Social media can make everyone look like a fabulous expert ready and willing to make your day surpass your expectations and meet all your dreams. If you don't have close friends who have gotten married recently, or are planning from a distance, you might be staring at a Google search that seems endless. How are you supposed to choose?
If you're working with us, you know we have vendors we recommend, and depending on your package, we refer vendors based on the look and feel you want for your wedding. Personality, how they present themselves, past experiences with them, and price range all are considerations as we work with you to narrow down the options. However, not everyone reading this blog is getting married at our venue.
Start with each other. What is most important to you both? A DJ who can get even sleepy Uncle Toby on the floor? A relaxed, stress-free day? Florals? Are you foodies?
The best in those categories often book up early. They also tend to cost more. Sticker shock can be real and sometimes make you re-think. If it's important to you, though, here's our advice:
Hire Pros. The wedding world has a low bar to entry. Frankly speaking, some people hear what other, seasoned professionals are charging and think it's easy money. It's not. As many new vendors arrive on the market as disappear after a few years - the work is really hard and burnout is a thing. Weddings require vendors to keep a certain decorum, be flexible with unexpected changes and think fast on their feet, all so the event runs smoothly and (we hope) the couple, family, and guests have no idea anything at all went amiss.
Experience is the best teacher, knowing what possible issues to anticipate based on what they see in the timeline, or knowing the venue, or weather and have backup plans. Being able to read the room, calm a nervous parent, and spot a problem before it's a big one are just some of the skills needed. On wedding day, all of your vendors (ideally) are working together like a giant safety net. What your vendor is charging should indicate their value, expertise, years of experience, and the costs they must manage for their equipment, employees, or space. For a number of vendors, what you see on the day of is nothing compared to the prep work before the wedding, or in the case of photographers and videographers, the hours spent editing after.
Do some snooping. Talk to past couples (easy to snoop thanks to instagram and tagging). Talk to other wedding vendors who have worked with the vendor you are considering (again, tagging makes this so easy). This may be harder in some cases, as vendors may not be super willing to throw another vendor under the proverbial bus, because we never know when we might have to work with that person again. Goodwill among us is everything. However, you can ask a few questions and see what they are willing to tell you. This is where you really need to contact them by phone: their tone might say it all, not the words. An immediate response of enthusiasm is a great sign. Better yet is if they launch into a story of how an event went, or how someone handled an unexpected monsoon.
What if you like a vendor, but they are new and nobody seems to know them yet? One of our biggest defining lines for professionals we want to work with truly boils down to communication. Any vendor, experienced or not, will have great goodwill with us if they take the time to talk to us and the vendors with whom they will be working. Every venue is different. Not every DJ has the same needs. Some planners ask a lot more questions and are more detailed than others. No two weddings are the same. By talking to each other, we know how we can help each other the day of and hop right to work. We doubt any vendor would mind helping someone newer if they show they have every intention of becoming one of the best.
Another must? License and Insurance. We started requiring only licensed and insured vendors to work here at Oakleaf some time ago. The license shows they are serious about their business. For many wedding vendors, weddings and events are not their full-time occupation, so they must purchase day-of insurance coverage because long-term coverage can be prohibitive. It's crazy how many things can potentially go wrong. We've seen videos of coordinators accidentally catching dried table florals on fire during set-up. Accidents can happen, from serious to minor -- but your pros often know where to be careful placing items and have insurance in case anything does happen.
Ok. What about friends for the roles you feel are least important? It can seem like a great way to save some money. Over and over again, we had seen or heard of a friend asked to fulfil a role as coordinator/dj/etc. Back when we allowed it, we as the venue and other seasoned pros would spend the day bailing them out/fixing issues/taking over additional roles to make sure the wedding ran smoothly. We can offer a million stories, which can be entertaining to our friends at get-togethers but are hardly entertaining to any of us on the wedding day, especially when your most important day ever is at stake. Your wedding is a detailed, and maybe even stressful, event. If you must hire a friend, go in knowing it might complicate the relationship... and in some cases maybe jeopardize your friendship.
So there you go - our best advice! Happy Planning,
The Oakleaf Cottage Team