between ceremony and reception locations
  4. If the event lasts longer than scheduled, what are the overtime charges?
  5. Do you carry liability insurance? NOTE: This usually only applies to production companies that also supply lighting, effects, etc.
  6. How extensive is your music library or song list? What genres can you cover? Can I give you a specific list of songs I want or don’t want played?
  7. Are we guaranteed to have the DJ or perfomer(s) of our choice at our event? 
  8. Can you provide wireless mics for the ceremony?
  9. Does any of your equipment require special electrical outlets that I need to inform my wedding site about?
  10. What kind of space or stage do you require for the DJ or band?  Do you require a riser to be rented? 
  11. How much time will you need for setup, sound check and breakdown on the day of the event?
  12. What music will be provided during the breaks (for band only)? 

 

 Photographer/Videographer

  1. Have you ever shot at our venue before? 
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. How many weddings have you shot? Have you done many that were similar to mine in size and style?
  4. How would you describe your photography/videography style (e.g. traditional, photojournalistic, creative)? 
  5. What makes your work different from other photographers/videographers?
  6. Do you have a portfolio I can review? Is all of the work yours, and is it recent?
  7. Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like?
  8. Are you the photographer/videographer who will be at my wedding? Would we have second shooter or assistant?  
  9. Do you have backup equipment? What about a backup plan if you (or my scheduled shooter) are unable to shoot my wedding for some reason?
  10. What packages do you offer? Can I customize a package based on my needs? Do you include engagement sessions in your packages?
  11. Does this include any physical prints or albums? 
  12. When and how will we recieve the images/video after the weddding? 
  13. For video, what is the end product, and how long can I expect it to be? 
  14. For video, can I get the raw footage of the ceremony, toasts, etc? 

 

Florist

  1. Have you done events at my ceremony and reception location(s) before? If not, are you familiar with the sites?
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. How many weddings have you done?
  4. How many other weddings or events will you schedule on the same day?
  5. Can you work with my budget?
  6. What recommendations can you give me to maximize my budget?
  7. Do you offer specific packages or is everything customized?
  8. What flowers are in season during our wedding?  What would you recommend that works with our style and budget? 
  9. Can you provide any other accessories we might need like table numbers, card boxes, seating charts, etc? 
  10. Can I see photos of weddings similar to what we are looking for?
  11. Do you provide mockups of our flowers before the wedding? Is there an additional cost for this? 
  12. Do you set up and tear down all of our floral decor?  Is there an extra cost for this? 

 

Baker

  1. Are you a licensed baker? (your venue may require this)
  2. How are your cakes priced?  Are you able to work within our budget, or do you have a minimum order? 
  3. What flavors do you offer?  How many do you recommend we pick based on the size of cake we’re looking for?
  4. How many wedding cakes do you make in a weekend? 
  5. What are the fees for delivering the cake? 
  6. Do you have cake toppers, a knife and server, and/or cake stands to rent? What are the fees?
  7. How far in advance should I order my cake? 
  8. How much is the deposit and when is it due? When is the final payment due?
  9. Do you offer tastings? Is there a charge?

 

Hair & Makeup

  1. Would you come to us at the hotel/venue, or do we come to the salon?
  2. Do you have a minumum for the number of booked services?
  3. Can you provide lashes? Airbrushing? 
  4. How early would we need to beging to be completed on time? 
  5. Do you offer hair and makeup trials?  What is the cost?  
  6. Can you accomadate last minute add ons, if necessary?
  7. How should my wedding party prepare for services (wet vs. dry hair,  clean vs. dirty, etc)?
  8. When are final payments due?  Is gratuity included? 

 

Stationer (invites and other paper products)

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. What is your design background? 
  3. How do you create your products (template vs. custom)? 
  4. Is your printing done in-house or do you outsource it? 
  5. If they do custom invitations, what are my options for paper type, colors, ink and fonts? 
  6. Can you help us with the proper wording for the invites? 
  7. Do you offer caligraphy?  If not, can you print guest and return addresses for u? 
  8. If we need other products like place cards, programs, menue, etc, can we order those to match? 
  9. How long will it take to get my invitations in, once ordered? 
  10. Do you assemble and mail my invitations?  
  11. Will I recieve a proof before ordering the invitations? 
  12. Can I order samples before submitting the larger order? 

 

 Wedding Planners

  1. Have you worked at our venue(s) before?  If so, can you provide any feedback?  
  2. How long have you been in business?  What made you decide to be a planner?
  3. How many weddings do you do a year?  Are the all Full Service? Or another level of planning help?
  4. What different services do you offer?  
  5. Would you be our planner on the wedding day, or would we have a different coordinator? 
  6. Are you a member of any event industry groups? 
  7. What are some challenges you’ve had come up on wedding days, and how did you handle them? 
  8. Would our wedding be your only one for that day/weekend?
  9. Is event planning your full time job? 
  10. Would you have any assistance with you on our wedding day?  
  11. Are you onsite through the end of the event? If not, how long would you be onsite for? 
  12. Would we recieve and discounts through working with your vendor recommendations? 
  13. Do you make a commission on any rentals/orders that go through you? 
  14. If we hire you for Day Of or Partial Planning services, can you still recommend vendors for us? 
  15. What is included in your different packages? 
  16. Do you help run the wedding ceremony?  How about the rehearsal?  

