Ask Team Practical: Picking a Vendor

Ohhhhh… Fridays. I get to read Alyssa’s Ask Team Practical posts mid-week, and when I do, it’s like a little vacation (where I high-five myself for hiring such awesome people). So I hope Fridays feel like a mini-vacation for y’all. Because seriously. Today we’re talking about a question so enormous I don’t know how we haven’t tackled it ages ago: How to Pick a Vendor. And somehow, as practical as this post is, Alyssa and question-asker Sarah made me crack up, all the way through. So here we go ladies: how to think about picking a vendor (hint: it helps to go with your gut).

Today we bring you Sarah, who has a great question

I’m not sure exactly what my question is, but I need some serious advice and a healthy dose of sane. Turns out this wedding planning bit can be stressful, no?

Okay, first the good & important stuff: I am marrying a guy named Amos, I like him, he likes me, and we’re totally stoked on this who-we’re-getting-married-to business.  The planning-to-get-married is a little more stressful than we originally anticipated.  As of last night, we have a pretty-solid potential venue, and it’s even within our budget.   By budget, I mean we had to SWAG a budget, so we’re kind of flying blind and making it up as we go along.  (*SWAG = seriously wild a** guess.   I think that what it’s called when you Google ‘how much does a DJ cost?’  ‘how much does a live band cost?’)

So we have a cool venue, and I do like the people who run it.  But they haven’t done many weddings before, so we’re forging a new trail.  Which you think is exciting, until you get in the damn thing and can’t see the forest for the trees.

We’re going to have to rely on our caterer a lot here, and that’s why I’m writing you all.  How do I know what’s a reasonable fee?  How do I know what questions to ask?  How do I know what I need and don’t need (until a week ago, I never even thought or renting linens. Oooh, that’s how the tables have those pretty white things draped over them!)  And, perhaps most importantly, how do I know when one is good?  I wish the good guys – the ones who use local and sustainable ingredients, who pay their servers and staffs fair wages, who reinvest money into the community, who don’t want to rip us off, upon whom we can trust to do a great job and think of things we didn’t – had halos.  Because I’m on website after website and so terrified we are going to get into a situation where we will end up with a bigger bill than we thought, or we won’t have things we need (wait, who was supposed to rent the microphone for the ceremony?) and be tots stressed… and broke… and <enter awful fantasy here.>   I know, we should start talking to people, but how do you even find the ones to speak with?

Wait, wait, I got my question:
How do I pick a good vendor?

You pick a vendor like you’d pick any other kind of vendor.  Sure, you’ve never thrown a wedding before, but chances are you’ve made other big life decisions.  You’ve picked a place to live, a cell phone provider, hired someone to fix your car, and you’ve probably done that with minimal levels of anxiety.  To help eliminate your current feeling of helplessness and “OMG, what if they suck?!?”  try approaching finding your wedding vendors with the same pragmatism that you would any other service.  By figuring out what you want, doing your research and then going with the best price (with a little help from your gut),  it will lower the stakes for you.

So where to start?  How about just asking your friends and family?  The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to speak to people YOU know and trust to gauge their opinion.  If someone you know has used a vendor that you might need, and you like how their end product turned out, find out who did the work for them.  Notice that I’m not specifically saying ask people who’ve gotten married or engaged recently.  Sure, your newlywed coworker is a great resource, but so is the uncle who just had his retirement party catered by a local restaurant or the neighbor who gets yearly family photos.  The vendors that did those events might do weddings also.  Remember, think in terms of “I need XYZ done” rather than, “I’m getting MARRIED.”  You’ll be able to step back and widen your options just a little bit.

But, be careful with engaging others’ opinions; people get a little excited to help and will all but sign the contract for you with their vendor if they liked them.  (I got married over a year ago and I still have business cards of my photographer in my wallet; and when I didn’t have my purse on me during a recommendation, I grabbed my friend’s phone and put in my photographer’s website into her favorites.  What?  I really like her.)Just get the name and information first, and if after you’ve checked them out and think they might work, buy your friend a coffee and then pick their brain a bit.  Find out what they thought of the vendor’s personality or if there wasn’t anything they didn’t like about them.  People tend to forget things and it could  be that while Aunt Linda loved the catering from that place down the street, she may have forgotten how she had problems setting up a tasting or that they were late to the event.

After getting some rec’s from friends and family, start looking on blogs and websites that you trust.  (*AHEM*)  Start with APW’s blog-roll and go from there.  Look on the Offbeat Bride Tribe’s forums and find the group for your area and stalk the member’s posts.  Someone may have already asked for an amazing caterer who can do a vegan barbeque extravaganza.  If not, post the question yourself.  And don’t think that just because you’re not in a major metro area that you are out of luck.  If the previous ideas don’t pan out, look at local city forums that are not specifically wedding oriented.  Google your city and state plus “discussion board” or “forum” to find specific message groups.

It’s at this point where you’ll start to see about how much you might have to spend.  Let’s talk about that for a sec.

There are so many varying opinions of reasonable fees that we’re not even going to discuss hard numbers.  A cheap wedding in Chicago is going to be different than a cheap wedding in Pensacola.  And there’s the factor of personality.  Someone who can afford a high-dollar vendor still might scoff at the idea of paying that much, while someone with a lower budget will be willing to pay the big bucks because it’s something they desperately want for their wedding.

Honestly, a reasonable fee is one that:

A) fits in your budget

B) is within the range of other vendors in that area with comparable services

C) is a price you are comfortable with.

If you have all three, even if two of them are stronger than the third, you’ve got a reasonable fee.

Do not entertain ideas about venues or vendors that will not fit in your budget.  My mother tells the story of how when I asked for something, she’d say, “Do you want that, or do you need it?”  And I’d reply, “I NEEEEEEEEED IT….”  Don’t be a dramatic baby Alyssa, however adorable and endearing I was.

Repeat after me: “I do not need something that I cannot afford.”*

My lovely little baby brides, you have a budget for a reason.

I’m sure the wedding you might have thrown with the horse-drawn carriages in the renovated monastery would have been PERFECT.

But that’s not the wedding that you’re having.

You’re having a wedding that fits in your budget, so say goodbye to the pretty horsies and get over it.

And I say that with love in my heart.

Once you start narrowing down choices, start checking out the vendor’s specifics.  How’s their Better Business Bureau rating? (Editors note from Meg: Check this. No joke. I went to a bridal shop once that had not one but FOUR complaints against them with the BBB. What? Awesome.)  What about on other rating sites?  Remember, people tend to rate a service when they are mad more often than when they are pleased; but if a vendor has scads of bad reviews over a significant period, proceed with caution.

This is also when you need to start checking out the vendors’ own websites.  Don’t get bowed over by fancy graphics, but make sure that it’s been updated recently and at least looks in this decade (Editors note from Meg: Exceptions are made for the friend of your great granny who makes amazing tamales out of her kitchen. She does not need a website at all).  This is also where you need to use your own personal level of judgment.  (I had a hard fast rule that if a wedding vendor had automatic music playing on their splash page, with no easy way to mute it, they went in the “Aw, HELL nah!” pile.)  One of the great things about the proliferation of blogging and social media is that most vendors will have a blog or Twitter/Facebook.  Look at those too, they will give you an idea of what type of person the vendor is.  Read their “About” section and see what their mission and values are when it comes to their work.  If they have major core values that might conflict with yours, you’re probably not going to want them to work for your for your wedding.

What a vendor puts up on their site is what they are using for marketing purposes and should be their very best work. When picking our photographer, I contacted a pretty good amount of people, but the one that stuck out in my mind was the photographer who’s front page had a portrait-shot of a bride with pink hair and awesome tattoos, lying in a laundry cart in front of a dryer at a laundromat.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was quirky, real and exactly the kind of person I was looking for.  If a vendor’s website doesn’t make you go, “Ooo…” at least once, keep looking.  If you don’t like the look of their best, you shouldn’t waste your time.

I’m not going to give you a list of questions to ask a vendor because that’s a pretty personal list.  There are scores of “What to Ask Your Wedding _______” out there.  Check out a few of them and cobble together your own list, with questions regarding your specific needs thrown in there.  When you finally decide to contact a vendor, be friendly.  Yes, being professional is first and foremost, but I’m sure being friendly is something that will be appreciated.  Maybe they’ll cut you a deal because you’re so danged adorable.

But lastly, and probably most importantly, use your gut.  If something about them rankles, it’s probably not going to get better.  And if something about them is amazing, you might feel it.  You’re going to want a vendor who is professional and will do a good job, but also someone you’ll want to be doing business with in a very stressful period in your life.  In the case of a photographer, this person will be all up in your face on your wedding day. You’re going to want to like them, great rates or not. You might even want to really like them (that’s part of how we pick APW Vendors), but that part is really up to you.

So APW ladies (and men!  There’s at least four of you out there…) how did you go about picking your vendors?  Wedding vendor peeps, this is your time to share!  Are there any specific tips or tricks you can offer our brides?

*This should apply to life and not just wedding planning, but my own credit card balances tell tales on me.

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  • Ali

    Quoting Meg from yesterday:

    Y”ou’re not marrying the dress. And you’re not marrying the location. It’s probably important that you find a relatively perfect spouse, but if you’ve accomplished that, you’re probably not going to live with a lifetime of regret.”

    I feel the same way about vendors…you’re not marrying the vendor. They’re there to do a job, and hopefully they’ll do it well, but if not – it’s not the end of the world, and hopefully your other vendors will make up for it by being awesome in their own ways.

    • YES. As someone who is coming around to her photos, it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t perfect.

