The suppliers you choose can make or break your wedding. Leaving the running of your wedding in the hands of professionals not only makes the day run smoothly, it allows you to relax and do what you should be doing: having fun!
As wedding suppliers ourselves we see first-hand the successes, the disasters, and everything in between. We’ve come to learn what to look for in a supplier, and how to spot the warning signs.
Choosing vendors for your big day can be a bewildering experience. Few couples have experience organising weddings before they decide to tie the knot. We hope this article helps you find the best wedding suppliers for you.
The Best Place to Find Suppliers is at a Wedding
Take note when you’re at your friend’s wedding. Did the food come out on time? Were the staff hospitable and friendly? Did you have to wait too long for drinks? Was the room too noisy? Did you like the flower arrangements? The table settings? Was the band entertaining? Did the celebrant handle unforeseen problems with grace and humour? Did you love the footage the photographer and videographer got? Did the suppliers look like they were into it, or did they just seem to be clocking in and clocking out?
A quick word about bridal expos, showcase nights, and meetings: these are all beneficial, and better than booking a supplier blindly, but in our experience they’re no substitute for seeing a supplier in action at a wedding. Besides, many excellent suppliers don’t even do them.
Second Best: Word of Mouth
Often someone will see us at a wedding and recommended us to someone they know who is getting married. If you get one of these recommendations, find out as much as you can about the supplier. Were they easy to deal with? Did they communicate promptly? Was nothing too difficult? You want a good experience before the day as well as on the day.
Referrals From Venues
The next best place to find suppliers is via referrals from your chosen wedding venue. A venue isn’t going to recommend a supplier who does a bad job, because it will reflect back on them. You also get the benefit of a supplier who knows the venue and how it runs. Much of the correspondence we have to undertake when being booked at a new venue is just finding out where everything is, what we’re allowed and not allowed to do, and how we’ll get in and out quickly and safely. Returning to a venue means we know what to expect. This makes the booking process quicker and easier for everyone.
Online Reviews: Can They Be Trusted?
Back in 2017, a restaurant called The Shed at Dulwich quickly became the top-rated restaurant in London on TripAdvisor, based on hundreds of 5 star reviews. There was only one problem: the restaurant didn’t exist. A clever journalist had engineered the whole thing to prove how prone to deceit online reviews are.
This is still roughly the case. However, not all reviews are equal.
In terms of trustworthiness Google Reviews is the gold standard. Google has made no secret of the fact that they have set out to create a trustworthy review mechanism. This makes sense, because if people trust it they will use it, and Google wants people to rely upon their products and services. They manually review reviews (yes I meant to say that) before publishing them. Anyone found trying to game the system faces having their site blacklisted and removed from search results. This hasn’t wholly prevented people from trying, but the chances of seeing a fake review on Google are way, way lower than seeing one somewhere else.
Facebook, due to its authentication of user profiles, is the next most trustworthy (or, if you like, least untrustworthy). It can be a honeypot for unfair reviews though, especially for wedding venues that also operate as restaurants, so use your judgement to determine whether the review represents a legitimate complaint or is just mud-slinging.
You can safely group all other reviews in the next category. Let’s call it Who The Hell Knows? These include reviews found on wedding directories, sites whose sole function is to review things, and suppliers’ own websites.
The bottom line is that no online review mechanism is bulletproof. In this, the era of Fake News, sorting the wheat from the chaff really comes down to you. So put your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat on when you read any review. If it sounds fake it probably is. Is it vague about the details of the wedding? Is the reviewer anonymous? If they’re not, and you click on their profile, does it turn out they work for the supplier or have close ties with them? Have they left lots of suspicious-looking reviews? Does the review fail to mention specific things the supplier did at or before the wedding? Does it use salesy language? These are all red flags.
A Word About Online Forums
Join a Facebook wedding group or other online forum and ask for a recommendation for a wedding band in Melbourne: you’ll be swamped with replies from the bands themselves, or their friends. While this may seem like an unconstructive exercise, we have had some of our past clients recommending us in these places. Again, keep that deerstalker on tight.
Awards: Why They Can’t Be Trusted
A whole sub-industry of the wedding biz has been created around awards. No doubt you’ve seen vendors competing furiously for these, and trumpeting their wins on social media with flashy banners and plaques. We bear them no ill-will, as they may totally deserve the accolades, but it remains that these awards don’t tell you much. The organisations that administer them are businesses. They’re there to turn a buck. Winners are chiefly determined by votes. A winning number of votes can be achieved (and often is) through unscrupulous means. Suppliers often ask their friends and family to vote for them, or provide incentives to people who have never booked them at all to cast votes. Some awards set the bar extremely low too. We’ve made shortlists for awards we never even entered! Bottom line: take any award with a grain of salt.
Does a Good Website Mean a Good Supplier?
Yes. No. Maybe. Some terrible businesses have great websites. Some great businesses have terrible websites. A good website tells you that the business has at least part of their act together. A functional one will make booking the supplier’s services or buying their products easy, and that’s an important factor.
Then there are the suppliers whose names pop up everywhere, usually because they’re spending a fortune on advertising. They may offer a large number of options, and always seem to be available no matter the date. For wedding bands in Melbourne, these kinds of businesses may have dozens or even hundreds of musicians on their books, who get teamed up together to form a band. The musicians may never have met before. The standard of the resulting bands varies greatly. You may luck in with a good lineup, you may not. That’s a bit of risk when you’ve spent upwards of $2000 on entertainment. The musicians you see on the website, who may look and sound very cool, are unlikely to be the ones who turn up at your wedding. Often this isn’t made clear, and the couples don’t find out they’re getting an inferior lineup until their wedding day.
Our advice? Seek out boutique wedding suppliers. These businesses tend to have a small team of people who really care about the level of service they provide at every wedding.
On that note…
Avoid booking agents like the plague. They’re easy enough to spot: their websites have dozens of different suppliers on them. They’re middlemen, and in our experience often ineffective ones. Most these days simply act as referral services, taking a cut of the fee (which tends to increase the total you end up paying) simply for sending the booking enquiry through to the supplier to handle. They won’t get you a better deal than you will get dealing direct with the supplier.
P.S. These are not the same as wedding planners, who will source all the suppliers for your wedding and manage the whole thing for you. A good wedding planner is a solid investment if you don’t have the time or patience to do all the running around yourself.
Social Media Presence
A big social media presence may or may not indicate a quality vendor. Likes can be bought. If a supplier has thousands of followers but few posts, they probably purchased them through either social media advertising or less legitimate means. Have a look at their posts and other activity. Are they engaging with their brides, grooms, and vendors from past weddings? Have their clients liked and shared and left comments in their posts? Do they seem friendly with other vendors? All these markers can indicate that they’re the real deal.
As with websites and social media profiles, promotional photos, videos, and brochures can be legit and authentic, or they can be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Studio footage is not wedding footage. It’s far more informative to see footage from actual weddings, even if it might not be as slick as those studio shots and staged videos. Just like with relationships, looks aren’t everything!
Is the supplier trying to rush you into paying a deposit to secure their services? Do they refuse to hold dates for you? Do they avoid your questions? Are they trying to lock you in before they have all the information about your wedding? Are they too pedantic about small issues? Are they too easygoing about big ones? All of these are warning signs. Make sure you have a good back-and-forth with your supplier to get a feel for them before slapping that deposit down. It’s your day: you want suppliers who anticipate your needs and can speak your language!