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25+ Must-Read Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Vendors

Behind every fantastic wedding is a team of top-notch vendors. They spend countless hours helping the bride and groom solidify their vision, executing all of the details according to plan and, in the event of a last-minute glitch, stepping in to smooth things over so that guests (and even the couple themselves) are nary the wiser. Hone in on the professionals that are best for your budget, style, and personality with these in-the-know tips from respected industry veterans.

By: Stefania Sainato

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  • First, Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

    First, Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

    “Decide what's most important to you and your fiancé: Is it the location, flowers, photography, videography, music, food, or maybe a combination of those? Once you narrow down your top three priorities, you can allocate your budget properly and find the right vendors," says Kari Dirksen of Feathered Arrow.

    Related: How to Set Your Wedding Budget

    Photo Credit: Giny Ann Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Feathered Arrow

  • Start With a Wedding Planner

    Start With a Wedding Planner

    “You might think you can’t afford a planner, but they can actually help you save money on your big day. With all of their connections, they'll be able to recommend wedding venues and vendors that do a great job and are reliable (something you wouldn’t know just by researching them). Your planner might also have exclusive offers that she can share with you," says Pamela Augustus of Love Anne Joy Design & Events.

    “Your wedding planner will be your BFF for the next few months. Choose wisely! If they feel like someone you'd be happy to share a meal with, and you can trust to speak on behalf of you, then hire them immediately," says Trisha Vuong of Juice Box Media.

    Related: How to Find Your Perfect Wedding Planner

    Photo Credit: e2Beauty via Juice Box Media

  • Ask Other Vendors for Referrals

    Ask Other Vendors for Referrals

    “Having a hard time finding vendors? If you've hired a trusted vendor already but are working on building the rest of your team, then ask them for recommendations! They'll be happy to point you in the right direction of someone who matches your budget, style, and personality," says Ashley Stork of I Do, I Do! Wedding Planning.

    “Your venue might also have a list of preferred vendors that have experience working in their space and will do a good job,” says Carina Romano of Love Me Do Photography.

    Related: Top Questions to Ask Your Wedding Vendors

  • Don

    Don't Get Locked In

    Determine if there are any vendor restrictions at your venue of choice. "Some venues have strict policies on vendors, and you may not be allowed to use the planner you wanted to work with or the photographer you already booked. Other establishments may use this list to suggest businesses they like to work with but ultimately allow couples to bring in other vendors," says Margo Fischer from Bright Occasions.

    “Pick a venue with flexible preferred vendor lists so that you're not prohibited from bringing in an outside photographer, florist, or DJ," says Krista Jon of Archive Rentals.

    Related: 35 Tips for Choosing Your Perfect Wedding Venue

    Photo Credit: Shane and Lauren Photography / Rentals: Krista and Regina of Archive Rentals

  • Turn to Other Newlyweds You Know

    Turn to Other Newlyweds You Know

    “Ask your friends who are recently married or are in the process of tying the knot who they hired for their big day. However, don't forget that their experience is unique to their tastes, budget, and specific goals and challenges. It may not necessarily apply to you, but in either case, it can help get you on the right track," says Matthew Antoun of Modern Art Catering.

    Related: Real Brides Reveal: "What I Wish I'd Known Before Getting Engaged"

    Photo Credit: Magen Davis Photography / Event Coordination and Design: I Do, I Do! Wedding Planning

  • Get Social

    Get Social

    “Social media can be an excellent tool for identifying great wedding vendors. Once you’ve found a selection of pros that fit your needs and budget, you should arrange meetings with two to three of each type. This may seem daunting, but interviewing multiple vendors will help you with cost comparisons, and the goods or services included in their price," says Diana Cantidio of D. Cantídio.

    Related: Top 10 Instagram Accounts for Major Wedding Inspiration

    Photo Credit: Jen Huang Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Charmed Events

  • You Should Both Share a Similar Aesthetic

    You Should Both Share a Similar Aesthetic

    “Stick to vendors who do what you love naturally, rather than asking someone to execute something that isn't their norm/natural style. For example, if you are looking for a wild and overgrown look for your wedding flowers, then don't hire someone whose entire website gallery features tight circular arrangements," says Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events.

    Related: 50 Clever Wedding Tricks to Make Your Life Easier

    Photo Credit: Jaime Davis Photo / Florals: Foxtail Florals

  • When Inquiring, Be Enthusiastic

    When Inquiring, Be Enthusiastic

    “Nothing gets me more excited than an email inquiry that is authentic, passionate, and expresses that they love my work. I’m instantly excited then, too!” says Megan Clouse of Megan Clouse Photography.

    Related: Prepare for Wedding Vendor Meetings

  • Stay On Budget

    Stay On Budget

    Wedding costs vary across the country so be diligent when coming up with your wedding budget. "Talk with local venues, local planners, florists and photographers before locking in just one vendor. Find a community of vendors that work well together — having an A team by your side is what makes a fabulous wedding come together!" says Allison Kline from Sash & Bow.

