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Hiring Vendors

“A real decision is measured by the fact that you've taken a new action. If there's no action, you haven't truly decided.”
Anthony Robbins (author)
Essential Info

Essential Info

  1. Search for the best value.
    Get a range of prices from different companies, so you can compare packages.
  2. Don’t take their first offer.
    It’s okay to negotiate, especially if your big day is NOT on a Saturday or in the summer. If they can’t meet your budget, then ask for a referral.
  3. Start early.
    Book all vendors at least 6-9 months in advance. The good ones go fast.
  4. Check their performance.
    Get a company’s history at your state’s attorney general’s office (scroll to AG Fast Facts) and the Better Business Bureau.
  5. See what their past clients say.
    Get references from recent weddings within your budget.
  6. Look for experience.
    You only get one shot for everything to be done right, so you want someone who’s been successful at what they do for many years.
  7. Don’t pay more upfront.
    Only pay the minimum deposit. It will enhance their motivation if you give them the balance after their service has been performed.
  8. Ask about the precautions they take.
    Know what the backup plan is if something happens to their equipment, vehicle or personnel on your wedding day.
  9. Pay attention to their level of familiarity.
    Ask if they’ve done a wedding at your location before. It’s not a deal-breaker, but having past experience at your venue could be very valuable.
  10. Know where your money is going and how it’s getting there.
    Find out their travel fees (especially if the ceremony and reception are in different locations), and what forms of payment they accept.
  11. Learn who and how much you should tip.
    Not every professional your hire needs to be tipped.
    • Catering: 18% is typically added on to the final bill
    • Limo Driver: 15% is often already added on to the final bill
    • Musicians: $25 per musician, up to 15% if you felt the performance was exceptional
    • Photographer: Only for extra services
    • Videographer: Only for extra services
    • Officiant: A tip is not expected, but charitable donations are appreciated
  12. Have a signed agreement with details.
    Make sure you sign a contract that has:
    • A date and their start/ending times
    • The individual(s) scheduled for your wedding and their duties
    • All the products/services that are included with the price
    • A deposit amount
    • Final payment and when it’s due
    • Costs for additional time
    • A statement stating whether or not the final price includes a tip
    • A cancellation policy
    • A statement that talks about what happens if they are unable to fulfill their obligation(s)

 

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DJ

Pros:

  • Lower cost
  • Hear your favorite songs the way you’ve always heard them
  • Have a professional playing Master of Ceremonies to keep things on track
  • Broader selection of music
  • Ability to take a wide range of requests from guests
  • Can easily adjust sound level to fit any size room with any number of guests

Cons:

  • Not knowing if his personality and song choices will motivate your guests to dance
  • Not knowing how well he will perform as the Master of Ceremonies
  1. Have your favorite music played.
    Creating a list of music you want to hear should not be a problem at all.
  2. Get a feel for their style.
    Ask which songs the DJ typically plays (ceremony and reception).
  3. Restrict the music you hate.
    Give the DJ a “Do Not Play List”.
  4. Make sure there’s enough of the right music.
    The DJ should be able to play your desired style(s) of music for the entire reception.
  5. Know the whole event can be done your way.
    Not only should every DJ know the traditional flow of a wedding, but he/she must also be able to modify the order and nature of events to match what you want.
  6. Know your DJ.
    Before you commit, meet your actual DJ so you know exactly what to expect.
  7. Really like this person.
    Finding the right personality to play the Master of Ceremonies for your audience is a huge key to having a fun evening.
  8. Put him/her on the spot.
    Ask the DJ to demonstrate how he/she will make special announcements.
  9. Find out what their accessibility is.
    Ask how much coordination assistance the DJ plans to offer prior to your wedding.
  10. Know the actual play time.
    Ask how long the DJ will actually be performing during the hours quoted.
  11. Get “special song” advice.
    Having a comprehensive list of popular “First Dance”, “Mother/Son”, “Garter Toss”… song suggestions will save you from searching on your own.
  12. Get the equipment list.
    Ask to know exactly what pieces of equipment the DJ will be bringing. This way you can research the DJ’s equipment to make sure it’s professional quality.
  13. Count the DJ as a guest too.
    Include the DJ in your final head count for any capacity restrictions and food costs.
  14. Get a contract.
    Everything you’ve agreed to should be given in writing:
    • Final cost
    • Deposit
    • Wedding date
    • Start and ending times
    • When the DJ will set up
    • Additional travel costs
    • Refund/cancellation policies
    • Their procedure for a replacement DJ if yours is sick and unable to perform

 

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Band

Pros:

  • A specific style of music that fits the expression of your personalities
  • The element of elegance and old-world charm
  • Usually provides a higher level of energy to energize the crowd 

Cons:

  • Typically more expensive
  • Only play limited styles of music, which may not please all your guests
  • Doesn’t usually come with someone who can play the Master of Ceremonies
  • Having the space for and feeding each band member
  • Will need to take multiple breaks throughout the evening
  1. Know what they can play.
    Get a copy of the band’s playlist, and ask them to play a few songs they’d typically play at a wedding. This way there are no surprises.
  2. See them live.
    Go to one of the band’s events to see how well they interact with their audience.
  3. Know their actual play time.
    Talk about the number of breaks the band plans to take, and what music will be played during that time.  Be sure to ask if they offer the ability to plug an iPod into their sound system for background/dance music during each break.
  4. Customize as much as you can.
    Ask if the band can learn special songs, and how long it would take to learn them.
  5. Find out if they make announcements.
    Ask if a band member would also by playing Master of Ceremonies.
  6. Count them as guests too.
    Include each musician in your final head count for any capacity restrictions and food costs.
  7. Make room for them.
    Allow for a dry/covered area that’s big enough for the whole band in case of bad weather.
  8. Get a contract.
    Everything you’ve agreed to should be given in writing:
    • Final cost
    • Deposit
    • Wedding date
    • Start and ending times
    • When the band will set up
    • Additional travel costs
    • Refund/cancellation policies
    • Their procedure for replacing band members if they are sick and unable to perform

