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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vendors Needed for a Wedding - Hero

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vendors Needed for a Wedding

Hey!  Did you just get engaged?! That’s AWESOME! Congratulations! You’re on a life changing road trip, and guess who’s behind the wheel?  YOU!! Got your map or GPS on track?  Got your team? Or are you just at the point of asking: How do I choose vendors needed for a wedding?  With a few key choices that reflect your personality, you can make your wedding the “best wedding ever...”

Perhaps I can be of assistance, because my musicians and I hear that phrase “best wedding ever” a lot from our clients and their guests.  Having had 25 years of experience with literally thousands of wedding couples, I’ve got all sorts of good advice curated just for you. So, let’s go step by step and break it down...


1. The Wedding Coordinator -- Go It Alone or Call in the Cavalry?

Some clients start by picking a wedding coordinator--someone they love, who gets their vision.  That person then guides them through all their choices, start to finish. Other clients like to pick out their own venue and vendors first, and then hire the coordinator to literally coordinate between them. Extreme DIY’ers don’t hire a coordinator at all.  That can work under certain very controlled circumstances, but we don’t see that at a lot of weddings.

So, which path should you choose?  It depends on your personality and to some extent your budget.  It’s probably somewhat cheaper when you do more of your own legwork, but some people like to have help from the beginning.  However, it may come down to who you trust more to pick out the right people for you, you or your coordinator.

Recently, the trend we’ve seen (over the past decade or so) is that the clients themselves are making a lot of their vendor choices.  Our coordinator friends often tell us that by the time the clients contact them, they’ve already picked out their venue, music, photographer, etc.  Then, they want the coordinator to take it from there, making sure all the pieces fit together.

The extreme option is for clients to hire only a “day of” coordinator, who is technically not on the clock before the wedding day itself.  Many coordinators will tell you there’s really no such thing as just popping in the day of the wedding and taking charge of everything. If you’re in charge, there’s a good argument to be made that you kind of need to know what elements are in play well before you arrive. So, hiring someone for all the preparation and not just the day is probably more realistic.

How to Choose a Wedding Coordinator

So, what do you look for in a wedding coordinator? I recommend that you look for someone who makes you feel more confident when you’re in the room with them. That can come from their level of expertise, from events you’ve seen that they’ve produced, or from recommendations. It can also come simply because you have a sense that they totally get your personality and what you want.  

Remember, the coordinator may end up guiding you through all the small steps from invitations to seating charts and beyond.  You’ll want someone that you feel good about working with. Each client is different in terms of which aspect is most important.

From our perspective, we enjoy working with coordinators that have organizational skills of their own, but also love working in tandem with vendors who know what they’re doing.  Then, it becomes a team effort where we all add our elements of expertise to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.


2. The Wedding Venue -- Location, Location, Location

More than anything else, the location defines your wedding.  Will your guests enter a venerable establishment like a Biltmore Hotel from the Golden Era of Hollywood, or are they sinking their toes into the sand by the edge of a windy Hawaiian shore?  Is this a family affair in your uncle’s small suburban backyard, or in a huge vaulted Cathedral?

Most people are pretty good at quickly narrowing down their priorities, probably because they have developed some vision of their wedding over a number of years of collective daydreams.  Many clients come with a short list: “I want an outdoors ceremony,” or “I need something that will fit 400 people.”

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. How many guests do I need to accommodate?
  2. Which parts of the event do I want to be able to do outside or inside?
  3. Is there any particular kind of setting I have my hopes set on? (beachy, forest-y, religious, etc.)
  4. What days of the week am I willing to consider for the wedding?
  5. How close to what city or town do I want the wedding to be?
  6. Do I want a place with separate areas for the different parts of my event (ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner/lunch reception)?

We keep a list of all the venues we play at and are always delighted to share the list (organized by zip code, with addresses phone numbers) Glancing through it may help spark your creativity.  Also, other vendors may do the same for you.


3. The Wedding Music -- My favorite part!

Music has a direct connection to our emotions. Just watch the climax of any movie with the sound turned off. It’s the music that helps us really feel. Your wedding is your movie, and the music should take you places you can’t even imagine.

