Celebrations are so much planning; May it be your brother's birthday, your daughter's graduation, or even your wedding. After finding the right place to celebrate, it is time to nail down your vendors, a.k.a. caterers, bartenders, photographers, videographers, florists, etc.
No matter what type of party or what type of vendor, make sure to follow our easy 5 step process to decide the right vendor for the services you need!
1. Get Quotes (duh!)
First things first! Luckily, there are a few places where you can look for your perfect vendor. Whereas some are obvious such as Google, Craigslist (not recommended), and your event planner (if you opt for a planner), there's more, much more! Some websites out there:
- Yelp (not just good for restaurants, but also great to request a quote in the app)
- GigSalad (even provides you with a small form to submit. VERY easy to use)
- Thumbtack (up to 5 quotes from vendors around you - first come first serve basis)
Make sure you give them enough information about your event. Most vendors will need to know:
- date & approximate duration of service needed (e.g. when should bartenders start serving alcohol and even most importantly, when should they stop?)
- amount of guests
Some services offer really pretty online forms to fill out. This will include all the information they will need for an accurate quote. As always, the more info, the better. Quotes should always be free of charge!
Pro Tip: Write down all the info in a text-processing program to easily Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, if you know what I mean (for fancy Mac users Command + C, Command + V).
Once you have received a quote from a few vendors you may proceed to step two.
2. Compare Prices
Now you got a bunch of numbers, but you don't know what to do with it. Make sure you get the most for your buck!
Our Tip: Make a spreadsheet
A spreadsheet is an easy tool to keep an overview of everything.
Make note of what's included in your vendor's quote to avoid unexpected charges.
Besides this spreadsheet, make a list of everything you need, such as possibly a bar setup (if your venue doesn't have one), silverware, balloon animals, etc. and make sure your vendor has it in his/her repertoire.
If you are unsure about what your vendor provides, ask them! (they usually don't bite)
Important for Venues: Insurance! Insurance! Insurance!
Your venue will most likely have a requirement for all vendors to carry an insurance. Usually, this will be just a general liability insurance, but double check with your venue what is needed and check with your vendor if they can deliver.
At this point, you are narrowing down vendors that fall out of your budget (leave room to negotiate because for a vendor, making $20 is still better than making $0). Be ready to relocate some of your budget - you'll thank me later.
Once you narrowed it down to a few final candidates, you may advance to another important step.
3. Check Reviews
What do other people say about your vendor? Their experience will most likely be your experience. Is your vendor professional in its responses? How does the web presence look?
A few good places to check reviews are the following:
Yelp, Google, Facebook
Since you are about to hire an event professional, also check out the following sites:
- GigSalad, Thumbtack (just search for your vendors)
- WeddingWire, Theknot (even if you are not getting married, many vendors can be found here)
Don't forget to ask around, maybe someone you know has hired your vendor before. It's a small world!
4. Your Personal Opinion
Your personal opinion and feeling about your vendors is crucial!
"How fast did they respond to your request?"
"Did they stay courteous, professional, and friendly throughout the process?"
"How easy was their booking process?"
If you give your vendor a call or email, ask yourself "do they just want to sell me something or do they actually care about me?"
Once you have found the one (well, vendor), you can jump to the very last step.
Congrats! You are now ready to book the perfect vendor for your special day! Make sure that you take care of the security deposit on time (which is payable for most vendors) to secure the date and to work out any last details.
Be aware that the balance payment differs from vendor to vendor. Some want it before the event, some want it on the event, and some collect it after the event.
Please note that you should be sure about your vendor before you pay the deposit as in most cases it is non-refundable.
(Optional Step 6: Review your Vendor)
If everything went well support your vendor by giving him/her/them a review of the services provided on the sites mentioned in Step 3.
Now, get yourself a drink. You deserve it!