The dependability, flexibility and skill of your wedding vendors can make or break your day, but choosing the right professionals across the miles can be risky business. Ease the stress with these handy tips.
Surf the Web.
Start your search online. Google searches can be useful, but also visit sites like Weddingbook.com and Projectwedding.com, which offer free directories, reviews and ratings of all area wedding vendors, not just those that pay to be listed. Weddingmapper.com is another great site that lets you talk and share vendor ideas with other couples marrying in your locale.
Research real weddings.
Look through wedding magazines, read bridal books and watch wedding-related TV shows to find real brides who have wed in your destination. Profiles of real weddings often mention specific vendors who are located there. If you like what you see, use the info as leads for your own event.
Once you've found vendors who interest you, visit their websites. Browse through photographs of past work to figure out if you like their style, and read "about" sections to get a sense of their experience levels, techniques and personalities. Don't be scared off if someone doesn't have a great website, especially when dealing with vendors in rural locations or destinations like the Caribbean. Technology may not be as cutting edge as you're used to, but that doesn't mean their practical skills are lacking.
Get suggestions from other vendors.
Ask for recommendations from your wedding coordinator, photographer or any other service supplier you've already hired. They partner with vendors in their area all the time and have insider knowledge on who's reliable, qualified and easy to work with. Be sure to get their opinions on vendors you've found online or in magazines.
Ask the pros.
Your location's tourism board is another great place to get suggestions. Tourism representatives exist to help travelers have the best experience possible in their destinations, and they're very plugged in to what's popular and why. Plus, any vendor has to reach a certain level of service and quality for the visitors' bureau to feel confident in recommending it.
Consider their cred.
Various groups offer industry training so wedding professionals can become officially certified. While not essential, membership in an organization such as the Association of Bridal Consultants or Wedding & Portrait Photographers International greatly increases the chances that the vendor will follow a code of ethics and meet professional standards.
Interview potential vendors in person, over the phone or via Skype. Ask about their experience and how familiar they are with local regulations, logistics and resources, as well as your specific wedding site. Listen to their ideas, share a few of your own, and consider if your personalities will mesh well. You'll be working closely and creatively with this person, so it's important to have a good fit. When in doubt, trust your instincts.
Once you have vendors narrowed down, ask them for references from past brides. Then follow up, asking the brides for their honest assessments. Find out how the vendors rate in terms of communication, cooperation, promptness and delivery, taking petty complaints with a grain of salt but heeding serious red flags. Then, if the stars align, sign on the dotted line.