Monday, December 22, 2008

Working With Wedding Vendors

A unique characteristic of the wedding industry is that it is primarily small business driven.  Sure, there are some national companies or "chains" that provide service or product in this arena but to a significant degree the success of a wedding will depend on how effective the bride and groom are in selecting the right small businesses as their vendors.

In some instances, planning a wedding may be the very first time either the bride or the groom have ever entered into a contractual agreement with anyone (except perhaps their cell phone carrier or a landlord to rent an apartment).  Now, with a wedding date set, the stress of interacting with multiple vendors to compare prices, negotiate contracts, plan for the festivities, etc. can be stressful and overwhelming.
Here are just a few tips on working with the small business community:

1) Learn as much as you can about the company and its history in the community.  Is it family owned and operated or does it have a different structure?  How long has it served the community?  Can you have access to referrals from past customers?  The more you know about the business the more secure you will feel about using it as a vendor.

2) If you can, arrange to meet with the owner or those who have a direct stake in the success of the business.  Small business owners understand that your satisfaction is crucial to future business, especially service related industries such as photography, DJ services, or catering.  Small businesses are often extensions of their owners and tend to take on the owner's characteristics.  So getting to know the owner will help you determine the type of service you'll receive.  It will also give you someone influential to call (other than a salesperson) if you should have a concern.

3) Ask many questions.  A lot of couples are either too shy to ask questions of the vendor or they simply don't know how to go about the inquiry.  A proud business owner or manager is always willing to explain their service.  It gives small business people great joy to talk about their livelihood and special talents.  If you feel that you are getting the "run-around" or not getting clear answers to your questions, this is a sign of confusion, or worse, reluctance to share all of the truth.  At the very least, ask for a full explanation of all that the service promises to deliver.

4) Get it in writing.  A reputable company will understand the importance of using a written contract.  If you get resistance from a vendor to get details in writing, this should be a "red flag" to warn you away from using that particular vendor.  Ask for an addendum to the contract if you want specific items included in the service you'll receive.

5) Use information technology to compare vendors.  In today's business environment you can find a lot of information at the touch of a computer keyboard.  Most small businesses who work in the wedding industry will indeed have some internet presence as the web has become a wonderful tool for brides and grooms looking for vendors.  Use the internet to seek referrals and testimonials from past customers, get price quotes and learn about services.

6) Call or visit the vendor.  While the internet is great for gathering information, as mentioned earlier, you'll still want to visit the vendors who made your top three or four choices.  Did the vendor respond quickly to your call or did you wait days before receiving a reply?  Was the vendor hesitant to meet with you in person?  During the meeting, was the representative personable and professional?  Did he or she seem to genuinely care about delivering a great service or did it seem that it was "just their job" to meet with you?

7) Does the vendor play nicely with the other vendors?  Ask your photographer if he or she has ever worked with your choice of DJ service or band.  Have the caterers ever heard of the florist that you are considering?  The best vendors like working with their favorite associates.  They've established a good working relationship over the years and know how to communicate with each other.  There's nothing like a vendor who refuses to demonstrate some flexibility when things call for a change in plan.  You might get some useful "inside" information about a vendor from others in the industry.

The good news is that most small businesses are dedicated to providing brides and grooms with exceptional product and service.  Those who follow through with a little homework and communication will avoid the few "bad apple" vendors that are the source of wedding day nightmares and find their way to the great quality vendors who pride themselves on making wedding events fun, memorable experiences for everyone!

Click here if you want to learn more about our DJ service or receive a price quote for your upcoming event!