The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Vendors

Teamwork makes the dream wedding work.

The Wedding Coach

Deciding which vendors to hire for your wedding is no easy feat. There's the research involved in finding them, the in-depth consultations, the nailing down of your style and vision, not to mention those pesky details like packages, prices, and contracts. It's enough to make anyone's head spin!

And let's not forget that the vendor team can literally make—or break—your big day. Sooo yeah. Choosing your wedding vendors is kind of a big deal.

When it comes to making your dreamy wedding vision a reality, finding professional vendors you vibe with is key. But with so many options out there, where do you even begin?

Never fear! We've created The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Vendors to help you navigate the vendor selection process. Whether you're searching for a talented photographer who can swiftly capture candid moments or a skilled floral designer who can transform your venue into a peony-filled paradise, we've got you covered with the best tips.

Ready to assemble your wedding vendor dream team? Let's dive in.

Before you begin your vendor search, it’s necessary to nail down the wedding planning basics. Having the following items figured out puts you in the perfect position to reach out to prospective vendors.

Here's what you need to do first:

  1. Figure out a ballpark wedding budget.

  2. Book your wedding venue.*

  3. Create your guest list. Then begin narrowing it down.

  4. Find your wedding style.

  5. Set your priorities. Then begin allotting your budget to cover them.

*It should come as no surprise that we believe booking your venue should typically happen before you start hiring vendors. So many details will magically fall into place once your location's set—from your specific wedding date and the style of your wedding to the number of guests you can accommodate. We also recommend consulting with your venue in advance to identify any vendor limitations or restrictions, such as being required to stick to an approved vendor list.

One caveat to note: If you have a superstar vendor that you can’t wed without, like a crazy-talented and in-demand photographer or planner, go ahead and inquire with them first since their availability may influence your wedding date.

Need a hand? Download our free printable: The Wedding Fundamentals Worksheet

Free Printable → The Wedding Fundamentals Worksheet

Do you know what kind of event you want? Will it be formal or casual? Will it be held at night or during the day? Indoors or outdoors? Big or small? By identifying the geographical area and the most important elements of your dream wedding before you start looking for vendors, you can really narrow down your search.

Defining your vision will also help you communicate more effectively with vendors. If you say the words "garden romance" or "modern industrial", they'll know exactly what you're talking about. Which is really refreshing when there are so many decisions to be made.

Pro Tip: Make a wedding inspiration board that you can share! It’s a quick and easy way for your wedding vendors to grasp your vision.

You'll also want to think through your wedding values, which will help clarify where you'd like to invest your resources. For example, if sustainability is one of your core values, consider hiring wedding vendors that source local and organic materials. If inclusion is important to you, consider hiring wedding vendors from the BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ community.

JM Cellars  |  Amanda K Photography

What is most important to you and your partner when it comes to your wedding? What are your non-negotiables? You might have differing opinions: Perhaps you have your heart set on a stellar wedding photographer and designer attire while your partner cares more about the drinks and music at your reception. Clear priorities will help you decide where to invest vs. where to cut costs.

Focus on the stuff you care about—and ditch the rest. If you’re not a cake person, there’s no need to splurge on a three-tier wedding cake designed by an exquisite baker. Dropping some big-ticket items will not only help trim down your budget, but also make your wedding vendor hiring process less complex.

You’ll want to whittle down your options for any particular vendor category, too. There’s no reason to schedule consultations with 15 different DJs. Narrow it down to just a few standout vendors that you truly want to work with.

Ashley Smith Events  |  Larissa Cleveland

Now that you’re armed with a basic wedding planning foundation, priority list, and budget, you can begin zeroing in on the vendors that fit your needs.

There are several ways to begin your wedding vendor search:

  • Word of mouth. Do you have recently married friends you trust? Ask them for their honest opinion on who they'd recommend—or not—for your big day.

  • Venue preferred lists. A "preferred" or "approved" vendor list is a roster of wedding vendors that a venue has worked with before, vetted, and recommends to their couples.

  • Good ol' Google. Search the web for wedding vendors who work in your wedding's geographic location, and fit the style + budget you're aiming for.

  • Wedding vendor directory websites. This includes wedding blogs and local wedding directories.

  • Social media. Explore social platforms and find inspiration for event designs and vendors whose work leaves you feeling inspired.

Now here's the trick: Start your vendor search as early as possible. In-demand vendors tend to book up 6 months to a year in advance. So if you've fallen in love with a particular planner’s aesthetic, photographer’s style, or caterer’s menu, you’ll want to make sure to get your wedding on their calendars ASAP!

Hey Honey Photography

No matter where you find them, you've gotta do your own due diligence to vet them. Pour over their websites, check out their online reviews, look through their social media, see if they’ve scored any press, accolades, or awards, and browse their portfolio of past work.

If a certain vendor’s work really resonates with you and you believe they’d be a good fit for your needs and budget, send them an initial inquiry! During these no-pressure conversations, you can ask specific questions about their style, the types of weddings they have the most experience with, and even things they don’t do.

The best way to inquire with a vendor is through the contact form on their website. Their website gives them the opportunity to tell their story directly to you, in their own words and visual language. They're also able to tailor their contact forms to exactly what they need from you in order to make your dream day a reality. From there, you'll receive more information from the vendor, along with next steps as to how to schedule your consultation.

Pro Tip: Don’t hesitate to follow up with a vendor you love. Typically you’ll receive a response back within 24–48 business hours; however, sometimes vendors are off-site at an event and not checking their emails!

