What is a referral worth for your wedding vendors?

cropped-fototails_jeanine_thurston_20110825_2011_1039.jpg

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A “GOOD” VENDOR REFERRAL FROM ANOTHER VENDOR.

There are many unwritten rules of playing fair within any industry… the line is faded and frustrating.  Many years ago, when you were a photographer, videographer or other vendor you saw referrals based on quality and trust. It is amazing to get referrals from other brides and grooms, from planners, from venues… and the list goes on.  But that line of why we are referring someone is becoming quite jaded, and we need to keep our eyes and ears open for little ques that make a “referral” not so sweet or solid.

The biggest issue that has come to light is that vendors have learned that over the years they can get “paid” by other vendors for referrals.  This is the first line that was crossed some time ago, when some venues and vendors decided that you had to only be of “average” quality and pay a huge chunk of money and they would put you on their referral list.  There ARE some upstanding vendors out there that choose their referral list by experience, merit, value, quality of work and customer service ~ but definitely not everyone is in this category.

Things to look for that can be “red-alarms” when getting referrals from vendors, and questions that are important to ask.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask:  Do vendors on your referral list pay to be on your referral list?  That doesn’t mean that they are bad referrals, however, if they have paid to be there… you need to dig a little deeper.  Check and double-check their experience, quality of work, and try to find other people who refer them as well.

2. Vendors that offer HUGE discounts if you go with ONE vendor only.  If you are a professional, you should work well with multiple other vendors.  Offering 30%- 50% off your services ONLY if they book with a specific other vendor should set off a HUGE red flag. They may be just new to the industry and are trying to align themselves with some great other vendors to pump up the quality of their own work, but playing well and being able to refer multiple other vendors that they work well with shows that they have more connections and people that they can produce well with.

3. Tell me about your referrals.  When meeting with a vendor and getting references from them, ask them to tell you about the references and why you are referring them – be in tune to how excited they get about them and how much detail they can give about how they work, their style or how they service their clients.  They should be able to do this about ALL of their referrals they are giving, including their experience, maybe how well they shoot in different environments, or how helpful and present they are with their clients.

In the wedding industry, referrals are the best form getting the best combination of vendors, which equals your best chances of getting top-notch results from them as a team.  So after you ask the hard questions go with your gut… but vendors that play fair with other vendors and that are knowledgeable about their referrals means you are getting the best referrals.  And vendors that can give you a few referrals from each service and that can describe to you why one or the other may be a great fit for them means they are concerned about what is best for you as a bridal couple too!  However, a vendor that says you MUST go with a specific vendor to get a discount from them, OR locations that refer based on them being paid… let the red flags start flying.

Book your key vendors – without cutting corners!

“Planning ahead allows you more room to get vendors you want for your wedding day.”Image

I’ve had so many calls lately from people who had contacted me months ago about their wedding… and then call back only to find we have that date already booked.  My heart sinks, because some of them I would so LOVE to photograph their wedding.  I kindly hand them off to other photographers that I personally recommend – but hate the deep sigh I get from them when I tell them we no longer have their date available.

 I encourage anyone having a wedding to book your key vendors ASAP… especially ones that can only do one event at a time.  Wedding planner, photographer, videographer, DJ or Band… are mostly limited to one wedding a day – so make those your priority after you have your date & venue set.   This is such an amazingly important day and getting the vendors that you love can make a huge difference in how comfortable and carefree you feel on your wedding day.  Florists, catering, On-site MUAs, Stylists and cake should be next up – because although they may be able to do more than one wedding in a day, they still have limitations on how many they can do.

The “when to book” each vendor changes from year to year in your most loved wedding magazines (it almost changes as fast as your local weather forecast) and typically their ball park timeline only works if you have multiple choices that you love for each vendor.  If you have a specific vendor you want to work with, or an amazing vendor that does limited events to give you the best service and attention then you can throw all those timelines for booking out the window.   This is your wedding day – you deserve world-class vendors, and the memories of your wedding day are world-class important.

The DRESS… yes, that beloved dress that you want… can take months to get and even more time to get altered.  Many brides don’t realize how much time that can take… so find your dress with enough time – so you’re not cutting it too close to the wedding day!

Another great reason to book ASAP… is it gives you more time for financial planning for your event.  Many vendors will work with you on payment plans so that instead of “cutting” your budget and settling, it may allow you to get the vendor you want, the packages you want to make your day over the top amazing.

So get out a pen an paper and start making your priority list for your wedding day – make a wedding top 10.  Those top 5 vendors – book as soon as possible, and the the next five as soon as you can after too.

Don’t forget to follow our BLOG to get lots of great tips for your wedding day!