Everyone agrees you should check wedding vendor references before hiring, but how do you go about doing that? It sounds complicated and time consuming, but important. Actually, the truth is that checking references is quite easy. It's perfectly acceptable to ask a wedding planner, or any other vendor you're considering hiring, for a few references from previous brides and grooms.
Most wedding vendors have a list of happy clients to rely on and will send you their contact information. Usually, vendors will only give you email addresses — it's up to you to take it to the next step. Reach out to the former clients — a good vendor will have given them a heads up that you might be contacting them — and ask all of your questions. I recommend emailing them and asking if they have 10-15 minutes to chat on the phone about their wedding experience. Why is the phone better than an email? It's a lot harder to decipher if a "reference" is actually the vendor's second cousin in email versus the phone. You want to be certain you're talking to real brides and grooms who actually used the vendor's services.
Some good questions to ask former clients include:
1. What was the best thing about this vendor?
2. Was there anything you were unhappy about with regard to their services?
3. Was the vendor able to work within your budget?
4. Would you recommend the vendor to other brides and grooms?
Most reputable wedding vendors are registered on WeddingWire.com or another vendor review website. Read the client reviews carefully — do they sound real to you? Check out lots of different vendors — even some you're not considering. Scope out really well known vendor reviews even if they're not within your budget just to get the feel for what legitimate reviews sound like. Then read all the reviews for the vendors you're considering. If somebody's managed to get around the review website's safeguards and pad their own score, you'll notice something off about the testimonials, too.
See More: How to Handle Feuding Vendors
Don't assume there's something wrong with a vendor if they have a couple of bad reviews, but they've been in business for a long time, and have many more happy clients bragging about them. Nobody is perfect and we all know that some people live to flame anyone who upsets them. You have to take that with a grain of salt if everything else tells you they're the right vendor for your wedding.
Use common sense, trust your gut, and listen to what other brides and grooms have to say about their satisfaction with your first choice vendors. If you follow my suggestions above, you should be able to check several vendor references in about 90 minutes. You're never too busy to save yourself hours of frustration later on.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.