Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Hire the Right Wedding Vendor for You

Recently, a local news reporter approached me for advice on red flags when hiring wedding vendors -- a viewer had called in with a complaint against a vendor and they were investigating the story. While the story didn't pan out after all, the timing for sharing these nuggets of advice couldn't be better. Most couples are hiring their 2012 wedding vendors at this time of year, especially for summer and fall weddings.

Here's my list of ways to prevent getting burned by a wedding vendor. (And feel free to share any wedding vendor nightmares or happy tales!)

1) Review the terms and conditions. Look out especially for: cancellation, fee schedule, deposit requirements and refund policy! What happens in case of flood, or other natural or manmade disaster (like union strike or  fire) that can affect being able to get married in the venue and on the date of your wedding?

a) Related to this, what is their backup plan in case they can't host your wedding (if a venue) or get sick, etc?

2) Beware: a venue's wedding coordinator is NOT the same as a wedding planner. Don't expect the venue coordinator to put together a detailed timeline, list of items or confirm details with other vendors (unless stated otherwise in the contract).

3) Follow your intuition and trust your instinct. Personality is very important. Finding a wedding vendor is like online dating. You can check out their profile and gallery of photos, but until you meet in person (or on the phone if you are planning a destination wedding), you won't know if "sparks will fly"! You want to make sure you and your prospective vendor have an excellent rapport. Brides and grooms often build an intimate relationship with their vendors and you want to make sure your vendors are not only professional, but courteous, responsive and detail-oriented. If they don't demonstrate such qualities in your initial meetings/calls, then that is a red flag. Move on!!!
a) Related to this, are they genuinely interested in working with you? Do they listen to you or are they somewhat jaded with a "been there, done that" attitude? If you find a wedding vendor who feels like a friend who looks out for your best interest (and let's you call the shots), then you've hit the jackpot.

4) Consider purchasing wedding insurance. Wedding insurance can cover potential problems lost deposits, vendor no-shows, cancellations, inclement weather, military deployment, health emergencies and more. (from Wedsafe.com)
  • If you're worried about recovering your deposits if a vendor goes bankrupt or doesn't deliver as promised
  • If you're concerned that extreme weather or an unexpected illness or injury could force you to postpone
  • If the bride or groom is in the military and approved leave could be cancelled
5) Maintain a copy of your communication with the vendor (like emails, estimates or change orders). Follow up on your voicemails with an email to recap your message.  Document your communication with the vendor so that it can serve as a back up in case the day-of comes and something isn't the way you agreed it to be. For example, I had a bride order "ivory" roses and on the day-of, the florist brought orange "creamsicle" roses that she called "creme de la creme." Had I not had the bride's contract, I wouldn't have been able to demand the floral designer to replace all the orange roses in the bouquets -- 2 hours before the ceremony -- with ivory roses!

6) Do your homework: ask for referrals, check out online reviews -- not only on Yelp, but Wedding Wire and other wedding review sites. Ask your wedding planner if they've worked with them before and what they may know about the vendor.

7) When you talk with the venue coordinator or vendor are they vague? Can they explain their pricing structure, how they will staff your wedding, etc? These details are critical to the success of your wedding day. If they don't have these within a reasonable amount of time, this is a red flag.

8) Always secure a contract or letter of agreement with vendors -- even friends. If they don't have a formal contract, this is a huge no-no! Why would you want to give money to someone you can't hold accountable with a contract? And what if a vendor is a friend doing a favor? You should still put your terms into an agreement -- that way, both parties -- you and your friend -- are aligned on expectations and you can avoid resentment or not having an important detail taken care of.

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