Transportation

  1. Do you have vehicles of the appropriate size available for us on our date? 
  2. What is the cost for the vehicle we’re looking at? Are we able to split up rental hours? 
  3. Does this include champagne and/or a “Just Married” sign? 
  4. Is gratuity included? 
  5. Are we limited to the number of stops or locations within our rental time? 
  6. Can we bring food and beverages (alcohol and non-alcoholic) on board with us? 
  7. How are the vehicles licensed and maintained? Will AC/and AV be guarenteed to work?
  8. What happens if our vehicle has maintenance issues on the day of our wedding?  

Rentals (linens, chairs, lounge furniture, etc)

  1. What style of product do you have available for our date?
  2. Are you familiar with our venue and the load in/load out process? 
  3. Do you have liability insurance that you can provide our venue, if required? 
  4. Will you be able to deliver/pick up the items in the allowable time? (Some venues have very strict set up and tear down times that might result in additional fees from the rental company to staff properly, or overtime charges from the venue)
  5. Are there added delivery fees or charges for our venue? (It’s not unusal to see added fees if the venue has a challenging set up like no elevator access, or an elevator that is not suitable for their use.) 
  6. If our count is lower than predicited, are we still charged for the quoted amount? 
  7. If our count is higher than predicted, are we able to add to the quoted amount?
  8. When do you need final counts before the wedding? 

 

 

 

 

What Wedding Vendors do you Need

What Wedding Vendors do you Need

Once you have your venue and date secured, it’s time to start thinking about which wedding vendors you would like to hire that will make your big day unforgettable.  So how do you determine what vendors you need?  Most couples will have the following “core”members in addition to their venue:

Wedding Officiant – If you are not holding your wedding at a church, synagogue, or other religious institution, you will most likely need to hire an officiant to perform the actual wedding ceremony.

Caterer – If your reception venue does not offer onsite catering, you will need to work with an outside catering team to provide the food and bar services.  Some venues have strict requirements on who you must work with, while others give you free reign to bring in anyone you’d like

Music (ceremony and reception) – Most couples go right to the question of band vs. DJwhen they think about music, but make sure you don’t forget about the ceremony and cocktail hour!  Many bands and DJs can provide additional speakers and set ups for this, but it’s also a great time to add in a jazz trio or string quartet!

Photographer – This one’s pretty obvious, you’re gonna want a photographer!

Florist – Even if you’re not planning on having floral centerpieces, it’s always a good idea to bring in a professional florist to take care of the personal flowers (bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, etc.).  If you have big dreams of doing your own fresh floral, please keep in mind that because of the nature of the living flowers, these projects can’t be done more than a day or so in advance. This is typically the time where most of our couples have family coming into town, have final beauty appointments, or are wrapping up other details. Adding in floral arranging can make those few days before the wedding unnecessarily stressful.  

Baker – Similar to your caterer, this might be something that your venue already handles.  If not, make sure to ask if they have any required bakers that you must use, or if they must be a licensed bakery

Hair & Makeup – Most brides will choose to have professionals do their hair and makeup for their wedding day.  Before you can secure them, you’ll need to decide on where you will have this done (in salon vs. house/hotel), and how many in the wedding party will need either or both services. Don’t forget those outside of the wedding party that might want to participate, like moms, grandmas, or siblings.  

Stationer (invites and other paper products) – What’s the point of having a party if you don’t tell anyone about it, right?!?

 

There are several other categories of vendors that many couples will also include, but are optional for others.  I would highly recommend that you consider having the following wedding professionals on your team:

Wedding planner – I’m obviously a bit biased here, but I truly do believe that having a profesisonal wedding planner on your team is the best sort of insurance you can have for your wedding.  Having a planner involved from the beginning (before securing any venues or vendors) can ensure that you are looking at the right options for your style and budget.  Many of our full service clients come to us AFTER booking their venue, and are already locked into pricing that may or may not work with their overall budget.  A good planner will save you money in the long run, and will definitely save you from many stressful moments and planning headaches.  If you are thinking of hiring a full service planner, they should be the very first thing that you book! 

