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Thursday, October 22, 2015

NwaVic's Wed2Plan Series: How to Get the Best Out of Your Wedding Vendors


As promised, as a sequel to the post on how to retain awesome vendors, here's how to get the best of of your wedding vendors both in quality and quantity. 

1. Be Nice!
First things first. Once you choose your vendors, you should endeavor to cultivate positive relationships with each of them. The happier your vendor is, the better they will serve you. And just like it is in everyday, when someone likes you, they will take a step further to make sure you're happy with their services. You need this good karma especially if something goes wrong.

 You want your vendors to feel like guests with back stage passes and not just another job they must execute to get paid. You want them to look forward to your day.  The last thing you want is for your vendor to see you as a bridezilla. Sure, don't be a push over- stand your ground when and where need be, but make sure you are friendly and a pleasure to work with. They will feed off your vibes!

Part of this is thinking ahead of time for the vendors who will be working all day at your wedding. How will they eat? They are still human beings and well-fed (notice i didn't say well-drunk) vendors perform at their best. Also, If you have extra favors, keep some aside for them. 

Fortunately, I had good rapport with almost all of my vendors. The relationship I built with them went a long way, especially when some things threatened to go south the week of the wedding. For example, when my linen vendor tried to go back on their word to get more money from us, my wedding planner called in a favor and found a new vendor, and my Hilton venue coordinator helped us minimize the loss of cancelling the contract. When we realized last minute that the venue required additional insurance than what I had previously purchased, my caterer bought it on her own dime. When we had to add 50 more seats because of our ever-growing guest list, the caterer added so much food, we had left overs afterwards.  My DJ even created the mix for my sisters and I to perform to at the wedding at no extra charge even when it was never in his contract.  When they noticed how much fun my guests were having at the wedding, the Hilton venue coordinator gave us an extra hour to dance at no extra charge. 

Even after the wedding, I still have good relationships with my vendors and talk from time to time. For all they know, they are all on retainer for all my future events ;-)
G & I with our wedding planner Chioma of Dure Events and her lovely team, Dure divas!
2. Negotiate
Before you meet a vendor, do some independent research about how much the service they provide usually costs. Compare that with your budget. Then, when you talk to the vendor, you can give them a number below your budget as your budget and ask if they can give you what you envision within that price. Remember there are still additional fees like taxes and delivery fees so giving a figure below your budget protects you from shock when the final bill comes. #Thankmelater Also, quoting below gives you wiggle room when they most likely than not, give you a higher quote. 

Here's a little secret- a vendor is more willing to throw something into their package than reduce the amount. Keep that in mind when you negotiate. For e.g. if your cake vendor has a set price of $500 for the cake and it includes a cake stand. Instead of negotiating to remove the cake stand and buy yours independently in an effort to save money, try asking for a complimentary sheet cake to be served in the back to increase the number of guests the cake can feed.   

In my case, through good negotiation, we were able to upgrade from the suite included in our contract to the Presidential suite at the Hilton, use some areas of the hotel for one of our engagement shoot sites and get extra rooms for our parents included in our venue package.

3. Communicate
Make sure you communicate well. Let your vendors know your style, your theme and your budget. Tell them what exactly you are thinking. If you see something you like on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or anywhere else online, be sure to bring it to the meeting or send to them. I had a dropbox link that I named "RG Inspire" where I stored every picture or note I came across that reflected what I wanted my day to look like. Then, at vendor meetings, I would open the album on my phone and show the vendor so they could know my head was at.

In the same breadth, make sure all your vendors are on the same page. For example, when you create a timeline, (with the help of your amazing wedding planner of course), make sure you share with all vendors so that the caterer can know where and when to set up, the make-up artists can know when the first bridesmaid will be ready to get dolled up and the photographer can know you'd like some shots of you and the groom getting dressed. In this schedule, include every vendor's contact information. For example, if the caterer  is running late, s/he can call the venue coordinator to start putting out the chaffing dishes while she makes her way over or if the limo driver forgets where the bridal party will be getting ready, he can call the wedding planner.
My amazing DJ 6doubleZero, Videographer Jummy of OyemiFilms and Photographer Raheem of RHPhotoarts

4. Get Everything on Paper from the Beginning!
Even though you should be nice and easy to work with, make sure your eyes are open because for every good vendor, there's a sneaky one as well. Carry a notepad with you to all your vendor meetings or take notes on your phone. After each meeting or phone conversation, send a follow-up email re-iterating what you just discussed. Oh, I can't shout this loud enough. You would think a lawyer like me would know the benefit of words and signatures on paper. unfortunately, wedding planning got the best of me and I dropped the ball on one of my "vendors".

In search of a good linen vendor, G and I met with a "popular" Texan vendor and picked out linen, napkins, napkin rings, chair covers and chargers. I even took pictures on my IPad and excitedly showed my mom and sisters. We had to wiggle on our budget but we agreed on a package. They had a relationship with my wedding venue so I contracted them through the venue. In my mind, everything was perfect. A few months before the wedding, I even visited with my wedding planner. So, I was sure everything was good. I didn't bother to contract with them directly because I "trusted" it was covered in my venue contract. 

Three days to the big day, I got a call from my planner saying that she contacted them to schedule pick up of the linen and that there was a big difference between what we discussed with them and what they said was ready to pick up. So, off we went to meet with the manager at the decor facility. They denied everything we discussed and quoted an extra $3,800 for what we originally contracted for. I was stunned. This could not be happening to ME! After the endless back and forth, all I had to show for our agreement was the brief general paragraph incorporated in my venue contract and the pictures of my IPad. I had no other evidence. I couldn't stop beating myself up. How could I have missed the ball on this one? I read contracts for a living! How this escaped me, I'm not sure. But there was no time for self-bashing. We had just a little more than 48 hours to either settle for what this "wicked" vendor was offering us for what they claimed we contracted for, pay more to get what we had dreamed about for months, or cut our losses and bounce. I took the latter option. Thank God for the amazing venue coordinator who was so darling to me from the beginning, I was able to get out of the contract losing only the deposit. Then thanks to my amazing wedding planner Chioma of Dure Events who started calling in favors, we found another decor vendor two days before the wedding. 

The situation was managed, but it took about 4-5 pounds I needed to fit snugly into my wedding dress with it.   Avoid the "He said She said". Get everything on Paper!

5. Don't MicroManage
Of course, this is YOUR wedding. However, the vendors are the professionals and you are not. They have experience and you don't. They are seeing things objectively and you're not. If you've done a good job of picking an awesome vendor and you have a good vibe, you can trust them to do their job. Also, at least be open-minded to listen to their suggestions as well.  Even if you don't take it, you never know, they may give you unexpected good advice. You'd be surprised at how advice from a good vendor can save you a lot of money.

Try not to be over-bearing to the vendors. They may work for you but like I stated earlier, working "with" them and "above" them, would be beneficial to you both.  Of course, you want to communicate what you want so the vendor can have direction, but you have to trust that they know how to execute their job. If you can't trust that, the you have the wrong vendor.

Generally, treat your vendors well and they will reciprocate. Even past your wedding day, you never know when you'll be needing them again. 

Hope this helps!

P.S: Shout out to all my amazing vendors: Chioma, Lori, Raheem, Jummy, Akeem, Sheli, Jessie, Debra, FoxyP, Ifunanya and Somto.  You all made our day what it was! Thank you!

Stay Inspired!||| |||Instagram @dearnwavic  ||| Twitter @nwavicesq

Image source: RG Wedding album :-)

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