THE BLOG
07/31/2012 12:53 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

Important Questions To Ask Your Vendors

The beginning stage of planning is such an exciting time, but it can also be daunting. Between the venue, the menu, the guests, and the gown, you might think: where do I begin? My answer is to just take a deep breath, because the fun has just begun.

Start by browsing through magazines, online sites, blogs, and of course Pinterest! You will be surprised what innovative ideas will catch your eye. With all these exciting ideas floating around your head, you may forget to ask some of the most important questions of your vendors. Before meeting with each of the vendors that you have in mind, you need to have a detailed list of questions prepared. Asking these important questions will help assure there will be no surprises along the way!

Dress

Close your eyes, and picture yourself on your special evening. What is your overall look? Is it glamour, vintage, or romantic? Having a clear vision of your ideal style will help guide you when you are shopping for the all the pieces that will come together for your final look.

Another suggestion is to take someone you trust with you when shopping. It always helps to have the extra eyes of the people that matter around you. That being said, don't take too many people with you, or else you'll put yourself under unnecessary stress.

It is essential to confirm that the bridal gown store will be able to complete the gown for you on time without rushing. Some may need six months, while others only need three months. When placing your order, ask that the gown be completed at least a week prior to your date. That way, there is a bit of extra time in case you need last minute adjustments. My brides always feel comfortable knowing that the perfect dress is hanging in their closets and ready for the big day.

Also, ask how many fittings will be needed and be certain that works with your schedule. I always suggest that you do your hair and make-up trial when you are going for a fitting. Have whoever accompanies you take a photograph so you can be sure the total look is exactly the way you imagined.

Photographer

I love looking back at photographs of a wedding. They tell the story behind the big day, reminding you of all the beautiful memories and emotions. There are so many different styles of photography to consider. It is important to know exactly what feeling you want to capture on this evening of commitment and romance. Is it a photojournalist style (like capturing the moment with candid snaps) or should each picture be styled and composed? Is it a photographer shooting with film or digital, color or black and white? Look at magazines for different styles, or browse through friends' wedding photos to get a better idea and what you like (and what you definitely don't). I promise you once you are interviewing photographers it will all become clear.

When you are quoted a figure be sure you are clear about the amount of hours they will be on site. How many staff will attend? If you have a party of over 100 people, you may want two shooters -- not just a photographer and an assistant. The reason being that one camera can be with the Groom and his groomsmen and the other with the Bride and her bridesmaids. Your safety net is making a list of the people you want included in photographs. This is a much easier way for the photographer to understand your priorities, and you can feel confident that will have shots of the most important people in your life.

Be sure to ask what is included in the fee. Will you be receiving a photo album and if so, how many photos are included? Ask to see the options of albums. Will you be able to preview on the web and if so how much time will be needed before completed? In their experience, what is the turnaround time? Make sure everything is in your contract!

Florist/Floral Designer

When selecting a designer and florist for your wedding, you need to remember that this is the element that helps create the feeling that you want to capture. Your florist/designer has the ability to offer you more than just floral embellishments. If your budget allows you to add some personal touches reach out for these suggestions from your floral expert. Questions to keep in mind when speaking with a potential florists are: May I view your portfolio? What type of vessels are available? Have you ever worked at my wedding location? Give them a budget and ask them if they can work within the budget. If the answer is yes, then ask to look at prior parties that had similar budgets. At the time of year of your wedding, what flowers will be available? Pick those favorites and ask if they will fall within your budget. Ask if you can customize and if the florist will be there to set everything up. You don't want to be let down the day of your wedding and not see the person you built up your ideas with be absent.

Band & Music

If there is one thing that creates the right mood of the evening, it is the music. It is an essential element that will set the tone for dinner and your after-party. There is nothing like building the mood and adding layers of meaning to each part of the night. Your guests will follow you and your fiancé, so plan on wearing comfortable shoes that you can dance in all night long. If possible, I highly recommend choosing a band instead of a DJ, as there is nothing greater than live music. Besides listening to some demos, it is important to contact past references and see how the band turned out. Demo reels are great to listen to but they can be modified and altered so it's useful to speak to somebody who had the opportunity to listen to them live. Once you double check with the references, you can start asking the band questions. How many hours are in the contract? Is there an overtime fee? What is your song list like? Can they play your favorite song? What kind of power requirements do they need? Will this work with the venue? Do they need breaks? How many? You certainly don't want to get stuck with a diva! Do they require a meal? Is there an extra fee for continuous music? How many band members are there? The more questions you ask, the more confident you will feel about your music will be perfect on your special day.

Caterer

Your guests will be spending a significant portion of their night dining, which means you will want to ask many questions to ensure your guests are happy! Generally caterers break down their costs into price per person. You need to ask what exactly is included in this price. Many times, there is an additional service charge and tax that is added to this price. The great thing about this is that you will know the exact costs going into your big day. There shouldn't be any surprises doing it this way. Is there an additional charge for hors d'oeuvres? Cocktail drinks? Besides pricing, you will want to ask specific questions about the food. Does your guest list include a lot of "foodies"? If so, you may want to customize the menu to make the dishes unique. Does Grandma Irene have the most amazing pie recipe? Maybe your caterer can try to recreate this dish. It's these special touches that the guests will remember long after their plates are cleared. Is a tasting included in the package so you can have a sneak peek before the big day, and possibly make some changes if necessary? If you have two or three choices to make with the menu, they should all be there to sample at the tasting! You will also want to make sure the dishes are also visually appealing, so ask them to plate the dishes as they would be served at the wedding during your tasting. You want to ensure that your dishes both taste good AND look good! Don't be afraid to ask them to change whatever you don't like.

Along with the food, you will want to ask numerous questions about the drinks. What brands of alcohol? Do you charge a corkage fee if you provide our own wine or champagne? Are drinks charged per drink or per person? If your old fraternity buddies are coming to the wedding and you know they can drink up a storm, you may want to see what option will be most cost effective.

While we all fear that planning for a dream wedding can quickly spiral into a nightmare (and nobody wants to be a bridezilla), the best way to stop any last minute disasters is to be prepared. By going into each vendor meeting with a clear vision and a slew of important questions, you can be sure that everyone in your party planning team is on the same page. That way, instead of stressing the details, you can celebrate one of the most special days of your life.

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