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As you start searching for your wedding planning A-team, you’ll likely find thousands of wedding vendors servicing your area. Some ‘do it all’ while others have a specific expertise. The hard part isn’t finding vendors, it’s choosing the right vendors for you. 

  • Which ones are trustworthy? 
  • Who can deliver on your vision without going over budget? 
  • Will they show up on your wedding day ready to give 110%?
You can do all the planning and organizing in the world, but without the right vendor team by your side, your wedding day can become a mess. 
  • What if a vendor brings the wrong stuff?
  • What if a vendor shows up late?
  • What if a vendor doesn’t show up, at all!?

These things happen more than they should. That’s why it’s so important to vet your vendors correctly, ensuring you hire the most professional vendors within your budget. When you hire good vendors, you know they’ll show up, and they’ll have contingency plans in place to make things right if something unexpected happens or they make a mistake.

Below are our expert tips for finding qualified vendors who are professional, great to work with and deliver on their promises. Get ready to reduce your wedding planning stress and set yourself up for a carefree wedding day.

Vetting vendors boils down to two things:

  1. Asking the right questions.
  2. Paying attention to the details that blow away budgets

Ask the Right Questions 

The right questions make all of the difference in vetting your perfect vendor team. Questions to ask include:.

Question: How long have you been in the wedding industry in BLANK city? (we add in the city as weddings can vary across the country, so you want to make sure your vendor isn’t a newbie to your city and knows the area)
Reply Tips: You’ll want to hear your vendor has been working in the industry for at least 2-5+ years and in your city at least 2+ years.
Question: Do you have testimonials or references I can review and contact?
Reply Tips: The testimonials don’t have to be official or fancy as long as they’re real. A couple emails from past clients or social media shoutout posts should suffice.
Question: What are some venues you’ve worked at before in the area? Have you worked at my venue?
Reply Tips: It’s okay if they haven’t worked at your venue before, but always reassuring if they’ve worked at other venues in the area that are similar to yours.
Question: If your vendor has worked at your venue - reach out to your venue contact and ask how they were to work with? Any strengths/weaknesses? This also applies if you are vetting a vendor and know they’ve worked with another vendor you’re planning to hire, you can ask the same question.
Reply Tips: Sometimes professional colleagues in the industry can give you the best feedback. A glowing review from a venue or industry colleague is always a good sign. If you don’t receive a glowing review, ask what their concerns were and see if they relate to your wedding day.
Question: Are you insured? Being insured shows a level of professionalism in the industry that you want as part of your wedding day.
Reply Tips: We advise all our clients to only work with insured vendors, no matter the level of your event. This shows that they vendor is serious in how they conduct their business and being a wedding vendor isn’t just a hobby.
Question: What are your requirements to hold our date and book? Signed contract? Deposit?
Reply Tips: As you’re budget planning, you’ll want to know any commitments ahead of time. If they’ll hold a date great, for how long? We always like when our couples can breakdown their payments into multiple ones, but keep in mind that most final payments will be due prior to your wedding date.

Mind Your Budget

Yes, every vendor has their own creative style, but they also have their own style when it comes to contracts and sales. Some may try to upsell you when you don’t need more. Others may include fees hidden in the contract or leave important information out of the sales call. Perhaps not intentionally, but either way the more educated you are on the process, the more prepared you are to tackle your wedding planning within budget and enjoy your wedding day.

After all, it’s no fun to discover that you went over budget on your wedding night because you didn’t account for fees that were only disclosed in the contract and not on the sales call. 

Now, before you sign on that dotted line and hand over a deposit, you can make sure you’ve addressed all the vendor related details that will affect your budget and guest experience on the wedding day. The list below, categorized by vendor, outlines where we often see couples miss hidden fees or go over budget.

Catering Plus, Plus ++

As one of the biggest line items in your entire wedding planning budget, it’s important to account for all costs when making your estimates. One of the most missed details are tax, gratuity and service charge, also known as “plus, plus ++” in the event industry. These items can quickly add up to a hefty amount of your budget, so it’s very important to ask what these percentages are and account for them in your estimates.

Feeding the DJ/Band

Each and every vendor on your wedding day needs to eat. If you have a band, that’s quite a few more mouths to feed as compared to a DJ. So ask ahead of time how many band members/techs need meals so you can build this into your initial budget.

Also, keep in mind that some venues charge you to patch into their sound system. If your band or DJ is planning to use the house sound, you’ll want to know any extra or ‘hidden fees’ associated with doing this.

