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choose your wedding vendors wisely

I’d like to apologize in advance if my thoughts are all over the place with this post. I don’t claim to be a very good writer, so I hope it makes sense. : )

I ABSOLUTELY love being in the wedding industry. LOVE IT. Like, OB-sessed. If I wasn’t a wedding photographer, I’d probably be a wedding planner. I enjoy everything about it. I LOVE my clients to PIECES and adore being able to be a part of these beautiful women and men vowing before God and family that they will love each other forever. It’s a magical moment that I am SO incredibly honored and blessed to get to be a part of. I love love stories and happy endings. Do not get me wrong, it’s a very special industry and you HAVE to love it, and be passionate about it, or it’s not for you. It’s a lot of hard work, but if you love details, multi-tasking, staying on your feet for 8-12 hours straight, being able to turn crazy situations into good ones, the challenge of uncontrollable environments, and spending time with two people on their happiest day of their lives, then maybe it’s the right industry for you.

There has been something that has been bothering me a lot lately. It’s time I finally speak up. What infuriates me to no end is… the lack of client royalty service in the wedding industry. Ya know, customer service… making the client feel like a rockstar.. that sort of thing. I have heard story after story after story after story (you get my point) of different vendors just not CARING enough. And I’m referring to all vendors… venues, florists, bands, hair/makeup artists, wedding planners, etc. It truly boggles my mind. To be completely honest, I cannot wrap my brain around it. If you could picture me scratching my head with a big fat question mark above it, that’s what I feel like. The way I see it is… if you decide you’re going to break into the wedding industry, then you HAVE to make a decision that your clients come first in your business. By no means am I saying that your life should revolve around your clients. Because I don’t believe in that for one minute. But there should be structure, schedules, timelines, etc. Now, let me say this before I continue… I by NO MEANS claim to be perfect. But I assure you that I do my DAMNDEST every single day to make sure my clients are taken care of and I promise you they will all attest to that.

One of the BIGGEST things I have a serious issue with, happens to be one of the simplest things in ANY successful business… returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner. GASP. I am FLABBERGASTED at how many vendors either A. take WAY too long to return a client’s call/email or B. don’t return a client’s call/email at all — WHAT IS THE FLIPPIN’ DEAL!? I understand this can be a very time consuming or tedious thing to do but um hello, if I’m not mistaken it’s how you GET BUSINESS and also how you KEEP IT. I tell you what.. my FAVORITE businesses are the ones who return my call or email within 24 hours. Those are the ones who I recommend to people (hello word of mouth!) and those are the ones who I keep going back to to spend more money with. At my business, we (my assistant Deirdre and I) do our absolute best to return emails and phone calls within 24 hours. (Unless it falls on the weekend or holidays or if it is emails from photographers asking questions… those particular emails we don’t always have time to respond to but I do try! : ) This is a HUGE priority at my place of business. It’s the VERY first thing we do every single morning before we begin on any other projects. And it’s one of the reasons our clients love us… because they feel taken care of. And we want them to feel that way. This issue is just one of many I have heard of… the list goes on: not showing up on time (Ugh, ask anyone who knows me, I HAAAATEEEE when people are not punctual! It’s extremely disrespectful.), dressing/acting unprofessionally (for example, wearing jeans to a wedding is NOT okay, make yourself presentable), not fulfilling their end of the deal, not being organized/having a timeline, having a bad attitude, and just not caring in general about what the BRIDE WANTS.

I have heard countless stories of different scenarios with different brides that are truly heartbreaking and infuriating to me. Some of them have been my clients and some of them have not been. For example, one of my clients a couple of years ago booked me within 30 days of her wedding because her booked photographer decided they just didn’t feel like shooting her wedding anymore. WHAT!!!! I just happened to be available for her wedding and I am so glad because her and her husband ended up being not only extremely fabulous, but having a fabulous wedding. I still to this day cannot get over her photographer just vanishing and on top of that not even giving her deposit back. Shocking. Another one of my brides recently discovered her dream venue double booked her wedding date and she was left out in the cold with no venue basically. She booked this particular venue over a year in advance of her date.  Seriously, how does this stuff happen? It should NOT be like this!!

Brides, be SURE you get a contract from every single one of your vendors. If they try and wiggle out of getting you a contract, RUN FAST IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. Be sure the dates are on them and that you have read the details of each one. Be sure to get invoices and receipts for all payments as well. Both bride and vendor should always be on the same page at all times. This can eliminate SO MUCH stress and heartache later on.