      That said, Alyssa is SO RIGHT about liking, if not loving, the photographer. You need to be comfortable with them (my husband was not, and it shows in the photos). They should make you laugh and smile like crazy. Check out the galleries and websites– the couples in engagement photos (i.e., just portrait sessions, no life-altering ceremony involved) should look crazy-in-love. If they do, the photographer captured what they needed to.

      • I like your description. I am also “coming around” to my photos. Thanks for wording that so well. And great advice, by the way..

        • They aren’t what I wanted, or more specifically, they aren’t what I didn’t realize I wanted until after we booked our photographer. Ouch.

          So I’m dealing with it!! They are, of course, great photos. He captured some awesome moments, and I’m focusing on those. I have the rest of my life to hire awesome photographers for portraits and photoshoots, and I’ll be okay with that. :)

          • amelia

            this is exactly what i think/am afraid is going to happen to me. we picked (after my prodding) our photographer super early after getting engaged and i think i’m experiencing some regret. i didn’t really like any of the engagement photos we got back, and feel a bit like she doesn’t really capture things the way i was hoping. i keep hoping it’s just that i don’t like seeing pictures of myself, but then again, i also feel like she just doesn’t take the type of pictures i was hoping to capture. i can’t decide if i want to try to book someone else (we’re a little less than 5 months out) or try to find a second photographer or just suck it up and deal.

          • liz

            amelia, does she have pictures like the ones you wanted on her website? it would not be insulting by any stretch to shoot her an email highlighting which of the photos of hers you like best- especially if you accentuate the positive and don’t hint at “we were dissatisfied with our engagement photos.”

            a lot of times, us wedding-bloggy-types are just exposed to TOO many wedding/engagement shots. we subconsciously have unrealistic expectations that we’re going to get one of each of what we’ve seen out there or something.

            but something drew you to this chick- see if you can remember what that was, and give her some direction by pointing out “we love when you use the soft focus!” or “this photo with the distorted perspective is exactly something i’d frame!”

    • Chantelle

      Seriously, can we start a Quotes or Nuggets of Wisdom section? There are moments when I need a quick reality check and words like this would snap me right back…and I really am far to lazy to start copying this stuff into my journal :)

      • Yes, yes, yes.

        Just like a motivational quotes thing, but different.

      • I had my own Word file called “Quick tips & practical advice” (and did not actually name it after this site, but it could well have been) where I put quotes from commenters on here, Meg, my aunts talking about their weddings, etc. It was convenient to have it all in one place, and I bet you could do the same with a Google Doc… and bonus, share it with your sister/MOH/mom/partner!

    • TheArchaeologist

      I wish I had asked for references from my photographer. I say this because just because you like the photos doesn’t mean the person in them loved them. I got my photos and I could think of 100 better ones OF US I had from my dinky digital camera. Sometimes the photographer will be focused on getting the something really cool and artistic, but it’s from the wrong angle for the subjects in the photo.

  • Most of our vendors sort of fell into place (“Oh, hi, woman selling wildflowers at the farmer’s market. Could you do our wedding? Okay, cool.”), but the one that we did struggle with a bit, like Sarah, was our caterer. This was the most time-consuming one: I looked up caterers in the area, read the menus they had posted online, and emailed them first. It turned out that our budget was very, very different from what every single caterer quoted us (turns out it’s really hard to feed 50 people using professional caterers for $1000 in Boston), and that helped us re-evaluate what we were willing to spend.

    With that in mind, we met with two people, both of whom we’d heard of both online and through other people. One of them dropped the ball several times: didn’t respond to emails in a timely manner, didn’t put the foods we had discussed on the quote, and changed the quote between our conversation and sending it to us. The other one? They were awesome. They looked at our budget, told us where the wiggle room was, and offered to throw in everything they owned for free (ie the basic tablecloths and dishes – nothing fancy). We ended up paying a little more than our original plan with them, but we did it happily because they were just so awesome and willing to work with us.

    Um, sorry, that was really long. Our big help:
    – Yelp
    – Personal recommendations (the one we used we heard about from 3 different people, none of whom knew each other)
    – Trusting our instincts (if they can’t answer an email before the wedding, what happens on the day of??)

    Good luck!


      Must exactly the trust your instincts part. Many of our vendors also kinda just ‘fell in place’. (ex. our venue – the ones I did much research on and spent hours emailing we didn’t pick and the where we finally ended up was a restaurant where while I was dining with finace and fam said ‘Oh, this is a really cool place. I wonder if they do weddings?’ Answer: Yes, affordable, and really easy to work with).

      Our band was actually off a Craigslist listing and have been super so far (a private showcase, working with our budget, AMAZING talent – we are musicians too so are quite picky about this bit – and had a signing that took two hours because we chatted away with the band leader and lost track of time).

      Haven’t had the wedding yet, but I also love the photographer we picked – suggest looking at WPJA if you want a list of photojournalist photographers. Had a bit of trouble signing the contract (sudden slow responses after being fast a few months earlier) but the great vibe I got from our face to face meeting and our great conversations over the phone made me go forward, trusting my gut that this was our photographer. Turns out she had a personal dilemma and was expanding her business at the same time so she apologized that I got lost in the shuffle for a bit there. So if you do run into a few snags during the vendor process, but still feel like this is the right vendor for you, don’t just write off the vendor – try to find out if there are other things going on behind the scenes first, then make your decision.

      • Amy

        We signed our band after seeing them play at a friend’s wedding, and they were hands down one of the most awesome parts of our wedding. It was a significant chunk of our budget but it was so worth it to work with a fabulous band that while not a “wedding” band were also so happy to work with us and super responsive.

        • Our band is one that just sort of happened, too, and they really aren’t a “wedding band” either. They play (and totally *make*) a neighborhood party on our lake every year, so we went to one of their public shows & said, “Hi, you know us, we’re at that party every year.” They said, “Man, we LOVE that party & all of you who attend it!” We said, “Excellent! We’re throwing a wedding just like that party, and with lots of the same people in attendance. Want to play it?” And they did, and they rocked it, and our reception was an incredible party because of them. (And as a bonus, the bass singer is the current ‘voice of the Detroit Lions’. I had cousins from outside of MI asking me if that was “the Theo I think it is” up there!)

          So anyone looking for a band in lower Michigan, please tweet at or email me (RegularlyAmazed, gmail), I’d love to tell you all about them!

  • Bridette

    Once I narrowed the field a bit – I got a quote with the same exact thing from each vendor (the actual menu we wanted, the actual flowers) and compared apples to apples. Some people quote high and include all the extras and others quote low and itemize you to death. Do a last minute side-by-side when you have gotten it to two. and ask for an example -I ended up completely walking away from one cuz I just didn’t like the food after I had tasted it.

    I walked from another cuz they charged me double what they said but hid it in extra fees. I would rather have full disclosure early on, makes me feel more in control.

    And your gut is good – I went with a caterer because of my gut and so far, so good. They have bent over backwards for me.


  • I’m in the midst of the stressful process of choosing my vendors, and I think, by process of elimination, am gradually learning what NOT to do. ;)

    For our venue, we looked at eight different places. It was exhausting and stressful and resulted in tears and sleepless nights. I never want to repeat that process again.

    Since then, my MO has been to go small. Instead of spending countless hours researching zillions of different options, I force myself to limit my options to just four or five from the get go. Basically, I start researching and when I find four or five that work in terms of my budget, sensibility, etc, I stop. Because honestly, you could research options till the cows come home. There are just that many. So it helps me to narrow immediately. I go with things like the preferred vendor lists from my venue, from APW and indiebride, and word of mouth.

    Even with four or five, I am finding it hard to pick one. (This may or may not have anything to do with my fiance who, just as we’ve made a cut down to two, will say things like, “You know, maybe we should look at a few more people.” Ahem.)

    But when I was talking to a friend about potential photographers she said, “Look. Any of these photographers would take great shots. Ultimately you want to pick someone who you like, who you enjoy, and then move on.”

    So I think Alyssa is exactly right. I’d say, purposely narrow your choices. Then do further research into those few choices. Solicit any advice from in laws, parents, etc. And then go with your gut.

    • Jennifer

      “But when I was talking to a friend about potential photographers she said, ‘Look. Any of these photographers would take great shots. Ultimately you want to pick someone who you like, who you enjoy, and then move on.'”

      This was a big part of my staying-sane approach. While I researched a ton online, and did contact a few different vendors for each of the services I needed, I ended up not actually meeting with more than one on anything. Visited one venue, booked. Met with florist #1, liked her a lot, liked the quote just fine, so went ahead and booked. Same with the photographer, same with the DJ, etc. We did have a fairly inclusive wedding venue, so there weren’t as many vendors to book, which also helped, but I think the willingness to book as soon as we found something that worked rather than hunting high and low for the very best we could afford was key for me. (I suspect, also, that the more time you spend looking for The Perfect Vendor, the more likely you may be to fret if they turn out to be merely Excellent instead of Perfect.)

    • Rachel

      So true, I think with photographers more than anybody else. Photographers will be the only vendors that are by your side or close to it for anwhere from 3 to 10 hours that day. They’re going to see you in your underwear. They’re going to watch while you have your breakdown. They’re going to know your dark family secrets that explain why Family Member X should not be permitted to run the show in any way, shape, or form. If you don’t genuinely like that person or those people, you’re going to feel reaaaaaaally awkward.

      Let me put this in perspective. In several meetings with our photographers, they got used to the fact that I have a potty mouth. On the sweltering, humid day that we got married, I was DYING under my dress. My patience was wearing thin during our formal shots as I watched the guests enjoy cold drinks and good food during the cocktail hour while I hadn’t eaten for 6 hours. The male half of our photography couple then proceeded to tell me this story: “Oh man. A few years ago, we shot a wedding that was about this hot. The bride found a box fan and laid it down on the ground, then stood over it so it was blowing up her dress. My assistant goes, ‘Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘box fan.”” Totally picked up my spirits.