    Tell potential vendors how much you can afford to spend upfront, and choose vendors who operate on transparency. “When interviewing a vendor, ask to see weddings that are similar to your budget. Looking at Pinterest-worthy nuptials is great for inspiration, but you want to know they can achieve the look you want while staying within your price range," says Megan Dileen of Megan Dileen Events.

    Related: "What's the Best Way to Negotiate with Wedding Vendors?"

    Photo Credit: Melissa Jill Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Megan Dileen Events

  • Beware of "Too Good to Be True" Pricing

    Beware of "Too Good to Be True" Pricing

    “Use a well-rounded approach to assessing value — there's different components you need to consider, not just the price tag,” says Gina Jokilehto-Schigel of Shi Shi Events.

    “If Vendor A costs $1,500, Vendor B costs $1,200, and Vendor C costs $600, there is probably a good reason why Vendor C is so cheap. He or she may be very new and not seasoned enough, may have another full-time job that pulls his or her attention away from your wedding, or may not have the top-notch equipment needed. It's so important to benchmark vendor pricing and compare fees from a variety of companies. Choose a vendor that is priced at a reasonable 'market rate,'" says Dee Gaubert of No Worries Event Planning.

    Related: Secret Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding Vendors

    Photo Credit: Jillian Rose Photography / Event Coordination and Design: No Worries Event Planning

  • Skip Town

    Skip Town

    If you live in a big city, you should consider looking at venues, caterers, florists, photographers, and more in "next-door towns," which are just smaller towns outside of big cities. Often, you can save 20 percent or more on fees.

  • Choose a Vendor That Specializes in What You

    Choose a Vendor That Specializes in What You're Looking For

    “Choose a caterer that is known for what you are interested in serving — whether it's Southern comfort food, upscale cuisine, or farm-to-table fare — and make sure they offer a custom tasting. Discuss the potential limitations of your venue with them so they can be prepared or make suggestions of food that can be made on-site with the kitchen that is available. Nothing is worse than adding on all kinds of hot boxes and kitchen equipment to your rental bill at the last minute or having soggy Brussel sprouts because there was no discussion about flash frying on site," says Sara Fried of Fête Nashville.

    Related: 50 Fun Menu Innovations for Your Reception

    Photo Credit: Kristin Vanzant Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Fête Nashville

  • View an Entire Wedding Portfolio, Not Just Their Best Selects

    View an Entire Wedding Portfolio, Not Just Their Best Selects

     “When evaluating a wedding photographer, ask to see an entire gallery from start to finish. Obviously, we only post our best work on our website, so seeing a full gallery will give you an idea of how each photographer handles different venues and difficult lighting (bright outdoor ceremonies, dark reception halls, etc.)," says Alyssa Armstrong of Alyssa Armstrong Photography.

    Related: How to Find Your Perfect Wedding Photographer

  • They Should Have Experience in Weddings, Specifically

    They Should Have Experience in Weddings, Specifically

    "Hire a DJ or band that has experience in the wedding industry. A DJ that regularly works at nightclubs but has never worked weddings may not be as interactive with guests as a well-versed industry vendor," says Kate from Kate Whelan Events.

    Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Your DJ

  • Hire People You Genuinely Like

    Hire People You Genuinely Like

    "It's likely that you're investing a lot of money into your wedding day, so you should spend your resources with vendors that you really like. Can you see yourself getting a cup of coffee with this vendor? If the answer is no, then don't book them. Your vendors will not only be with you for many hours on your wedding day but you'll also have to work with them in the months leading up to the main event," says Renee Dalo of Moxie Bright Events.

    Photo Credit: Laurie Bailey Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Moxie Bright Events

  • Get Client Testimonials

    Get Client Testimonials

    "Go the extra mile and check references before hiring vendors. The Internet provides a wealth of information, but unfortunately, much of it goes unchecked and is often exaggerated or — worse — totally fabricated," says Lisa Gorjestani from Details Event Planning.

    “You should take the time to look through vendors' clientele and who they have worked with before in order to get to know the business you are interested in hiring. Their former clients and colleagues are further proof of their success in designing a beautiful product or event. All good business relationships take time and trust to build, and these former partnerships can help validate that,” says Katrina Centeno of Calligraphy Katrina.

    Related: Can You Be Fined for Posting a Negative Wedding Vendor Review?

    Photo courtesy of Calligraphy Katrina

  • Don

    Don't Dismiss Their Website

    "The website of a wedding vendor is your first impression, so don’t dismiss it — it can be a telltale sign of savviness. The website should be up-to-date, easy to navigate, and without broken links. Pictures should be fresh instead of dated, because good design and solid branding are a must in this competitive, creative industry," says Shadiah Sigala from HoneyBook.

