It doesn’t matter if your wedding budget is big or small, you’re still spending a ton of money on one big party. It’s a serious investment. I’m a wedding photographer, and I’ve heard many horror stories about caterers, bakers, florists, planners, DJs, venues and even photographers.
I have worked at weddings with amazing and not-so-amazing wedding vendors. If you want to see which ones I recommend in Denver and Colorado, this blog post has my list. Wedding vendors are all small business owners, so the only people many of us are accountable to are ourselves. Unfortunately, not everyone’s moral compass matches their customers, and bad things happen. These are just a few tips from my experience on the inside of the wedding industry for hiring the right people.
1. Make sure the wedding vendors you hire use contracts. A contract isn’t there to just protect the business owner; it’s there to protect you too. It sets the expectations for both groups to come together and do business. Since the wedding industry is full of self-employed people, sometimes you might know someone who you think might do work for free for exposure or give you a discount. Even if you’re trading a wedding professional, getting services for free, at a discount or wholesale rates make sure you have a contract. Just ALWAYS use a contract when entering a business exchange whether it involves money or not. It will hold everyone accountable.
2. Ask for all their pricing information up front to ensure there aren’t any surprise hidden fees. Ask your photographer for their current printing prices, so you know what to expect if you print through them afterward. That way it doesn’t come as a surprise later.
3. Take the time to read your contract. Contracts have information about extra fees in detail. We just forget to read and assume they are “hidden.” When you sign a contract, you agree that you’ve read and understood everything in it. Don’t sign if you didn’t take the time to read through it all. If you have questions before you sign, awesome wedding vendors will be more than happy to answer.
4. Don’t make a trade for exposure if you want to hire the right wedding vendors. I’ve seen this end in disaster one time too many. Since exposure can’t pay someone’s bills, they become less motivated to do their very best work for you.
5. Wedding services are expensive. It’s not because we’re jerks and we just want to make millions of dollars (really I wouldn’t mind a million dollars though). It’s because we’re self-employed and have to cover the cost of our business expenses and still end up paying roughly 30% of everything we earn back in income taxes. The remaining 70% has to cover our costs and still help us make a living. Taxes sting. If you want to hint around to the government for us about taxes, it’d be greatly appreciated. 😉
6. Look for wedding vendors that provide a lot of information and helpful resources for their customers. Those businesses make the best advocates when you hire them. It means they want to ensure your experience is amazing!
7. Ask about travel costs. Depending on the type of wedding vendor some may have extra travel fees to get where you are planning the big day. Some don’t. My prices include travel to anywhere in Colorado and even Moab for wedding photography.
8. Ask to see samples of a wedding vendor’s work. Caterers and bakers will do tastings with you. Some people don’t realize it’s perfectly acceptable to ask a photographer to see a full wedding day gallery. We can’t fit entire weddings on our websites and blogs (so many photos!), so if you want to see what a full day’s worth of work looks like just ask. You can ask similar things of other vendors when it comes to details to get a handle on how they accomplish everything.
9. If you’re not sure who to hire, ask the vendors you have already hired. They have way more experience in the wedding world than anyone else and have wonderful recommendations for you.
10. When trying to keep costs down, but still cover the basics on your wedding day there are tons of different options. If you still want a talented photographer, select a smaller package with less coverage and save money. That may mean you don’t have 4 hours of reception dancing coverage, but you can probably live without it. If there is a vendor you love, but they seem a bit out of reach ask them what options you can cut out to keep the price more in line with your budget. Venues may have linens included that you can opt out of, or your florist may be able to find you more affordable bouquets if you select different flowers (ones that are easier to get ahold of at various times of the year).
11. Look for vendors you feel you can trust. If you can’t trust someone will do an excellent job for you, find a new person. Wedding vendors tend to be creative people and if they have your confidence, the job they do will be amazing!
12. Ignore badges and awards. They are often just a bunch of fluff. Did you know Wedding Wire gives out their “Bride’s Choice” award to thousands and thousands of vendors every year? The Knot is the same with their “best of” awards. It pays for them to hand out these accolades to wedding vendors often, because that’s how they make their money, by encouraging us to advertise with them. The best vendors work because they love what they do, not because they can lay claim to being in the top 100 in the nation at something. A lot of these claims are very arbitrary and in some cases just a marketing ploy and not even real. Find a business owner dedicated to their clients with a passion for their work and that is someone who will rock out your wedding day.
13. Some wedding vendors own their business part time and have another job out in the world. That doesn’t make them any less of a business owner or any less skilled. It’s just a lifestyle choice. Maybe they love both their jobs? Maybe they enjoy their regular job’s health insurance. Maybe it’s a choice for their finances. I know a wedding photographer who owns a full-time wedding business and also works full time because she has the goal of becoming debt free. These people can be just as skilled as someone who does this full time, and you never know why they may choose to work two jobs.
14. If you’re just starting to plan, but your budget is limited prioritize which vendors are the most important to have at your wedding. You don’t need everything available out there to make your wedding fantastic.
15. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is your wedding is about, just that, being a wedding. You don’t need the best of everything or the most expensive stuff to celebrate your lifetime commitment with the person you love. So if you want to skip hiring anyone and celebrate your way – that is just as meaningful as anyone else’s wedding.
I hope this helps you with the hiring process, which can be a stressful thing. Most new clients come to me and say, “We’ve never done this before, so we don’t know what to do, what to ask or what to look for.” And I hope you only have to do this once anyway. Most people have no experience in getting married, except possibly Ross from Friends.
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