”Day Of” coordinator – While nothing beats the personal attention and help that you will get from a full service planner, I highly recommend considering a “Day Of Coordinator” at the very least.  The name is quite decieving though, as no true professional can simply show up on the wedding day and be able to execute the event seemlessly.  Most planners begin their Day Of services a month or two out, and will sit down with their couples a few times before the wedding date.  They will be able to go through your wedding details, and suggest any adjustments or things that you may have overlooked.  They will connect with all of your vendors, and make sure all of the behind the scenes details are taken care of before the wedding day.  On the actual day, they will help to run the event, working with all of your vendors to bring it all together.  I often refer to us as the “Team Captain” of the wedding vendors.  Our role is to make sure everyone has what they need to make the day absolutely perfect! 

  • NOTE: Many locations have in-house coordinators, some even calling themselves Day Of Coordinators, but do not mistake this for having an outside planner involved in the wedding day.  The venue coordinator is there as the point person for any venue and catering details for that day, but will most likely NOT be involved with the other vendors, wedding party, or other specific details that an outside planner would be there to cover for you.  Many times they are covering other events happening at the venue that day, and will be taking other appointments and tours while they are there.  Generally speaking, their focus will be divided that day, whereas an outside planner will be dedicated to your wedding alone, making sure nothing is missed!  

Videographer – I often hear that couples would love to have a videographer, but it’s just not in the budget.  While I totally understand the need to stick to a budget, there’s nothing like being able to hear your vows, or relive your first dance on your anniversaries to come!  Hiring a professional videographer is definitely an investment, but please do make sure to give it some consideration, and try to work things around in the budget, if possible.  

A quick side note of caution that I would pass along to all of my clients.  Just like most categories in wedding vendors, videographers can vary wildly in the quality of their scope and work, and though it can be tempting to be attracted to a good deal, keep in mind that phrase “is it too good to be true”?  If you are working on a tight budget, but would like a video of the wedding, see if you can find an option for raw footage of the key moments, like the ceremony, toasts, and first dance.  Much of the cost is in the editing, and if you can limit that, you can find a lower priced package.  Make sure to review samples of the videographers work, and check out their references too.  Cutting corners by hiring a cheap videographer (or photographer, for that matter) can often result in a less than desirable end product.  

Transportation – This is typically pretty cut and dry, and very dependant on the venues you’ve booked.  If everything is in one location, you’re lucky enough to skip this category!  If your ceremony and reception are in different locations, or if you want to take photos at on offsite location, you will most likely have to arrange for a limo or shuttle for at least the wedding party.  If you have a significant number of guests that live out of town, it’s often a nice consideration to arrange for them to get from the hotel to the venue locations, as they are most likely not familiar with the area.  If you’re looking to save money on transportation, see if you can find a hotel that offers complimentary shuttle services to/from your venue.  Make sure to ask if it’s a shuttle dedicated to your guests only, or if it will be shared with other hotel guests.  Also clarify the time that it runs through to make sure that it’s still avaialble at the end of the wedding to pick your guests up.  

Rentals – This is another category that is dependant on the venue that you’ve booked with.  Most will have what we refer to as “house” items, meaning the tables, chairs, and linens that come with the space.  If you’re at a more bare bones venue, you might be required to rent all of these items.  Alternatively, some couples simply don’t like the house options, and will choose to rent items that fit their design or look better.  

Outside of the necessary tables, chairs, and linens, so other common items that couples will rent are charger plates (LINK), lounge furniture, dance floors, and draping.  These are all optional, but can really change the overall feel of the event.  Many rental companies will offer special rates if things are booked together, or at the very least, you’ll save on delivery/set up costs if you book rental items together.  Often companies will offer items outside of what they are known for (for example, a linen company will ofter also rent chairs), so make sure to ask them about these products before booking with multiple vendors! 

Lighting – The most common wedding lighting used is the dance floor lighting that most often comes with the DJ or band that has been reserved.  Make sure to clarify that they will provide this, as a dark dance floor is never fun!  Uplighting is the next most common, and that is when lights are placed around the perimeter of the room flushing the walls with colored light.  The most popular shade is “amber”, which is a soft candlelight color that gives most rooms a romantic glow.  If you’d like something more vibrant, you can use uplighting to bring in pinks, purples, blues, or any other color you’d like. 

If you’d really like to transform the look of your space, lighting can make a huge differents.  While dance floor lighting and uplights are the most common, chat with your lighting company about additional options, if this is your goal.  Bistro lights, pinspotting, truss lighting, and stage lighting are not as common, but can also make a huge impact in the look of the venue, and can be a great addition, if budget allows! 

Photo booth – Photo booths started to become popular about 10 years ago, and are changing every season to remain on trend.  While the traditional booths are still popular, many companies offer “open” concepts, live streaming, or other fun twists on the initial concept that include posting to social media and colleting the digital images for the couple to enjoy after the wedding.  Another fun throwback that’s been trending recently is a “DIY” photo station with poloroid cameras.  This allows your guests to take their own photos anywhere at the event, and they can incorporate these into a keepsake guest book.