    Related: 4 Ways to Make Sure Your Wedding Vendors Live in the 21st Century

    Photo Credit: Clane Gessel

  • See Them in Action

    See Them in Action

    “If you’re booking a band, try and watch as much live footage as possible online to get a feel for their vibe. How they choose to present themselves on their website will speak volumes as to whether they will mesh well with what you envision for your wedding entertainment. Once you've found a few that you like, set up meetings with the band leader to outline your musical tastes and get a sense of their comfort level with the songs that are important to you. Great bands tend to book 12 to 15 months out — trust your instincts and be decisive so that you don't miss out!” says Danny Chaimson of The Golden Coast All Stars.

    Related: 5 Common Myths About Hiring a Live Band for Your Wedding

  • You

    You'll Want to See a Mock

    "Most floral designers will include a mock-up if you meet a certain minimum, while others will only do one at an additional cost. If you’re the type of bride who needs to see it beforehand so you know you love it, then be sure your florist includes a prototype as part of their package. This gives you both the chance to make any necessary adjustments long before the big day and find out how they will impact your budget," says Carissa Jones from JL DESIGNS.

    Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Your Florist.

    Photo Credit: Jose Villa

  • Confirm Your Shooter in Advance

    Confirm Your Shooter in Advance

    "Larger studios may have more than one photographer on staff, and depending on your contract, the main shooter may not be the one that you meet in the consult. Every professional has a different style, technique, and personality, so you need to make sure the photographer you interview and 'click' with will be the same one who works your wedding," says Maik Hassel from Nirvana Photography Studios.

    Related: 5 Tips to Help Your Photographer Capture Magical Moments

  • Don

    Don't Automatically Rule Out Videography

    "Most brides I chat with post-wedding who didn't book a videographer regret their decision! They may rationalize it by thinking, 'I'll never watch the video' or 'It will just collect dust.' However, most videographers now include a five to seven-minute highlight reel, which is a blast to watch now and then as a constant reminder of the love you felt on your wedding day," says Miranda Tassi from Chancey Charm Charlotte.

    "Later in life, some of the people from your wedding might not be around anymore. The wedding video serves as a nice reminder to see them, hear their voice, and share them with your children," she adds.

    Related: Wedding Splurges Worth the Cost

  • A Professional Demeanor is a Must

    A Professional Demeanor is a Must

    “There are so many vendors to choose from for your wedding, but the ones that stand out and are booked over and over by couples are professional from their initial consultation to after the big day. They respond in a timely manner, have positive reviews from past clients, and a solid reputation from other vendors," says Lindsay Longacre of LVL Weddings & Events.

    Related: Wedding Vendors: When To Say Yes — Or No

    Photo Credit: Mike Larson / Wedding Coordination and Design: LVL Weddings & Events

  • Don

    Don't Assume Anything

    “Be clear and thorough when you communicate with potential vendors. Don’t assume they automatically know what you are thinking," says Kawania Wooten of Howerton + Wooten Events.

    Related: How to Plan the Wedding of Your Dreams

    Photo Credit: Renee Hollingshead Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Howerton + Wooten Events

  • Consider Shopping Locally

    Consider Shopping Locally

    “There are countless stationery stores in each city. When you purchase locally, you'll have the opportunity to see and feel the material in person so you’ll be able to make an informed decision on exactly which invitation best suits your event," says Carla Hagan of Carla Hagan Designs.

    Related: 50 Ideas for Your Wedding Invitations

  • Get Everything in Writing and Put Down a Deposit

    Get Everything in Writing and Put Down a Deposit

    "Although getting a contract may seem crazy (even for your officiant or hair or makeup artists), this is actually extremely important. They protect you, the client, and help to prevent any future disputes or wedding-related payment issues down the road. Not to mention that after putting down a deposit, you are officially on their books," says Nicole George of Nicole George Event Planning & Design.

    “Make sure you understand what you are ordering when looking at the itemized invoice (each item should be listed with its respective quantity and cost). In the event that you change your mind or want to cancel part of an order, you’ll know ahead of time how much the revision will save (or cost) you," says Carla Hagan of Carla Hagan Designs.

    Related: 6 Things You Should Know About Wedding Contracts

    Photo Credit: Acqua Photo / Event Coordination and Design: Nicole George Event Planning & Design

  • Don

    Don't Micromanage

    “Once you find vendors you are excited about, trust them! The goal on your wedding day is to be present in every moment and not to worry about escort cards, flower arrangements, food, etc.” say the pros at Vitae Weddings.

    "Micromanagement and extended instructions are counterproductive and greatly restrict creativity (particularly with photographers and cinematographers). The best results come not in mimicking other photos but in letting your photographer or cinematographer visualize the scene, the two of you as a couple, and execute the best vision for that particular time and place. That’s when the magic happens!" says Jessica Tincopa from Jessica Elizabeth Photography.

    Related: 12 Etiquette Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making

    Photo Credit: Vitae Weddings

25+ Must-Read Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Vendors

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