Perhaps I should preface this (or really, this entire blog) by saying that we didn’t hire a Wedding Planner, a Day of Coordinator or any professionals of that ilk. I’m cheap, remember? Plus I’d already had quite a few pals walk down the aisle, so I had a few ideas of my own on how to plan our own shindig.
No, no – this isn’t going to be one of those checklists with the top 10 questions to ask potential wedding vendors. You can easily find those in a million different places around the web. This is more my brief recollection of how we chose vendors with a few bits of advice thrown in for good measure. I’m neither a professional, nor do I play one on TV. But I will say this: our wedding ROCKED. Seriously. I’m not even going to bother feigning modesty on this one. And we planned it ourselves.

The thing to remember is that it is your wedding. You & your SO (significant other, for those of you playing the home game) need to figure out what’s going to make you the happiest when it comes to your wedding day. Naturally, there are families to take into consideration (especially if they’re footing the bill) – but if you’re lucky, like we were, they only want you to be happy and aren’t going to insist you hire a string quartet or have a midnight seafood buffet because ‘that’s the way things are done in this family.’
One of the things that drove me crazy when we were planning our wedding was pricing – or lack thereof – on vendors’ websites. Now, I do understand that part of the reason things are done that way is so that vendors can remain flexible for a number of variables & reasons. I get that suppliers’ prices may change depending on time of year or availability of certain flowers, foods, etc.
However –  there is nothing that says you can’t post a sample price list (disclaimers go a long way, people! A tiny bit of print saying that prices are valid at the time of posting and are subject to change at anytime can cover a LOT of proverbial ass.) Because nobody wants to start cold calling or emailing caterers (or florists, or photographers etc.) if what said vendor charges is completely out of his or her budget. And there is nothing more disheartening than hearing a vendor, who has yet to master the art of interpersonal skills (and, unfortunately, there were a higher percentage in this category than I’d anticipated), start spouting prices in tones that can really only be described as condescending. Okay, they could also be called bitchy. Or snotty. But I digress…
I won’t lie – when we started to plan our wedding, we completely discounted vendors who avoided any mention of price on their website. The caterer we eventually hired (who, by the way – I HIGHLY recommend: Absolutely Famished Catering) had several sample menus posted on his website. From that we were able to gauge whether or not what we wanted would work with what they could provide: budget-wise & otherwise. And the fact that he had catered his own wedding in much the same fashion we were looking for made the decision a no-brainer.
When it came to prices, we needed to see what vendors offered before we even thought about contacting them. Our DJ (incidentally, another one I would highly recommend: Music Unlimited DJ Services) was not only a vendor who posted various package options (along with an online instant quote generator – how cool is that?), but was one that both my husband & I had dealt with in a second-hand manner when we were both in a wedding party a few years ago. The bride & groom had hired MUDJS for their reception and we loved what they’d provided – so we looked them up!
The only exception to our must-see-a-price-list-first rule was our photographer (Trayc Dudgeon of Photos by Trayc – check out her work, she’s fab!) And that was only because she was recommended to us by a mutual friend. Having said that, the very first time I emailed her, she replied with a price list (yay!) so that we could peruse it at length – prior to our first actual in-person meeting.
A lot of How-To folks will tell you to get as many quotes as possible – the more, the merrier. I, personally, don’t particularly adhere to that school of thought. Why keep looking when you’ve found what works? Once we found vendors we liked, got along with, who understood what we were looking for & provided what we wanted at a price that was acceptable – we booked them. Granted, we (you do know that, by ‘we’, I most often mean ‘I’ – right?) did a lot of research in advance.  It didn’t make sense to keep looking once we’d found what made us happy.
The internet is an invaluable tool. But you can easily be led astray… so ask around. Seriously – word of mouth is still an amazing way to find out who’s at the top of their game. And you don’t need to have friends who are event planners to put this into practice. Have a pal who’s married? Ask them what their venue provided as part of their package or (assuming you’re close enough to ask some people do get touchy when asked specifics when it comes to dollar & cents) what it wound up costing them per person. Have a co-worker who was in a wedding party the summer before last? Ask where they bought bridesmaids dresses or had alterations done. Your mom threw a retirement party for her boss? Find out who she hired for the catering / cake / decorations. Have a look on message boards where real people are discussing real budgets and real weddings. Because as much fun as those other My Perfect Pretty Wedding sites are (and you know the ones I mean), they’re really nothing more than wedding porn. They’re nice to look at, but they get old after a while. And they really won’t help you with any actual planning.
Don’t be afraid to ask specifics, either. Is your florist including vases in the cost of flower arrangements? Don’t get caught unawares. Sometimes you can get a lower price, though, where tiny incidentals like this are involved. When my husband & I first started dating, he told me that he always went to the same shop when he bought me flowers – a tiny mom & pop shop in our neighbourhood that always has lovely plants on display and is run by THE cutest woman I’ve ever encountered in a retail environment.
King Flowers & Plant Market (for those of you in Toronto, it’s at 926A King St. W. 416.504-2926) is where we took our business for wedding foliage. They have a website, but it’s under construction. You might think that this flies contrary to what I’d said previously about websites & research – but research can also be done in person. We were already customers here & liked everything about the business so, after asking a few quick questions, we set up a meeting and hashed out the details of our wedding flowers. A couple of those details involved us providing a vase for a particular arrangement as well as diamond-head straight pins that I’d already purchased and wanted used in my bouquet. The proprietor was upfront when it came to cost and told us that we could probably find a suitable vase for a much better price than she would get from her suppliers. So rather than pay a marked up price on both items, we avoided the extra fee & used a WalMart-purchased vase along with decorative pins I had purchased on (yep, you guessed it) eBay.
Bottom line? Do what makes you happy and comfortable. And don’t let anyone push you around.

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