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  • Writer's pictureEvent Planning by Annie

How to Choose your Wedding Vendors

Updated: Sep 13, 2023



First things first, before you begin to hire your dream team of vendors for your wedding day, you need to sit down with your partner and determine 1) an estimated guest count 2) an estimated budget and 3) find your venue. You can’t begin to book your vendors if you don’t have a solid date yet, and you can’t have a solid date locked in until you have your venue! Consider reading my blog, “You’re Engaged! Now What?” to get started.


After you and your partner have found your dream venue and have determined your budget and know your largest priorities, do some research on how much each vendor type costs in the region you’re getting married. To learn more about how much Lake Tahoe Weddings average, check out this blog, "What Kind of Lake Tahoe Wedding Budget Should you Expect?" written by another local wedding planner, Amanda, at Reno Tahoe Enchanted Events.


Set a budget for each vendor type prior to reaching out for quotes. This will help you stay in budget throughout your planning process. However, remember to be realistic. Although it’s important to stay in budget, money isn’t the only factor to consider when hiring your vendors. Say you’re looking into DJ’s, and you’ve reached out to four different companies to receive quotes. One DJ’s quote came back at $800, but the other three came back around $1,800. Don’t hire the $800 vendor just for the price. Consider why their price is less expensive than the others. Do they offer a basic package and a large list of add-ons that you really do need? Is their equipment substandard? Are they just starting out in the industry? All of these considerations are important to keep in mind as you are creating your vendor team.


The vendors you choose can make or break your wedding day. Each one should have a valid business license and general liability insurance.

Here’s what else to look for for each one:


CATERING


A full service caterer is recommended for your wedding day. Among other things, a full service caterer means they provide a staff, cook the food (ensuring the food is prepared safely and there's enough for your guest count), set the tables with linens, glassware, flatware, plates, napkins, etc., serve the food (whether this be buffet style or plated), buss tables, empty trashes, and clean up their mess at the end of the night.


Some venues have full service catering built in. If you chose a venue that doesn't, here is what to consider when researching catering options: What kind of meal style are you wanting? Are you wanting a buffet? Or do you want a plated and served sit-down dinner? What kind of food are you looking for? Traditional wedding food? Italian? Mexican? Are you, or a large percentage of your guests, vegan or vegetarian? If so, you'll need a caterer that can accommodate this.


When booking your wedding caterer, they will need to know 1) your wedding date and venue, 2) an approximate guest count, 3) estimated wedding catering budget, 4) venue requirements from caterers (i.e., if any additional cleaning is required of them), 4) food preferences - what kind of food are you looking for? and 5) a timeline estimation - what time will your event start and end?

Consider if you’re wanting to have your caterer provide your cake and/or desserts as well - do they have what you’re looking for, or will you need to source elsewhere?


When thinking about your all-in catering budget...

"The cost of catering will depend on the number of guests, the type of food you want to serve, and the level of service you require. On average, catering [in the Reno/Tahoe area] can cost between $50 and $150 per person." - Reno Tahoe Enchanted Events

Some caterers offer free tastings, others don’t. You may not even be in a position to attend a tasting if you’re planning your wedding from out of state. Not to worry, if you aren’t able to have a tasting with your caterer, ensure to read their reviews, ask your planner or coordinator about any past experiences with that specific company, and look at their photos.


BARTENDING SERVICE


Does your caterer or venue offer the addition of a bartender in their scope of services? Or are you looking for something different, such as a mobile bar? When reaching out to bartenders, they will need to know 1) your wedding date and venue, 2) an approximate guest count (they'll need to know how many bartenders will be required), 3) a timeline estimation, 4) are the majority of your guests light drinkers or heavy drinkers? Somewhere in the middle? and 5) the drinks you’re thinking of having. Are you wanting a full, open bar? Just beer and wine? Specialty cocktails? They may also ask you for an estimation of how many non-drinkers you'll have in the crowd. If you’re getting married at a venue that doesn’t have a built-in bar - will the bartender you've hired bring the ice? Who is responsible for glassware? Will your bartender provide the syrups and garnishes?


PLANNER OR COORDINATOR


When looking into different planners or coordinators, it’s important to choose a local one. Not only can local planners give you recommendations of vendors and services that THEY trust and have worked with in the past, but it’s also more than likely that they know your venue and have worked there before, which is important. If they haven’t been to your venue yet, they can easily make the trip to go check it out. Not just planners and coordinators, local wedding vendors know the weather through and through, and therefor will always have a backup plan in place in case of poor weather. Other than that, when you’re looking into planners and coordinators, make sure to take a look at their portfolio and reviews. Is their style similar to yours? Have past clients been happy? How has this particular planner or coordinator helped past clients on their wedding day? When scheduling a call with a planner or a coordinator, they will need to know 1) your wedding date and venue (or desired date & desired feel of a venue), 2) your approximate guest count, 3) your all-in budget, 4) an approximate event timeline - what time do you want your ceremony to be at? What time will your event end? 5) Where you are in the planning process and 6) any fun ideas you’re envisioning! This is the time to chat about what color scheme, theme, and ideas you’re dreaming of. Your planner will want to do everything in their power to make sure your wedding day is exactly how you’ve envisioned it, they need all of the deets!


PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER


The most important thing to look at when researching photographers & videographers is their packages & portfolio. Do you like their editing style? What do their packages include? For photographers - do they include engagement photos in any of their packages? For videographers - do you like the way they've organized/displayed their videos? When reaching out to photographers and videographers, they will need to know the basics 1) your wedding date and venue and 2) how many hours of coverage you’re looking for. Although photographers really do pride themselves in getting to know each of their couples thoroughly, they dive deeper into getting to know you & your event further in the wedding planning process. Along with videographers, photographers really only need to know the basics in order to provide you an initial quote!