Asking about Flower Substitutes 

Many couples already have a vision when it comes to wedding day flowers. But flowers can widely vary in their price based on season and geographical location.

For example If you’ve always wanted peonies everywhere on your wedding day, but have a limited budget, you may want to think twice. Not only are peonies expensive, they also have a limited season. While you could have them shipped in from elsewhere, this cost will quickly cause budgets to balloon. 

Talk about alternative flower choices with your florist, even if your first choices are within your budget. There are plenty of beautiful varieties available to offer the same look and feel without splurging on a bloom your guests will hardly notice.  Save your favorite flowers for your bridal bouquet. This will cut costs without impacting your guests’ experience. We promise, they won’t notice this budget cut and a great florist will always have creative ways to make an impact with your budget. 

What Does the Photographer Include? 

While the way photographers price their services can seem confusing at first, most are either based on a flat rate that includes specific services or a custom package you can create with the photographer based on your specific needs. No matter how your photographer quotes, there are a few things you want to consider to avoid going over budget.

  1. How many hours do they provide on your wedding day? We recommend 8-10 hours if you want to capture everything from getting ready to cake cutting.
  2. Is an engagement shoot included? 
  3. Is an album included? If I opt to add on an album later, will it cost more? 
  4. How many shooters do you need to provide vendor meals for?

Check Your Rental Delivery Fees 

Your rental order may be a small or large part of your wedding day, but along with any rental costs, there are always delivery and pick-up fees. Rental companies are not like Amazon, there’s no free delivery. 

There’s often a rental delivery and pick-up fee to account for trucking, labor and maintenance costs. These fees can get hefty based on delivery distance and timing. If you have to have your items delivered at a specific time, the price goes up. Same for Sunday pick-ups and deliveries. 

Work with your venue when possible to arrange for the most cost-effective rental delivery and pick-up times for your budget. Also, try to rent multiple things from one company so you don’t end up paying multiple delivery and pick-up fees. These can add up quickly.

Videographer Extras 

Just like photographers, you’ll probably find that most videographers price their services in a similar way. Either a set package price or an a la carte customized to your needs. Make sure a few key items are included in the rates they quote you so you don’t go over budget adding time or last minute vendor meals on your wedding day.

  1. Again, check that they’re providing their filming services for 8-10 hours on your wedding day.
  2. What are they including? A trailer as well as a full length video?
  3. Are drones available or is this an up charge?
  4. How many people will be shooting my wedding? This will affect your vendor meal count. We know we’re always talking about food & beverage cost, but trust us everyone deserves a hot meal on your wedding day.

Making Sense of Venue Minimums and Hidden Fees

Depending on your venue, you will find a wide variety of pricing out there. Most Hotels offer a package price or a food & beverage minimum. A venue that is only providing the space, may only charge a rental fee as the caterer is separate.

Either way, hotels/venues are typically large-ticket items that can add up quickly. If you haven’t accounted for all costs necessary, you can find yourself going over budget fast. To avoid this, understand your costs and talk to your sales contact about them so you can budget accurately. You wouldn’t want to have to cut back on your cake, decor, or something else later because you weren’t fully informed. Or worse, realize at the end of the night you owe more than you thought because of hidden fees and extras. 

What to Ask About For Your Estimates:
  • Ask for all tax, service and gratuity fees (especially for hotels)
  • For venues, ask if there is an onsite representative required when you book and is this included in the rental fee or additional. And do they charge overtime?
  • Ask what their load-in and load-out times are. If you need to load-in or breakdown outside their standard load-in/out windows, are there additional costs associated with this?
  • Are there any hidden fees? Permits, extra sound fees, wifi, valet etc
  • What do venue rental fees include and exclude? Chairs, tables, linens, napkins, glassware, sound system and so on. You want to know everything they provide so you can budget accordingly on what you will need to supplement.

Now you know the ins and outs of common vendor fees and the right questions to ask. It’s time to start putting together your own team for your wedding day. 

Take Action!

Vet those vendors with smart questions

First, vet your top few vendor choices by asking the right question. You’ll get valuable feedback on their experience as well as insight into their reputation with  their peers. 

Look for budgetary pitfalls

Once you’ve narrowed a vendor category down to your top two, review our list outlining where most couples forget to dig in deeper and end up going over budget. Use these items to really understand how your vendors quoted you and how they work. Have open conversations with them about your budget and wedding day needs to make sure you are all on the same page.

Start Planning with your A-Team 

Now that you have the right team in place, you can start planning with them. We promise it will feel so good having the best team possible to make your wedding a memorable one for you and all who attend.

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