Monday, April 26, 2010

Vet Your Vendor's Vibe

Jason here. Let's be frank: society's expectations for a groom's role in wedding-planning are basically zero. For most husbands-to-be, it's a big deal to show even the slightest glimmer of interest in wedding preparations. I'd like to think my level of involvement is a step above the (stereo)typical groom. I want to have a say in the decor & design. I'm helping to book transportation & research caterers. I'm doing my best to save up some dough. Becca & I are treating this as a shared effort. Still, my contributions don't come close to the level of time & effort that B has invested. She's researched tons of vendors and culled her lists down to a handful of top options, which she passed on to me. I've started given them close, serious consideration, and we've had many a chat about it, expressing our opinions, figuring out where we agree & disagree.

Now we're starting to make some final decisions, and I've noticed an interesting theme running through the vendors we've felt the best about. They all share a certain attitude toward work: they really like their jobs. This wasn't an explicit criteria on our checklist, but I realize now that a vendor's attitude toward their work can have a ripple effect on the wedding. Not necessarily ALL vendors - bartenders and waitstaff don't have to love their jobs, just do them well - but the ones whose creative, human touches give life to the wedding. Photographers. Designers. DOCs. DJs/bands. If they truly enjoy what they do, their positivity will infect your wedding. We're really fortunate to have found several affordable, high-quality vendors who share this attitude. But I wonder whether it's something most couples consider when vendor-shopping.

I hear a lot about the Wedding Industrial Complex, and while I haven't had the pleasure of wading through the deep end of it, I get the feeling that there's a universe of vendors whose motives are to squeeze as much cash as possible from their clients. And a group that focuses on catering to their clients' sense of vanity. Still others simply aim to run a solid, dependable, reasonably-priced (if somewhat generic) operation. They all seem focused on the "business" side - and that's not a bad thing, everyone's gotta make a living - but just like in other industries, people often chase big-time success at the expense of personal fulfillment. They're good at their job, but they don't really enjoy it.

Meanwhile, people who are truly happy with their work might not make a million bucks, but their output will be high-quality and uniquely their own, and they'll be far more pleasant to work with. They are professional businesspeople, of course, but they respect the significance of how their work fits into this extremely emotional, once-(hopefully)-in-a-lifetime experience for their clients. Some might even get real joy out of working weddings, even after the work gets repetitive.

When interviewing vendors, it's important to try and gauge their attitude. The "vibe" between vendor and client can really impact a couple's emotional outlook on their whole wedding. For example, if you know your photographer loves his job (and if you like his style), you trust that he'll get great results, and that he won't flake out or screw you over. That peace of mind will be invaluable as the wedding date approaches and the pressures of planning begin to mount.

Of course, someone's "vibe" is subjective; you can't judge it from a website, a pamphlet, or a slideshow. It's only discernible in-person (sometimes over the phone). But it's an important thing to consider in your vendor interviews. During the conversation, I suggest asking open-ended questions that let them reveal a little bit about themselves & their experience in their line of work. Their tone, attitude, and personality will come across (sometimes in subtle ways), and this can give you crucial information that can't be found just by looking at their portfolio or their rate sheet. Attitude doesn't have to be a make-or-break factor. But it is an important and overlooked factor to consider when choosing a vendor. Sometimes the right attitude can be hard to find, but it's always worth it.


  1. This is really good advice. I chose our venue based on a great vibe from the Wedding Lady, and crossed another off our list when the woman just didn't have the right energy (shooting down my ideas). I'm SO HAPPY about that choice.

  2. this is a great post. as much as i said i was going to be crazy-practical and go with the most financially feasible options, i ended up going with my gut and hired vendors that were excited and passionate about their craft. so far, when i look back at the choices, i feel really good about them.

  3. I totally agree. We've been very careful in selecting vendors who feel like a good "fit" with us in personality, particularly those vendors with whom we'll be spending a significant portion of our wedding day. We don't really care whether the restaurant that is making our food gets us because they won't be serving it, but we really want our Day of Coordinator, our photographer, and our musicians to be excited and interested in the day we're creating. We spent considerable time getting to know each of these vendors. I like that they feel like friends.

  4. Hell yes. "Go with your gut" -- in wedding planning, in life, in everything! I think women feel this but don't always act on it as much as they could - so much noise from the WIC (& families, and everything else) to counteract it.

    Speaking of interviewing vendors, I wonder if there's a sheet of questions one should ask each one?

  5. So true! Thanks for this truly insightful post, Jason.

  6. Super smart. Definitely all about unearthing those in my local or Etsy-area that are passionate and creative. Makes such a huge difference!


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