Your Wedding Vendor Etiquette Questions, Answered
Choosing your wedding vendors is both one of the most difficult and most important decisions you have to make during the planning process. From your event planner to your caterer, your team is an integral part of your nuptials—after all, they're charged with bringing your big-day vision to life. Finally deciding on an expert, however, doesn't guarentee a smooth road. No matter how amazing your team actually is, you're still likely going to encounter a bump or two along the way.
To help you through, we've tapped a few experts to work through your most pressing wedding vendor concerns. Whether it's a small issue (not liking the results of your makeup trial, for example) or a larger one (such as not being able to communicate with a vendor), you'll find the solution ahead, straight from professional wedding planners. One piece of advice that they all agree on? Do your research. "You will learn a lot about what it will be like to work with the vendor based on the outreach process: How it was to reach them, setting up a time to connect with them, how they replied, when they replied," says Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events. "They are showing you how they work from the start. Pay attention to that, as it will likely not change after you sign a contract."
Whether you're just kicking off your expert search or have already hired your team, the following guide will help you navigate any vendor-related issue that might crop up before or during the big day. Ahead, all of your need-to-know wedding vendor etiquette questions—answered.
How Can We Monitor How Our Planner Is Spending Their Time (and Our Money)?
To get a better sense of how much time your planner actually spends on an aspect of your wedding, Meyer suggests asking them how many estimated hours they think something will take before they dive in. That way, you can get a better understanding of how much work this element requires—and, therefore, how much it will cost. He also recommends communicating with your planner if you think there is something you can handle that will take time off of their hands (and keep money in your wallet).
How Do We Lay Out Ground Rules with Our Vendors?
Contracts are of the utmost importance when it comes to identifying ground rules with your vendors, says Lyndsey Hamilton of Lyndsey Hamilton Events. "The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to approach all vendor relationships with a clear understanding of what you are contracting them to do," she says. Meyer also recommends being completely transparent when hiring a vendor. "Couples should be clear on communication styles, number of meetings, and how the relationship will go, so they are aware," he says.
How Can We Express Our Concerns to Our Vendors?
Though opening up to vendors about your concerns is part of the planning process, Meyer says it's best to be clear about what you have in mind from the beginning of the brainstorming phase. Oversharing is better than having the vendor guess at your vision, he adds. If a mock up or sample doesn't turn out like you imagined, be sure to tell them in a kind way. "Be open, honest, and provide helpful feedback so the vendor can try again," he says. "Vendors want to make you happy and if they have all the info and tools to do so they should thrive."
Can We Tell Our DJ or Band What to Play?
Being honest with your vendors not only applies to those involved in the wedding planning process, but to your day-of vendors, too. If you're not a huge fan of the song that your DJ or band is playing, Alia Wilson, co-owner of Firefly Events, says you should approach them simply and honestly. "You or a friend or family member acting on your behalf can let them know that you would prefer to skip this song," she says. It might even help to have a preferred playlist on hand, so your entertainment is clear on what you're looking for from the start.
What Are the Rules for Tipping Vendors?
When it comes to tipping, Wilson says it's appropriate to tip anyone who worked onsite at your wedding. "These tips can be any amount you feel comfortable with and are seen as a 'thank you' gesture," she says. "Therefore, they do not need to be a specific percentage of the total paid for service."
Are There Other Ways to Thank Vendors Besides Tipping?
In addition to tipping, Wilson says there are other ways to thank vendors for their exceptional work. Whether you express your gratitude in a card, email, or in-person conversation, there's no wrong way to show vendors your appreciation. If a vendor went above and beyond for your big day, let them know! It means a lot to them, she adds.
What Should We Do If Our Wedding Album Is Too Expensive?
As much as you'd love to curate your wedding album as soon as you receive your photographs, Wilson says it's okay to wait on purchasing the keepsake it if it's too expensive. "This is something that could make a great one-year anniversary present to yourselves," she says. "Just let your photographer know that you are interested in them providing this service for you, and you'll let them know when it fits into your budget."
