Wedding Planning Success Lounge: How to choose your vendors wisely

SC_HowToChooseYourVendorsWisely

How do you choose your preferred vendors?

As a planner, I always look for a dream team at my weddings, and I always want to recommend vendors who will do an amazing job. If your client is happy he / she will refer you to friends and family as a result. On the other hand, if I recommend unprofessional or non-experienced ones, the client will come back to me and will blame me for the unsuccessful results. You don’t want to damage your reputation because of vendors you referred.

[bctt tweet=”Look for reputation, experience and professionalism when you choose your wedding vendors” username=”SabrinaCadini”]

If you are just starting out in the industry and you don’t have experience with events and weddings, creating your vendor network will take some time. You will grow it by meeting them at networking or association meetings or you will work with them. By attending networking or association meetings you will be able to connect in a personal way. Once you meet them invite them for coffee, introduce yourself and get to know them. If there’s a match between you and the vendor then he / she will start referring you to clients.

When you work with them at an event or wedding you will be able to experience how professional (or not) they are.

You can also find out about them and their reputation by asking colleagues in your area, or by reading online reviews (Yelp, WeddingWire, The Knot, etc.)

I have some criteria that I follow to select my preferred vendors. There are three qualities that I always look for:

Reputation

This is the most important requirement for me. The vendor might not be very experienced but if he / she is reputable, serious, dedicated, and always provides excellent service, then he / she is my first choice.

If the vendor is a member of a professional association this also shows that they’re serious about their business. The desire to connect with other like-minded professionals and continuous education indicates that they truly care about their job.

Knowledge and Experience

The vendor should have worked at events or weddings in the past, and needs to be familiar with your and your client’s needs. For instance, hiring a fantastic fashion or still life / commercial photographer is not always a great choice. They are not familiar with the hectic wedding timelines where they need to capture special moments very quickly. A wedding is the fastest moving day you can ever imagine: there are no repeats, there’s no time to change the lighting or the angle.

You will also want a great team of vendors who are self-sufficient and know what to do. If you work with vendors who have no or little experience about the event you will need to work more and dedicate more time to them. Having a detailed timeline won’t be enough.

Experience doesn’t necessarily mean how many years the vendor has been in the industry; for me it’s about the number of weddings of events he / she has worked at. I would rather choose to work with a vendor who has been in the business for 5 years and has done 20 weddings than a vendor who has been working in the wedding industry for 10 years but he / she was only hired for 15 weddings. That can also be an indication that the vendor is not pleasant or doesn’t communicate well with people, or doesn’t have great products or services.

When you provide your clients with full-service assistance you can have full control on the vendor referrals however, when you are hired for day-of or month-of your clients will most likely select the vendor team before they hire you. In some cases, I was presented with a vendor team that included one or two “red flags” and I had the responsibility to inform the client about that. If the vendor is not reputable and you had a negative experience at a past wedding, you should definitely point that out but don’t scare the client by saying that this vendor is not the right choice. Your client might have signed a contract with the vendor and services can’t be canceled anymore. The client hired you to provide solutions to their problems, so a good explanation could be: “I worked with this vendor in the past, my client had some issues but I know what his / her weaknesses are and what went wrong so I will make sure that it won’t happen again.” You don’t want your brides and grooms to freak out so just assure them that you will take care of everything (and cross your fingers hoping that nothing will go wrong!)

You can also see if a specific vendor already worked at the location where the wedding will take place. It can be a huge plus for a DJ, for instance for he will know about the acoustics in the space and the layout, where to place the uplights, how to get power, and so on.

Professionalism

You will find out about this quality about a vendor by working with him / her directly. Some things to keep in mind:

Contract – When you receive a contract from a vendor always make sure it includes every detail that was discussed with you and / or the client. If the contract is very detailed, it indicates the vendor is serious about his job. If the contract is maybe handwritten or details are missing (such as a payment schedule), then you need to clarify with the vendor immediately. Always make the changes before your client signs.

Extra tip: Sometimes vendors send you agreements with their signature. Tell them not to do it: should the client make any changes then vendors technically accepted the changes. Let them know they should sign after the client.

Insurance – Some vendors are not insured, and that’s something that you need to check before they get hired by your client. Many venues (at least here in San Diego) require proof of liability insurance so they will not be financially responsible for the vendor’s negligence – otherwise they can’t work there.

If vendors don’t carry liability insurance that’s another red flag because it means they don’t take their business seriously. Some of them are just scared about the cost involved but insurance is not expensive and it actually increases their professionalism. Don’t ever make your client pay for vendor insurance: a day-of event insurance can cost about $200 while vendor insurance will cost only $500-600 a year.

Dedication – This means finding the time to meet with the client, accommodating (or at least trying to accommodate) the vision and needs of your client, responding to your and your client’s e-mails and phone calls in a timely manner (24-48 hours are acceptable).

Vendors need to show that they care, they need to show that they want the wedding to be a successful celebration for your clients.

They also need to be present on the wedding day and cooperate with you and the rest of the vendors (think about photo and video). If they’re nowhere to be found when you need them, or they’re always grumpy, they never smile, they keep looking at their watch as if they’re counting the hours before they end their service, or disappear at dinner time, they’re not my favorite vendors. I need a team that works together and reaches a common goal: a fantastic experience for my couples.

LEAVE A COMMENT ~~~ What do you look for in a vendor? What are your criteria?

TAKE ACTION ~~~ Find some time to connect with 1-3 vendors you have never worked with, or with some vendors who are new in the industry. Invite them for coffee and get to know each other. You might find your next favorite hair and makeup artist or caterer, or florist!

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