 

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Photographer

  1. Check out their past work.
    Make sure you see photos from the photographer(s) who will actually photograph your wedding.
  2. Two is better than one.
    Ask what the price is for a second shooter. We recommend having an additional person so all the important moments are captured.
  3. Review a complete set of photos.
    Review photos from an entire wedding, so they don’t just pick and choose the best ones to show you.
  4. Accept nothing but the digital negatives.
    Make sure your package comes with a CD of all the digital negatives. You’ll want to ability to make as many prints as you want in the future, as well as add your favorite photos to digital photo frame.
  5. Have options for color.
    Make sure they shoot the most important shots in both B/W and color, just in case you want both.
  6. Agree on the time-frame.
    Define the numbers of hours your photographer(s) will actually be shooting.
  7. Know what your package comes with.
    Make sure your photos include any Photoshop work that needs to be done.
  8. Make it your own.
    Don’t be afraid to make customizations to the packages they offer. Make sure you’re only paying for what you actually want.
  9. Plan ahead for the outdoors.
    Make sure your photographer(s) know when the sun will set and/or the overall expected weather conditions, so any outside pictures can be planned for accordingly (if applicable).
  10. Make it special.
    Have the photographer do some “First Moment” pictures if you can’t wait to see you bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle.
  11. Consider the photographer(s) in your guest count.
    Include the photographer(s) in your final head count for any capacity restrictions and food costs.
  12. Get a contract.
    Everything you’ve agreed to should be given in writing:
    • Final cost
    • Deposit
    • The digital negatives are included
    • Which album is included (# of pix in the album)
    • Shooting dates
    • Wedding start and ending times
    • Additional travel costs
    • Refund/cancellation policies
    • Their procedure for replacing a photographer(s) if they get sick and are unable to perform

 

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Transportation

  1. Choose what kind you want.
    There are a variety to choose from including: a horse & carriage, classic car, convertible, exotic car, town car, limo (car or SUV), old fashioned trolley, canoe, golf cart, hot-air balloon… Ask if a family member or friend has one you can borrow (be sure to tip them).
  2. See it in person.
    Make sure the vehicle you’ll be renting is exactly what you want.
  3. Check their credentials.
    Make sure the vehicle and its driver are properly licensed with the state’s Department of Transportation, the company belongs to the National Limousine Association and local Livery Association, and that they have the proper insurance to cover any injuries in case of an accident.
  4. Pay for it when you’re using it.
    If your ceremony and reception are in two separate locations, ask if you can pay just for the time between the ceremony pick up to the reception, and then the reception pickup to your final destination (hotel, airport…).
  5. Give yourself a buffer.
    Schedule an extra half hour of time on either end of the ideal time you want to be picked up.
  6. Know what’s included.
    Find out what complementary refreshments come with the package, and if the tip is part of the original price.
  7. Have contact information on hand.
    Request the phone number for your driver in case pick up/drop off times need to change.
  8. Think of the guests too.
    You may want to rent a bus/van for guests to ride from the ceremony to the reception and back (if they are in separate locations)… especially for out-of-town guests.
  9. Get a contract.
    Everything you’ve agreed to should be given in writing:
    • Final cost
    • Deposit
    • Wedding date
    • Start and ending times
    • When they will arrive
    • Additional travel costs
    • Refund/cancellation policies
    • Their procedure for replacing a sick driver or if the car breaks down/gets in an accident

 

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Videographer

  1. Capture the main moments.
    Not sure you can afford a professional videographer? Then at least rent a camera and have someone shoot your ceremony and reception (toasts, cake cutting and special dances). You can always hire a professional editor in the future.
  2. Save money when using a vendor.
    If you have a small budget but do want to have a videographer shoot your wedding, then put off the editing. This can be done at any time, so you can just wait until you have more money.
  3. Don’t settle for one camera.
    Make sure multiple cameras will be used if only one videographer is shooting. This way additional angles can be captured.
  4. See a complete event.
    Ask to see a few weddings they’ve shot, not just their demo. These are made to look great.
  5. Determine what style you want.
    Typical choices are documentary (candid interactions) or cinematic (like a music video).
  6. Ask about equipment limitations.
    Understand the quality you are getting based on the camera they are using. You may or may not want HD over Digital, simply because the close up shots may show too much detail.
  7. Know how sound will be captured.
    Make sure the videographer(s) plans to capture the important “talking” moments through a device separate from the camera’s microphone. Something like a Zoom H4n works well. It can be connected directly into the sound system that controls the wireless microphones on the bride/groom/minister.
  8. Make sure locations are predetermined.
    Videographer(s) should pick shooting areas in advance for the ceremony, toasts, cake cutting, special dances, bouquet toss, garter toss and other must-capture moments.
  9. Verify how lighting comes into play.
    Make sure the videographer(s) contact your venue to see if there are any lighting limitations.
  10. Know how they will interact with guests.
    Ask the videographer(s) how involved they are with guests, and what kinds of footage they try to capture of them. Getting their individual comments may or may not be important to you.
  11. Get a contract.
    Everything you’ve agreed to should be given in writing:
    • Final cost
    • Deposit
    • Wedding date
    • Start and ending times
    • Additional travel costs
    • When they will set up
    • Refund/cancellation policies
    • Their procedure for replacing a videographer if that person is sick and unable to perform

 

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