      Moral of the story? Pick a photographer you could have coffee or a beer with. Also, eat something so you’re not having a meltdown.

      • Box fan. That’s hysterical. Sounds like your photographers were good people.

      • “Pick a photographer you could have coffee or a beer with.”
        I cannot EXACTLY this sentiment enough…that’s why I like to meet potential clients for coffee or beer!

        As an APW Wedding Elf and bride I think that this is the biggest factor in choosing a photographer, caterer, rental company, flame thrower, whatever…you are going to have to speak with these vendors MULTIPLE times before your event (and give them your hard earned cash) so why not hire someone that you like?
        I chose the cheapest food in town ($10 a person for gourmet pizza, WHUT) not only because they were cheap but I loved the woman that runs the restaurant! I chose the most expensive rentals in town, not just because their goods were HIGH QUALITY but also because every time I went into the show room, the owner remembered who I was and complimented me on what I wore the LAST time I was in there!

        Your money is precious and so is your time so don’t waste it on something that doesn’t make you happy.

      • Zan

        hehehe. Box fan. hehehe.

  • I hear what you’re saying about the third party review sites, but I love Yelp, and I usually only write reviews when I’m very very pleased with something, or when I don’t think something is living up to it’s hype. Plus there is a big emphasis on community within the yelping world, and Yelp works pretty hard to make sure their reviews are legit and posted by actual people.

    Also it’s easy to search for businesses by location and cost. For most of my major purchasing decisions I have gone there. I’ve also found out about lots of cool things and yelp that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and I’ve never felt that they steered me wrong.

    • Alyssa was right about one part about Yelp and online review websites; people do go there either when very pissed off (common) or very happy. I checked out Yelp for our bridal shop and got some very, VERY mixed reviews that made me uncomfortable.

      HOWEVER, when I went to the shop and met with the owner and shop attendants, I found myself loving it. It was a local shop, the women all had thick Boston accents (or Italian accents, hah), it was a family owned business, and they were adorable. So I trusted my gut instead of Yelp, and I’m so glad I did. The women were great, we got a 10% discount, and my dress came in a month after we ordered it, and nine months before my wedding. Nine months!!

      Alyssa’s right: trust your gut. :)

    • meg

      Also, Yelp is in the midst of a huge lawsuit for essentially shaking down small business owners (you hear about this all the time in San Francisco). If you don’t advertise with them, your good reviews disappear. If you do, the bad ones get buried. So BE CAUTIOUS.

      • Oh No!!! I hadn’t heard about that… I’m so disappointed. One more thing in the world that I thought was awesome, which has turned out to be evil. Sadface.

      • what – WHAT? That happened with my cafe and I was so confused as to why!

  • Mel

    I ended up picking a fairly traditional venue and caterer (ie, not a barn in the middle of nowhere). While I didn’t get some of the details others do, I feel like telling those who are drawn to DIY weddings how great this was. I didn’t have to rent linens, tables, chairs, silverware, etc. They handled almost all set-up and take-down. They had done this before, so they said helpful things like “Usually, people put the guest book here and the gifts here.” They were incredibly reassuring and took so much pressure off that I was able to decide the DIY details that I DID want to obsess over, like the programs and place cards. I had thought I wanted to do artsy table numbers, but when things got overwhelming, I just used the caterer’s table numbers (which they set up themselves). Caveat: I’m in the Midwest and had a small wedding, so these traditional venues may be less affordable in other areas. Message: Don’t think that you have to reinvent everything from scratch when there are professionals who can help you.

    • FM


      I found with my wedding that one drawback is that the people sometimes have a hard time letting go of their traditional wedding ideas and letting your ideas replace them for your wedding. So, you might have a few battles and you might actually decide not to fight some of them (especially if the people on the day-of didn’t get the memo and do something you asked to be changed – and I recommend not fighting most of those battles, often not worth breaking your wedding-day bubble). The upside is that they are often really good at making things run smoothly so you don’t have to worry about it. They have tricks up their sleeves (and smooth coordination) for pretty much every possible game-day occurrence.

      • Liz

        not just the coordination aspect, but also the financial end. sometimes it SOUNDS cheaper to get an out-of-the-way venue and then handle the food, linens, dish rentals, tables and chairs, centerpieces … all separately, yourself. but when you get down to crunching the numbers, it can work out to be MORE expensive than an all-inclusive. an expensive catering hall has the chairs, tables, linens, dishes, dj set-up, whatever, so they don’t need to do a huge mark-up for those things.

        we went the diy route, but constantly checked our figures side-by-side with the gorgeous all-inclusive we would have picked if we could have afforded it. we saved a ton of money, but it could have really easily spun out of control.

        • Amy

          Not that I think NY Magazine’s wedding issue’s budget recommendations are truly budget-friendly, but even they recommend staying away from loft-venues in NYC for this reason alone. It can get really pricey (and exhausting) to have to bring in every.single.thing.

          • lorna

            to agree with @FMs first point- where i live (the UK) but all inclusive is absolutely the norm, and any deviation is at best, misunderstood, at worst, banned. i don’t like cake (sorry, i never have!) but trying to find a wedding who will let us have pie instead is proving a major challenge (‘you can’t provide any of your own food.’ ‘it’s instead of a wedding cake’ ‘no, you’re not allowed your own food.’ is a conversation i’m having daily.) i’m sure it’d be a bit cheaper and definitely easier to go this route, but i’m not sure i can deal with the cost. i envy you all who have found these awesome venues!

  • Alicia

    Not to be all ‘this is a huge decision that your life depends on’ or anything… but I will say that if you’re going with a ‘non-traditional’ wedding venue the caterer is a pretty big deal in helping you stay practical, sane etc later on. We were all into being DIY and crafty and non-WIC and went with a venue where we had to do a lot of set up (and take down) ourselves. So the caterer became the main point of contact for things like renting plates/linens, ordering booze etc.

    I liked our caterer, she was all local and ethical and fabulous on paper and in the initial meeting. what she wasn’t, it turns out later, was a professional party planner – she was a cute restaurant owner that does yummy food. So it was a bit of a balance, I liked the ethics and food vision but ended up having to do quite a LOT of extra work with the organising/rentals/planning that to be honest, I could have done without. I’m not saying sacrifice ethics but do think about how much time/energy you want to spend on some of the nitty gritty stuff later versus how important the food is to you. I don’t know if I’d have done it differently but there was definitely a bit more labor involved than I would have liked. Try to get a strong sense of this from your caterer up front, and maybe ask if you can speak to a former client?

    • Amy

      Also – not all caterers offer much in the way of set-up/prep/tear down for anything other than the food. There seems to be the assumption that they do, but most of the NYC caterers I’ve worked with supply food, serving dishes, and servers and that’s about it. You generally have to work with rental companies to do things like get linens/chairs/plates/glasses/etc. This may be a regional thing, but the caterers I’ve seen that do offer linens/flatware/plates etc. noted that, and in some cases, charged extra for it (or built it into their price).

      • Liz

        in addition, some caterers don’t factor their servingware into the price. i was shocked by this when we finally got a REAL rundown of what one caterer would cost us. we were quoted one price for the food, and then when we started to head toward signing for things, received a MUCH bigger number for food + servers + servingware. i thought it was sheisty.

        • Amy

          Oh gosh – and with some venues, don’t forget about the “plus plus” (tax and gratuity). This can add 20-20% to your overall bill. I do events for work and always asked about it, but it is not something people generally thing about when talking with caterers or thinking about their per person catering budget – ie, it can easily take your $105/pp venue up to $130/pp – a big difference.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            Yes! My all-inclusive venue (ceremony, reception, catering, tables, chairs, linens, dessert) charged an 18% service fee on everything, plus 9.2% sales tax where we got married outside of Chicago.

            So everytime we talked about the difference between two options we had to remember that they were 30% more expensive than they sounded. The venue was really up front about it, but when you’re debating between a $3 and $4 dessert bar for 225 people, that adds up to a lot of $$$.

        • We’ve found the same thing with the glass hire company. The one with the cheapest upfront quote didn’t include delivery, washing up or VAT.

          The caterers have been very clear about what they do and don’t include. We investigated doing the teas and coffees ourselves to save money but have eventually concluded that the £200 is worth it not to have to think about it on the day.

  • Vmed

    This was a scary one for me- my sister sent me a spreadsheet of her venue decision making process and it had over 50 sites with at least 12 variables considered, and she noted having visited “the top 20”. I freaked out a little.

    But I didn’t have to do that. At all. Thank god.

    Once we decided which state, and which season, we narrowed it down to my college town(because it’s small and cute and safe). Which reduced the possible places to something like 3? But my alma mater’s student union had the best most inclusive deal hands down (and I knew their university catering to be ahmazing). And once we sent the friendly question-ful email to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true, we found out which fall weekend did not have a football game planned in town (because haha, no) and booked it.

    Brides, do consider your university unions- they tend to love their alums, include tables and chairs and linen options in house, have built in restrooms, they have reasonable prices and in our case it’s such a grand old building.

    As for photography? APW photog. Leah and Mark are so amazing, and I am just crazy excited about that.

  • Katie

    I’d like to give a bit shout out for the “trust your gut” thing. I’m a really organized person. And our catering vendor seemed to have some communication issues…ie: he’d take about two weeks to respond to emails. That should have been a red flag, but I ignored it for a long time, putting up with it cause we loved their food etc. A week before the wedding our caterers sprang a large expense on us that wasn’t our fault and was basically due to the fact that they hadn’t been organized enough and/or communicated clearly with us. Luckily, I wrote a bitchy email to the owner of the company, she jumped in, and it all turned out ok. But the GUT. My gut was telling me this guy was too loopy and disorganized for me and it turned out to almost kick me in the arse. So trust yourself and how you respond to people.