Because music is my jam, I can go on and on about all the options.  When I start discussing an event with a client, I like to go through a long detailed list of questions to really drill down to the core of what music is going to resonate for them personally. I’ve put together a medium-sized version of those questions with my commentary, here.

For brevity, here is a list of questions I touch on in that blog, the 6 most basic questions to ask yourself when choosing your wedding music vendors:

  1. Band, Dj, or Both?
  2. Who is it that you want to keep on the dance floor?
  3. What styles of dance music are going to do the trick?
  4. How much setlist flexibility do you need?
  5. What is your wedding music budget?
  6. Where do you want the focus?

Check out our more in-depth article here to get into the nitty-gritty of choosing the best music vendors for your wedding.


4. The Caterer-What’s for dinner? (or lunch, or brunch, or dessert)

Good food and a full belly can go a long way to making your wedding an unforgettable experience. While the food is there as an added entertainment and satiation for your guests, it can also be a means to reflect your personality. Be sure to schedule tastings with your top 3 choices.  Don’t forget to discuss any dietary restrictions your guests may have.

Take nothing for granted, including whether they’re cooking in a kitchen they’re familiar with, or if all their equipment has to be rented and cooked on the side of a house whose electricity has never been tested with multiple coffee urns running (warning: coffee urns are energy gobblers!).

Make sure to ask about all incidental costs, not just the cost per person. Here is where terms like “corkage fees” and “plate chargers” get introduced into the conversation.  (Corkage fees are fees related to serving alcohol that can sometimes be “surprising,” and plate chargers are those pretty square or round extra plate-like-objects that go under your main plate to make the presentation prettier.  Ch-ching...)

Cooking is an art.  Cooking to a time schedule for hundreds of people is a near miracle.  All praise the miracle workers!


5. The Photographer and/or Videographer--What stories will you tell future generations?

A picture’s worth a thousand words.  Moving pictures can make people feel what it was like to be there.  This is your chance to memorialize the day. There are different styles of photography and/or videography: traditional, documentary, stylized, and even just disposable cameras used by guests (we’ve seen it all.)  Ask what’s important to you and what price are you willing to pay for it.

Check out your vendors work extensively and again, there is no substitute for experience when it comes to the vendors needed for your wedding!


6. The Added Wedding Touches--Extra Credit

Here are some added touches that you may want to make sure one of your vendors is offering:

  1. General Decor
  2. Lighting
  3. Linens
  4. Transportation to and from
  5. Fans, umbrellas, heaters or even cheap sunglasses at outside areas depending on the the weather

Ask your coordinator, venue, caterer and music source about any of these that you are curious about.  If no one’s on that, you may want to add to your vendor list to take care of it.


7. The Wedding Supervisor -- Who’s driving this bus?

This deserves its own blog post. But in a nutshell, once you’ve got all the element lined up that you love, it is so so important that you have someone competent with an eye for the big picture. All the elements should really fit and work together.  There are a lot of moving parts and each one has to do more than play its role to its utmost--it needs to function smoothly with the others.  What’s great about extending a dance set if it means the main course will be burnt?

This is a pet peeve of mine, so don’t get me started. By the time the wedding is in progress, too much time and energy have been invested to let mistakes in communication ruin everything.  Suffice it to say that there are two aspects to coordinating a wedding: the visual look (that’s the sexy part) and facilitating the fluxuations in the time schedule (not so sexy, but so important!). Just make sure that somebody on your staff is really keen on letting every vendor know what’s currently happening with the time schedule and how it’s changing at all times.  Parties should always feel like they’re 100% organic, and just happen to work beautifully.  In order for that to happen, that means behind the scenes, someone is quietly making them work that way.

So there you have it!  Seven, hopefully fairly simple and straightforward steps to get you on the road to a splendid, confident, gorgeous wedding.  If you have any questions along the way, feel free to contact me! I’m delighted to share my expertise and helpful advice no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

So, to you there in the driver’s seat: Congratulations and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!!!


Robby Helperin
Owner and Founder of Spotlight Music
Spotlight Productions International, Inc.

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