Lin & Jirsa

Finding a good wedding planner is basically akin to finding another appendage while planning. When you hire a planner not only are you gaining access to their knowledge, talents, and expertise, but you're also tapping into their trusted vendor network.

Depending on your budget and needs, you can contract:

  • a full-service planner to arrange every detail.

  • someone to assist you only in choosing your wedding location and vendors.

  • a day-of coordinator (which really means 30 days before your wedding).

Many venues have in-house coordinators, but make sure you're clear on exactly the level of service they provide. Venue coordinators typically just handle day-of issues on location and offer a list of their preferred vendors—so having your own planner may still be a great help.

Pro Tip: Learn about the differences between a venue coordinator and a wedding planner.

Liven It Up Events

Your wedding venue may have its own “on-site” or “in-house” wedding coordinator and/or a preferred vendor list. The benefits are that these vendors have an established working relationship with the venue, they're familiar with the layout / logistics / best photo spots, and have a proven track record of professionalism.

Even if your venue doesn't have a list of pre-approved vendors, you can always ask for their expert recommendations on who to hire.

→ The only caveat here is that some of these preferred vendor lists are "pay to play", which means vendors pay a fee in exchange for being listed. Asking your venue or planner a question like, "What is the process for a vendor to be included on your preferred list?" can help you determine if you want to take their recommendations—or not.

Pro Tip: Some venues may impose a fee for bringing in your own caterer / vendors outside of their "preferred" list. So be sure to ask your venue about their vendor policy before you sign the dotted line or set your heart on a specific vendor.

  • Do they allow outside vendors?
  • Are there fees associated with bringing in your own caterer or vendor team?
  • Are you contractually obligated to stick to the venue's preferred list or in-house caterer?

In some areas, an outside caterer or vendor must be licensed and insured, so get clear on all the details before you book a particular venue.

Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events

Now that you’ve done your initial research and have a shortlist of vendors you fancy, it’s time to schedule those consultations! Make appointments with your favorite (or the most popular) vendors as early as possible to give you the best chances of securing your wedding date on their calendar. If they're already booked, ask them for vendor referrals in the same style or price range that you may be able to work with. Vendors usually have a great network of colleagues they'd be happy to refer you to!

Try making appointments for either in-person or face-to-face virtual consultations whenever possible. You'll get a better sense of the vendor through their facial expressions, body language, tone, and personality in live action. This is especially important for vendors that you'll spend a lot of time with, like your officiant, planner, or photographer.

Violet Cake Co.

To help you navigate your wedding vendor consultations with confidence, we've put together the following lists of questions to ask. The best part? Each article houses a free printable PDF that you can bring with you.

After each interview is complete, ask yourselves:

  • Did we feel heard?

  • Does the vendor understand our needs and vision?

  • Did we get a strong sense they will work with our budget?

  • Was there a good connection and did our personalities mesh well?

Pro Tip: Listen to your gut. If an interview doesn't feel right, then maybe that person just isn't a good fit for you.

Ben Mallare Events & Entertainment

Being informed is your best ally when it comes to smart budgeting and vendor choices. If you’ve hired a planner, they will help you review contracts and make sure that everything looks perfect.

If you’re tackling this on your own, make sure to read everything over with a fine-tooth comb—at least twice. You want to carefully review all contracts before signing to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of services, as well as being on the same page with logistical details such as pricing, non-refundable deposits, cancelation policies, delivery and service fees, taxes and gratuities, etc.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to the vendor! A seasoned professional will be eager to help clarify questions. You can also enlist savvy relatives or friends to review contracts, too.

Pro Tip*: Let's talk vendor contract negotiations. Whether you're hoping to swap out services, compromise on hours, or inquire about a military or off-peak discount, the key is to do so with professionalism and respect. While there’s no harm in trying to negotiate a better deal, keep in mind that most wedding vendors are small business owners who have put a lot of time and effort into developing fair pricing for all parties.

*Here’s an example of where a wedding planner can save the day: Their ability to negotiate on your behalf means they'll navigate this tricky topic with ease—oftentimes securing a better value than you'd be able to on your own!

Violetta Flowers

Don’t be lulled into the notion that an event disaster can’t happen to you. It could storm when you least expect it. Or your well-intentioned aunt might melt your wedding dress while ironing out a few wrinkles. Or one of your key wedding vendors could pull a no-show. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your attire, wedding photos, equipment rentals, gifts, and even a potential postponement of your big day are covered?

A typical wedding insurance policy may cover things like:

  • Cancelation or postponement

  • Vendor failure to show

  • Damage to photo or video files

  • Lost, stolen, or damaged rentals or gifts

  • Medical payments for injuries incurred during the event

Before purchasing, check with each of your vendors to see if they’re insured and how fully they're covered. While you don’t want to double-purchase overlapping insurance, you may want to fill in any lapses in coverage—especially if alcohol is being served at your wedding.

Something Lovely Weddings and Events

If you learn only one thing from us about booking your venue and vendors, it's this:

Get everything in writing. And once you do, make sure you understand and agree to all the terms before you sign on the dotted line. A well-written contract protects you in two critical ways:

  1. it locks in the pricing you have agreed on, and

  2. it spells out exactly what you're purchasing, eliminating any surprise changes to fees or services.

Wedding trends may come and go, but well-written contracts in crisp black & white will always be in style ✨