    (on the flip side my venue coordinator would email me back within 5 minutes. I LURVED her).

  • Ugh, picking vendors. We ended up with some awesome ones, some not-so-much-awesome ones. Getting married in a relatively small northern MN town meant that many vendors had outdated websites, but we decided that this didn’t matter to us when it came to food. We taste tasted cake (I wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity!), and got reviews from locals on good caterers. For us, the important thing was that the food tasted delicious. (And was within our budget, of course.) I can honestly say that the brunch at our wedding was one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. And the cake was absolutely DIVINE– which is saying a lot, since I’m not even that big of a carrot cake fan!

    I’d caution any brides who are planning on working with vendors that you have a personal relationship with to really work through the details and make sure you’re completely on the same page. I know the friend/vendor situation works for some people, and that’s great, but it did not work for us. Our photographer was a friend of our family and we ran into all sorts of trouble around expectations, results, and follow-up. It was a constant headache, and still stresses me out if I think about it too much. If you DO plan to use a friend/acquaintance as a vendor, I’d recommend writing up a contract. Even if that seems crazy or way too formal– it might really save you in the end. (This is just from my personal experience, I’m sure some friends make great vendors)

  • Mallory

    I agree that knowing the right questions to ask can be really hard. In my limited experience, some of the questions you want to ask just kind of arise when you start talking to other vendors. I.e. one vendor may mention that they include table linens and you think “oh wow that’s a good thing to know I should ask my other vendors that”. Just make sure you have contact info for your vendors so you can call them back and ask them the questions that you didn’t realize you had when you talked to them. Not only is it useful, but it can also be a good test to try to contact them after your initial meeting and see how they respond to your additional questions (like if they are hard to get a hold of, don’t get back to you, or make you feel like you’re wasting their time).

    Also for caterers, I did some non-profit event planning and one place sent me a menu that I LOVED. I wasn’t thrilled by the price though. I took their name off the quote and sent the menu to another caterer that I was working with whose prices seemed more reasonable and whose service I liked better and asked them to make me a menu that was similar to that one which ended up being a much better fit for our event.

    • Mallory

      Oh also I’ve played with Yelp a bit to find reviews on places, the website is pretty easy to use.

  • Tracy

    Here are a few of my thoughts on picking a venue (caveat – we have picked the venue, but not gotten married there yet, so….).
    (1) It’s great to talk with family and friends about what they think is a good venue, but try not to go down that road too far. Our families are both really great and supportive, but everyone has an opinion even if they tell you to do whatever you like, and trying to look at a place through a lot of different eyes and make everyone happy is really stressful.
    (2) Try and find out if the place is catering to the kind of wedding you want to have. We were really into this vacation rental house with a barn that does weddings, and it seemed like the perfect place for our homey, casual wedding celebration…until we realized that they were aiming at clientele who wanted wedding coordinators, and top end catering, etc. and that we weren’t a good match after all.
    (3) I’m echoing Meg again with the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” sentiment, here, but it’s been a really good motto for me as well. Once you’ve chosen a place just accept it, don’t think about what could have been. As long as it is good enough (and something egregious isn’t done, of course) just consider it a given and don’t put any more energy into that part of the process.

    • Lydia

      One thing I did that I regret was that I planned two wedding possibilities: the low key destination evening wedding where friends and family took care of food and setup that I actually had, and a catered morning wedding in a garden at a park close enough to home that I could bike there the day of. It was great to have two options early on, but I kept mentally planning the close to home wedding until I left for my real wedding. It was a waste of energy, and really annoyed my fiancee.

  • Jill

    (I had a hard fast rule that if a wedding vendor had automatic music playing on their splash page, with no easy way to mute it, they went in the “Aw, HELL nah!” pile.)

    I thought I was the only one! To me it’s an arrogance thing. Do I want a vendor who only thought of themselves and how awesome they are and how much they totally love this song when they made their website; as opposed to someone who considered I might not want to hear Celine Dion on repeat for 10 minutes while I browse? Not really.

    • I did this, too! Kind of. My first-pick venue was an amazing old renovated church in my hometown (no horses were involved in this vision, FWIW) but the first time I went to their website I was inundated with “Hey, Soul Sister” playing on a constant loop. Mostly it was just funny because my fiancee and I have an intense, shared loathing of the song, but it might’ve been a sign the place just wasn’t for us… We visited that place and one other, a historic property with a beautiful old house and barn that my aunt and uncle recommended—which I had to do some SERIOUSLY deep, stalkerish Googling to even get a phone number for, because they don’t have a website AT ALL. I felt weird about that at first, but as soon as we visited the place and met the owner/organizer I had no qualms whatsoever. She was super up-front about all the pricing (which was super incredibly reasonable), gave us tons of print-outs once we visited, and has been super super helpful via email (we booked it pretty soon after). She just, for whatever reason, hasn’t put all this online. So, my two cents—don’t let the lack of a website turn you off from a place, especially if it comes with a glowing recommendation from a trusted friend or family member (and especially, once you visit it, you can’t stop squealing under your breath and fighting the urge to hug the lady giving you a tour because it’s weirdly perfect although not what you expected).

    • Alyssa

      No, m’am! The only thing that irritates me more is where they do that thing that turns your cursor into something cutesy, like butterflies or snow.

      REALLY? Just tell me how much you G**D*** charge!!!

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        My wedding is not more magical because my cursor twinkles.

      • Jill

        Here’s another fun one: I once went to a photographer’s website and clicked the “investment” tab. The page it took me took said something like “If this is the first thing you clicked I don’t think we’d be a very good fit blah blah blah I’m an ARTISTE.” Yeah, pass, thanks.

  • We didn’t have many people to ask for recommendations, so I hit the interwebz hard. Once we picked the Where, we did receive a list of approved caterers (since it was a historic building). The list still had over 30 names on it, but at least it gave us a place to start. By checking reviews and websites and such, we compiled a short list. The thing is, once we started talking to people, the people we wanted to work with became crystal clear. Not that everyone wasn’t nice or responsive, but we got excited when it came to working with one prospect over others. As Alyssa says, trust that feeling. It’s true when it comes to caterers, it’s true when it comes to photographers, it’s true when it comes to your friends and family who you’re thinking of asking to help with the wedding.

    And yes, make sure that you’re comparing the same things when it comes to price. If two places have the same price but one includes set up and breakdown and the other says that you have to pay staff hourly outside of the actual event hours, then it’s not really the same, is it?

    Also . . . depending on where you live, there might be many professionals who fit the bill when it comes to flowers/photography/venue/whatever it is that you’re looking for. You might like them all. They might all be within your budget. They’re all highly rated by past brides and grooms. (Lucky!) But you can’t choose all of them. Pick one — maybe you liked their dog’s name, who cares? — and go with it. They will be great. Put that in the ‘done’ pile and move on.

  • SWAG budget is possibly my favoritest budget term EVER. It is now officially employed, because that is what I’ll be doing this weekend–coming up with a SWAG budget.

    Alyssa, great advice as always (can I carry you in my pocket forevermore? I need a shoulder Alyssa. You would be both the good one AND the bad one!)

    • lorna

      i also freakin’ love this term. we just sat down to talk budgeting, and had the ‘how the heck am i supposed to know what stuff costs?’ conversation. i’m so glad it has a shorter name, cause that’s a mouthful…

    • I came upon that term with work, where I do Project Management and budgeting and it made me laugh because it is exactly what we were doing with wedding planning. btw – how the H did anyone ever plan anything before Google? my god, that would have been impossible!

      • lorna

        preach it sister…

  • FM

    I had a fantasy that I would love all my vendors, want to be their best friend, and they would all do the most amazing work and I’d want to give them all A+++ on internet reviews. Well, I didn’t feel that way about a single one of my vendors. BUT my wedding was still awesome and none of their flaws remotely affected the wedding in any way that others (except maybe the wedding party) could tell. If I had known about more of the flaws in advance, I may have dealt with some of them differently (like give some of them earlier times to arrive, so when they were a half hour late, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all – as it was I told them all early enough times that nothing drastic happened and I totally recommend that). Some of the things they did were perfectly fine from an outside perspective, but just didn’t match my instructions, and ultimately that was ok. I would still have hired every single one over anyone else that we looked at. In my opinion and experience, perfect isn’t necessary and may be unattainable, and at some point it is helpful to let the fantasy go. This means that even if they don’t execute things exactly as you envisioned, it doesn’t have to mean the wedding wasn’t awesome. Pick people you trust in your gut to act competently and make reasonable and professional game-time decisions about the core thing you hired them for (i.e., my photographer isn’t my best friend and was a tiny bit late, but he was a nice enough guy and my pictures are AMAZING and worth more than he charges). And try to get honest assessments of their weaknesses so you can try to counterbalance them (like telling them an earlier time to arrive).

    Also, on websites, I disagree with Alyssa. There are lots of really good vendors out there who have not caught up with the times, and really rely on word-of-mouth and reputation in the community to get their clients. And a lot of people with really good websites are not as great in person (flower- arranging or great-food-making don’t necessarily correspond with web and email skills). If you need your vendor to be young and trendy because you want their product to be young and trendy, then yes rely on the website. But think about what vendors you really need that from, and whether someone’s experience (which you know about maybe from your friends and family that have given glowing reviews) outweighs their modernity.

    • I have to admit – I totally judge a vendor by their website. If they have a janky website – which usually means lack of information, outdated photos, outdated updates, and/or broken links, I doubt their abilities. To me it’s the same thing as walking into an office that is falling down, messy, and makes the visitor feel uncomfortable. It’s about being professional AND having good skills and a personality that works with my vibe. A good website is not just about being trendy or hip.

