Take Recommendations Lightly
A friend’s good word goes far, but there is no one caterer, band, or florist perfect for everyone. Compatibility is key: Do you have the same taste and temperament as the advice-giver? If not , proceed with caution. And never use all of the same vendors that a friend did — it can leave your wedding feeling like a repeat.
Let Your Passions Drive Your Priorities
Arm yourself and your fiancé with notebooks, and spend a week recording anything you encounter that grabs you, whether it’s a color on a sign, a song on the radio, or a dessert at a restaurant. Then compare notes. Does food dominate your list? Did he jot down only song titles? You’ll see on paper what matters, so you can budget for the most important.
Create a Guest List That Reflects Real Life
When you’re narrowing down the invites, think about your present (and future) relationships rather than the past. Is this someone you want in your life in 20 years? If so, invite that person. The others are negotiable.
Chat with Recent Clients
Once you’ve edited the list of potential vendors, ask to talk to a few of the couples they’ve worked with in the past year. It doesn’t matter if a bride 10 years ago loved someone; their staff and resources have likely changed since then.
Note Your First Impressions
Be aware of how potential vendors deal with your initial contact: How do they react, how quickly do they respond, and how do they conduct themselves? If a band tells you to come to a wedding to check them out, it ’s a hint that they may invite strangers to your event, so make sure they understand that your day is for invitees only.
See Beyond Your Own Style
Look for a diverse portfolio when you’re hiring any vendor. You want to see a body of work with a consistent level of quality — not a one-trick pony who can only do, say, boho. You might not like a Glee-centric birthday party, but if the work can still wow you, imagine what the vendor could do with a theme you love.
Know When Familiarity is a Good Fit
In some cases, a vendor having an existing relationship with a venue can be a big plus. They’ll already know about any shortcomings — like if the space needs a generator or is challenging to load into — and how to work around them. Alternatively, if you’re having doubts about your vendor, you can ask the venue manager about her experience with them. Questions about how they treat people behind the scenes and if they handle stress well can tell you a lot. With a photographer, though, the first time at a location can be charmed. Someone who’s seeing a space with fresh eyes may bring more spontaneity than a lensman who’s already shot the same backdrop for 10 other couples.
Hire People Who Accept Your Budget
Whether you’re in for $9,000 or $9 million, find a team that will creatively rise to the occasion. The best will be able to suggest savvy budget-trimming swaps. So if you’re asking for pricey peonies when they’re out of season, a resourceful florist might suggest lush, fully opened garden roses instead.
Look For a Team Player
You want to collaborate with someone who will listen and create an event that isn’t just beautiful but reflects you two as a couple. For instance, skip a barn wedding with cowboy boots if neither of you has ever ridden a horse. When your future children look at your wedding album and ask, “Why did you get that cake?” you’ll be able to say, “Your dad and I used to go to this great restaurant and…” The right vendor will create moments where your guests think, “This is so Jane and John!”
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
When you’re not happy with a vendor, wait until you can articulate your concerns in a non-emotional way. Express the problem, and then ask for a solution. Depending on how they react, it may make sense to part ways. If you have a contract, you’ll likely have to pay a fee, but it may be worth it to move on to someone who’s a better fit.