Ask Intelligent Questions of Wedding Vendors
Planning a wedding means hiring various professionals and vendors who will create your big day. These are big decisions, which can make or break your entire wedding, so you must shop smart when choosing a caterer, florist, musicians, photographer, videographer and anyone else who will have a hand in your ceremony or reception.
Your two goals should be to hire the best person for the job and to avoid getting ripped off. It just takes a handful of questions to do both efficiently.
Where do you start? Who do you hire?
You might flip open the yellow pages and choose the florist with the biggest ad. You might think that a photographer with a big corner storefront in the center of town will do a better job for you than the man who works out of his home office. These surface appearances should not be your only criteria.
After all, just because a vendor has a big store doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll give you the best service at an affordable price.
The only true way to choose the best vendors is to interview and investigate. Protect yourself, your wedding and your budget with these questions to be included in your interview with all potential vendors, from the florist to the caterer to the photographer and beyond:
Do you belong to a professional organization?
This is very important, since many organizations have strict rules of professionalism and conduct for membership. Checking with an organization is like getting a seal of approval, which will help you make your decision. Look up professional organizations in your local phone book, through library question/answer lines or through the toll-free directory, 800-555-1212.
How long have you been in business?
This criteria is mainly subjective. Just because a videographer has been in business for 10 years doesn’t mean he’s any good. A recent college graduate with just two months under her belt may do just as professional a job. Use this information only as an addition to the truly helpful data.
Where did you get your training?
A pastry chef trained at a prestigious culinary institute has the knowledge and background that could give her the edge over a self-taught baker. Always ask for samples and a portfolio. The truly professional will be glad to oblige.
Do you (cater/bake cakes/photograph) full time?
Do you want to entrust your wedding to someone for whom catering is “just a hobby”?
How many weddings will you be doing at that time?
You want to hire someone who doesn’t have four weddings that weekend because you want their undivided attention and their best efforts directed toward your wedding only. Some vendors have the staff and facilities to cater multiple affairs, but most brides agree that you don’t want a phone call the day before the wedding, saying you can’t have coconut shrimp because they ran out at yesterday’s wedding.
Can I have some referrals?
Ask your caterer or florist if you could talk to some of their previous clients. Granted, they’re likely to connect you with the couples who gave them raves, but you will get a feel for the kind of service the vendor is capable of.
Can I see you in action?
Any band, photographer, disc jockey or florist who won’t let you get a firsthand look at their services should be crossed off your list immediately.
What are the exact elements of the contract you’re offering?
If a florist has a standard wedding contract, he should be willing to discuss exactly what is available to you. The florist should have a price list for each item and element, not a guess off the top of his head.
Every detail should be spelled out in the contract, including the most basic things.
One bride hired a five-person jazz band for her wedding, only to find that in the four months since she signed with them, they changed three members and became a club music band.
What is your exact payment schedule?
Does the vendor wish to be paid up front? Is there a monthly installment plan? Do they offer you the option of paying the final bill after service is rendered? Do they take credit cards, or does their whole operation have an under-the-table feel? Be sure to get an exact payment schedule in writing.
What is your policy on refunds?
No one wants to cancel a wedding, but circumstances such as weather or health problems just may creep in and force a postponement or cancellation. You want to be sure your vendors are not going to cry “no refunds!” and keep your money.
What are your extra fees?
Some vendors may have hidden fees, little extras that add up to thousands more tacked onto your bill. As you get all fees in writing, make sure that it is written that there are no hidden fees. Always check to see if a gratuity is included in your contract, so that you don’t tip the band twice. Ask about overtime.
One bride was slapped with a huge fee when the limo driver had to wait an extra hour for the bride and groom to locate their luggage in a relative’s car trunk before leaving for their reception.
Are you willing to negotiate your price?
The most professional choices will be willing to discuss your budget, and they may be willing to give you a break on some extras. See if they’re willing to give you a discount or a freebie for your patronage.
Are you willing to give me what I want?
High-quality vendors will always do their best to listen to your wishes and help grant them. If a vendor seems unavailable or annoyed that you want to mess with their formula, cross them from your list. As you speak to them, are they friendly and helpful? Do they treat you with respect? Do they go by the old adage “the customer is always right”? These are the vendors you want to add to your short list for consideration.
Will you be present the day of the wedding?
Will the florist be available should you need a last-minute quick-fix or a replacement? Will the caterer be in attendance as the entrees are served? If so, how will they dress? They should be willing to dress to the formality of the occasion. Don’t hesitate to ask. Think of how you’ll feel if the musician you hired shows up at your ultraformal reception in a pink tux or, worse, black jeans and a turtleneck.
As you investigate the various vendors for all the aspects of your wedding, always check with the Better Business Bureau in your area to see if there have been any complaints registered against them. This is the best way to be sure you’re dealing with a responsible, dependable professional, not some fly-by-night, too-good-to-be-true rip-off artist. Get a full report on each vendor’s professional history, and protect yourself.
Another great way to ensure quality service from your vendors is to get a referral from someone you know. If a friend was highly satisfied with her florist’s work at her wedding, ask for the florist’s number.
A bride who hired the disc jockey from a friend’s recent wedding, which she attended, saw firsthand how great he was at his job. She knew his repertoire and his rapport with the crowd, and she knew he was a professional. He was perfect for her wedding, and she couldn’t have been happier with his work. Her guests raved, and she got her money’s worth.
Trust your gut instinct when choosing. It never lies.
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