      • Exactly. A vendor’s website is like their storefront. They have to put their best face forward.

      • I agree! A good website is not about being trendy or hip, you want to see that they value their business enough to keep their website up to date.

        howeverrrr, sometimes it’s a bit like What Not To Wear. You know those ladies who are really great at their jobs but just never learned how to dress themselves/apply make-up/work color into their wardrobe? Sometimes businesses are the same way. They just might not even realize what their crappy site is saying about them, or they built their business on word of mouth and just don’t see their website as a priority. I mean I totally judge a company by their website, but if you find them via good reviews, I would say it’s a good idea to email/call and see what they’re like..

        • Alyssa

          I think there’s a good balance here. If you’re in a limited area and have only a few choices, yes, give the ladies with the website done by their grandson a try. BUT, I mention it as part of the weeding out process; if you’re trying to narrow down between 14 vendors, it’s a safe bet to go ahead and assume that how they keep their website is how they do their business. A website really needs to be their best work and it’s part of the marketing process now, it’s no longer just a neat thing to have.
          But if you go there on a recommendation from someone you trust, it’s okay to do a little more digging if their webpage is crappy.

          And I agree with DDay. I really think there’s a difference between ugly and unprofessional. I can forgive cheesy or not my style, there’s even something endearing about that. But if it’s outdated (like listing their specials from 2008) or is tough to navigate or with broken links, I’d pass.

    • Liz

      i DEFINITELY judge a website by its cover when it comes to an artistic field. and that’s in the bald-faced, judgey way.

      • meg

        Depends on the vendor though. Our caterers website hails from 1998, and they have very little internet presence (they don’t need to, they have word of mouth). Their food though? A freaking mazing.

        That said a janky PHOTOGRAPHY website? Aw hell naw.

        • Totally agree. I think the criteria depends on which vendor you’re picking. Carter’s craft is very different from a Photographer’s craft, which is different than a band of DJ. For instance, I immediately ruled out any website with autoplay music except a band’s, because I wanted to hear their music and sound right away. That’s why I was there.

          • Yep.

            If I were actually paying for our photography and not getting it as a gift from my SIL, I’d have gone elsewhere simply because of the website music.

      • I am SO website-judgey. My partner had to turn it down a notch the other day when I looked at the florist’s website (wedding’s in a tiny town, there really is just “the” one florist) and some crap music started playing in the background whilst butterflies flitted across my screen and I scoffingly pointed out every typo. He pointed out that she could, in fact, be both a fabulous florist and a terrible website designer – so I agree that the vendor’s field is fair to keep in mind when critiquing websites. But really, it was bad.

  • I feel I got off easy. We did the flowers. I got a package deal from a place that did decorations and catering. A friend of mine has a photography business so she knew me and was beyond ecstatic that I was getting married and that excitement showed in her photos, and I just love the way the eyes have life in her photos. And then we had to pick a bakery to do the cake. And we had to pick it long distance with no chance to see or taste actual cakes. So I went with the bakery that had the best website – no music (HATE insta-music on websites) and had all of their prices and options listed on the website right there for me to see (I was actually surprised at how few places do that).

    But I think the advice of thinking about wedding vendors like you do any other vendor in life is perfect. That’s how I got my phone service, my mechanic, my apartments, my doctors, even the credit card with the rewards plan I have. I compared options, I kicked some metaphorical tires, and I asked friends and family. That’s works so well in a normal situation, it should work just fine in a wedding situation.

    • That advice made so much sense to me. I think I’ve been pretty good about not getting wrapped up in the “biggest day of your life” hoopla with most things, but I didn’t really think to apply it to weddings. Granted, yes, it is the most dinero we’ve ever spent at one time (besides college tuition and purchasing a car), so it feels big, but the fundamentals are the same as picking so many other things in life.

  • Aine

    Personal recommendations are great with vendors- We found a caterer my aunt uses for a lot of parties, who turned out to do food by the tray- so instead of the usual “per person” charge, its like 100 for every 20- which is fantastic when we have billions of relatives coming. Seriously.

    However, check things out a lot- we got recc’d the photographer who did my friend’s wedding, who I knew from chatting was a really nice, friendly type who takes her work seriously but loves it. My friend was thrilled with her pictures. Sounds good, no? Then I looked at her wedding album and went “Meh. These are not so great. Maybe Friend asked for shots I hate?” So I checked the website, and found a weird mix of lick-the-screen amazing shots and just plain awful “why would you use these to advertise your business?” ones. So just remember that you might have very different standards/expectations than your loved ones when it comes to services rendered.

    • Amy

      Good point – I always caveat my vendor recommendations to friends with these sorts of details. My wedding videographer was chosen because he did Super-8 filming. This is a style I loved (and paid up for) but not something other people would necessarily like, or appreciate like my film-school dorky self did.

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  • katie

    I can’t add much wisdom to the vendors category – I got married in his small town where his folks knew everyone, but I will agree that organized vendors are key – and if you have one that you really love and know, like a florist, they can also be a good source for recommendations on other folks, such as music or food.
    As for Meg’s comments about mini-vacations with Alyssa’s posts – I love seeing that smiling face pop up on Facebook newsfeed! How can somebody looking that happy not put you in a good friday mood? ;-)

    • Alyssa

      YOU, my dear, are my new favorite. :-)

    • I’m planning from LA for a wedding in my teeeeenytiny hometown. Every time I call a restaurant or hotel or other vendor their first questions are, “Are you from here? What street do you live on? Who are your parents? Are you downtown? Want to just stop by sometime and chat?” which is adorably quaint, but sometimes annoying when I would like them to just email me some information like a regular professional business owner.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        You need a ground team. When I was doing my cross-country planning I’d send my sister/MOH to deal with chatty people in person. She was terribly good-natured about it, she’d head to some restaurant after work and chat up the hostess and ask for the owner and identify the older siblings of the wait staff as classmates and get me a good deal. Over the phone, for me (the antisocial one) it was too much, but she’s great at that kind of thing. That’s an asset I needed in the wedding brigade :)

  • Rasheeda

    Ahhhh, I needed this post about a year ago…Alyssa you are spot on. I spent WAYYY too much money (I couldn’t get back) when I ignored people’s gripes (I actually read them) and my own intuition (read that as: gut, spidey senses, juju- whatever you call it). I picked a venue that wasnt US, and I knew it. So 2nd time around, I thought of what I wanted and truly listened to myself. I found perfection (in my eyes), I found a vendor that actually has little online presence but loads of personality and willingness to make my event feel special. The first meeting I had with the coordinator she literally said “We can do whatever you want and it won’t be any extra”- Angels Sang out. Same goes with every other vendor- I sat with my photographer and just talked for 2 hours- I already saw her portfolio, I knew what she was working with but I needed to know HER. So I add on to what Alyssa said- Get to know your vendors, be nice, trust their work (if you don’t trust it, you already know your answer).

  • I just want to throw this out as a nearly unrelated sidenote: Meg, you should totally have a facebook like button on this. I would “like” it… so for now, I will just copy the link and post it to my facebook that way. :)

    • meg


  • Amy

    I’ve seen this mentioned by the other commenters in passing, but after you have picked your vendors (and ideally even before) look at their contracts! Read the contract, understand what is (and is not) included. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and use this knowledge to your advantage. For example – one florist in Brooklyn wanted to charge me $40 more per table for the exact same flower arrangements than another florist in NYC. Why? Apparently that Brooklyn florist was all the rage among cool indie (though non indie on a budget) brides. Sometimes internet hype is not your friend.
    Also – contracts are not something that you have to blindly sign! Contracts are designed to protect both parties, not just the vendor. It does not make you a bad person or a bridezilla to read the contract, and then ask to have changes made before signing it. It also never hurts to add in things you’ve discussed verbally – like when the person needs to show up by, when you can expect to have things delivered to you, etc. If something goes south, or changes, the contract can protect you in court or even just give you leverage with your vendor (ie – my contract says I should have had my pictures within 3 months, and its been 6 months and they are nowhere to be seen).
    My venue changed management midway through my engagement. Thanks to a scrupulously detailed contract, and many footnotes, we were able to put the kibosh on the new owners trying to take out services or charge us more for things that I had agreed on with the previous owners. Is this a worst case scenario? Yes. But I would have hated to be the bride who had a verbal agreement about an extra hour of a reception being thrown in free who then had no leg to stand on when the management change happened.

    • Alyssa

      YES, to contracts and for goodness sake, keep a copy on hand during the planning process. A good contract will have all the contact information you need, as well as outlinting what is expected of both you and the vendor.

      And don’t try to cheat your contract. (Not that Meg’s lovely readers would do that, but it must be said!) Even if it’s something small, you signed it so stick with it. People abusing vendors is usually why they have contracts in the first place.

  • Rachel

    So true about not getting caught up in fancy website graphics. Our caterer had the kind of website that you made in 15 minutes in 7th grade so your friends had something to read about you. But when we visited him, sparks flew. First off, we met him IN HIS HOME, so we met his dog and he talked about his wife and kids, which made us feel more comfortable, because we felt he understood how important the family part of the wedding was for us. Second, he told us that, if we were dead-set on a recipe, we could send it to him, he would make it, and we could come down for taste-tests until we were satisfied. We didn’t do that, but that told us he would go to great lengths to keep us happy. The night of the wedding, he hid under an awning for 2 hours in the rain waiting for us to leave so he could gather the tablecloths. He didn’t hassel us. He didn’t give us rude looks. I think I even caught him laughing at our antics a few times. I think we wrote him a thank-you note for being so awesome afterwards.

