Planning your wedding can be overwhelming, but taking the time to choose the right venue, caterer, photographer, DJ, and other vendors will help create an unforgettable experience for you and your guests. Consider these tips as you begin your search and learn from the experiences of other brides.

Choose the venue

One of your first decisions will be selecting a location for your ceremony and reception, which will set the tone for your wedding day. Be sure to ask the venue what is allowed and talk about any special requests you have. Can you hire your own caterer and florist or do they have a list of required vendors? Do they provide tables, chairs, china and linens or will you need to rent them? Are there cake cutting or corkage fees? If you are planning any part of your wedding outside, what are the plans for inclement weather? Making sure you have all this information will help you narrow your choices and find the perfect venue.

“The incredibly huge rental fee doesn’t include anything but the room. You even have to pay each server and pay extra for china and parking.” (A bride from Springfield, MO)

“The venue is very pretty, but the owner’s have a few rules that seem slightly imposing, especially for the money they charge.” (A bride from Denver, CO)

Do your research

There is a wealth of information available on the Internet to help you research venues and vendors. Review their websites for information on the services they offer, pricing and packages, testimonials, and portfolios; ask for recommendations from family and friends; read online reviews from other brides; and check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

“I wish I did more research before choosing this guy.” (A bride from Michigan)

“Before considering his services, check his 17 complaints on the Better Business Bureau.” (A bride from Indiana)

“When I discovered all the negative reviews after I paid my deposit, I wish I had walked away and saved myself six months worth of headaches.” (A bride from Massachusetts)

Ask for references

Talking to other couples that have used the provider for their weddings is a good way to get feedback about the quality of service you can expect. Take the time to ask questions about their experiences and review each reference carefully.

“The so-called ‘reverend’ is a pathological liar. He lied about obtaining a bachelor’s degree, having a brain tumor, being color blind, having bone disease, frequently fakes heart attacks and fainting spells, lied about being a paramedic and working for the fire department, and got his certificate to be a reverend for free online.”
(YES, this is a real comment from a bride in Aliso Viejo, California)

“My wedding photographer was very difficult to work with. He was irritable about the location, the time of day, etc. and did not set a comfortable environment in which everyone was at ease during the photos.”
(A very disappointed bride in Florida)

Schedule in-person meetings

Meeting face-to-face will give you the opportunity to explain your vision and expectations for your wedding and get to know the provider better. Ask to see samples of work from other weddings to see if their styles match what you are looking for. If you are hiring a DJ, band, or musician, find out when they are playing a live performance you can attend.

Trust your instincts and make sure you are comfortable with the provider and their personality is a good fit for you. Are they asking you questions and listening to you; do they seem interested in what you have to say; and are they professional and knowledgeable in their field? Be prepared with a list of your own questions, including how long have they been in business, do they carry liability insurance, what is the quality and condition of their equipment, how many weddings do they do each year, and will your wedding be their only event on that date?

“The owner was incredibly unprofessional and made inappropriate comments. Upon first meeting him, he made me feel very uncomfortable with the suggestive comments he made.” (A bride in West Orange, NJ)

“Both my husband and I found him unwilling to listen to anything we had to offer.”
(A bride in Winston-Salem, NC)

Get a written contract

The contract should include detailed information about the services being provided, payment terms, arrival, set-up and clean-up times, special requests, backup arrangements, and cancellation and refund policies. All charges and fees should be itemized so you understand exactly what you are paying for. If gratuities and sales tax are not included in the contract, be aware that these will be additional expenses. For vendors such as photographers, videographers, DJs, and live musicians, ensure the contract specifies the names of the people performing these services and explains overtime charges. Read contracts thoroughly, understand all the details and negotiate what is included before signing.

“Shady with contracts and pricing, quoted me one thing and then another, I had to tie him down on a lot of the paperwork.” (A bride in Glens Falls, NY)

“This photographer chose to send another photographer in his place. I know you think ‘no way!’…yes he did! He came and he shot a few pictures on my wedding day and then explained to me he booked another event.”
(A bride in Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

“The morning following our wedding, we received a call from the venue. My husband and I were asked to go back and clean the mess the caterer left behind.” (A bride in Highland Park, IL)

Communication is important

Clarify and detail everything you expect from your venue and vendors, including deadlines for items such as photos, albums and videos. After phone conversations with providers, send follow-up emails summarizing your conversation so it is in writing. One of the biggest complaints from brides is a lack of response from providers both before and after the wedding so inquire about the best way to contact them.

“I couldn’t get information in a timely manner and they wouldn’t even consider my version of a wedding.”
(A bride in Kent, WA)

“She would take days (sometimes weeks) to answer emails, which further agitated the already difficult task of planning a wedding.” (A bride in Richmond, VA)

“We still have not received our wedding album almost two and a half years later.”
(A bride from San Antonio, TX)

Your wedding day is an exciting time in your life and taking the time to research venues and vendors will help ensure that your special day is all that you hoped for.