When you are arranging your wedding or function, there are so many decisions to make, and your suppliers are some of your most important. There are literally thousands out there, from florists to photobooths, hairdressers to harpists, so how do you choose a good one and how can you guarantee that they are the right supplier for you.
1. Have you experienced it yourself?
The best thing to do is to check it out yourself. Wedding fairs or Venue Open Days are a great way to get ideas about the sorts of things that you could have at your wedding or function. Not only do they give you ideas, but you can talk to the supplier and sample their services (watch them do a magic trick, eat some of their cake, or listen to their music!). It’s not a very personal way to meet your suppliers, however it is a good starting point. Once you have chosen the sorts of things that you would like to include, consider asking if you could meet them in person to discuss your exact requirements. I am always more than happy for clients to visit me at home so that we can have an uninterrupted conversation about their event, whilst also giving them the opportunity to listen to some music in blissful isolation from other people! Do be careful – some suppliers will try to charge for any appointments, but make sure that you don’t agree to anything that you don’t think is reasonable. It is very useful for them to meet you in person too, as you can never get all of the information correct through email, so don’t be afraid of questioning their pricing methods!
If you can’t get to meet them (for example, if you live abroad) try to speak to them on the phone, or perhaps see if there are video examples of their work. This is more challenging with things such as cakes, as a photograph could be provided by anyone and there is no guarantee of whether it tastes any good. Many forms of entertainment, however, have video links so that you can see them in action on sites such as YouTube. It’s fairly tricky to fake a video of you performing a magic trick, or playing a musical instrument, so this is an excellent check if you can’t meet someone in person. If your supplier doesn’t seem to have anything available, don’t be afraid to ask as sometimes they would prefer to email examples, rather than have things publically available.
2. Do you know someone else who has used them?
The best way of ensuring that you have a good quality supplier is ultimately through a recommendation of someone that you trust. This is easier with some suppliers that with others. For example, you may be happy to use the same wedding cake maker as your friend as you enjoyed their cake, but know that you can have it decorated in a different way so that it doesn’t look the same. Your photographer, similarly, need to be someone that you know that you could work with and get on with, and therefore one that you have seen work is a good start, as well as being able to ask your friends to see their work. Entertainment, however is more difficult as you are likely to not want to have anything at your function that a friend or family member has already had. This means that you need to do some investigating yourself…
3. Can you find some reviews or recommendations from trusted sources?
Firstly, contact your chosen venue. All reputable function venues have listed of recommended suppliers, where they have built up relationships over the years and know that the quality that they will provide will be in keeping with the venue itself. Just a word of warning: check how often your venue updates their lists! The venues that I work with most closely update their supplier directories every year, to make sure that everything is kept fresh (and it keeps us suppliers on our toes too, which is no bad thing!).
Once you have chosen some people to investigate, most suppliers will have testimonials on their websites. It is, however, very difficult to verify these as ultimately they have been typed by the supplier! (Mine are completely legitimate, by the way!). A more accurate review system is to check out wedding planning websites, such as Hitched. Whilst these provide suppliers a platform to advertise, they also have opportunities for clients to provide reviews. Reviews can only be posted by having an account with the website, or by signing in using Facebook, which means that it is very easy to see whether they appear genuine or not.
Another, fairly recent, addition to the world of reviews is Google Business. Businesses can now be listed on Google (assuming that they meet Google’s requirements and security checks) and then members of the public can rate and review their services. This, of course, applies to many types of businesses, but legitimate wedding suppliers should be registered as a business with Google, so that you can see what their reviews are.
4. How can you confirm that they are a trusted professional?
Sometimes it is appropriate for suppliers to have qualifications or memberships to professional organisations. Don’t be afraid to ask if your supplier has any of these. Those of us who have completed rigorous training in our areas of expertise would be more than happy to explain what we have achieved and at which level. There are suppliers out there who have happily turned professional from starting out with a hobby. This does not mean that they are in any way less proficient, however you need to make sure that they are as good as they might appear and that they have completed any relevant training that their industry might require. If they haven’t, you may like to ask yourselves why they haven’t. Some professionals will have a degree in their chosen area. Or you would, for example, expect a magician to be a member of the Magic Circle, or a musician to have a range of exam certificates, to show that they can perform at a good level (with an exam board such as ABRSM or Trinity Laban).
You also need to check that they have any relevant insurances or certificates to perform at your venue. Any supplier that you use should have Public Liability insurance, and anyone using electrical equipment should have certificates of safety. Don’t be afraid to ask to see these, or for copies (many venues ask for them anyway, so you may well need to pass them on).
5. Have you checked them out on social media?
I’m not very tech savvy. Not at all, in fact. However what I can tell you is that social media can actually be incredibly useful when trying to find out about a person or organisation!
There are sites such as Facebook where suppliers post what they are up to, which can give you an insight into what they really get up to. Are they posting regularly? Do they always go to the same places? Do they have any comments from other people? Do they have lots of ‘Likes’ (people who have actively chosen to keep an eye on what they get up to)? All of these things can give you an idea about how active your supplier is and whether people like to stay in touch. Also look at what they like to share, or copy from other parts of the internet. Is it relevant to their profession? What does this say about them?
Another good one is Instagram. This is a site where people can post pictures of what they are getting up to. Yes, quite a lot of people seem to post pictures of babies or what they are having for dinner, but it can give you a good idea about how active (and how professional) your suppliers are. As with Facebook, are they posting regularly? Are other people commenting? Do they have a lot of followers? Are their posts entirely professional or do they seem to be mixing in their home life and their professional life onto their one account? What does that tell you about them? How do you feel about that? I personally keep my personal and professional ‘faces’ very separate – I don’t even follow my own pages! I find this useful on two levels, as firstly I think that it appears far more professional, and secondly I don’t have to worry about what my friends say on my accounts! However, you may feel that you would prefer suppliers who have a more relaxed attitude, but either way, their online status can tell you quite a lot about the person that you are considering employing…!
6. Do they fit into your budget?
Sadly, you have to be realistic. We would all love to have Elton John perform at our function (well, perhaps not everyone…!) but the cost to have him there would be out of 99% of people’s budgets. Once you have found some suppliers that you like the look of and are sure would provide you a professional service, contact them for more details. Make sure that you give them as much information as possible, such as dates and locations, along with timings (if applicable). Suppliers usually have a fairly wide area in which they operate, but it is still possible that you might be contacting someone who lives at the other end of the country, so make sure that they have as much information as possible so that they can come back to you straight away with ideas of cost. Suppliers come in varieties of shapes and sizes, with different experience levels and therefore different prices. To a certain extent, you do pay for what you get, but do be careful as there are some naughty suppliers trying to overcharge when they first enter the industry to make them appear more experienced than perhaps they are. As long as you have done some background checks, however, this should be fairly clear so you know what to expect.
7. Do you like them?!
Not only are you going to be imparting some of your well-earned cash to this individual or business, but they are going to be part of a very special occasion. Therefore it is so incredibly important that you actually like them! It may sound silly, but so often I hear of people who have gone with a supplier because they thought that they were the only one, or because that was who they were recommended by someone, or because they didn’t think that there were any others. Don’t be forced into using anyone who you don’t want to. Listen to their voicemail message (slightly creepy, but it is amazing what you get a feel for from it!). See how detailed and informative their emails are. Do you feel like they have copied a standard response or have they written a specific reply? Some of these things are more important to some people than others, but in such a competitive industry, you can afford to be fussy of your function and wedding suppliers – there’s always an alternative, so don’t accept anything except the best.