    On the flip side– my first photographer. They offered a package deal for the photog when you booked the venue, and her stuff looked pretty good, so I said, “sure.” A good 3 months later, I had not actually connected with her by phone. She called during the hours I was unavailable and never answered my questions straight-out. I finally had the good sense to back out, and I visited a photographer whose website had literally made me cry. I thought this couple would be ridiculously expensive because their shop is so classy and their photos were so amazing. Turns out, not so much! They were wonderful!

    Go with your gut. Sometimes, letting the bottom line run the show can bite you in the ass. Sometimes, being nervous because someone’s not so experienced with weddings is just nervousness and not necessarily a gut feeling. Sometimes, the people you think won’t work for you because of statistic/feature A, B, and C do the absolute best job.

  • A wedding graduate recently talked about how they just picked the first vendors they called because they were “good enough” and they didn’t have specific expectations… we were the same.

    Our party venue was the only headache because in Brussels any venue for around 100 people is super expensive and we had a tight budget. But everything else was easy.

    For example, my mum called me one day and said “my employee X got married last week and her bouquet was pretty. I got the number and she’d do yours for Xpounds.” My reply was, Perfect. Book her. I still told her what we wanted in terms of colours and style of flowers but we weren’t super picky about the flowers so someone who would do a decent job at a good rate? Fine.

    I didn’t want to give us extra stress by forcing us to consult more than one place just because it was the sensible thing to do… and it worked out great :)

  • I found vendor help where I least expected it: Bridal magazines. Every time I would visit home/wedding location, I would grab a “Baltimore Brides” at the airport. The place specific magazines were great- I found my florist by recognizing a Team Practical Wedding Graduate in the featured weddings and looking at her vendor list. My florist is awesome and someone I would totally be friends with, natch. And, the same cake place kept coming up in all the featured weddings, so we went to a tasting there- BEST CAKE EVER.

    Also, So You’re EnGAYged has lists of vendors that have been pre-approved based on gay friendliness and having good reviews on sites like Wedding Wire and by other gay couples.

    • Oh, that’s a great resource. Marriage equality is big to me, and I want to spend my dollars in ways that support vendors who support that. I’ll check them out. Thank you!

  • I just posted this as a reply, but seriously, if you’re trying to avoid SWAG-ing, check this site out for a budget recommendation in your city:

    I can at least vouch for what it says about experienced wedding photographers to be accurate :D

  • ohmygosh don’t get me started on website music. !

    great advice! I used to look for vendors and check reviews. I agree that you have to be careful and take reviews with a grain of salt, but it can give you a sense at least.

    I would also suggest asking your vendors for recommendations – we were doing venue and catering searches at the same time (since one can dictate the other, depending), and after talking a bit with a caterer about the wedding we were trying to have, she actually was able to recommend a venue to me, which turned out to be spot on. We ended up booking her And the venue she recommended. I was hesitant to even contact them because their site is a bit sub-par, BUT she turned out to be the most helpful/informative/responsive of all the caterers I contacted. And using a venue she recommended worked out really well because hello, she recommended it because she’d done events there before and knew the place really well.

    Also, when you visit a venue, if they do enough events, they will likely have a list of recommended caterers/florists/photographers/officiants in the area that they’ve worked with before. They often give you a packet of that type of stuff even before you book.

    • meg

      You guys TOTALLY WANT ME to add music to the APW homepage, huh?

      Done. I think it’s going to be “Another One Bites The Dust” which is clearly a wedding theme song.

      • Alyssa

        GAH!!! NOOO!

        AND you’ll make it a MIDI version on a continuous loop, won’t you?

        I knew there was a bit of the devil in you, I KNEW IT.

      • Liz
        • Alyssa

          Stop making me fall in love with you.

        • meg

          Oh, clearly. Done.

      • We keep joking about our first dance songs. So far, top favorites: Bad Romance, Gold Digger (I know every word, no lie), Can’t Tie Me Down, Single Ladies, … all clearly wedding theme songs, no?

      • Ali

        At first I thought you meant add songlists for weddings, and I got excited! That would be sweet though! :) Sort of like the series you did on readings for weddings…

        • Amy

          would love for people to share songlists, esp since so many of us are doing the ipod thing. it would be great inspiration (i think we all get caught up with the music we OWN and it’s hard to think of what we’d like to BUY)!! i know we’re getting off topic, but had to say it.

          • Alyssa

            Ladies! APW has a Facebook page, start a discussion! Sure, lots of people don’t like Facebook, but you may get some good response there…

  • Kassy

    Alyssa’s advice to ask friends, relatives, and acquaintances for their recommendations rings the most true for me. Finding a venue was by far the most challenging task for us. I did tons and tons of internet research, but the places we looked at that were the best were suggestions from friends. The place we ultimately picked is where a good friend got married.

    The caterer was easy for us. My future husband is a chef, so the food was really important to him. But we’re on a really, really tight budget and have a fairly large guest list. You would expect food to be a major problem, but we just went to our favorite taqueria and asked for a quote. We’re feeding four kinds of yummy, yummy tacos, plus chips and queso, to our 125 guests for under $1300! For us, a professional caterer was not the way to go.

    It’s a cliche, but thinking outside the box is a good way to find amazing vendors. Put the word “wedding” in front of anything, and it automatically jacks up the price. A little creativity can really help you out.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Agree. I’m not really into floral, but I did want some kind of centerpiece to fancy up our tables. My mom ended up asking her kick-ass landscaper for suggestions and he made us 3 samples for pretty cheap and gave us a list of recommendations on where to get supplies to build them ourselves. It turned out great and our centerpieces had moss, twigs, feathers and a few orchids each. We built them 10 days before the wedding and stuck the flowers in on the day.

      It was much cheaper that floral arrangements and much more our style, plus we got to support a business we already had experience with and loved.

    • Alyssa


      Can I come to your wedding?

      • Kassy

        Absolutely, Alyssa! Get your butt down to Oklahoma in April!

        Also, I’m telling my mother you said that. She’s still going, “Tacos? At your WEDDING?”

        “But, Mom, people on the internet think it’s a good idea!”

        • Alyssa

          Don’t say such things. I’m close to Oklahoma, I might show up at yoru ceremony with to-go boxes and a cooler.

          You tell your mama that this Texan Columns Editor thinks tacos is an EXCELLENT idea.
          And I’m big time now. Meg’s letting me have business cards and everything.

        • “But, Mom, people on the internet think it’s a good idea!”
          holy moley, that is my new favorite phrase. ever.

        • My stepmom sincerely thought we were joking. We told her. She laughed. Awkward silence ensued. “…oh, you mean you’re serious? Really?”

          And then, my best friend: “Emmy, I am NOT letting you put salsa on your tacos in your wedding dress.”

          They’re ruining all the fun!

          • N

            We are having our rehearsal dinner at our favorite bar/burger place, and every SINGLE person we have told this to has laughed uproariously and then is like, “wait, seriously?”

    • We just booked a taco truck, too. For literally 1/10 the price that a professional caterer quoted us. SO STOKED.

      • Ali

        Yep, we’re having hamburgers at our wedding (we’re getting married in a biergarten and they’re famous for their burgers) and we’re cooking out fajitas for the rehearsal dinner…no fancy steak dinners here, people!

        • Amy

          To this day one of my best guy friends is still upset we couldn’t manage to afford to have the waffles and dinges truck at our wedding. At one point he even offered to chip in towards the waffle truck as a wedding favor. So – food trucks at weddings = good!

          • Clairelizabeth

            It’s really hard to get tacos up here in the Great White North, so we’re having a pre-wedding barbeque (burgers, chips/crisps, potato salad) the evening before. Not so much a rehearsal dinner, but more of a way for everyone to meet or re-meet each other so that the actual reception is fun and people won’t be awkward.

            And then we’ll have a pig roasting on a spit on the patio of our reception venue. I kind of just want people to wander over and slice pieces off, but that was kiboshed by my mother.

          • Danielle

            Um, totally unrelated to weddings, but tonight I was walking with some friends in the East Village and we passed the Wafels & Dinges truck. My out-of-town friend stopped and asked, “Dinges?”

            “It means ‘things’, like toppings that go on your waffle,” I said.

            “Sounds good, but too expensive,” she said.

            “Yeah, the dinges smell good,” I said.

            “They taste good too,” said the waffles & dinges guy.

            And then I started laughing about how funny the word “dinges” sounded. I was cracking up for like 5 minutes as all the young hipsters walked around us.

            The End.

        • Ooooh can I come to your wedding?

          OH wait, I already am!

          *does a little wiggle*

    • We had a taco bar at our wedding and it was awesome and very well-received. :)

  • Shelly

    Alyssa & several others have mentioned finding someone via word of mouth – asking family, friends, coworkers and recent brides. But I actually had the best luck with vendor to vendor referrals. We booked an old mansion, which had a rental referral and a short list of caterer referrals. We fell in love with one of the caterers who in turn referred us to a florist she loved (and we did too). All of these point people were so awesome as individuals, but the real magic happened when they would reach out to one another to coordinate things without me even having to get involved. Lots of vendor synergy + little effort on my end = laid back bride-to-be.

    I know that Sarah’s venue doesn’t have lots of established contacts, but sometimes all it takes is making one good connection that can lead to lots more. Don’t be afraid to ask!

  • So I must tell you that this is only the second posting that I have read on your blog. I have only recently become aware of your blog. I once again find myself in the wierd place that I think you have been channeling me or something. Everything that you have said in the response to “How do I pick a vendor” is what I have been telling clients and others for YEARS!!! My best reply after all the budget and professional services talk is to say…
    make sure you really like the vendor. You will be working with them for a long time and you need to “click”. I also use that as a measuring stick to determine those clients that I should work with. Do I “click” with them? I step into their lives for a specific period of time to assist in making things easier for them. It needs to be an enjoyable exsperience for everyone. Just as the Bride needs to make a “Match” with the groom, Both of them need to “Match” with the vendors.

