Vendor Recommendations: How We Do Them

We’ve been doing a lot of vendor recommendations over the last month and it got me thinking about the vendors who we are reaching out and what they are thinking in the process. So I decided to write a blog post explaining how we do these, why we do them this way and why we can’t always follow up with every vendor we reach out to.

I recently did a podcast episode with Adriel Nutter, the founder of PlannWell and we got on the subject to, so I’m going to lay it all out! I would suggest reading each section, even if it doesn’t apply to your profession as there are probably key points in each that pertain to multiple vendors.

wedding planning, vendor recommendations

Our Vendor Recommendation Process

Typically, though it depends on the couple, we are reaching out to anywhere from 2-10 vendors per category. A vendor category is photographers, caterers, cake bakers, hair and makeup artists, lighting companies, etc etc etc. So if you multiply the number of categories by the number of vendors in each, that is a LOT of availability and pricing to keep up with. It’s not like we can just ask for pricing once since vendor pricing changes regularly, so we always have to ask for that to make sure we are quoting the right price to our couples.

Anyway, so we are reaching out to vendors to #1 find out if they are available on the date our couple is getting married and #2 to find out pricing to make sure it will work with their budget. We are doing negotiating on behalf of the client and often creating the perfect “package” for their needs.

One of our main jobs as planners is to help our clients figure out their budget and then make sure they stay IN that budget. We do not ever recommend a vendor that is outside of the budget for that specific category (unless it’s a very small amount that we can make up in another area, like $50). How terrible would it be if we sent someone that is $1000 over the clients budget and they fall in love with them, but ultimately can’t afford them. Oh the disappointment!

vendor recommendations

Example: Photographer

Our clients often want 8 hours of coverage, 2 photographers, an engagement session and a wedding album. So we are asking probably 10 different photographers if they’re available for a certain date and if so, to please send us pricing for the package of need. Now like I said, we do have their prior package pricing but that may be from early 2019 and now its 2021 so it’s probably changed. And also, we are sending and receiving hundreds of emails every day, it is not easy to scroll back through those thousands of emails to find the pricing package information from 2 years ago.

It would be much more helpful if vendors would send their current pricing each time I email (unless it was just a couple weeks prior and nothing has changed) so I have it for quick reference and can file it away in that specific couples folder for later. If you don’t have a specific package that includes our needs but you can create one for us, go ahead and send what the price would be for that as well.

Example: Caterer

For caterers, it’s simple in a sense. We email our top choices and let them know the style of service the client is looking for (buffet vs stations vs plated), the number of guests we are expecting and some top food choices they would like to see on their proposal. If a client wants high quality filet and lobster as a plated meal, we aren’t going to recommend a BBQ place that only does buffet. If someone has a smaller budget for the food area, we aren’t going to recommend the high end catering companies in the area who will be way out of budget.

We are going back and forth with our caterers to create a menu that our clients will be happy to see (though they can adjust it from there) and to make sure what they want will work with the budget. This is just a starting point and our couples know that it can change, but we want to make sure if we recommend a certain caterer, that they will be able to create their dream food vision, within their budget.

Example: Hair and Makeup Artists

This can be a huge range of services depending on what our client is paying for (such as bridesmaid hair and makeup), how many there are in the wedding party, if they want to do a trial (recommended!) and how many moms would also like the service. Again, each company we recommend has different pricing for the bride, the trial, the additional hair and makeup for moms and bridesmaids, travel fees and packages. I love it when I can email a HMUA (Hair/Makeup Artist) with how many people I have and how many services, the location and they send me back an exact number. It truly reduces so much time and so much back and forth for both of us.

vendor hair and makeup

Example: Cakes

There are so many varieties and options in the cake and dessert category. Tons of different sizes of tiers, sheet cakes, cupcakes and other desserts. I hope I’m not the only one who can’t keep up with how many slices each tier has, and those charts that you google all seem to have different answers. So when I ask for a 3 tier cake to serve 100, some bakers have one for 96 while another bakery has one for 112. Impossible to keep up with. Not to mention everyone has different prices per slice and then I have to know how many slices they consider each tier to have.

Do you see where I’m going with this and how confusing it can be for someone who is not a wedding cake baker? So that information is appreciated every time I email so I have a quick reference and easy info to transfer exactly what they are getting to my recommendation sheet. Now I do understand that upgraded flavors and more difficult designs increase the price, but like I mentioned above, my goal starting out is to make sure you COULD do a cake for them in their price range and if they decide to splurge on an intricate design, that’s on them (and their budget) later.

Side Note About Tax

PLEASE let us know if tax is included in the price you quote us. If your pricing brochure doesn’t say, we have no way to know. And sending another email to wait for a reply about tax just takes more time that these could be in the clients hands making a decision. It doesn’t look good for anyone if we tell a client a certain price and then have to go back later and tell them “sorry, the $300 TN sales tax wasn’t included so if you really want to book them you’ll have to find another $300 to do so because they didn’t specify to me that it wasn’t included”. You may be wondering how some people aren’t charging tax. Well, they are, it’s just included in their pricing and something they have to sit aside to pay tax later on.

And while I’m on this subject, if you have a minimum spend requirement, please let me know that up front. It’s another crappy situation to be in if we recommend someone and then later find out that they have a new $10,000 floral minimum when our budget is $3,000.

Our Vendor Process Continued…

So now we have created our pretty little recommendation list based on all the back and forth with our vendors with detailed info about each company, their pricing and what’s included. From there, it’s in our clients hands. They look through, check out websites, instagrams, reviews and decide who they want to book or meet with or (zoom with these days). They let us know and we let the chosen vendor know that we need a contract. Sometimes the client is narrowing down who they want to do tastings with so we get those set up. Sometimes they have more questions that we need to go back to ask the vendor about. Once we get a contract, we send it to our client and let them know how to get it locked in.

Why We Can’t Let Every Vendor Know That The Client Didn’t Book Them

Remember above when I said we are contacting anywhere from 2-10 vendors per category? And there are like 10-12 different categories of vendors that we are recommending to our clients (assuming full planning). I’m not going to do the math on that but that’s somewhere in the range of like 100 emails just for one client. And that’s just the initial email going out, then we’ve got the responses, and then the follow up if there are more questions. And likely, we are doing these for more than one client at a time. It is just impossible and bad management of time to try and follow up with each vendor you contacted and let them know the client booked someone else.

So with that being said, of course we are happy (well not happy, but you know what I mean) to let you know if they booked someone else and the reason (if we have one) if you reach out and ask us.

I’ve had a couple people ask me lately, why they are sending me pricing but don’t even get a chance to talk to the client and try to sell to them. That is a very valid question and the best answer I have is that I am the middle man for my couples and do the research for them, so that they don’t have to. I’d love to hear feedback from vendors who read this and see if there is a better way to do it and how we could make it easier for them. I’d also love to hear from other planners on if they have a better process for their vendor recommendations.

vendor recommendations

A Note For Our Clients

I hope this also gives you a little insight as to how the process works on our end and why it might take a little longer than a day to send you recommendations to look at. We don’t just have a list of vendors we like for you to choose from. We really dive in and find people who will be a good fit for you, your wedding vision and your budget.

Please leave a comment or shoot me an email to alex@viwevents.com if you have any thoughts or feedback on this, I’d love to hear it and see how we can all work better together!


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