Hey, you’re engaged! Congratulations!! It’s an exciting time for you.
It can also be an overwhelming time and I’m sure you want to make sure that you choose the absolutely BEST wedding vendors possible for your wedding. You’ve probably also heard horror stories from friends, family, and acquaintances about some vendor who didn’t live up to their end of the bargain or had some sort of ‘hidden fee‘ in their contract that came up on the day of the wedding.
Well, to help you book the absolutely perfect vendors for your dream wedding, here are some essential questions you should be asking all of your potential vendors — I recommend holding these for the ‘in person’ meetings, so that you can gauge their responses in person and see if any topic you bring up makes them act cagey…
No, not that sort of CAGE-y…wait, is that where the term ‘cagey’ comes from? Man, that would make total sense…
P.S. I know it’s not…
So here they are, the 10 questions you should be asking every single one of your potential wedding vendors:
1. How long have you been in business? / How many weddings have you done?
Experience goes a long way towards making your wedding day run smoothly. Also, it can effect pricing/rates. Someone who is just starting out most likely is not going to charge the same rate as someone who has been in business for 20 years — and if they do, that should raise some red flags.
2. Are you available on my wedding day?
You’d be surprised how many people don’t stop to think that the vendor may already be booked or otherwise unavailable. I always let couples know whether I’m available when they first contact me, and I’m happy to offer the services of my Team Fatchett photographers if I am not available.
3. Will you be doing any other events on my wedding day?
For some types vendors (Hair and makeup artists, officiants, bakers, florists, etc.) it is common to ‘work’ more than one wedding in a day. For others, like photographers, you want someone who is focusing on one wedding at a time. Also, for venues, you want to know if you’re going to have the space to yourself or if you’ll be sharing the building with other events!
4. What’s your back-up plan? (if you get sick, if there’s bad weather, etc.)
Know what the vendor’s plan is in case something happens to them – it’s rare, but I’ve been called in emergency situations before! Do they have someone who will take over for them in an emergency? If it’s a venue, do they have a plan in case your outdoor ceremony gets rained out?
5. Are you insured?
For many types of wedding vendors, liability insurance is critical. This covers damages they (or their equipment) might cause to the venue or you and your guests. Be sure to find out if your vendor is insured AND if your venue requires a Certificate of Insurance from your vendors (and which vendors they need it from).
I am going to say that again.
FIND OUT if your venue requires your vendors to provide a COI. And if they do, let your vendors know!! I’ve shown up at weddings and the catering manager has said, “We never received your COI!” and my response is, “I didn’t know you needed one!”
6. What do we need to provide to secure our date?
What does the vendor require from you to reserve your wedding date? Most often, they will require some sort of retainer or deposit (those are two different things!) and a contract. READ that contract, it should spell out many of the things I am talking about in this post (what happens in an emergency, cancellations, additional fees, etc.).
I, personally, require a one third retainer and the signed contract to reserve a wedding date.
7. What’s your payment policy/plan?
Different vendors will accept different forms of payment. Venues might let you put your deposit on a credit card, but further payments will need to be made by check. Ask your other vendors what forms of payment they take. Don’t assume that everyone takes credit cards, because some vendors don’t…those pesky processing fees!
8. What’s your cancellation policy?
What happens if you need to cancel your contract? Do you get your money back? Is there a time frame for cancellation?
For many vendors, the deposit or retainer is non-refundable. Some will refund the deposit (or some portion of it) if they’re able to book another wedding for the same date, but that’s going to be determined by how far out the wedding is. A year? More likely they will get another booking. Two weeks? They’ve probably turned down another job for your wedding date.
Find out what their policy is! Many do not refund the deposit because once they’ve blocked out your date, they no longer take any other inquiries for your wedding date, so they are turning away other business. They may also keep the deposit to cover administrative and materials costs incurred from working on your wedding.
9. What are your travel/overtime/delivery fees?
Very, very, VERY important to ask about these types of fees. This is where less scrupulous vendors will keep their ‘hidden fees’. While they will quote you the base price for a service or product, they might charge an additional fee to get it to you.
Most vendors will be totally honest with you as long as you’re honest with them, because they can’t give you accurate information if you don’t provide all the details.
For example, if you tell someone the wedding is taking place in New York and you don’t give details, they might assume you mean NYC. Then, when you come back and say, “Oh, it’s two hours North of the city in the Hudson Valley…”
Well, then you might have to deal with travel or delivery fees!
10. What’s the best way to contact you?
Different vendors have different preferred methods of communication. Ask them whether they prefer a phone call, text, or an email.
For me, it depends on what we’re discussing:
Short messages (“We’ve arrived at the location!” or “We received the contract. We are looking it over.”) are fine for texts.
Emails are better for longer, detail filled messages. That way everyone can go back and look over the information and reply if they have any questions.
Phone calls are great for dealing with things that might be a little more abstract so you can get to the root of the discussion instead of sending 20 emails back and forth and not really answering the question.
Good luck to you!
I hope you found this article helpful! Be sure to share it with anyone you know who is in the process of planning their wedding! If you want more wedding planning tips and advice, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!