There are lots and lots of guides out there on how to choose your wedding suppliers. In fact look up any wedding planner or in any magazine and you’ll probably find one. I know I had a folder full of pull outs of “questions to ask your X”, but when it came down to it I don’t think I used a single one. Why? Because at the end of the day choosing a supplier has a lot to do with first impressions, personality, offering, gut instinct and……money. So I’m adding my take on choosing suppliers to the mix, from a brides perspective.
- Venue – If you’ve narrowed down the area and type of venue you want then this is a fairly easy task; you fall in love. Though a bit like falling in love first impressions and personality count. When I found my venue the owner (helps) showed me round just as she was packing up for the day without any fuss, without hesitation and was very much “here is my home”. It just happens the venue ticked all the boxes in terms of location, layout, numbers etc. Nothing was ever too much trouble and I never felt like I was bothering them with the million questions that followed my second and third visit! I turned my nose up at a few venues where the people showing me round were, frankly, useless. Sending me to the back of the venue to look through some photo albums, then having a lady, who doesn’t introduce herself, ask me questions and have a stab at “selling” the venue isn’t going to cut it. Just like buying a house, choosing your venue is personal and often you can’t explain why you choose the venue you do, you just know it’s right.
- Caterer – You’ve found your venue so usually hand in hand with this goes food. If you’re not choosing to do this yourself then you need to find someone to feed your guests. At the venue I chose, and what is quite often the case, there was a choice of caterers. The venue advised me what ones to call based on my budget and numbers which gave me three. I called all three on the same day. These are the outcomes: One was quick to get me off the phone saying they would send me a brochure……..which arrived a week later. The next one I had a lovely chat with and said they would send me their menu options and prices, I never heard from them again. The third was travelling in the car at the time. They promised to call me as soon as they got back to the office. Ten minutes later sure enough they called me back. We had a good chat about the company and what they offered. The fact that they catered to children (big tick for me) and that they would send me a brochure that evening. They did and the rest is history. It just turned out that the team were lovely and the company got exactly what I was after.
- Entertainment – I didn’t have much option on this front as I wanted a DJ and I had to use the venue’s preferred option. The DJ was actually brilliant and my mind was put at ease as soon as I called them. They told me everything i needed to think about which was all reiterated in an email and delivered on the same day as the telephone conversation.
- Florist – I put huge pressure on myself with this one as the flowers would be a big part of the day for me. I ended up having a real battle of heart and head. I was recommended a local florist as they did exactly what I was looking for (loose, meadow, seasonal style flowers). I went to visit them and my heart started to sink a little. Our discussion was all being jotted down on scraps of paper and prices quoted (though undeniably cheap) were very rough costs. I was told I’d save costs by collecting everything myself, which logistically was going to be impossible. Plus I was requesting a flower arch which isn’t something I fancied installing myself! The quote eventually arrived but questions weren’t answered and I eventually gave up. I then went to see a florist recommended by the venue. I was nervous as their portfolio showed very traditional bouquets and flower arrangements, nothing like what I wanted. However when I went to see them, and saw their house…much like my dream house, any fears I had dissipated and she got exactly what I wanted. Quotes arrived on time, emails and calls answered.
- Cake – Easy peasy. Recommended to us by our caterers….and in fact one of the few people locally who made naked cakes. They came to our house at a time that suited, they were super nice, the cake options were to die for. Quotes all arrived when we were told they would. This was in fact the easiest part of the wedding planning!
- Hair – You may have 100% confidence in your regular hairdresser or may choose to go with someone who specialises in wedding hair. The best place to find out about these is probably through the person supplying your dress….or even friends who have recently been married. I met my hair stylist through a mini trial day at the bridal shop I had bought my dress from. I instantly thought she was brilliant so knew I would book her to do my hair. Again start to finish the service was great.
- MUA – Initially determined to do this myself, just two weeks before the wedding I panicked. I went on to my hair stylists website and had a look through her recommendations. I found one who had an amazing portfolio and who could fit me in on the day and for a trial before hand. She was very calm about the lateness of the booking which put me at ease and knew the look I was after. It was all fuss free and I couldn’t have asked for more.
- Photographer – You’ve got an amazing dress, your hair and make up is perfect, you’ve spent months on DIY projects to make the venue look pretty……you need someone to capture it. I was lucky I didn’t have to worry about this as my Dad’s girlfriend is a professional photographer. However when I was looking, had she not agreed to do it, I turned to wedding blogs and the venue. There are some seriously, seriously talented photographers out there, you only need to look through the real weddings on You & Me to see that. But you get what you pay for. If you find beautiful photography and you think you want something just like that but don’t think it’s in your budget then call them up. There’s a few ways in which you can save a bit of money on photography. If they’re a good egg, then they’ll let you know how.
