Tips for (Successfully) Working with Vendors

A couple in England hired a videographer to capture all of their special moments on DVD. They paid $500 for this service, and the video (click here to watch it) was awful. What becomes apparent watching the clip is that that cameraman double booked, so to collect money from both wedding parties, he set the camera down and let it roll while he moved on to wedding #2.

While the judge awarded the couple $1,000, the memories of their day live on in stills only. Given everything going on in the world today (our Japanese friends awash in the muck and devastation left behind from the earthquake and ensuing tsumani; Civil War in Libya; U.S. troops fighting in three operas…) not having a DVD of your wedding seems a little…we’ll just say it…trifling.

However, I can only imagine the shock of the poor bride anxiously sitting down with her newly betrothed to watch the video, and finding basically nothing. If it were me, that shock would quickly morph into anger over paying for a service not rendered. So with that spin in mind, here’s some things to ponder when signing vendors up for your wedding:

1. Get it in writing. Even if a vendor says they don’t have a contract and work on handshakes, insist that you need the details of the agreement (hours they’ll be on site, the specifics of what they’ll be providing, and the cost) in writing, even if it’s in the form of a confirmation email.

2. Clearly articulate your expectations and your timeline. I can’t tell you the number of times DJs have frantically come running up to us mid-cocktail reception asking if we know what time dinner will be served, when the first dance is scheduled for, and other details (none of which we have). Don’t be afraid to type up a card for your on-site vendors (the DJ, photographer, caterer, bar lead) stating the evening’s timeline.

3. Be honest and upfront with yourself and your vendor about your budget. Before making any contacts with caterers, florists, photographers or other service providers, sit down and establish a realistic budget. Trust us – no good comes of inflating your budget and hoping you’ll be able to spend $20,000 on catering – only to have to tell a caterer a month out that the number is really closer to $5,000. If they’re good at their job, vendors will explore options with you once they have a number in mind, and will give you a variety of options to choose from.

4. Designate the person who’s in charge that evening, and introduce that person to all of your vendors. You’re not going to want (nor have the time) to address all the questions vendors have throughout the evening. But someone needs to answer them. It’s usually best to select someone not in the wedding party, who’s responsible, and good with details.

Our last little bit of advice is not to treat vendors like the hired help. Yes, they are providing a service. No, they are not inferior citizens. They are highly trained professionals and artists partnering with you to make your day special. Approach all interactions with this sentiment in mind, and your vendors will do everything in their power to ensure your day is special, serene, and memorable (in a good way).

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