Elope Jackson’s Foolproof Guide to Vetting Vendors

November 5, 2021

Remember when you found THE ONE? How did you know that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them? Was it, You had me at hello? Or maybe you took your time getting to know them, asking questions to better understand their unique charm, quirks, hopes and dreams, and all the while expressing your own heart’s desires. Finding that special someone is exciting, but it can also be a little bit scary! You have to let your guard down and be honest about what you’re looking for.

Finding your wedding day dream team is the same—you gotta make sure they’re the right match for you! Afterall, they’re the people who are going to bring your vision to life. We know there are so many different vendors out there, so just take it one step at a time.

If you’re booking with Elope Jackson, you will receive an Insider Guide full of local knowledge and preferred vendors that have experience with elopements and micro weddings in the area. If you’re still shopping or looking to use outside vendors, read on for some tips from someone who’s been there, done that. You can avoid a lot of heartbreak by asking some questions upfront:

1. Do they have a website or a social media presence?

Gone are the days of flipping through stack-after-stack of bridal magazines. Social media has taken the world by storm, making it easier on potential clients and vendors to come together in the name of love. It helps couples hunt for enticing style & flair on their own time. The online inspiration is endless, and platforms like Facebook and Instagram make connecting with vendors easier than ever before.

2. Does their previous work align with your style or vision?

Every business has a unique brand. Some specialize in sticking to tradition; others thrive on breaking the rules. Are you leaning towards the former or the latter? Do you picture a simple & elegant ceremony OR something outside-of-the-box? How creative are vendors willing to get? Snuggle up with your special someone and check out pictures of a vendor’s work to get a better sense of their expertise. Look for vendors who showcase designs you adore.

3. Do they have reviews available through their website, Google or social media sites? Were they highly recommended by someone you trust?

Reviews aren’t just a helpful element of wedding planning—they are critical. If a venue has a positive online footprint, chances are that others have had good experiences booking through them. Often past clients will give you an unfiltered write-up to consider, take into account that people usually post a review when they are over-the-moon happy with vendors OR could-strangle-a-ram angry. Postnup emotions run high!

4. What does your gut tell you? Are you happy with the communication you received during the inquiry process? Do they seem consistent?

It’s so important to get to know vendors before committing to anything serious; and by the way, if they aren’t trying to have conversations with you to get better acquainted then they might not be the best choice, no matter how enticing their IG posts are! Trust me, you do not want a hair and makeup artist ignoring your calls for over a month only to later respond, nonchalantly, that they double-booked, and now you’re SOL because there’s only three weeks to find someone new. (Be aware, if it’s the middle of peak wedding season it might take a few days or even a week to get a response, but if it’s been longer than two weeks…Yikes!)

5. How do they like to stay in touch? Does that jive with you? Do they offer time for a virtual meeting or phone call to answer in-depth questions well ahead of time? 

While some vendors are totally cool with casual texts after five o’ clock, it’s more likely they’d prefer something a little more formal. With all the details that go into executing stunning photography and jaw dropping floral displays it’s hard to blame them. Vendors are artists—yeah, I said it. Planning a wedding is deeply personal & intimate, but don’t forget that your relationship with vendors is a business one. When planning a destination wedding, it is essential to have detailed convos before signing anything. 

6. Do you feel valued and that communication is personable, or do you feel rushed? 

We live in a day & age that offers instant everything; it’s not uncommon to receive an automated response with a follow-up questionnaire. This usually saves everyone a little time in the long run, but it’s crucial to communicate with a real human before too long. Look for people with personalities you can relate to. If you don’t feel like they share your enthusiasm, it might be better to say, “I don’t.”

7. What is the emergency plan? 

Do they have a backup plan for emergencies? You definitely want to know if a photographer can’t work in the rain or snow. That said, some destination vendors aren’t familiar with the area. Be sure they understand the scope of an unconventional wedding upfront. It’s important they have the proper attire. Depending on your location, hiking boots, sunscreen and bear spray might be requisite! Be sure they are well aware of the unique circumstances surrounding an elopement or micro wedding in your destination!

8. Have you read through the contract yet? What are the terms and conditions? What are the next steps after booking? What is the deposit and when is it due?

Get it in writing. You might agree on something over the phone, but if there isn’t a record of that convo, it might be difficult getting them to follow through with those promises later. Everything in the contract should be crystal clear to you before signing. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you need clarification. With any relationship, you know in your heart when it’s not going to work out. Don’t be afraid to call it quits before things get too serious! A wedding vendor breakup can be a costly lesson.

9. Are they within your budget? If they are over budget, is this a vendor you absolutely adore? 

Decisions, decisions. When the time is right, sit down with your spouse-to-be and have an honest chat about the elements of your Big Day that mean the most to each of you. While you might prioritize the aesthetics of the wedding, your fiancé could be most excited by the flavor—a red velvet cake, perhaps, or a seasonal cocktail. Figure out which vendors you absolutely need and keep a wish list for the ones you want.  If it’s a vendor that’s a must have, and if it’s within your budget, go for it! Don’t hesitate on vendors you’ve fallen head over heels for, but don’t be hasty! (Pro Tip: Don’t settle for the cheapest option and don’t break the bank—one of the perks of a smaller celebration is having more money to spend on the things you absolutely love). 

Stay Confident.

Take your time, but don’t overthink! I hate to see a bride or groom miss out on there selected vendor or make a decision and then regret it! Be decisive and don’t be shy. Help them help you. Budget is not a scary word. There’s no shame in stating your own personal max budget (even if it means compromising on certain features). The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Pros will not be surprised or offended if you are polite. It never hurts to throw a few kind words in, like, “Your work is amazing…”

Stay Organized.

As far as booking your whole team, a good timeframe to shoot for is two months. That will give you plenty of time to assess your vision, prioritize goals and reach out to your favorite vendors first. You don’t have to book everything the same week or even the same month. Take advantage of social media & even hashtags! Staying organized will help you focus on the bigger picture and better anticipate upcoming payments. If you have room in your budget, wedding planners are basically fairy godmothers. Like magic, they will help you streamline the planning process, eliminate the uncertainty of it all, and save you time, stress, and money. 

Remember to Celebrate.

Wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful. You’re allowed to have fun along the way! Remember that this wedding is a celebration of your love—it doesn’t have to abide by others’ expectations. Prioritize the things that make you and yours happy. Reward yourselves when something is crossed off the checklist! Take a moment to relax, have a date night, do massages, go dancing. Enjoy this process because it’s part of your love story. At the end of the day, all your planning and hard work is bringing you one step closer to Happily Ever After. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Miller

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