How to Avoid a Wedding Nightmare. Tips & Tricks to Finding Professional Vendors.
As not only a photographer, but also a current bride I wholeheartedly understand the struggle bus that is planning a wedding.
Lately, I have seen an alarming influx in panicked brides and grooms only a few months, weeks or even DAYS before the big day due to vendors who are suddenly unavailable, or just stopped communicating.
There are so many moving parts that go along with planning the BEST DAY EVER!
So how do we find PROFESSIONAL, RELIABLE, & LEGAL wedding vendors all while working full time?!
There are so many avenues to reaching wedding vendors now a days, you have Facebook, Instagram, Google, Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc. the list literally never ends. SO start your search wherever YOU are most comfortable with! Look at all their public photos and narrow down your favorites into a perfect list.
Okay, so you found your dream team of vendors and some possible second choices; now what? How do you know what questions to ask, what is normal, and how to make sure you dont get scammed?!
1. Hire LEGAL Businesses.
Say what? You mean everyone who has a facebook page and MAYBE a website link is not a legal business? YES. That is EXACTLY what I mean! There are no rules to making a facebook page or buying a website domain. Did you know that wedding vendors PAY to be on The Knot & Wedding Wire? not just a little- like a LOT, those "recommended" vendors are actually paying to be "recommended" this does not discredit the use of these sites however, Do NOT believe everything you read online. ALWAYS ask your vendors the following question: Are you a registered & insured business in the state of ____ and can I please see proof of business insurance? If a vendor does not want to provide you with their information RUN. You should be able to pull up all legal businesses on your state registry easily by typing in the businesses name. If they are not a legal business I would assume they are not paying their taxes therefore not running an honest business. Insurance ALWAYS needs to be in place as you NEVER as a client want to deal with someone trying to pin things like an injury, or damages gear on you due to the lack of business insurance from a vendor. (some venues require all outside vendors to have proof of insurance or a COI so you kill two birds with one stone by gathering that information beforehand).
2. Always Sign a Contract.
Contracts are not just so vendors are covered, they are also so our clients are covered as well! When you receive a contract from a vendor make sure it has CLEAR terms that touch on all of the following:
Full contact info for both parties including physical addresses.
Dates & Time. (so there is no excuse of double booking. It is right on the contract!)
Total amount owed.
What is and is not refundable.
Payment schedule. (or when final payment is due)
EXACTLY what is included in the package you choose.
Any promised incentives or discounts.
A CLEAR cancelation & rescheduling policy.
A CLEAR contingency plan in the case of a freak like accident the day of your wedding. (and a plan in case of weather issues)
A CLEAR turnaround time frame for products or files. *for photographers, videographers, and other vendors providing a service that results in a physical product exchange*
I know the list seems longs but you want to make sure that there are little to no kickers along the way! Trust me its worth it! If a vendor does not supply a contract- DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY.
3. Ask for Samples.
Okay so this point REALLY mainly applies to photographers & videographers; but ALWAYS make sure to ask for a full gallery (or two!) before booking. You should have a clear understanding of the service you will be getting, also, as much as I would like to believe it is not true- there are "professionals" out there using other peoples work as their own in their portfolio to trick clients into booking because they think the wedding industry is easy and just surrounded by $$$. For other vendors like florists, hair and makeup artist, and DJ's ask for photos from weddings they have done or even reviews from past clients!
4. Meet in Person - or at least over the phone!
Before you sign that contract I was talking about earlier and hand over your hard earned money ask for a consultation. This should always be free for you (an exception would be a cake or menu testing fee for a bakery or caterer). While obviously things like your venue you will want to 100% make sure you tour in person, in the age in which we live a FaceTime or Phone consultation is a nice way to get the feel of a vendor.
If you're a past or current bride of mine you know that 99% of my consolations are via FaceTime to accommodate everyones schedule- and you dont have to leave your house and can totally rock some PJ's to our FaceTime sesh! no judgment!
Talking prior to booking ensures that you and the vendor both "click". It may sound cheesy but chemistry between you and a vendor is SO important. You should be confident in the energy they are bringing to the table as that is the energy they will be bringing to your wedding.
This is also when you get to ask all your golden questions (if you haven't asked them yet) and have them walk you through their contract so you dont miss any details. After all, they will know their contract inside and out!
I hope that all this information helps you weed out the bad seeds from your potential vendor list or even helps you identify red flags moving forward!
Also remember the power of word of mouth is STRONG if a vendor recommends another vendor it is most likely because they TRULY believe in that person!
So do not be afraid to ask for some recommendations for other vendors from someone you already booked! We as wedding professionals are here to help you in ALL aspects!
From one crazy stressed out bride to another,
you got this!