How to Successfully Communicate with your Wedding Vendors
Planning a wedding can be extremely fun and also extremely stressful. If you're going it alone (without the help of an experienced planner or coordinator), you have the particularly tough task of wrangling a plethora vendors to make your day come together beautifully. It may be the first time you've spoken to rental companies, catering businesses, graphic designers, and florists and attempted to make each work seamlessly together. Each business you encounter will have a unique communication style and ending your planning experience with positive interactions, beautiful end products, and without surprise costs is an art.
So what are some ways you can successfully communicate with all of your wedding vendors and get exactly what you want?
1. Do your research.
This is perhaps the most important step and luckily it's entirely within your control. Similar to buying a car or a home, you can do market research on wedding vendors. If you're evaluating a rental company, take a look at three to four rental companies in the area. If they have pricing listed, compare the three. Does one look far cheaper than the others? Are two similar in price? Is one far more expensive? It's always a good idea to ignore outliers (the very cheap and the very expensive, unless budget dictates otherwise) - it usually means the cheapest company is cutting corners or using a lower quality product. It might also mean the expensive company is adding on a lot of fees or using really expensive products that you might not need for your wedding day. A middle of the road option might be your best bet to ensure fair pricing and fair quality.
If you're researching something more custom, you may want to get initial ballpark quotes from vendors. A planner, calligrapher/stationer, or a florist would all fall into this category. You can always ask for a rough estimate of what your needs would cost. Be as specific as you can so they can accurately guesstimate (e.g. I have 200 people attending, 10 tables and want large floral centerpieces or I have 100 households to invite and I want letterpress printing but I'm willing to forgo add-ons like custom postage).
2. Pay attention to your vendor's initial communication style.
Reached out to your planner and they took a week to respond without an out of office message? Called a stationer and they never called you back? Asked for a quote and didn't receive anything without a second email prompting them? These are all indicators of how that individual will communicate with you throughout your planning process. Let first impressions guide you. If you're comfortable with longer response times, this might work out just fine. If you happen to be a bit behind on deadlines yourself, you want a more deadline driven vendor that will help keep you on track.
3. Email or call. Don't DM, comment, text, or tweet.
Most vendors have preferred communication methods and some list them ("No DMs please"). Why? When a vendor is receiving 1-10 inquiries a day, they can get easily lost in the shuffle. A DM filters down quickly on your message window and there is no reminder that accompanies it. A comment is often lost or not noticed. An email is usually the preferred method for inquiries as it allows the vendor to keep track of your conversation, respond in length and from a desktop, and allows them to easily attach files, reference links, and more. A call is also most likely to be either picked up or returned and can be followed up with an email as well.
4. Read your contract thoroughly.
It seems like a no brainer: don't sign anything you haven't read. But in the world of that iTunes user agreement, we're sometimes prone to signing something without giving it a full review. If a vendor sends you a contract, no matter how long or how straight forward everything may seem - review each element of the contract and ask questions if they're unclear to you. Perhaps a photographer has a contract that stipulates they'll supply a back-up if something happens to them. You may want to ask who the back-up is and be comfortable with both individuals as your potential wedding photographer. If a stationer has a provision in their contract regarding number of revisions or edits, be sure you are aware of them and comfortable with them before proceeding. It may seem irrelevant upfront but there may come a time when you need an extra revision and will want to be prepared for the additional cost as outlined in the contract.
5. Be very clear about your budget.
I get a lot of inquiries where the client doesn't mention their budget. A quote takes a long time for me to prepare and tailor to a client. Without knowing anything about their desired spend, I have a hard time coming up with a well-matched proposal. If a budget is too low for my packages, I can also end up wasting the client's time with consultation and emails.
I know a lot of brides are wary about providing their budget. There is a misconception that providing a budget will cause the quote to change or cause the quote to always land at maximum budget. The truth is, most vendors have a price list they keep privately. Your costs come from that price list. If I get a client who has $100 to spend, their quote would look the same as someone who has $5,000 to spend. My pricing doesn't change based on your budget. What does change is what we can add on to a suite. If you have $1,000 to spend, we would need to opt for the least expensive options available and not add on extras. If you have $5,000 to spend, I can propose add-ons that might enhance your suite. In the end you have the choice to come in under budget or over, but knowing your budget is critical to providing a well-matched proposal.
6. If you do end up adding to your project as you go, be sure to ask for updated quotes.
If you get to the halfway mark of planning and realize your mom needs 10 more guests and that means 1 more table, be sure to communicate changes to your vendor and ask them to communicate cost changes back to you. Know that adding something on to your original project often adds costs. These costs don't need to be a surprise or a shock at the end of the wedding night. If adding a table adds on 10 entrees, tell your caterer and ask them for an updated quote. This will allow you to keep your budget in check, eliminate any surprise costs at the end of the night, and track your expenses.
7. Stick to your deadlines.
Ask your vendor for a timeline as related to their services as soon as you book them. Then be prepared to stick to your end of the timeline and be prepared to check in on them in regards to their end. If you're working on your wedding invitations and owe your stationer your address list by X date, but miss it by a week, know that you may incur additional delays or rush fees. Vendors allot time for your project and once you've pushed a deadline out, they may no longer have the same available time to complete your project. If you delay too long, you may need to add in rush shipping, rush printing fees, rush design fees and those can add up to unexpected costs.
In the reverse, the vendor should be committed to their end of the timeline as well. If they miss a deadline, don't be afraid to check in on them in regards to when they'll be providing your item. The only good news on that front is if the vendor misses a deadline, it is their responsibility to pick up rush fees or upgraded shipping costs.
8. Pick a vendor you trust and trust them.
If you pick a set of vendors based only on one criteria (they're local! they're cheap! they're the first one I saw!), you'll run into a host of issues when you're planning. Perhaps they were local but don't offer a lot of items you need for your wedding day and you end up making a lot of compromises and feeling dissatisfied. Maybe they were really inexpensive but with that price comes missed deadlines or poor communication. You don't want to spend a year arguing with the vendor about providing what they promised. Maybe they were the first person you saw and you were eager to book so you didn't vet them thoroughly. You may come to the realization they weren't as experienced as they appeared.
If you vet your vendors and pick vendors whose communication style, portfolio, and business practices are all a great fit with your wedding, you'll find that everything goes smoothly. You'll have a team that executes items perfectly and seamlessly and you'll have less worry as you plan. Once you have a great team, trust their vision and their execution and let them create magic!