- Videographer – I chose Shoot It Yourself as I wanted something fun and different. They offer a pretty slick service too. The various 8mm companies out there do some pretty cute videos too. Again I’d look to wedding blogs to get recommendations. If soft focus videos with Mariah Carey playing over the top aren’t your thing then you’ll quickly be able to identify what companies not to use.
- Dress – This may seem like a strange one to add as once you’ve found the one, you’ve found the one right? When I found my dress I wouldn’t have considered going anywhere else to get it. In fact the thought never entered my mind even though I knew travelling a bit further north or south I might find the dress a couple of hundred pounds cheaper. Like I said I don’t know this for a fact as I didn’t bother because of CUSTOMER SERVICE. When I went to the bridalwear shop where I found my dress the customer service was amazing. There was no bubbly or luxurious furnishings, there was just a women who knew her stuff, had great taste in wedding dresses and how to dress brides. I was able to try on the dresses I wanted to, I was able to muck around trying on dresses my bridesmaids thought might look nice on me. Then, once we narrowed down the best shape for me, the bridal shop owner suggested some options. There was an opinion offered without being offensive or coming across as too opinionated. There was, and I’ll use a quote from a recent bride, “no fake flattery”. There was firm guidance on best shapes so I left with a clear idea of what to try on at other shops. There was 100% interest and attention on me, where I was getting married, what sort of look and feel I wanted for the day. Subtle suggestions that this dress would be a perfect fit for that sort of wedding style etc. It was the best customer service I had received in all the shops I visited. I would have paid for it and I would not have taken my business elsewhere. Just like all other suppliers you pay for what you get. You might save yourself a couple of hundred pounds travelling an extra hundred miles to get the dress you want, but the risk you take is having zero confidence if the shop providing your dress. It can go wrong and sometimes that’s just not a risk worth taking in such a big investment.
- Other Items – Prop hire, chair covers, wedding transport, invites and anything else I haven’t covered try using the general tips below.
- Pick up the phone – You won’t get much of a feel for a supplier until you talk to them.
- Customer Service – You’ll be able to tell a lot about a supplier by their level of customer service. Calls being returned, emails being responded to, quotes being sent when they say they’ll send them, being generally helpful e.g. recommendations, helping you work within your budget are all signs of good customer service. If I didn’t get this from each of my suppliers then I may have started looking elsewhere. I’ve worked in a customer/client role for 20 years so I know what is good and what is baaaaaaad.
- Recommendations – A venue may well have a list of recommended suppliers so don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to double-check their worthiness of being on the supplier list.
- Social Media – Friend and Foe – Look suppliers up on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has a rating facility which some suppliers may have enabled. Both Twitter and Facebook will give you a chance to see the most recent work of a supplier too……and of course who’s raving about them, urm and maybe who’s not.
- Word of mouth – When you’re trying dresses on discuss where you are/thinking of getting married. What caterers you’re thinking about, do they know a florist/make-up artist/hair stylist/photographer. This works for any of your chosen suppliers. They often work far and wide so may know just the person you are looking for.
- Make sure you feel like you matter – I’m not saying go all out bridezilla, but when phoning or meeting suppliers if you feel like you don’t matter then you probably don’t.
- What’s your favourite colour – I’ve said it once so I’ll say it again; get to know your suppliers. Once you have chosen them get to know them. I knew about my suppliers personal* lives as well as their professional and vice versa. They want your day to be a success and they can’t do this without knowing what your dreams are for the big day. Yes they are providing a service that you’re paying for but be nice. You need them to help you so being a wedding diva isn’t going to earn you any brownie points.
Who made my day the best day ever?
- Gate Street Barn
- Kalm Kitchen
- Chess Disco
- Rosie Orr Flowers
- Hair by Sharon Roberts
- Kristina Gasperas MUA
- Miss Bush Bridalwear
- Vanda Ralevska Photography
- Shoot It Yourself
Advice from the professionals!
- Always Andri Wedding Design via Bridal Musings
- Some official stats on how couples choose their wedding supplier via RockNRoll Bride
- Fresh advice from Katrina Otter Weddings & Events
*Turns out second choice career for a lot of wedding folk is being a midwife.