Managing Your Wedding

By Kristen Castillo

April 25, 2012 5 min read

Wedding planning can be overwhelming. That's why you need to make sure you're working with the right wedding vendors who can help you plan your event.

So how can you decide which vendors are the right ones? You need to start asking questions, lots of questions.

Treat your vendor search very seriously.

"It's like a series of business transactions," says wedding planner Angel Babbitt, who also runs the wedding planning website The Bridal BFF. "They're the dream team of people who will make your day special and personal."

Jennifer McGarigle, founder of Floral Art, says couples need to know their budget, wedding location and the event date before meeting with potential vendors. After that, it's all about establishing trust.

"If you don't trust them, you shouldn't be working with them," she says. "They are the experts, and it's important to let them do their jobs."

*What's Your Experience?

One of your top questions should be about a vendor's background. Ask how many weddings the vendor has worked, and review their portfolio.

"Find out how long they've been in business," says Babbitt. "You want them to be experienced."

Don't forget to ask for references, too. Then call one or two of the vendor's previous clients to discuss how the vendor performed.

*Are We a Personality Match?

Sure, you're not going to be committed to the vendor forever, but you want a positive relationship leading up to and including the wedding.

You need to feel comfortable with a photographer, for example -- especially since you'll be spending the whole wedding day with that person nearby.

"Ask yourself, 'How did our personalities mesh?'" says Babbitt. "'Did the vendor understand my vision and the budget I'm working with?'"

*What's Your Price?

While you don't want to make money your main priority, it's definitely an important topic to mention. You want to know what you're getting for your money.

"Ask, 'What are we paying for?'" says Babbitt. "'How are you billing us?'"

Find out whether a vendor has an hourly rate, a day rate or a flat fee. Is there an initial deposit? When is the final payment due?

Plus, you need to know if there might be any additional costs, outside of the agreement. For example, will your cake be more expensive if you choose ingredients that aren't in season?

*Can I Get a Sample?

During your vendor interview, find out whether you can get a sample of what to expect.

"For some vendors, such as florists, it's customary to see a sample centerpiece before the day of; caterers, a tasting," explains McGarigle. "The extent of the sample setup may be determined by your budget and how much you're planning to do."

*What's in Your Contract?

"Once you've discussed the overview of the job, ask the vendor for a proposal outlining descriptions along with a contract," says McGarigle.

Proposals and contracts protect you and the vendor so you both know what's expected.

"Get everything in writing," says Babbitt. "Contracts are a must because things can change. If they change, get a revised contract."

*Do You Have Insurance? Permits? A Backup Plan?

You need to ask some business questions, too.

Does the venue require vendors to have insurance? Find out whether your vendor has insurance in case of an accident or damage to equipment.

Is a permit needed? "For example, many venues require a fire permit in order to have candlelight," says McGarigle. "Your florist, event designer or planner usually handles this."

What's your vendor's backup plan in case of a mix-up or an emergency? For example, what would happen if your DJ's equipment were to malfunction?

Also, ask how all your vendors will work together on the wedding day.

"A venue walkthrough should be planned in advance with all vendors that will be on site the day of, before and/or after," says McGarigle. "This allows for everyone to be on the same page with timing, logistics and rain contingencies, if necessary."

*How Do You Communicate With Clients?

"Communication from start to finish is the most important," says Babbitt, who continues, "Feel confident about the vendors you choose."

Many vendors prefer face-to-face meetings; others love phone calls and email. Some like a mix of all these communication styles.

Know what suits your style, and make sure your vendors will be comfortable communicating with you that way. You should be able to ask them questions anytime.

"It's always better to ask and over-ask than to not ask," advises Babbitt.

McGarigle agrees: "Vendors expect that you will have questions, and if it's a problem for them to answer, you may not have found the right person for the job."

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