Who's in Charge of the Vendors During the Wedding?
So you're able to relax and enjoy your wedding day, Wilson highly recommends making room in your budget for a day-of coordinator. "Your coordinator will make sure that everything is running smoothly and let you and your family and friends relax and participate fully in the celebration," she says.
How Do Breaks Work for Vendors?
Here's another reason to hire a day-of coordinator—they'll be able to take the responsibility of arranging vendor breaks off of your hands. "They know the rhythm of the day and what they can expect!" she says. If you don't have a coordinator, Wilson says to confer with your team ahead of time to see how they prefer to take their breaks. This will give you a better understanding of their time—and help you plan accordingly.
What If I Don't Like the Results of My Makeup Trial?
Honesty is the best policy, says Wilson. Although you may feel uncomfortable being upfront with your makeup artist, Wilson explains that it's best to tell them how you feel so they're able to adjust quickly.
How Many Bartenders Should We Hire Per Guest?
This all depends on what you're planning to serve. "For instance, a bar that is only serving beer and wine will have different staffing needs than one that is offering a whiskey tasting and four signature cocktails," Wilson says. To find out just how many hands you'll need, it's best to ask your caterer about staffing suggestions.
According to Wilson, you'll also want to tell your caterer that you'll need a bussing staff to pick up empty glasses and cocktail napkins.
Do We Have to Invite Our Officiant to the Reception?
If your officiant is not a close friend or family member, it's not expected that you invite them to your reception, says Wilson. But, if they are, you'll definitely want to extend an offer.
What Do We Do If We Like the Venue, But Not the Décor?
Start by asking your venue if there's a fee to remove the current décor and bring in your own. "Most venues will work with you to make this happen," Wilson says. If that's not a possibility, she suggests "camouflaging" the décor using linens, florals, or even lighting.
How Can We Tell Vendors About Our Dress Code?
According to Meyer, you should ask your vendor what they typically wear to a wedding. If it's not in line with your dress code, then simply ask them to dress it up or down. "Just keep in mind only some vendors are guest facing," he says, "while many are behind the scenes, so their dress code is not relevant."
When it comes to the photographer, Meyer says that it's not always easy for them to dress up for a black- or white tie event. In order to have a full range of motion to capture all of your big-day photos, they sometimes have to keep it casual (or at least comfortable!).
Can We Hire a Friend to Be Our Vendor?
The short answer is yes. However, Meyer says—in order to avoid conflict—to set expectations and boundaries up front. "Keep it professional in the contract phase and set the tone from the start that it is a working relationship with a friend, not a favor or a gift from them," he says. When working with a friend who's a vendor, be sure not to cross the line of professionalism by asking them to go above and beyond. "Often, the couple may over ask or overwork the friend, typically without even knowing it," he says. "Many times, the couple is also needier with their 'friendor' than with normal vendors, as they have a relationship."
What Should We Do If We're Having a Hard Time Communicating with a Vendor?
Planning a wedding is a two-way street, says Meyer: It involves effort from both the couple and the vendor. That being said, it's best to say something right away if you're having a hard time communicating. "Everyone has different communication styles. Ask your vendor what theirs is and share yours," he says. "If you are not connecting in a way that works for you, let them know and be clear in how you can best be communicated with, be it in person, over the phone, or via email."
Do We Have to Feed Our Vendors?
Yes, and for good reason: The last thing you want is for your musicians to flag you for a food break just as your guests hit the dance floor. The people you hire, including your event planner and videographer, are putting on your affair so that you don't have to. Wilson says that anyone working for more than four hours should be fed. Work their meals into your budget and consider it part of their fee. And instead of handing out thoughtless sandwiches while the rest of the crowd is dining on Chateaubriand, talk to the caterers about staff meals—and designate a quiet spot for your team to eat during a break.