For most people, weddings are a big expense. In all likelihood, this is going to be the most extravagant party you will ever throw, and the price tag that goes with that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Everyone has their list priorities, and they are usually the things that they can rip from the pages of a magazine. For everything else, the appeal of a DIY approach or price-shopping for the cheapest vendor can be powerful. It’s understandable; everyone wants the most bang for their buck. Like many other things though, the old adage of “you get what you pay” for can be a painful lesson when it comes to the most important (and costly) day for many people’s lives. This can apply to any of your wedding vendors, but we will be using our services as the example. Here are things to look for when you reach out to those vendors:
1. Are we really comparing apples to apples? This is the most obvious one. When you are doing your initial research into vendors, the approach that many people take is to cast a wide net by requesting pricing up front and then to weed out those vendors which they feel are not within their budget and then only work from a smaller list. It makes perfect sense, but it leaves brides looking at one of potentially dozens of variables that may apply to them. Brides expect caterers and venues to be unique, but when it comes to their DJ, videographer, photo booth provider, planner, or any number of other vendors, all of a sudden the playing field seems to flatten. When you reach out to a vendor to see if they can make the short list of potential providers, make sure you are also able to see exactly what they can offer you. DJ services can run anywhere between $600-$2500 in the Austin area, and if you stop at the price tag, you could find yourself paying more out-of-pocket for the DJ that looked cheaper on paper. How many hours will they be playing? Is setup time included? Are they insured? What about special music requests? Do they MC? Do they have wedding experience? Are they using their own gear? Can they provide a wireless microphone? Do they have special skill sets that make them different? You will only find out if you take the time and open the lines of communication.
2. Is this something I can do myself, or have a family member do?
We wrote an article a while back about having your friend DJ your wedding. Substitute DJ for photographer, baker, or anything else and it still applies. I don’t discourage people from using the resources available to them, but be sure that your resources know the job. If your cousin is an experienced wedding photographer and wants to help you out, then by all means, let them use their knowledge and everyone is happy. DJing can be difficult, because the job description isn’t simply working off a smartphone playlist. As an example, I went to party the other night on one of those buses that takes you around town. One guy there designated himself as the DJ, and everyone spent too much time arguing about the music, because no one could simply let the songs play out. While it was all fun and games, he ended up self-conscious about his music choices. It was a constant distraction, rather than the backdrop for an amazing party. The tendency to get overly involved to the point of distraction is too tempting when you don’t have someone really managing the helm on your behalf. Read the post for more on this.
3. What’s the recourse if things don’t go according to plan?
A few years ago, a low-cost wedding vendor went belly up, and they just left town leaving everyone in need of a replacement and short-changed. I have seen this happen a few times, over several vendor categories. Reputability can be a difficult thing to put a price tag on up front, but it is a lot less than having to deal with the blow-back from sub-par vendors. When in doubt, ask for copies of insurance, professional references, and see how long they have been in business. Also, make sure they have their own contingencies in place in case of an emergency.
This probably all sounds very doom-and-gloom, like the only way you can pull your wedding off is to spend an arm and a leg. The great news is that this isn’t the case. Just plan from the very beginning to either educate yourself on the areas that you don’t have a clear objective for, get to know your vendors, or hire a planner that can do most of this work for you. Also, look at local publications and market-specific resources for valuable information. Nationally known websites don’t make allowances for what is happening in your back yard.