Now I will say this… a lot of vendors in the wedding industry are artists. Musicians, florists, photographers, videographers, invitation designers, etc. And if we’re being honest… most artists are not good with the details of running a business. They excel at the right side of their brain for a reason. They rock out the artistry and are not always born with the gift of being able to handle the tedious stuff. If this is you, that is okay.. do not beat yourself up. HOWEVER, recognize your weakness, and hire an assistant who IS talented in the area of customer service, contracts, bookings, emails, ya know… stuff like that. So that you can rock BOTH aspects… the artist side and the business side. This is KEY in running a successful business I assure you and it is what your brides deserve. A vendor can be EXTREMELY talented, but SUCK at running a business. Brides, make sure when you’re hiring your vendors, both aspects are rockin’! This is SOOOOO important.

So I haven’t addressed another SUPER important part of choosing vendors quite yet… but it’s a big one. TALENT. I am going to be VERY blunt for a moment here. There are a LOT of “wannabes” out there. Like, A WHOLE LOT. In fact, I’d be very willing to say there are more “wannabes” then there are the actual ones with talent. This doesn’t just apply to photography, it also applies to all other aspects of this industry… hair/makeup stylists, florists, cake designers, ETC. I know this is something that is discussed on a constant basis all across the world, but without really getting in to it… I am simply here to warn brides of this. Be VERY careful when you hire your vendors. Make sure they are genuinely talented before you rush into a contract with them. I have heard WAY too many traumatizing stories from brides who cried when they saw their photos or flowers or hair/makeup or video etc. Just because you have seen a few good things from them does NOT make them talented. Talent comes from being able to make EVERY SINGLE CLIENT happy with their product. In photography, true talent is when a photographer can make EVERYONE look and feel like a supermodel. Also, true talent is when you know how take beautiful photographs in any type of uncontrollable situation. For example: thunderstorms, bride and groom running down the aisle, unpredictable moments on the dance floor, overcrowded venues (meaning not having any room to shoot), no lighting, etc. My point is that it is NOT easy to be a wedding photographer, don’t be fooled by a few good shots here and there of someone just starting out. Brides, when choosing your wedding photographer… or anyone of your vendors, be SURE they have had valuable experience in this industry and a portfolio as well as testimonials to prove it. An easy way to know this is by getting to know them and finding out more about them and their history in the industry. Talk to them, ask them questions.  It will be very easy to tell who are the talented, confident ones against the fake phonies who are fooling people.

Another really great way of knowing someone is genuinely good at what they do, is by how much they charge. The saying is true, YOU PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET. This applies to everything in life. Clothes, computers, food, equipment, vendors, etc. The more you’re generally willing to spend on something, the better the quality will be. I realize that this may not apply 100% of the time with every single business that exists, but in general, this is very very true. I know that most brides have a budget and I completely respect that. However, when planning there are ways to have a better wedding day and better wedding vendors. A huge way of doing this is by cutting your guest list. Most brides feel the need to invite everyone they know and have ever met to their wedding. This ends up making your food, alcohol and venue fees astronomically high and in return you end up suffering on the end of having your dream vendors. Your wedding day is over in a FLASH. If you have a large guest list, you will not have time to even say hi to everyone… and you barely remember who was even there. I believe it’s better to invite only people who truly mean a lot to you… it creates a more intimate wedding and gives you the opportunity to spend your money in other areas like the quality of food, cake, decorations, photographer, venue,  gown, etc. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding day and it should be the VERY BEST it can be for you and your husband.

My final thoughts to brides:
Be very careful who you hire for your wedding. If they aren’t taking care of you from the very moment you contact them, they are most likely not going to take care of you throughout the whole process. This is a once in a lifetime experience for you and the day I know you’ve been dreaming of forever. Hire vendors who you KNOW you can trust completely.. and then sit back and let them take care of you. Because every single wedding vendor SHOULD be taking care of YOU and making you feel like the bride you deserve to be treated like.

My final thoughts to vendors in the wedding industry:
If you are not 100%, madly in love with being in the wedding industry… then it is NOT for you. Every single bride deserves the very best for her wedding day. She has been dreaming about this her whole life, and she should be given the most for her big day. If working one of your weddings is “just another day at the job, blah” and not “Omg! This is almost as exciting as my wedding day was (or is gonna be)!”, then PLEASE, leave the wedding industry immediately. No bride deserves that sort of attitude… and neither do the other vendors you have to work with.

So, what are your thoughts? Did you have an experience you’d like to share? Regrets? Please leave a comment below! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. : )

I’ll end this post with one of my favorite photos taken at Amanda and Danny’s wedding. This is how I feel at weddings, do you?

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