Wouldn't it be wonderful if weddings just planned themselves and automatically included everything you ever wanted? You'd simply say "yes" to that designer gown you covet, the 300-person guest list, the six-course dinner with endless champagne, the hot band you just saw on YouTube and all the other deliciously pricey items on your wish list. That pesky word "budget" would not even be in your vocabulary.
Too bad fairy godmothers are so hard to come by. More than likely, you're stuck without a wand, and the gap between your dreams and your budget is widening by the hour.
Saving Money Can Cost You
So what do you do when your bank account can't accommodate your wedding fantasy? The natural inclination is to cut corners wherever you can. Sometimes it's enough just to pare down your guest list or switch from a formal seated dinner to an hors d'oeuvres reception. But more often than not, you assume that staying within your budget means cutting back completely on professional services. You have a running conversation with yourself: Do I really need to hire a coordinator? Nope, I can probably manage this shindig by myself…and if I have Uncle Bob take the photos, that'll save me a chunk of change…and while I'm at it, I can do without a DJ—my brother has an awesome Spotify playlist...
Yes, you will save money by hiring the least expensive vendors you can find, doing things yourself or delegating your wedding services to relatives and friends. But the old adage, "You get what you pay for," really comes into play here. Skimp on services and you could easily end up paying a big price anyway: lots of headaches and a wedding that's memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Professionals: Worth Their Weight In Gold
When you hire a wedding professional you're not just paying for their experience, you're benefiting from their experience. The extra services and advice they provide are invaluable. A good coordinator, for example, can actually help you have a more knockout wedding than you thought possible. She or he knows creative ways to make your money go further and, as coordinator Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction says, "I can help you avoid costly mistakes." Maxine Andrews of Instead of You concurs: "I help my clients spend their money effectively and wisely." Her assistance runs the gamut, from matching you with vendors that fit your personality and budget to suggesting something as simple as not putting flowers at the end of every pew. "You don't need flowers everywhere," she explains, "It's the tasteful placement that leads to the sense of amazement."
Speaking of flowers, a reputable florist can steer you to in-season, locally grown varieties to maximize your floral dollar, and (s)he'll also have some other tricks in her bag. Jessica Switala of Fleurs de France made one bride happy with this suggestion: putting a vase for her bouquet on the couple's sweetheart table. "It was a great idea because it saved us money," swore the bride. "We didn't have to have a centerpiece there—and I could just grab it quickly for pictures."
And when it comes to pictures, seasoned wedding photographers do so much more than just take photos. They're skilled at making you and your guests feel comfortable—which creates natural-looking images—and they do much of their work unobtrusively, never interfering with the flow of the event. Plus many are adept at enhancing prints and putting together a stunning, magazine-style album. Professionals can also shoot in a variety of styles. Let's say you want a documentary, photojournalistic style. Guess what? Turns out it's not easy to achieve. You really do need someone with a trained eye who knows how to be in the right place at the right time, with the right equipment and technical savvy. Uncle Bob might have a camera with lots of bells and whistles, but can he handle difficult lighting conditions—bright sun, a dim church, candlelight? You want a photographer who is able to deliver beautiful photos in any environment. As one bride said, "Once it's all over all you have left is your ring and your pictures. So if you don't go with a quality photographer, you don't have anything to look back on."
You might think having a friend be your DJ is a reasonable option—after all, they've mixed for a club and they know the music you love. But being a DJ isn't just about playing your favorite music. A professional DJ will learn what's on your "must not play" list as well. (S)he'll serve a crucial role in moving your party along the timeline, and most importantly know how to read the crowd and quickly alter the music to suit the moment. Coordinator Marcia Coleman-Joyner of A Joyous Occasion says, "The DJ can make or break your party. A lot of DJs who are only used to playing in clubs don't know how fragile a wedding is. I tell my brides, 'Don't skimp on the DJ!' He has the microphone—he has the power."
A case can just as easily be made for hiring a professional videographer, caterer, cake maker or any other wedding vendor. And while you may have budget constraints that prevent you from hiring a pro for every wedding service under the sun, think carefully about the big picture. What is most important to you? If it's the freedom to be a guest at your own wedding, then seriously consider working with a coordinator. If it's gorgeous photos, then hire a professional photographer. Fabulous food? Then go with an experienced caterer. You're not going to get a do-over, so decide which services you absolutely can't live without and make sure you have someone you trust taking care of them. Peace of mind truly is priceless.
Finding The Right Professionals
How do you know which professionals you can trust? All of the vendors in Here Comes The Guide have gone through a rigorous screening process. Read what it means to be Certified by the Guide.
You can also tap everyone you know for recommendations, including wedding vendors that you already trust. Ask if they can refer you to someone who was recently married who might be willing to talk—most brides and grooms are happy to chat about their experiences with wedding professionals! Your venue may be another source for excellent references: they probably have a list of preferred vendors—pros who've done many events there, are knowledgeable about the facility and have a good relationship with them.
Also, Google is your friend. Do you research on prospective vendors and make sure they not only have a great portfolio, but also a great online reputation.
Why Hire A Professional?
- They're experienced. They're accustomed to the pressures of a wedding and are prepared for just about every contingency.
- They work for you. You can tell them what to do and they'll carry out your directives. Friends and relatives are also guests, and might neglect their "job." Plus, working with a professional is a straightforward business arrangement, while working with friends and family can lead to awkward situations and damaged relationships.
- They have better equipment (including backup gear) and are expert at using it. Uncle Bob's camera does have lots of megapixels and zippy features, but his favorite setting is "autofocus."
- They give you peace of mind. Which is (say it with us!) priceless.
Before You Hire Anyone…
No matter who you hire—professional or amateur—here are some critical things you should do:
- Assess their experience. Don't be shy. Find out how long they've been focusing specifically on weddings, and how many weddings they do in a year. Look at their portfolio, their informational materials, and any client testimonials or reviews.
- Ask for references and talk with some of their recent clients. It's extremely helpful if you can contact clients whose wedding was similar to the one you're planning. (Outdoors? For 250 guests? These things can make a difference.)
- Check their credentials. Make sure they are licensed to do business—especially if you're working with a vendor who is just starting out.
- Follow your instincts. Having a good rapport with a vendor is important: Do you feel comfortable with them? Do they listen well and respond promptly? They might be highly recommended, but if you don't click with them, select someone else.
- Get it in writing. To avoid misunderstandings, get everything you have agreed on in writing. Then read your contract carefully before you sign on the dotted line.
|A Professional Photographer…||Your Uncle Bob…|
|Has specialized equipment with backups.||Has a nice camera.|
|Knows how to make you look your best.||Knows you well.|
|Poses formal shots; anticipates candids.||Takes pictures.|
|You can tell.||You can ask.|
|Is there to work.||Is also a guest.|
|Is accustomed to the responsibilities.||May feel pressure.|
|Knows how to solve unexpected problems.||Will do his best.|
|Uses a professional lab experienced in retouching and custom printing.||Develops film and makes prints where you do.|
|Will create the album that you want.||Will hand you a pile of prints.|
|Is priceless.||Is inexpensive.|
Courtesy of Kodak, www.kodak.com