My heart breaks, really truly breaks, every time I see a post from a couple who is dealing with a lawsuit because their photographer didn’t deliver their photos, their DJ never showed up or the cake never arrived. With social media being bigger than ever, it’s so easy for anybody to be a “vendor”. I see a lot of debates on what makes a vendor a legitimate vendor (awards, followers, reviews, etc.) and I think there is a lot of room for error when spending thousands on your day.
1. Awards Don’t Matter.
A lot of vendors will have badges on their sites, saying “best of the _____ 2016” or something along those lines. While those awards are really cool and sometimes worth something, there are PLENTY of those that are given to vendors just for subscribing to a website. Essentially, you can pay for some of these awards. Again, that isn’t true for every award but there are plenty of website badges that are simply paid for.
2. Is Your Vendor Licensed?
This. This is your biggest indicator for who you are booking. You need to make sure that your vendors are legal and legitimate. A lot of people are willing to accept money and act as full-time vendors, but aren’t legal within their state. If they aren’t licensed, that means that they definitely aren’t insured. If something happens to you or your guests, there isn’t much that can be done with a non-licensed vendor.
3. Is There a Contract?
YOU HAVE TO HAVE THIS. Every vendor you are working with, MUST provide a contract to protect YOU. For example- my contract covers that I will not double book a wedding date, I will provide X amount of images in X amount of weeks, I will not cancel on you, etc. If you hire a vendor, and they don’t have a contract OR deliver your images… there is really nothing to protect you. THIS is the most common issue I see. I watch so many couples hire “cheap” photographers with no contracts and then when the photographers don’t deliver the photos, the couples have to take the loss.
4. Ask to meet in person!
Some vendors don’t need as many meetings as others, but there should be a good line of communication for each vendor. For your photographer specifically, you should definitely be meeting prior to the wedding via skype, facetime or in person. You want to make sure they hear your visions, you get to share your story, and see if your personalities match.
5. Ask about their previous experience.
Vendors should be able to provide reviews and portfolio from previous weddings. For photographers, ask to see full weddings/how many they have done. There isn’t a magic number of weddings that makes a vendor good because everybody starts somewhere, but make sure that you aren’t their practice wedding. Most importantly, make sure that you love what you are seeing. The price may be good, but truly love what you are seeing in the samples. I see A LOT of senior portrait photographers or product photographers try to do weddings, which is great! But, weddings are an entirely different spectrum than landscapes or products. A lot of photographers underestimate weddings and you want to make sure you are covered by somebody who knows what they are doing. Website reviews are good to read, but those reviews can be cherry-picked, displaying only the best reviews. Try a Google search or FB business page review. (Also note: People will create fake accounts to write negative reviews for vendors, just because they are competition. It’s completely normal to bring up reviews during initial meetings! Sometimes a bad review isn’t a real review.)