  • Michelle

    Ironically, the vendors that we did the least amount of research on were far and away the best!!
    Wedding planner – its a small town and a woman who baby sat me as a kid is a wedding planner in it who knows everyone – we met with her once, she stepped in and effectively settled and argument between my mom and I = SOLD. And she was fantastic and kept my mother and I from killing each other while delivering a stress free wedding day!

    Photog – 2 days after I got engaged, I told the good news to a good friend who happens to be a great photog himself and he said “Congratulations! Rae Leytham.” Umm – my name isnt Rae, I responded. “No, Rae is your photographer, there is no one better and I dont care where / when the wedding is, she’s your photog.” = SOLD. Most amazing photog ever! LOVE LOVE LOVE her.

    DJ – We knew we wanted a DJ b/c of the WIDE variety of music we wanted, our wedding planner said that Jim was the DJ to call, I did zilch for research, just trusted her. SOLD. sooo much fun! Best MC/DJ ever, we ALL danced the night away and laughed until we couldn’t breath.

    Morale of the very babbly story – strong recommendations from trusted people can be the best sources regardless of website fanciness etc.

  • Jillian

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I swear, Alyssa and the rest of Team Practical are psychic- somehow your posts are always on the exact issue I’m worrying about this week.

    • Alyssa

      We’re watching you.

      RIGHT NOW.

      Cute shirt, by the way.

      • Jillian

        Thanks ;)
        Seriously though, I need to install an APW surveillance system so you guys can prevent me from making naive baby bride decisions.

  • I dig Alyssa’s tough love :-) And her practicality! Great post!

    I think the venue is the first and most important thing you’ll have to book, and after that, the rest does sort of fall into place. Do some internet searching, email the ones you like for quotes, and start to narrow it down by whether they can fit within your budget and whether they are nice to you! You can tell a lot about a vendor in their response. Are they prompt, personal, and willing to work within your budget? Worth considering; anyone else is not.

    With the venue, if at all possible, go see it in person. We picked 4 places, and I was surprised at how each met (or didn’t meet) my expectations. The one I expected to like most was impersonal and expensive (disappointing), and the one we loved most was originally my fourth and last choice! NOTE: We found it EXTREMELY helpful to pick a venue that sold a package deal. When the ceremony and reception are in one location where they do the set up, clean up, linens, catering (and in our case, the DJ and cake was included, too), it makes the planning process SO much easier.

    Remember, this is business. It’s ok to be firm and to say no if you don’t like a vendor. Be clear about your ideas, stick within your budget, don’t be afraid to negotiate prices and services. But also remember to be kind and respectful of the vendor’s work (because you’re not a bridezilla! It’s not necessary!). Your vendor will probably cut you some breaks if you’re nice, and they should be able to offer you some pointers about your big day, because they’ve been through this hundreds of times!

    Good luck!!!

  • Hahaha…I just had to comment on “You’ve picked a place to live, a cell phone provider, hired someone to fix your car, and you’ve probably done that with minimal levels of anxiety.” True, I had done those things before planning a wedding, but both the first and the third involved ridiculous amounts of anxiety for me. :P

    We were pretty lucky that most of our vendors became obvious to us. We looked at 5 different venues, but one of them was a clear winner. We met with 6 or 7 photographers, but the best choice was clear just from the beginning of our conversation with her. Our strategy was that we didn’t bother meeting with anyone who was outside our price range, and with pretty much every vendor, there was one who just felt “right”. And we learned pretty quickly to just go with that gut instinct (to be fair, the experience of renting an apartment in the NYC area may have helped us in that regard–when it feels right, you sign NOW and never look back.)

    • Alyssa

      Oh, me too. BUT, you did those things and you made it through.

      It’s about knowing you can do (already did) this too is what makes you a grown-up bada**.

      And knowing is half the battle.
      (G.I. Joooooe!)

  • This might have already been mentioned, but I also think it’s important to work with vendors who share your values and support your decisions. Early on, I got pressured into feeling like I needed to hire a professional coordinator since I’m planning from sort-of-afar. I spoke with one on the phone who essentially dumped me because she didn’t think our wedding was her “style,” which she defined as a budget of approximately $1,000 per guest. Then I found a super friendly day-of coordinator locally who worked perfectly within my budget and loved all my DIY ideas and didn’t blink an eye when I told her we wanted a taco truck and fire pits.

    Also, if there are particular issues that are important to you, it’s a great opportunity to support vendors who share your views. We have spoken to vendors to ensure that they support marriage equality, and it’s been very empowering to choose to spend our money on vendors who support equality in an industry that often does not. There are some old-ish APW threads on this subject somewhere… good stuff.

    • I completely agree with vendors who share your values. I have another photography friend who I could’ve asked, but her view on marriage and mine are so completely different these days that it just wouldn’t have worked to have her there at the start of my marriage. It would’ve felt like a fraud or something.

      • meg

        SUPER good point, as always Lisa.

    • Amy

      Great point! I totally axed a day of coordinator person when during our initial conversation she seemed mildly horrified by my lack of “theme” and “mood boards”. Apparently my “theme” of yay! we’re getting married! Wasn’t what she was expecting.

  • EEEEE!!!! I’m on A Practical Wedding! This makes my life (just kidding. kind of.)

    Anyway, big thank you for all your advice Alyssa and commentators. You some wise women and men. We’ve been going with your advice quite a bit, especially the ‘Go with your Gut’ part. Basically, we looked for a couple things from our vendors: flexibility, cost, general nice-ness and professionalism. Our venue is very cool and the person who runs it is awesome. He recommended a couple caterers for us, and we started interviewing from there.

    I think catering was the most difficult decision that we made, simply because they will be the most expensive part of our wedding by far. Our guest list is quite large (Irish Catholic family) and we need them to supply quite a few rentals (as our venue doesn’t have anything but chairs avaliable). We narrowed it down to two places, one with delicious food who were nice but not flexible and we felt pressured to spend more than we felt comfortable with. The other caterer’s food was okay – not bad, not great – but she was awesome, and her company is very new (less than a year old), so there is not an internet trail with many reviews, etc. (the one review we found is very positive, however!) She was super flexible, willing to have her staff set up, changeover, take down, willing to substitute meals very easily for no additional cost. We booked her and are keeping our fingers crossed the food is better than okay. However, food wasn’t on our “super important” list, so we’re more comfortable taking a chance there, compared to something like photography, where we cared a lot about it, so we put more resources there and hired wonderful, professional, amazing artists who really clicked with us (hello, One Love).

    Now that we have those 3 vendors, we’re pretty much set. We’re doing our own flowers, my darling cousin is going to be our DJ, and we have no day of coordinator. I guess the next thing I need to do is start checking the BBB for bridal salons.

    Thank Thank Thank Thank Thank Thank you for your wise words. You (and this site) has made wedding planning infinitely more enjoyable, for reals.

  • Ha! I just realized I’m doing this exact thing today! Minus the wedding (because that was 14 months ago today). Our contract with our current web server is up next week and I absolutely loath them so we’re switching. I’ve picked a few features I really need from a server, the rest I don’t really need so it doesn’t concern me if a place has them or not. I’m looking at some third-party review sites to see what is being said about certain servers. And I’m getting a few recommendations from friends who also have their own sites.

    Man, we just pick vendors our whole life don’t we? I’m thinking I need to put on a fancy dress and eat some cake for this decision too. It worked so well with the marriage decision.

  • I was married near my home town, so definitely a lot of our choices were based on talking to friends who’ve been to weddings nearby, and even other strangers would share their opinions with me (e.g. one waitress who told me to definitely avoid one place where you might have two other weddings on the same day and not know about it in advance, vs a place that is totally yours for the day).

    I also met with all the vendors in person or over the phone before making any decisions, so I knew that they were reasonable, smart and didn’t balk when I had “strange” requests. For instance, I was nervous about getting a DJ because I didn’t want someone to announce us like basketball stars, or talk very much at all. When I talked to the DJ I wound up choosing, he totally got that, and true to his word didn’t announce a thing, he made sure the sound equipment was all set up, and played the songs I suggested, and was very friendly and professional.

    It also helps if the vendor actually seems excited about the wedding, which I can 100% say our florists were. They were right there helping me throughout planning, and on the day of brought me a gorgeous bouquet, and big hugs and smiles. I loved the flowers, but I loved how excited they were for me even more. When you’re about to get married, it’s good to have happy and positive people around!

  • Erin B

    I love it. I never post replies on my favorite blogs, but somehow, when it comes to APW, I can’t stop.

    This probably goes without saying, but if you’re getting married in a barn or woodsy lodge or on a mountaintop or whatever, even if it’s within an hour of, say, San Francisco or New York, try looking at the vendors in the little barn-town or ski-town nearest to your venue. We ended up finding The Best Photographer In The World in a town that was only about 30 miles closer to our venue, but she was a) so much better than anyone else we could have ever afforded, and b) that’s right: affordable. Best part? She also specializes in pregnant women/newborn baby photos, so if our marriage heads that way, we can have our spawn immortalized without having a bronze belly-casting, or whatever it is. (Our DJ was also great, and also from the tiny town where there are only about 10 weddings per weekend, not 10,000, so she was…drumroll…available.)


    Just a little side note here because I don’t know where else to say this:
    My Invites Just Came In The Mail And They Are AWESOME!! As a graphic designer by trade, this is one of my first jobs done out on my own without an agency behind me and I can’t describe the feeling of self-accomplishment that came with them in the mail. I guess this is kinda fitting to this post since I was my own vendor in this situation and my perfectionist self had such a hard time with that (it got so bad, I had to call in another design friend to slap me and get some consulting to actually finish the job – I can do design work for other people, but just not myself)

    I haven’t been this giddy for such a long time and I feel like APW is my little warm, safe place to be silly.

