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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Checking Vendor References

Dilbert by Scott Adams via www.stangbangers.com

When I read Miss Cream Puff's post over on Weddingbee the other day about having to break-up with her photographer, I let out a little sigh of relief that I've been checking vendor references all along.

There are scads of articles, threads, posts, etc. out there in wedding-planning-land with great suggestions on what to ask when interviewing potential vendors. I've been using the "What to Ask" Printable Checklists on Real Simple Weddings and they're an excellent guide. However, I haven't seem many resources for collecting references for vendors.

My thought is, in the regular working world you wouldn't hire someone to work for you without checking their references first, so why hire a vendor without checking references?

Thus far, Mr. Fairfax and I have our venue, caterer and photographer contracted and I've checked (or attempted to check) references for each one. Most wedding professionals should be able to provide you with a list of 2-3 couples they have worked with who are willing to act as references. One caveat, the Mr. and I did find in our brief experience that if a venue "moonlights" as a wedding reception hall (i.e. if your venue is really a historic home, that does weddings versus a wedding venue that happens to be a historic home), they are less likely to have references available. But hey, you've always got the The Knot and Wedding Wire to do a very informal check.

I've listed a couple of my standard reference questions below that are generic enough to apply to most vendors.
  • How many people did you have at your wedding and what type (indoor, outdoor, formal, casual, etc) of ceremony and reception did you have?
  • Who else did you consider and what made you choose [vendor]?
  • How was communicating with [vendor]? Did you feel that they were responsive to your e-mails/calls? Was the level of responsiveness consistent throughout the time leading up to your wedding? What about after the wedding?
  • How flexible/open was [vendor] to changes in your contract once the contract was signed?
  • Were there any charges on your bill that came as a surprise or were added at the last minute?
  • How would you rate the [vendor's] professionalism, level of service, etc.?
  • How would you rate [vendor's] cooperation with your other vendors? Did they facilitate coordination and help everything run smoothly? Were they problematic for your other vendors?
  • What do you wish you had discussed with [vendor] prior to the wedding that you did not?
  • In hindsight is there anything you would have done differently? Picked another [vendor]? Stipulated a few specific items in the contract, etc?
AND THE MILLION DOLLAR REFERENCE QUESTION:
  • If your best friend were getting married, would you recommend [vendor] to her? Would you have any hesitation or reservations about recommending [vendor]?
For us, these questions accomplished a two big things: 1) We knew we would feel more confident about our vendor choices if we got solid references. A reference check can help avoid situations like poor Miss Cream Puff's. 2) We would know our vendors better. Generic example of #2: one reference I got for a vendor mentioned the vendor is MUCH more responsive to phone calls than e-mail. Had I decided to use that vendor I would have been a savvy consumer armed with information about my vendor, rather than a frazzled bride who can't figure out why my vendor won't respond quickly to my e-mails!

I have other caterer/photographer/venue specific questions I'm happy to share if you shoot me an e-mail at fairfaxmiss@gmail.com.

Did you do a reference check on your vendors? What questions did you ask?

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4 Comments:

Blogger Kate said...

Sometimes a reference check means jack squat. I mean, I'm just sayin' - in my experience, I've had some troubles with vendors and found out about these issues much later after I had checked many, many references.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008 2:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Twistie said...

I got lucky. Every job I needed done professionally, I happened to know a professional I could trust to do precisely what I wanted done. The only professional I hired that I didn't know in advance was our officient...and one conversation sold me on him without reservation.

But if you don't happen to know a band, a photographer, a caterer, etc. I think your list of questions is great.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008 3:13:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Fairfax said...

@Kate: Absolutely true. A savvy vendor is of course going to provide references they are confident will give a good reference. So it's not a guarantee, but at least when something goes wrong, you know you did your due diligence.

I also checked all my vendors on sites like The Knot and ESPECIALLY Wedding Wire (love WW!) for unsolicited opinions from additional brides.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008 4:05:00 PM  
Blogger Dynamite Weddings said...

This is SO important. I have seen too many brides say, while my friend had an ok experience and they advertise big, so they must be doing something right. Not always true! Most cities have an online forum where you can find previous bride's experiences in full...some good, some bad. While everyone's experience is different, it's a helpful tool when deciding.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:03:00 PM  

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