You're engaged! Congratulations! It's so exciting and wonderful. Now the search begins... for your other perfect matches -- your wedding vendors. Here's where life can start to get stressful. In a sea of over-saturation, hundreds of websites with an "elite" list of wedding professionals, magazine advertorials, your friends' recommendations, reality TV shows, blogs, blogs, and more blogs... it can be a daunting task to sift through all the clutter. I've spent much of my career sorting through wedding professionals, helping to match couples with companies who are not only reputable, responsible, talented and creative, but right for their unique needs. And in the process, I've discovered a few ways to educate oneself while on your search.
Who Are They: Thanks to social media, you can find out! Review a company's Twitter feed, Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and other outlets that may give you a deeper look into how the company does business, what they excel at and possibly even how the principles conduct themselves. Are they passionate about weddings or burned out? What you learn might surprise you... they may even be talking about you!
Portfolio: Wow, their work looks amazing, that tabletop is beautiful and that couple is breathtaking -- but is it real? Workshops and inspiration shoots are common practice among event professionals, but they're very different from a real wedding. What may have taken two days to set up, an unlimited budget, and a controlled environment is night and day from executing that same décor in a tiny window of time, multiplied by 25 tables, guests waiting and so many more moving parts. Inspiration shoots and workshop photos can be helpful to show the company's creativity and range, but be sure to ask what is real versus what is really hard to do in a real wedding. Easiest way to know, ask to see the full wedding!
Diversity: Their personality or yours? A portfolio with a sense of consistency and quality is key to expressing their level of detail, care, standard of product and so forth. But if every wedding looks like the last, perhaps the personal style of that professional is showing through more than that of the couple. A diverse portfolio helps to show the range of the company and their ability to bring out the likes of the couple, not just of themselves. Train yourself to look for a consistent level of quality but a unique range of work.
Experience: Have they worked a wedding similar in obstacles and tasks before? Have they shot in a dark environment like yours, do they have destination wedding experience? Depending on the scenario, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but a conversation to be had so that any education required is done well in advance. Some vendors will sell you on the fact that they work all the time at your venue, which can be extremely helpful, but can also lead to complacency when you want creativity, so determine what is right for you.
Third Party Endorsements: You know, the "best of" seals, awards won by campaigning, paid placement on venue vendor lists and other sometimes misleading recommendations. Is their website littered with badges from other sites, media outlets, or associations endorsing their product or claiming they are the international best of? Before you take that information as the gold standard; what did it take for them to become accredited and was payment involved? Many of those seals mean good things -- a sign of being active in their industry and passing a vetting process, whether a fee was part of the process or not (full disclosure, Bridal Bar has an approved seal as well). But let it be disclosed before that award starts to look too good to be true.
Service: Service can mean many things across different vendor categories. Part of it is a personality match. Are you type A and require a lot of communication? Then learn about their process to see if it's a fit for you. Service to me also means you should get what you pay for. Are you getting an experience and a level of art that is reflective of that price, whether high or low? Does your wedding planner take commissions and have you had an open discussion about that service and their logic for compensation? That can be a real tell. Have you spoken to past clients? Read online reviews? While some may be faux reviews, don't discount your own gut -- listen to your own feelings!
And once you've found your perfect match, stop looking! Don't second-guess your decision by continuing to see what you could have had. Trust in the professionals you made an educated decision to hire; now enjoy the planning experience!
To follow Harmony Walton on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/bridalbar.