According to a wedding vendor.
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For most newly-engaged couples, the first part of wedding planning involves selecting your vendors. Think about it: In order to nail down a date (which is often the very first order of business), you have to decide on a venue that can either accommodate the day you have in mind or, depending on your flexibility, determine the date based on their availability. Either way, you'll be dealing with vendors shortly after the proposal—something that's probably brand-new territory for the majority of duos.
That's why we've put together the following guide—it will help you navigate your vendor search with ease. Complete with advice from an expert wedding planner, this comprehensive tip list will tell you everything you need to know about selecting the best possible big-day team for your event. As you peruse the ahead suggestions, keep one thing in mind: Always trust your gut. Regardless of their flawless portfolio or glowing online reviews, a vendor isn't right for you if they don't make you feel secure, confident, and excited about your choice. This often has nothing to do with the vendor's work or work ethic. Just like with romantic partners, you won't vibe with everyone—and that's perfectly okay.
Determining if a vendor is, in fact, perfect for you should feel natural. But we know you'll want to make this decision based on more than just a feeling. From the best ways to research vendors (online, word of mouth, and previous clients!) to understanding how budget factors into your team selection, the following tips will help you curate the ultimate set of wedding vendors; they'll help you execute the event of your dreams, guaranteed.
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The reason? Picking out your wedding location often gives you access to a slew of tried-and-true vendors, since most venues will provide their recommendations, says Teissia Treynet of Firefly Events: "It's always great to work with folks who are familiar with the space—although it's not 100% necessary. If you're not feeling the preferred vendor list, feel free to explore other options."
Photography: Jose Villa3 of 10
After you nail down your venue, you'll want to select the team that will—quite literally—bring the rest of your wedding day together. "We always say to nail down the core vendor team ASAP," adds Treynet. "This would be your photographer, videographer, florist, caterer, stationer, and band." We'd add planner and event designer to that list!
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Don't Overlook Word of Mouth
"Ask your friends!" says Treynet on vendor research. "Chances are some of your friends have already gotten married—and referrals are some of the best ways to find great vendors." Don't blindly accept your loved ones' referrals, however—make sure their personal and wedding styles match your own: "If your friend really stresses you out, maybe avoid their vendor recommendations. But if you have similar personalities, get as many as possible!"
Another tried-and-true word-of-mouth method? Treynet encourages chatting with your prospective vendor's previous clients on the phone to get a sense of who they are, beyond their portfolio.
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If you've started your vendor search, you've likely already turned to the Internet. Big-scale search engines like Pinterest are major when it comes to big-day research—Treynet also suggests perusing popular wedding blogs (like MarthaStewartWeddings.com, of course!) for more information. "Many of them have vendor sections you can search in your area," she says.
"Instagram is another great vendor mecca," she says. "Look at hashtags for your venue and other venues in the area to see who people have been using."
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Trust Your Gut—and Don't Overwhelm Yourself
Trusting your gut is one of the Treynet's biggest vendor search tips. If you've really hit it off with a vendor, mark them as a strong candidate. But if you don't, listen to that feeling—and cut them loose.
Limiting the scope of your research is just as important. "Don't look at too many people," says Treynet. "Start with one to three options and if you're not loving anyone expand your search. Sometimes too many options can feel paralyzing."
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Break Up Your Vendor Budget Based on Priorities
Vendors cost money; most of the time, they cost a lot of money. But you'll want to keep your priorities in mind when creating a budget—and highlight those must-haves before you go into your vendor search. "You want to really sit down with your partner and your families and determine what your priorities are. Pick your top three and know that that's where you will commit a decent amount of your budget," continues Treynet. "That said, put together an overall budget before you start booking vendors so you have a general sense of what you can allocate to each vendor."
Photography: Lauren Fair Photography
The vendor that gets the biggest piece of that budget pie is up to you—and mostly "depends on the style of wedding you're having and how many guests" you've decided to invite, says the planner.
Generally speaking, however, there are a few vendors that come with consistently heftier price tags. "Flowers can certainly start to add up if you're doing multiple days or have lots of guests. Bands are always going be more than DJs; and photography can become pricey as well, depending on your locale and how [much coverage you need]," she says. "Depending on your printing methods, paper can add up—but you can keep this element cost-effective by checking out some semi-custom or ready-made options online!"
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If any of the following red flags crop up during the vetting process, seriously consider not hiring the vendor, advises Treynet: "Not responding to your emails in a timely fashion, a general sense of disorganization, a bad attitude, and defensiveness. Again, always trust your gut!"
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"You're going to be spending a lot of time with your vendors during the planning process—and on the weekend of your wedding—so you want to really love them!" concludes Treynet. The right relationship—like you're romantic one—will develop naturally, she says. You'll "feel at ease when you're with them," especially since they clearly "know what they are talking about and what they are doing."
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