This is exciting! You’re getting married! But before you can catch your breath, the reality of planning a wedding starts to seep in.
Based on my experience of personally photographing over 50 weddings, I can give you a few thoughts. So, congratulations, and now let’s get to work.
Tara and Eric Morehead
The first decision is whether to hire a wedding planner. If this is your first wedding, then YIKES! You’ve never done this before and, if your dreams come true, the only other wedding you will be involved in planning will be your son or daughter’s.
There is a thing that is true of pretty much everything I can think of, which is people that do things for a living are almost always going to do it better than those who only do it sometimes. This is going to be true of pretty much every part of your wedding so why not leave the planning to a professional. She or he will be experienced in every detail. Whether you ultimately choose to hire a planner or do it yourself, I recommend you at least talk to a few planners. Get an idea of what services they provide and how much they charge.
And that brings up maybe the most important thing I have to tell you. Interview people. Today when we all have Zoom or similar services, there is no reason to avoid this. Here is a potential list of vendors, and you want to have a good working relationship with all of these professionals.
Planner Venue Manager Photographer Videographer Caterer Baker Florist Officiant Bartender DJ or Musicians
Who’d I leave out? Add them to the list. But here’s the thing, you are going to have to trust all of these people to do their jobs professionally and make your life as easy as possible. Looking at their website, reading their testimonials, looking at the list of services and comparing prices will not tell you the most important thing - will they do their job in a pleasant and professional way? In a way that you feel comfortable with and will enjoy being involved with.
How will you know that without talking with them? References help. Testimonials help. Body of work helps. But none of these will tell you what you will know from just a few minutes of talking with someone.
So meet in person or via video call, but definitely interview your vendors. Even if you have a planner.
So, there a simple step by step guide for hiring your wedding vendors.
1) Decide what you want. Make a list. Pick some or all from my list above and add anything you think I missed. This is your wedding. I have found that modern weddings in America have a set of common elements that couples choose to have, delete or add to. For sure you’re going to have a ceremony but how long? How elaborate? Where? My point is that there is considerable room for customization, to make your wedding your own.
2) Shop vendors. Ask a friend who’s wedding you attended who she used for something you particularly liked, Google search for others. Attend wedding shows. There are various websites that are wedding portals. You have essentially entered the front door of a mall full of wedding shops. Some are on their own streets and some are inside the mall. The wedding industrial complex shows up in a variety of places.
3) Start interviewing the venues first. There seem to be more venues every year but it’s still a limited supply of real estate. Your date is going to be dictated by when you get the venue you want. But don’t let the short supply of venues push you into a place you don’t like or work with a manager you don’t like. The venue is going to be one of the most important decisions you make. Go visit the places and talk with the managers. Ask them how involved they will be on the day of your wedding.
4) Then pick a photographer. Until you have your venue booked, you really can’t book the rest of your vendors because you aren’t yet certain of your date. But now that is done and you should start booking vendors. Why pick your photographer first? Mostly because we’re the most important vendor. Decades from now you will have a hard time remembering how the food tasted. My wife and I were married over 4 decades ago and I cannot even remember what we ate. But we have our photos. And we might not look like that anymore, but even now it’s heart touching to see ourselves, our friends and family on that day so many years ago.
5) Pick a photographer Part II. The most common first question I get from brides is, “How much are your packages?” It’s the wrong first question. Of course you have a budget but price is not the most important part of your decision to hire a photographer. Quality and style are. The first question should be, “Can I look at your portfolio?” You are going to have these photos on your walls, on your phone and in your home for decades to come. Please hire a photographer who’s photos you absolutely love. Find that photographer and then talk price with them.
6) Complete and repeat. Sign contracts. Read the contracts. What happens if your vendor has to back out? In the case of a photographer, how soon can you expect your photos after your wedding?
Finally, a word about pressure. This is especially for the perfectionist but everyone experiences some of this. A wedding is a complex event involving many different people that all have to do their part on time. They might not all do that. Things might be forgotten, people might be late, etc, etc, etc. The bride is the center of it all. If you let it, the pressure can get to you. If you start to feel that way, please, take a deep breath or 3, hug someone near to you, and remember, everyone is there because they love you. They are on your side every minute no matter what happens. They will rejoice in the day and anything that goes wrong will be small in their minds and quickly forgotten. Your happiness is all they really care about. Relax and LIVE your moment!