As a wedding planner, creating a preferred wedding vendor list is one of the most important tasks you'll undertake. While I’m not suggesting you create a “one size fits all” vendor list to hand out to your couples, I do know that your vendors can make or break the overall success of a wedding, so it's important to carefully curate a list of professionals who align with your vision and values. But with so many options out there, how do you go about selecting the right ones?
In this article, I’m going to cover everything from researching and vetting vendors to building long-lasting relationships. Whether you're a seasoned wedding planner looking to refresh your vendor list or a newbie just starting out, my goal here is to share tips and insights that will help you streamline the vendor selection process and ensure that each wedding you plan is nothing short of spectacular. Doesn’t that sound good?
The Importance of a Preferred Vendor List for Wedding Planners
A preferred vendor list is an essential tool for any wedding planner. It not only helps you streamline the planning process, but it also ensures that you have a team of trusted professionals who will deliver exceptional services to your clients. By curating a list of preferred vendors, you can save time and energy by working with professionals you know and trust.
Having a preferred vendor list also gives you a competitive edge in the wedding planning industry. When clients hire a wedding planner, they expect expertise and access to the best vendors in the business. By having a carefully curated list of preferred vendors, you can assure your clients that you have done the research and selected the most qualified professionals for their special day. Again – I’m not talking about handing your couples a list and telling them to choose. Obviously, they are paying you a lot of money to help find the perfect vendors for THEM. But this is an important tool in your wedding toolkit nonetheless!
How to Create a Preferred Vendor List
Creating a preferred vendor list requires careful research and vetting. You want to ensure that the vendors you choose not only meet your client's expectations but also align with your own standards of excellence and VALUES. I’m big on values over here!
Here are some steps to help you create a preferred vendor list:
1. Establish criteria for inclusion on the list
To ensure that your preferred vendor list is truly exceptional, it's important to establish clear criteria for inclusion. Consider factors such as experience, expertise, professionalism, responsiveness, and creativity. You may also want to consider factors such as diversity and inclusivity, as these are increasingly important to couples planning their weddings (and, in my opinion – should be to you too!). Be mindful of any biases or preferences you may have, and strive for inclusivity and diversity in your vendor selection process.
2. Researching and vetting potential vendors
The first step in creating a preferred vendor list is conducting thorough research. Start by asking for recommendations from other wedding planners or industry professionals. Attend wedding expos and events to meet vendors in person and see their work firsthand. Use online resources such as wedding directories and review websites to gather information about vendors in your area.
Once you have a list of potential vendors, it's time to vet them. Look for vendors who have experience in the wedding industry and a proven track record of delivering exceptional services. Read reviews from past clients to get a sense of their professionalism and reliability. Schedule meetings or phone calls with potential vendors to discuss their services, pricing, and availability. Trust your instincts and only include vendors who give you confidence in their abilities.
3. Build relationships with preferred vendors
Once you have selected your preferred vendors, it's important to build and maintain strong relationships with them. Regularly communicate with your vendors to stay updated on their availability and any changes to their services. Attend industry events and networking opportunities to connect with vendors and stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in the wedding industry.
Building strong relationships with your preferred vendors will not only ensure smooth communication and collaboration but also lead to better results for your clients. When vendors feel valued and respected, they are more likely to go above and beyond to make each wedding a success.
My best advice for building relationships with preferred vendors? Approach these relationships from a place of “How can I help you?” and not of a “How can you help me?”. Trust me – experienced wedding pros can tell the difference.
4. Updating and maintaining your vendor list
Creating a preferred vendor list is not a one-time task. The wedding industry is constantly evolving, and new fabulous vendors are entering the market all the time (you might be one of them!). It's important to regularly review and update your vendor list to ensure that you are offering the best options to your clients.
Set aside time each year to review your vendor list and evaluate whether any changes need to be made. Consider factors such as client feedback, vendor availability, and changes in the market. Remove any vendors who no longer meet your standards or have received negative feedback from clients. Add new vendors who have proven themselves to be exceptional in their field.
Booking Your Vendors on Your Preferred Vendor List
Once you’ve put the effort into creating your preferred vendor list, make sure you are communicating the value and benefits of working with preferred vendors to your clients will help them understand the importance of your selection process. By working with preferred vendors, your clients can save time, enjoy a seamless wedding experience, and even receive special perks and discounts in some cases (these are very vendor-dependent and should be offered and not asked for!).
Your clients will appreciate your expertise and the peace of mind that comes with working with trusted professionals. As a wedding planner, your recommendations hold a lot of weight with your couples. By carefully curating your preferred vendor list, you can ensure that each wedding day goes even better than you have planned.
Frequently Asked Questions About Having a Preferred Vendor List
Should you show your couples your preferred vendor list?
While you may consider sharing your preferred vendor list with your partial planning couples or event management couples (as a value add!), it shouldn’t be something you are sharing with your full wedding planning and design couples. After all, they are paying you a great deal of money to curate wedding vendors, especially for them. While you might have 10 photographers you love to work with, once you know your couple's style and goals for wedding photographers, you should be able to present them with the top 1-3 best-fit options.
Remember, your preferred vendor list is a valuable resource, but it's important to remain flexible and open to your clients' preferences. While you may have a list of preferred vendors, ultimately, it's the clients who have the final say. Be open to their suggestions and provide them with alternatives if they have a specific vendor in mind who is not on your list. Your role as a wedding planner is to guide and advise, but ultimately, the client's satisfaction is paramount.
What do I do if a client insists on using a vendor not on my preferred list?
This depends on a few factors (like what service you were hired for!). Overall, you’ll want to respect their choice but also share your reasons for preferring certain vendors over others. You didn’t just add vendors to your list based on a Google search. Provide insights into your experience with your preferred vendors and explain how it benefits the overall wedding planning.
Are there potential conflicts of interest when recommending preferred vendors?
The priority should always be the client's best interests and ensuring their wedding is a success. For example, charging vendors to be on your list can lead to a conflict of interest. The focus should be on quality, service, and experience, not financial gains.
What should I say to vendors who reach out and want to be included on the list?
The more successful you become, the more often this will happen! I recommend creating something like a Google form that potential new vendors can fill out if they are interested in being included. Then, you can vet them at your convenience (because otherwise, it can be quite disruptive in your day). You can even sync your form into something like an Asana project that can then house new vendors' information, so you can have everything at your fingertips if you decide this vendor is the right fit for your brand!
Final Thoughts on Creating a Preferred Vendor List as a Wedding Planner
Having a preferred vendor list helps to ensure a cohesive and seamless wedding planning process. The longer you are in business, the more familiar these vendors will become with your working style, venue, and overall vision. You’ll want to build a network of professionals who also know how to collaborate effectively with each other, which will ultimately result in a well-coordinated and harmonious wedding day every single time. This level of familiarity and teamwork allows for a smoother planning process and reduces the chances of miscommunication or logistical issues on the wedding day.
While building a preferred vendor list can feel like an enormous undertaking when you are starting out, I also want to finish by saying that you don’t need to go from zero to one hundred in a day. While this article outlined the steps you should take to build out your list, some of this will happen organically the longer you are in business and that’s great too! Keep your eyes open for fresh talent in the industry, ask your favorite people who they are loving lately, and enjoy this part of the process!
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