DJ


A Spotify playlist can’t read the crowd like a good DJ can. When researching DJ’s, the first thing you need to look at is their reviews. A good DJ is crucial to the success of your event! As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, DJ’s are more than just music. They are also the MC for your event. While a coordinator works on the sidelines to keep a timeline going, the DJ is the voice behind the movement. DJ’s will help corral and update guests, make announcements, and keep the timeline moving alongside your coordinator. When researching DJ’s, make sure their personality type meshes with yours. Also consider how they work and what's included in their packages. Do they encourage you to create playlists of your favorite music, or do they want full creative control? A mix of both is best. How do they handle song requests? Do they stay firm with a do-not-play list? Do they bring extra equipment in case of malfunction? Do they provide any dance floor lighting? Make sure they also act as an MC. When reaching out to DJ’s, they will need to know 1) your wedding date and venue, 2) an approximate guest count, and 3) a timeline estimation. Later down the road, they’ll get in touch to learn your music preferences and personalities, but they only need the basics to get started.


OFFICIANT


Are you wanting to hire a professional officiant, or have one of your family members or friends make your marriage official? The perks of having a professional officiant is that you can rest easy knowing that no matter what, your marriage will be official. Since professional officiants are already ordained, and have likely done hundreds of ceremonies, you can trust the pro’s to ensure your ceremony is personable, professional, and above all, legal! When looking for officiants, look at their reviews. How many weddings have they done? Are they personable? When you schedule a time to chat with them - did they make you feel comfortable? Did they seem like a confident speaker? Do they have a set script, or do they personalize it per couple? Will they attend your rehearsal? All of these considerations are important when finding your perfect officiant.


FLORIST


When looking at potential floral designers for your wedding day, the first thing you should do is look at their work. Are you wanting a more whimsical aesthetic, or maybe a minimalistic modern style? Does this florist have examples from past weddings that reflect your vision? Luckily, with florists, basically anything can be customized. Florists go above and beyond to deliver a vision, down to every detail. Put together a list of what you need and general vibe of what you’re looking for, then reach out to a few florists to receive quotes. You may be a little taken aback by how much floral quotes will come back at in the Reno/Tahoe area, but always remember that these quotes are what they are because of supplies, cost of flowers, experience, labor, and quality.


HAIR & MAKEUP:


When researching hair & makeup artists, it’s important to look at their portfolio. Although all hair and makeup styles are specific to the bride and what she has asked for - do you like the overall style of their work? When inquiring, do they charge any travel fees from where they’re located to where you’re getting married? Do they charge extra for false eye lashes and/or the application of extensions? With the add-ons, are they still in your budget? If you’re able to coordinate a hair and makeup trial before booking, I recommend doing so. However, if you’re planning your wedding from out of town, this becomes a little tricky! If this is the case for you, I recommend you book the hair and makeup artist you like the most (while they’re still available!) and then do a trial when you’re in town. Even if your trial ends up being a couple of days before your wedding day, you can at least know what you’d like adjusted for your actual wedding day in plenty of time. When booking a hair and makeup artist, they'll need to know how many services are needed (don't forget to count your bridesmaids & your moms, if applicable). They will also need to know an estimated completion time. TIP: Ask your coordinator for help on timing!


ALL IN ALL


Schedule a phone call "interview" which each prospective vendor. Keep in mind that the vendor will be interviewing you to not only learn about the details of your event, but also ensuring your personalities compliment each other. You should be doing the same!

Keely Grider, from Key Events Wedding Planning said it best:

"This is an interview process for both myself, as the planner, and you, as the client. You want to make sure you vibe well with your planner. This is going to be a year long relationship, and I don't want you to feel stressed out or not apart of a team." - Keely, Key Events Wedding Planning

Before hopping on the phone with a prospective vendor, consider what Carol, from Your Memorable Day, tells her potential clients:

"Choosing the vendors for your wedding is more important than you think. You are interviewing us! Not every vendor is the right one for you. We all have different personalities and methods for approaching our craft. I tell couples that they should have a good ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ about me and all the vendors they are talking to as we are literally taking the reins for one of the most important days of their lives. Don’t make a snap decision. It’s totally okay if you want to take a day to think about it or talk it over. Once you hire us, we are there to make your day special and as stress-free as possible, so if we don’t mesh, personality-wise, then we aren’t a good fit. It’s okay to pass on someone because they just aren’t the right fit. Don’t make a purchase just because the price is right, and the vendor is available on the day of your wedding. That’s like buying a car because it’s the right color. Open the door and check under the hood. Ask questions and more importantly, have a dialogue with the person to get a good idea of who they are. You really won’t regret it!" - Carol, Your Memorable Day

Although it is important to find a vendor that meets your budget criteria, as Keely and Carol hinted, it’s also important that you like each vendor, and can imagine having a friendly relationship with them. Can you easily talk with them? Did they effectively listen to you, your vision, and your needs? If you didn’t feel like you connected with them - THAT’S OKAY! As trust is the most important thing in client/vendor relationships, move on to the next vendor to see if you can forge a better connection with them.


Once you’ve booked a vendor you adore, don’t be shy to ask for vendor referrals! It’s likely each vendor has a list of other vendors in the area that they trust and work well with. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: TRUST IS SO IMPORTANT. Trust in vendor/client relationships is what makes a wedding day successful.


Happy planning!

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