Where would be a good place to look for inexpensive vendors? I'm talking about people who may not have a huge client portfolio, maybe students or just starting to get into the business. I live in the 2nd most expensive place in the US to get married (Sonoma County, CA - "wine country"), and vendors feel like its necessary to charge an arm and a leg for services ($7000 for a photographer for 6 hours? Ummm, no thanks!) Even at the bridal shows they hock their platinum vendors at me! (And forget about finding a wedding site! I "wanted" to get married in a barn and the only one in my area that I can find charges almost 10k! TO STAND UNDER A TREE AND IN A BARN! They don't even provide anything!) I was thinking of looking at sites like craigslist but I don't know where to look :/
Oh I guess I should put what I'm looking for (maybe there is a secret site somehwere out there that might have specific info!) a photographer and wedding coordinator, someone to marry us (officiant? we aren't religious- I don't even know who to use!) and a solo guitarist who can figure out how to play the sleeping beauty song...oh jeez...
LOL, I don't know about any secret sites, but word-of-mouth is usually the best way to find good vendors for reasonable prices. We found all our vendors through recommendations from others, and we got married in a very expensive area, too - but kept it to a reasonable budget by smart planning. Use all your resources, like networking to find a job. I initially didn't think we knew anybody in the wedding business, but it turns out that we know a lot of people who know a lot of people or have worked with certain vendors before and could get us a great deal. Also consider hiring a planner. It may sound counter-productive, since you'll need to pay the planner, but most planners have a wide network of contacts and can help you find vendors that fit your budget.
Craigslist is a good place to look, but watch out for scams and screen people really well before meeting them (remember that babysitter that got murdered?). You can look in the 'services' or 'gigs' section - I think there's specifically an 'event' section that usually has a lot of people looking for wedding-type jobs, including photographers looking to build a portfolio. For a photographer, you can also try contacting a local college with a photography program - perhaps a student or professor will be interested. Keep in mind, though, that you get what you pay for. You may luck out and get wonderful photos from someone who has little wedding experience - or you may have major problems. For an officiant, call the office in your county that issues marriage license - they will likely have a list of people qualified to perform weddings in your county. You can also try the good 'ole phone book (hehe - remember those?) Or, if your state allows it, you can have a friend or family member get a one-day certification to perform your ceremony. For a musician, ask around. I bet you know somebody who plays the guitar or who knows somebody who plays the guitar. Or wait until you have a venue and ask them for names of people they've worked with before.
Another option is to have your wedding somewhere else. So you live in Sonoma but you don't have a Sonoma budget - an obvious solution is to go somewhere where things are cheaper.
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As far as a photographer, I would recommend Shannon Stellmacher. http://www.shannonstellmacherphotography.com/ She isn't "cheap", but last time I heard her fees are quite a bit under 7k. Her work is spectacular and she specializes in Wine Country weddings. Good luck!
Most often, "cheap" and "professional" don't go together--but, these are tough times, so don't be afraid to try negotiating with people whose work you like. A college, art school, or JC with a photography program is a great place to look for a photographer. But, remember, wedding photographers have to have a sense of how a wedding goes, what to focus on, what's the timing all about. So, you may need to be more "hands on" about the schedule and list of desired pictures than you would need to be with a real "pro." As for a site, have you checked with the various municipalities about local parks and other public areas? In my area (So. California, which also is not cheap), there arelots of places that you might not think about. For example, one of the public libraries has gorgeous indoor and outdoor spaces that are available for a reasonable rental. Many private businesses (art galleries, farms, etc.) will rent out their space. Of course, you have to provide everything--food, rentals of tables, linens, serving ware, etc.), and you need to check and see whether you need a license to serve alcohol. Restaurants often have private rooms, good if your wedding is smallish. Start talking with people who are involved in some way with weddings--your hairdresser, for example, might know a photographer, makeup artist, dressmaker,etc. People at your favorite restaurant might know private caterers, bakers, bartenders for hire. If you have a favorite local club,talk to the booker about finding a musician. Talk to people who've gotten married recently--they've usually done some research. The more you put out the word about what you're seeking, the more you'll find. email@example.com