How to choose your wedding vendors

Story by Eric Wallace

Distressing things can happen during even the best of weddings.

• The caterer turns surly and makes everyone jumpy.

• The photographer insults the bridesmaids.

• The DJ sabotages the videographer’s lighting needs.

• The venue manager changes the layout without consultation.

• The florist ignores the bride’s arrangement choices.

• The wedding coordinator starts dancing, eating, drinking and making merry with the guests.

Ideally, incidents like these don’t all happen at one event, but such problems do occur – and it’s usually because the couple hasn’t chosen their vendors wisely. Every vendor should perfectly suit your needs – and your temperament. And each should be able to work cooperatively with other wedding providers.

Getting started

The easy part is compiling a list of possible vendors. Read Alaska Bride & Groom magazine. Visit bridal fairs. And be sure to use that invaluable resource – word of mouth. But carefully weigh who is making the referral. Is it an offhand mention by a casual acquaintance or a solid recommendation from a friend you know and trust?

Vendor compatibility

It’s essential to choose vendors who work well with each other. When providers don’t interact well, you’ll suffer additional stress before or during your wedding.

So how do you find vendors who are compatible? This is where a wedding coordinator can help. They assess the needs and personalities of the couple and help select the best vendors. Couples should also inquire at bridal fairs. Don’t be afraid to simply ask vendors point blank how well they work with other specific vendors you are considering.

The interviews

It’s important to check references and to view work samples from each vendor who’s made your list. But more importantly, you and your sweetie need to conduct in-depth, face-to-face interviews. And be on your mental and intuitive toes!

Take careful note and look beyond what the vendor shows you. Look around their office, studio or bakery and take a reading on their personality and professionalism. You’ll find plenty of subtle clues to help you decide whether or not a vendor is right for you.

Here are a few warning signs that a vendor might not be right for you:

• She doesn’t promptly return your calls.

• His office is unorganized or junky.

• She tries to sell you services you don’t want.

• He has an inflated sense of self-worth.

• She won’t offer a written estimate or show you a contract.

• He badmouths other vendors.

• She doesn’t listen to your ideas.

Keep the importance of personality at the top of your must-have list. Your vendors’ personalities and attitudes will have a lot to do with how much you actually enjoy your wedding day. A friendly vendor will most likely add joy – not stress – to your big day.

Does the vendor’s personality match yours? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Does he make you feel calm – or anxious?

• Does she make you feel important – or a nobody?

• Does he give you his full attention – or does he rush things?

• Is she really listening to you – or pushing her own agenda?

• Is he giving you honest opinions – or just buttering you up?

Karen and Mike Kirkwood went against their best instincts and hired two vendors they later regretted. “We should have walked out the door when those vendors said, ‘This is how I do it!’ and not ‘How would you like your special day to happen?’”

Tanya Scott’s wedding stands in happy contrast to any vendor horror stories. “It was pretty much perfect from every aspect,” she says. “I believe it came from the expertise of the individual vendors I selected and the high level of communication that I had with everyone. If you select the correct people, you can depend on them to do their jobs and help make your day perfect.”