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Booking Wedding Vendors

Bakers, caterers, DJs, photographers, florists…planning the wedding of your dreams requires an entire army of vendors and trying to figure out where to begin can be a daunting task. Follow these five easy steps for stress-free vendor selection…

Step One: Book your venue!

Selecting a venue for the wedding ceremony and reception should be your first priority. It’s crucial to find and book a locale before hiring any other vendors as the wedding location will determine the wedding date and time. Once you’ve found the perfect place to exchange “I Do’s,” you can begin booking the men and women that will make your big day possible.

Step Two: Bring in a Pro

If you’re planning to retain the services of a wedding planner, they should be your next hire. Not only will an event coordinator help you make all of your decisions, he or she can often offer specific recommendations or help you secure discounted rates with vendors.

Step Three: Prioritize

Once you’ve secured a venue and regardless of whether or not you’ve hired a planner, there’s no absolute rule about what vendor should be hired next. The best way to decide is by determining where your priorities are. Sit down with your fiancé and discuss which aspects of the wedding are most important to you. If you’re diehard foodies, focus your early energies on selecting a caterer. If you have your heart set on a specific photographer, nail him/her down. That way, you can be sure to secure the vendors you really want and disperse the bulk of your budget to the areas that matter most.

Step Four: Nab the Hard-to-Get Guys

Certain vendors, such as photographers, DJs, and videographers, are limited to only working one wedding per day. As a result, the good ones book up fast. Begin researching and setting up appointments as early as possible to guarantee a spot with your top choice in these hard-to-book categories. Vendors such as florists, stylists, and bakers are often able to work several weddings a day, so put these on the back burner until the rest of your vendors are secure.

Step Five: Follow a Timeline

Most wedding planning binders or smart phone apps offer a general timeline of what tasks should be completed at each stage of the wedding process. Stick to the timeline to ensure that you’re giving yourself ample time for all the extra responsibilities such as hiring a designer/calligrapher for invitations, making preparations for hair and makeup, choosing a wedding cake baker, and consulting with a florist. And remember the earlier you get started, the better! The best vendors are in high demand so their calendars fill up quickly. The sooner you begin contacting and hiring vendors, the better shape you’ll be in when your wedding approaches.

Tipping Your Wedding Vendors

TIPS.  The acronym has been said to stand for “to insure prompt service,” though many of us know the term to simply mean what we leave at the end of a meal.  Tips have become an ordinary part of our society, whether you’re paying at a restaurant, the salon, or the coffee shop.  Most people have a solid understanding of tip etiquette when it comes to dining, but in the wedding world, the rules of tipping aren’t so simple.  Here are some guidelines to help take the guesswork out of tipping your wedding vendors.

Officiants: Many pastors, priests, rabbis, ministers and other religious leaders will not accept tips in the form of cash.  Instead, consider making a donation to their house of worship or a nonprofit organization that their congregation already partners with.  $75 to $100 is typical.  Civil employees who perform wedding ceremonies are often not allowed to accept any type of monetary gifts.  In that case, a thank you note is appropriate.

Musicians and DJs: Tipping for this category varies, particularly based on how the vendor handles booking.  For independent bands that book their own gigs, tipping is not necessary, as they will pocket all of the money earned.  A similar approach holds true for independent DJs.  However, when a DJ or musical act is booked through an agency or larger company, tips are expected, as the vendor will not be receiving the full charge for the service.  Tips for DJs range from 5% to 15%, with tips for musicians averaging approximately $25 per musician.  So if you have a six person band, a separate tip would go to each of the six band members.

Makeup Artists and Hairstylists: If you visit the salon on the day of your wedding, a standard tip of 15% to 20% is expected.  However, if the stylist or artists owns their own business or is freelancing, a tip is not expected.  However, if you feel they went above and beyond, feel free to leave a tip at your discretion.

Catering Services: There is a great deal of variety when it comes to tipping catering vendors.  First, check to see if gratuity is included in your package. If so, an additional tip is unnecessary.  However, if gratuity is not included in the contract, consider a 15% to 20% tip, as expected in a standard dining situation.  You can also choose to leave a flat rate for members of the catering staff, particularly if your catering company is higher in price.  $100 to $200 for catering managers, $50 for each chef, baker, and bartender, and $20 to $30 for each member of the wait and kitchen staff.

Wedding Coordinators, Photographers, Videographers, and Florists: Much like DJs and musicians, if the vendor owns their business, a tip is not expected.  They have already set their price and expect the amount specified.  Because they own their business, they will not have to pay someone else a portion of their fee.  However, if coordinators, photographer, videographers, or florists do not own their business, a tip of $30-$100 is anticipated, with coordinators typically receiving $50 to $100.

The easiest way to present vendors with tips is to have individual envelopes for each vendor (and each person in the case of catering staff and musicians.)  These envelopes should be organized before the day of the wedding, so you do not have to break away from the celebration to deal with money.