  • Oy vendors!

    We had the main ones in place for ages. Our venue was easy – it’s our church. Standard cost – and we’re using the church hall so that’s also pretty standard.

    The caterers were ridiculously easy to sort out. I stuck my neck out/put my foot down and insisted on vegetarian food. There are two vegetarian caterers in the area and the one who was available responded quickly, came to our church one day after a service for a tasting and gave us a takeout meal of our favourite dish.

    If we’d been uncertain that takeout meal would have sold it to us.

    Our photos are being done by my SIL as a wedding gift.

    I bought my dress from the shop with assistants that didn’t freak out over me not wanting anything in the white spectrum. They also refrained from making comments like:

    “Every girl wants to look like a princess on her big daaaaaay.” and “It’s a MAN!!!!” when my Marvellous Mister came in with me.

  • Continuing on the “shares your values” tip…I think it’s really important to be an ally in the vendor choices we make. This is maybe the most expensive party I’ll ever throw, and I want my dollars to be going to companies that are pro-LGBT community. My fiance and I won’t consider a vendor if their verbiage is totally hetero, or if they wouldn’t be comfortable being a vendor for a gay wedding.

    A lot of times, I’ll make it sound like I’m marrying a woman in my initial contact with them, just to see whether they react with apprehension or hostility. I think everyone’s passed the test so far with flying colors. We’ve booked our venue, photographer, caterer, and flowers without issue. We’ve been lucky, but it hasn’t been hard at all. Finding conscientious, inclusive vendors makes planning so much happier and more meaningful than I ever could have imagined!

  • excellent post – it’s tough to pick vendors, but – at least around here – the most important thing to us is that we get along at least “okay” with the staff that would be in charge of working with us for the day…we’ve dealt with some bitchy on-site coordinators, people who scoffed at our budget, even though their venue/service fit within that budget.

    I think as long as you are comfortable with the price, you love their services and what not and you think the staff that will be helping you is AT LEAST professional, you’ll be all good.

  • Audrey

    At the risk of repeating the tons of helpful comments above, I completely agree about finding a caterer who is experienced with venue set up and doing lots of venues and such. We spent nearly half our budget on our caterer and I don’t regret it for one instant because they did a great job with timing and preparation and making everything (even our strange requests) happen.

    And yes on a comment above: the vendor should seem excited, or at least happy, to be doing your wedding!

    Also, a repeat of advice regarding personalities:
    Both our caterer and our baker ended up being pushy type A personalities. Both had about 90-95% glowing reviews on sites like Yelp followed by a few really unhappy reviews. But we’re both pretty laid back people who WANTED to let the caterer/baker do the pushing. It worked out perfectly – but that means that even if your friend/neighbor/etcetera loved their vendor, if they don’t feel right to you – keep looking!

    Also, I’m a huge fan of vendors who will give you completely itemized quotes. Our caterer’s initial quote had EVERYTHING: number of hours per waiter/captain/etcetera, approximate linen costs, blah blah blah. It makes it a lot easier to compare, and also a lot easier when the finalized quote goes up. Our finalized quote mostly went up because count went up, but then I noted that she didn’t tell us we’d need waiter overtime initially. Because of that she gave us $50 or $100 or something like that off!

    Ooh, finally, they are annoying but don’t discount open tastings, “bridal fairs” etcetera at other locations. We went to a bridal fair thrown by one site and a tasting fair at another site and both were really helpful for getting our feet wet talking to vendors and tasting some food without the pressure of an appointment/meeting type thing. I’ve never done the giant bridal fair in a hotel sort of thing but the site fairs were (as far as I can tell) comparatively low key. We didn’t end up picking a caterer from the fair I went to (although the one we picked does go to the fairs) but it was still a great introduction into the world of picking vendors.

  • Caroline

    I had a really hard time with the “comfortable” part of the vendor algorithm. I do think its important, but it took some searching (read, crying, obsessing, shouting, discussing) to become comfortable with what we spent on our venue, food, and photography. Even though those were the three important things for us, it was still more than I had spent before, ever, and it was really really hard. Me of the hand-me down clothes, used cars, and non-profit salaries struggled with it.

    But the gut instinct thing was pretty important to us. The photographer we chose was the one who made me go, “I want to be the bride in that.” The venue was the place I could see myself walking down the aisle. And the food was the one that, when I asked guests in the hotel from the night before, they said was the best wedding food they ever had. That convinced us – and it was such a good decision. It was worth what we spent (which we made within our budget) and worth giving up the things we didn’t need.

  • Liz

    My rule of thumb has been “if I were friends with this person, would I invite them to the wedding?” It seems ridiculous to me to pay someone loads of money to be intimately involved in your wedding and not want them to be there. I think this applies most to the photographer and coordinator, maybe not as much for the caterer since you probably won’t spend a lot of time with them the day of the wedding. I want to like the people I’m working with and if I get a new friend out of it in the end, great!

  • Marisa-Andrea

    The only vendor we had was our photographer and I couldn’t agree more with Alyssa about listening to your gut. I probably looked at dozens of photography websites and I can’t even remember how this happened, but I think our photographer contacted me first. I had posted something in some forum on some website I don’t even remember. I liked their website enough to meet with them and from the very first meeting, I knew these were our photographers. And they were the only photographers I actually MET with (lots of emails, phone calls, etc with others). Their energy was awesome and we had such great chemistry. For me, having great pictures was important but so was having a photographer that we felt comfortable with and actually LIKED. And we liked them so much that we will be doing our maternity photos with them as well (when that time comes). Lol. So, yeah, gut is very important throughout the whole wedding planning process. Sometimes things will just feel right and you’ll know you’re making the right decision for YOU.

  • Nicole

    Oh boy, just looked up the place where I bought my wedding dress on the better business bureau site and they have 8 complaints and an F rating. Glad I have the dress already!

  • shorty j

    Another thing worth noting about reviews and review sites is not just the ratings but what the reviews themselves actually say. (I apologize in advance, I just had sinus surgery so this comment may make zero sense, haha.)

    Partly for practical reasons: there are SO MANY fake reviews on sites like Yelp etc. for certain genres of business (protip: if you see a reviewer who talks about the business as “we” and has 1 total review written, plz to be ignoring). Sites try to keep them in line but let’s face it, it’s a bit of an uphill battle. (also, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a yelp elite squad member for 2 years now and while I don’t doubt some sketchy shit goes on, I’ve never personally experienced it–in fact, a yelp staff member was the one who nominated me for elite squad status after I wrote many trashy reviews that are still very available and easy to find on the site. ymmv and all that.)

    But the other part is, good or bad reviews may not even apply to you depending on what you’re looking for. Ex. our wedding venue has middling reviews because a lot of them are from folks who are going to the venue just as a restaurant for lunch or whatever. Nearly everyone who has gotten married there has given it high marks, but folks who came in for a sandwich or whatever don’t necessarily think as highly of it for one reason or another. Or the reviews may be for features you’re not even interested in; if someone gave a shop a bad review for a lack of customer service, for example, that may not even apply to someone like me who actually prefers to be left alone when browsing in a store.

  • Dori

    I also experienced GREAT frustration with online research, and especially the lameness of many venues’ websites. Often they did not include floorplans, or clear information about capacity, and the photos of the site prominently featured smiling brides and grooms but did not capture the space itself. To circumvent this (somewhat), I googled venue names and “photography” obsessively. Many photographers’ blogs include the names of vendors/venues in the posts. So by checking these out, I could see professional photos of the spaces as they look when they are full of people. MUCH more helpful than what most of the venues had online. This same principle can be applied to flowers and even hair and makeup, to some extent.

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  • eli

    re vendors…only thing I can add is..REACH OUT AND TALK. we got the photography team of our dreams because I reached out. “We can’t afford you” turned into “That is a slow time and we’d love a trip to your destination” turned into (mutual)”you are rad, let’s figure this out”. We got amazing photography far above our budget…they got a great trip AND a wedding on an empty weekend in a slow month. Win win.

    re websites…this is a pet peeve as a techie but first of all…I could get all snobette on websites with Flash that don’t work on my iPad and I’d zero out NINETY percent of wedding photogs. I am sorry but even the Elizabeth Messinas don’t have perfect mobile-friendly, Apple-friendly sites. I judge people all day (I really do, I know it’s wrong ;-)) by their technical knowhow or lack thereof, but you just can’t do it with creative types or folks in an industry that’s not web-savvy. That said, the attention paid is valuable and if they haven’t posted a wedding since 2008 it may be they haven’t done a great one (or any one) since.

  • Alexandra

    Our [presumed] photog [haven’t seen/signed a contract yet] is my FH’s cousin. He’s pro, but still in the first few years, and his website is out of date, meaning no new content in awhile. But his FB page has a good amount of weddings, of which I really like some of the photos. I really hope that I like a whole wedding-album’s worth when we finally get to see that…he “called dibs” as soon as we got engaged, and is offering us such a great deal, that I haven’t looked around, but…I’m a smidge concerned that he’s so much younger than us. OTOH, we *have* enjoyed beer and coffee with him, and his concert photos have been published in top of the line publications. So. *fingers crossed*~!

    Getting an inclusive venue was/is/will be a total win. SO glad to not have to deal with linens and all that stuff. Plus they have their on-site person, so there’s no need to hire a separate Day of Coordinator. & all the waitstaff, bartender, etc etc are included in the pricing so it isn’t a shock–other than the gratuity and tax! ;p

    GL, y’all! I think I need to find an officiant and a dress next, or at least a dress style. Luckily I’ve got over eight months yet. ;D

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