How to Choose and Vet a Vendor for Your Event

Wedding Vendor

The global pandemic has changed the event and wedding industries in a number of ways. And it also brought the entire industry to a screeching halt for nearly two years. What that means is many bridal couples, organizations, businesses and families had to put their event plans on hold and are now beginning the process of planning their weddings and other big events all over again. This explosion of events vying for event space on the calendar has also led to an explosion in vendors, and that makes finding and choosing the right vendor for your event that much more difficult. 

Finding a vendor – caterer, florist, photographer, event planner – for your event is often done word of mouth with recommendations from family, friends and colleagues. But what if all the recommended vendors are already booked – and the vendors who are available on your chosen date are new to the industry, and don’t have a big portfolio or a full list of recommendations? 

Choosing a vendor for your event may seem overwhelming – but the real key to a successful event is vetting potential vendors to ensure they have the skills they say they have, and are who they say they are. Here are some key considerations on choosing and vetting vendors for your event. 

1. How Many Should You Interview

How many vendors to interview is going to be a variable question. In general, you want to narrow down the options before you start actually going through the interview process. That means looking at the different types of vendors that you want and picking two to three to talk to more in depth. That way you don’t get overwhelmed with the options. This means doing a lot of research before you start contacting anyone to make sure you’re narrowing down to the right choices. In general, 3-5 vendors is a good starting point for interviews. If none of them meet your criteria, 

2. What Questions to Ask Potential Vendors

There are many different questions that you should ask when choosing a vendor but the first thing to start out with is what you’re going to get for the money. Make sure you know what is included and what might be extra. For example, does your floral cost include all of the flowers you want or is it extra to get corsages? Does the photographer have an assistant or do you pay more to get a second helper? Know exactly what is – and isn’t – included in the vendor’s services. 

You also want to know about the payment structure for everything including when different fees are due and what the cancellation policy is. You’ll also want to know about the backup plan if necessary. What happens if that particular photographer is sick the day of your wedding? What if the weather is awful? What about if you have an unexpected emergency and need to cancel? 

3. Ask to See a Portfolio

No matter what type of vendor you’re looking to work with always ask to see a portfolio. This could be a book of floral arrangements they’ve done, weddings they’ve photographed, centerpieces or anything else. You want to see that they know what they’re doing and that their style fits with yours. If the vendor is new to event services, they should still have a portfolio that demonstrates their skills and abilities.

4. Check Reviews and Referrals 

Any vendor including new event vendors should have referrals to give you and hopefully you canfind at least a few reviews as well. Make sure you actually read them and contact them to discuss the services provided and verify the review. Unfortunately far too often vendors send information and no one actually verifies, and it can be easy to create fake reviews. Look for red flags during the vetting process to prevent problems at the actual event.

5. Get Written Quotes

Always make sure you know how much it’s going to cost you, and when payments are due. You want to know specifically what’s included with each quote you get so you’re comparing vendors fairly (such as a quote that only includes photos during the event versus to one that includes photos before, during, and after your event). 

6. Sign A Contract

Sign a written contract that protects your investment so that if something unfortunate does happen, your investment is legally protected. A written contract makes sure expectations are clear 

7. Ask For Credentials
The reality is every fabulous event vendor was at some point new to the business and had a first event. Lack of experience alone isn’t a reason not to hire an event planner – especially when the it seems every experienced vendor is already booked. Credentials and training can be valuable to demonstrate a vendors knowledge of their experience and training if they don’t have a big portfolio or long list of recommendations:

  • Professional education such as a degree in fine arts or 
  • Previous professional experience working for another vendor
  • Certifications, workshops and trainings 

There are professional organizations for event vendors, such as NACE: National Association for Catering and Events. NACE provides event professionals access to experienced peers, ongoing education and information on event and wedding trends. In addition, NACE provides certification programs for event vendors. professionals access to a vibrant peer network, ongoing education, and information on trends that give you a competitive edge. NACE’s Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE) is a nationally recognized program and the mark of excellence for catering and event professionals.

Here in South Florida, @southfloridanace can help you grow your career! As the President of South Florida NACE, I encourage new and experienced event professionals to advance their careers in the catering and events industry by joining a group of dedicated event professionals who thrive on helping new event professionals launch or grow their businesses.

Overwhelmed? Let An Experienced Event Planner Choose and Vet Your Vendors
At the end of the day, your goal is to have a wonderful event and if you choose the right vendors that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If you’re interested in making your entire event or wedding run more smoothly, Anna Hess Events provides full and partial event planning services so that you can leave the planning to professionals and enjoy your own big day!