Having good vendor relationships for your wedding is almost as important as your relationship with your partner. That may sound like an overstatement, but it’s key to planning a successful wedding. Here, wedding experts explain how to foster those all-important relationships.
Feeling paralyzed by the prospect of choosing your wedding vendors? Turn to social media. “Vendors will often infuse their personalities into Instagram Stories or blog posts, so use social media to your advantage to find vendors that speak to you emotionally and visually,” advises Jo Reitz of New Jersey’s Square Mile Events.
And referrals work: If you attended a wedding and loved the band or photographer, ask your friends about who they used and what the experience was like. “As vendors, we typically love to book weddings from the same friend group, because we already have an idea of their general style, maturity level, and communication skills,” says Reitz.
Last, but certainly not least, is the option to use websites with vendor marketplaces (like Zola!) to search for your vendors. Most marketplace sites allow you to search for vendors by type and location. Zola also lets you find your vendors based on their availability, your wedding budget, and both of your prefered work styles. Going this route is a great way to streamline your vendor search, avoid awkward exchanges, and build a solid foundation for a great relationship.
Don’t approach a vendor by first asking what discounts they offer. “It is a common misconception that hiring a wedding planner will automatically grant you discounts for booking your wedding vendors,” Reitz explains. “Planners primarily focus on adding value, whether by pulling in last-minute favors for you from established relationships with other vendors or throwing in additional items to your planning package at a discounted rate. No one wants their services to be devalued.”
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Think about your professional life: Who do you like working with? Collaborating types? Quiet types? “With a lot of vendors, you're going to be working with them very intimately, so know who you vibe with the best,” says Genevieve Roja, founder of Northern California’s Lily Spruce.
And with some vendors, it’s especially important to consider their personality type against yours. This includes hair and makeup teams (“Often you're working with them for several hours and sometimes very early in the morning,” Roja notes) and photography teams (“You'll be smooching and hugging and smiling a lot on event day, so you'll want someone fun, organized, and able to wrangle herds of family members and bridal parties.”). Screen your vendors by asking them how they approach event days, who else will be working on the day, and how they approach their work/collaboration style.
Find vendors that you have a good rapport with and who have a similar communication style to you—“people that you would want to have a drink with,” says Alison Semmler, owner of Lifestyle Maven Events in NYC. “It'll be easier to communicate with someone that you like and not just view it simply as a transaction.”
Manage vendors like people—people who are working hard to make your wedding special. “Sometimes couples lose sight that they are working with living, breathing human beings to plan their big day,” says Reitz. Vendors rarely tolerate whiny behavior from couples who stomp their feet when things don’t go their way; they’ll be more likely to go out of their way to pull favors for a couple with whom they have a strong rapport.
Like any great relationship, open and honest communication is key when it comes to vendor management. Be upfront about who you are as people: your likes, dislikes, and values. “The more a foundational vendor relationship is made, the smoother the planning process goes,” says Amy Shack Egan, founder of Brooklyn’s Modern Rebel. “These vendors are involved in one of the biggest milestones in your life, so it shouldn't feel like just another transaction."
Talk about what you expect from them early on and throughout the process. Roja says to ask: “How will they communicate with you? Are they big texters? Better on email? What will they expect from you as far as decisions that you must make as a couple?”
To create a strong vendor relationship, be respectful of vendors’ time even at the inquiry stage. “A lot of couples don't realize that when they're reaching out to photographers, planners, and wedding venues, it's a real person on the other end—a person that's not necessarily making money off of sitting in front of a computer and answering these emails,” says Semmler. “Most wedding vendors spend at least two hours coming up with proposals and talking to clients and emailing back and forth.” So don’t ghost them. “It's completely understandable that a couple may decide to go in a different direction, but it's nice to give that courtesy to wedding professionals. It establishes good karma.”
Once you’ve booked a vendor, try to arrive on time to scheduled meetings, both virtually and in-person, just like how you respect meeting times with your boss or colleagues. “If you show up consistently late for site visits or flake out on a call with a wedding vendor, you are wasting their time,” says Reitz. A vendor may see you as an unreliable client or flag your wedding with their team as having medium vendor risk for wedding planning timeline changes or anticipated event-day interruptions.
Take notes from every call to keep everyone accountable. “During the pandemic, these notes proved invaluable,” says Roja. “Most of our clients forgot what was said, and it was important to go back to email summaries that we captured on behalf of clients.”
Ask about all the deadlines for payments, signatures, and other important info that the potential vendor will require—and respect those deadlines. “It is okay to connect with the vendor before the due date if you’re having trouble formulating answers or making decisions, but vendors have tried-and-true timelines,” adds Reitz. “Try your best to stay on top of vendor requests, milestones, and deadlines, so the vendor can give you the best client experience possible.”
Communication is a two-way street between you and your vendors. Remember that the vendors are not your personal assistants and will usually respond within 24 or 48 hours. “Couples will expect a good vendor to respond within hours, but then they will disappear for weeks or months at a time and then expect vendors to pick up the slack and work quickly,” notes Semmler. “If a client doesn't respond or ignores vendors’ emails, it's going to create a lot of backlogs and more stress.”
The relationship with your vendor is a delicate but crucial one. Cultivate your vendor relations as you would any relationship that’s important to you, and you’ll be well on your way to a wonderful wedding day.
The ultimate way to have the best relationship with your vendors? Start by finding your perfect vendor matches with Zola. From caterers and florists to photographers and beauty pros, you can browse and book your wedding professionals all in one place. Start your search today!