Friday, January 9, 2009

our planning :: 9 :: booking the vendors

Booking the vendors is, indeed, one of the most critical parts of planning. After we finished selecting our vendors and placing deposits to secure our date, it seemed as though the wedding planning was all done -- we knew it wasn't, but it sure felt like a huge accomplishment and great sense of relief. I treated our wedding planning the same way I've treated other clients' weddings -- with a ton of effort, so finding the right vendors was equally challenging. I had to ensure we were getting vendors who not only did quality work, but were within our budget & understood our vision. NOTE: In my opinion, vendors ought to mesh with the couple personality-wise and understand the vision of the event, style-wise. I've noticed that many vendors have their own style.
It took us a total of 2 weeks to book all of our vendors. I know, truly atypical. Trust me, we probably wouldn't have been able to do this if I didn't work from my own studio and had prior experience. I give you ladies and gents so many high fives for being able to do this while working in the office and not having gone through the process. Our secret: Abram and I shared the responsibility and took care of specific vendor bookings on our own (but we had to agree on them, of course.) Because we were on the same page about our vision (through lots of communication), it ran smoothly.

NOTE: It's always awesome to get referrals from friends; this is the most popular way to find a vendor. But if you haven't gotten any, consider the venue's preferred vendors. Preferred vendors are usually experienced, service with excellence, and have a relationship with the staff -- there are great reasons why they made it on the list. We found our photographer via the preferred vendor list of 7-Degrees and we couldn't have been more happier. Nicole Caldwell, our photographer, knows how to get around the venue, what the angles are to get the perfect shots, and how to work with the low lighting. NOTE: Some photographers are more comfortable with certain types of lighting, though some are excellent with all types. She is also familiar with the staff which eased us and happens to work right next door! Nicole also took our very fab engagement pictures.

Just some NOTES:

  1. Figure your budget. I've helped plan corporate events which are similar to weddings; they both use a specific kind of breakdown with vendors. If a small company wants to spend $40k on, say, the décor, it would make sense that they spend a relative amount on their other vendors. It might disappoint guests to be served a bland dinner and look up to see a $2,000 centerpiece on the table. Couples usually weigh their options and sometimes spend a little more here and less there -- smart. If there's one vendor (not including a venue that is providing the food) you want to allocate more $ to, I'd, hands down, say the photographer.
  2. Set a deadline to book all vendors. Most vendors are reserved 6-12 months prior to the big day. The earlier you start, the better, esp for summer weddings.
  3. Do research and ask around for referrals or look at the preferred vendor list through your venue. Get friends' testimonials, pluses and minuses. Spend your time with vendors who are within your budget, not with those who fall way outside of the range. Time is money.
  4. Focus one at a time. Pick a vendor, do research, and work on that booking until its complete. (But make sure you know your deadlines.) You'll save so much time and energy. Too, it keeps you organized with placing deposits.
  5. Go out and look when you're financially prepared. Vendors usually require a deposit (asap) to book your date.
  6. Schedule an appointment to see sample work and meet the person who will work your event. E.g. if it's a wedding photographer, look at an album of one entire wedding, not just the best photos of all the weddings they've done & see if your personalities click!
  7. Ask the right q's. Sample q's: (1) Am I being double booked? (Some vendors will fit 2-3 weddings in one day.) Figure if you are ok with that. (2) Will you be working my event? If not, who will and can I meet him/her/them? (So you're not in for any surprises.)
  8. Be decisive. I know, it's tough, but the more decisive you are, the easier it becomes. A bride and groom who changes their mind all the time bumps into more issues -- it'd be a good thing to consider hiring a professional.
  9. Manage yourself. This will probably be the biggest and most challenging event you'll ever plan so it's important you center yourself from time to time. Staying organized and optimistic will prevent you from having a really negative planning experience. Seek professional assistance if you need extra support.
  10. Pay on time. You depend on them for certain services; they depend on you to pay deposits and balances as indicated on the contract. Final payments are typically made 1-2 weeks prior to the event.

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