Hiring a wedding vendor

Nothing can send your wedding downhill like a clash of personalities. While most brides and grooms are worried about potential family drama, there’s another source of friction that lurks even more dangerously: unprofessional wedding professionals. Hiring the wrong person for your wedding can invite a wild card into your festivities. Here’s how to avoid trouble.

Don’t Hire the Wrong Person

This piece of advice seems pretty basic, but it’s amazing how quickly you can start to compromise when you fall in love with a beautiful portfolio. But choosing the right wedding vendor is like choosing your future husband or wife–there’s more to it than finding a pretty face. Even if you love every single shot on a photographer’s website, or every single flavor at a cake tasting, pause and take a step back before leaping into a contract. Do you like the vendor’s personality, too?

Think about it. You’ve refined the guest list again and again, agonizing over details like whether you really have to invite every niece just because you invited one of them, or whether it’s polite to tell your party-animal uncle to leave his girlfriend-of-the-week at home.

Don’t throw all of your careful consideration out the window when it comes time to hire a vendor. This advice is doubly important if the vendor will be interacting with your guests (such as a videographer, photographer, DJ, or entertainer), but even if they’ll be working behind the scenes, personality is still important. After all, you still have to deal with it!

Believe it or not, during all the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding day, you may actually see more of your vendors than you do of your spouse-to-be. It pays to choose them very, very carefully. There are a few warning signs that can alert you right away that you may be heading for trouble.

Ask Questions; Especially “Dumb” Ones

Beware of anyone who doesn’t take your suggestions or questions seriously. There isn’t such a thing as a dumb question. You’re paying for a service and you deserve to be educated about what you’re purchasing. No matter how basic a question may seem, go ahead and ask. It’s not only a good way to get more informed, but it’s also a great way to feel out how accessible a vendor will be in your professional relationship.

Sure, your florist knows more about professional flower arrangements than you do; that’s why you’re hiring him, after all! But, as your wedding florist, he should place your needs first. If you suggest a bouquet full of fragile hibiscus flowers, for example, it’s your florist’s responsibility to let you know they might droop and to suggest heartier alternatives. It’s not, however, in his job description to insist that you have red roses merely because he happens to have a surplus of red roses in his storeroom. If you suspect that your vendor is trying to steamroll your vision of your perfect day, back away and get a second opinion before signing anything.

Negotiate Up Front

Sometimes what seem like the best deals up front can turn into a nightmare of nickel-and-diming on the back end. If your vendor seems too good to be true, the time for testing is before you sign a contract.

Let’s say you found an advertisement for a reception tent rental for $50. Before you jump and click your heels for joy, ask the tent rental vendor what services that price includes. Are there additional charges for delivery, setup, or tear-down? If delivery is free, do you live in the required mile radius of the rental business? How many hours does the rental price include?

Are you held liable for repair or cleaning costs? If you’re renting something like a bounce house or catering equipment, are there any mandatory staff members you’ll need to pay to operate or supervise the equipment? By the time you get done, the price has skyrocketed above most of the vendor’s competitors.

The best way to avoid accumulated sticker shock is to come out and ask about price up-front. Don’t assume that the advertised deal is the one you’ll be getting. Cut through the sales pitch and say it out loud: “Is this a flat price for everything I’ll need, or are there any optional add-ons?” You’ll find out quickly whether it’s the deal you’re looking for.

Beware of Drama Queens

Sure, the entertainment industry attracts people with strong personalities. You don’t want a shy wallflower mumbling into the microphone, after all. But beware hiring an entertainer who will steal the spotlight on what’s supposed to be your big day! Whether you’re hiring a DJ, emcee, musician, costumed character, comedian, or other live entertainment, it’s essential that you get very familiar first.

If it’s at all possible, attend another event where the entertainer will be performing. This is the best way to get a feel for the entertainment style. Does the DJ break into the middle of songs to deliver uncomfortable roasts about Grandpa’s fashion sense? Does the belly dancer break into conversations to shimmy between people who are trying to talk over the noise of her coin belt?

Does the Elvis impersonator halt each new guest at the door and make them listen to the entirety of “Hound Dog” before entering? If you sense that the “entertainment” is hogging the show, back away quickly. A skilled entertainer should be able to read the mood of a room and understand what level of audience involvement is appropriate.

If you can’t see the performer in a live event setting, ask to see video recordings. Beware “best of” videos where lots of small clips are edited together, as these can mask awkward stretches. Look for long, unbroken recordings that show not only the performer, but also the audience reaction.

Trust Your Gut

The most important factor in hiring wedding vendors is how you feel during face-to-face interactions. During conversations, do the vendors listen carefully without cutting you off? Do they make good eye contact, or are they mostly glancing at the clock? Are they willing to adjust their services and prices to fit your specific event? If you bring up a concern, do they address it without brushing you off?

If you feel truly comfortable in a person’s presence, then chances are that your guests will feel comfortable, too. After all, you’re about to enter into a contract that will lead up to one of the most important days of your life. Treat the search for a trustworthy vendor like the search for a trustworthy friend, and the rest will follow.