Water, Water Everywhere and Lots of Drops to Drink

IIt was probably much easier to plan a wedding in 1911 than it is in 2011. There was maybe only one vendor to choose from for each thing you needed to get done. However, easiness aside, your wedding was just like your neighbor’s (and by neighbor I mean person who lives 5 miles down the country dirt road).

Last year when my friends were planning their wedding the bride kept telling me there is no shortage of choices. She was right. There are endless amounts of florists, caterers, photographers, wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses, rings, personalized favors. I could go on and on and on. Of course there are two sides of this coin; on one hand it is great to be able to customize a wedding to exactly your taste. On the other hand the amount of choice could drive you insane.

With so many wedding options out there it can be a daunting task to choose vendors for your wedding. I have to say that the two vendors Justin and I have chosen so far have been easy decisions but I am sure my luck won’t last forever. In fact caterers seem to be another ball game. Just to be safe it is time to put some thought into the vendor decision process.

Project management-wise this part of planning the project is called plan procurements and can actually be very detailed because depending on the project there can be legality issues, large quantity purchasing, decisions that could impact an entire company, etc. For our purposes we want to make sure we hit on two main points:

Selection Criteria

You have to know what is important to you before interviewing vendors. How will you make a rational decision otherwise? I suggest prioritizing each criterion.

My Example –  Justin and I value customer service (1), how the product/service fits in with our overall wedding style (2), quality (3), and price (4). It can be a bit of a balancing act and you may have to weigh criteria differently in each situation but let me explain  why customer service is prioritized as first and price last in our list. Customer service has always been important to me when purchasing anything, I believe these days it can be one of the only ways to differentiate between apples and apples (like deciding between discount airline companies. I go with Southwest whenever possible but that is a story for another day). With wedding vendors customer service is even more important because the service a vendor provides could either make or break your wedding. Here are a couple examples I experienced in the last few weeks:

  • I contacted a caterer back in May who was highly recommended by friends to get some initial pricing. I filled out their online form. I didn’t hear back from them. I sent them an email from my personal account. I didn’t hear back from them. I called and left my information. Guess what? I didn’t hear back from them. My friend reached out to his contact directly and her response was that she would get back to me immediately but she used excuses for why I was never contacted. This caterer is not completely out of the running yet but I have to say I have a very bad taste in my mouth. In this case customer service trumps quality.
  • Our venue recommended a hotel close by for blocking rooms for our out of town guests. This hotel offers a great deal where Justin and I would receive a free room the night of our wedding and would provide a shuttle to and from the wedding for our guests staying at the hotel (both savings for us since we would need to pay for these things anyway). I set up an appointment with the person in charge of blocking rooms, drove to the hotel, and lo and behold she was not even there that day. No apology from the staff, no follow-up email from her to reschedule the appointment. This was an easy decision; the hotel was immediately crossed off our list. In this case customer service trumps price.

Here’s my thinking, if a prospective vendor can’t even get it together and respond to you when you request information or show up for appointments how reliable can they be as your wedding day approaches? Vendors are always going to give you the best service when vying for your business so if it isn’t to your standards before you sign a contract don’t assume it’s going to get better. Bad service from your vendors in my opinion is the worst thing that can happen while planning and on your wedding day.

You might say though, “Laurel, you are being hypocritical. You have been saying all along that your budget is one of the most important things in your planning process”. Well, I’m not saying I am going to go get the most expensive vendor because they have exceptional customer service. I am only interviewing vendors within my price range. And I am confident that if I look hard enough I will find the right combination of customer service, style, quality, and price for all my vendor needs.


Vendor contracts are not the same as those internet terms of service agreements you nonchalantly hit the accept button on. Read each and every word on them. Ask questions when you have them. And don’t sign something that doesn’t seem right. You could be shelling out thousands of dollars with your wedding vendors, that’s not an insignificant amount of money, so make sure you protect yourself.

On the subject of protecting yourself, I read a great book when Justin and I got engaged that my Mom bought for me. Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing A Fantastic Wedding On A Realistic Budget by Denise Fields and Alan Fields. It provides great information and one of the main things I took away from it is how to protect yourself against vendor scams/companies going out of business. Apparently this happens a lot in the wedding industry. So it isn’t something to take lightly. Their advice? Pay for as much as you can with a credit card. Most credit card companies protect consumers against these types of situations (check with your credit card company though, I am not a credit card expert).

Also, this may go without saying but keep a copy of your contract so if anything bad happens you have documents to reference.

As I begin to get more and more involved in my own wedding planning I am realizing that finding vendors is most definitely the hardest part. There is lots of water choices out there and so much to drink decide between it could make you sick. I think it is worth it though to spend the time and stick with your guns. I am sure it will pay off in the end.


  1. Dad/Laird
    Jul 30, 2011

    As far as choices, fortunately from my standpoint, you have no choice on your Dad.

    Ha Ha Ha.

    • lcagan
      Aug 1, 2011

      Very funny. I would choose you as my Dad any day though.

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