(*for the sake of ease, I’m going to use “wedding” throughout this post, but everything also applies to elopements!*)
Planning a wedding is HARD WORK. You get engaged to the love of your life and everything is basically a magical fairytale. You’re so excited to finally get to execute all the ideas that you’ve had on your “Wedding” Pinterest board for YEARS (or maybe not, and that’s okay too). But then you find out that planning a wedding ain’t exactly a fairytale. There’s so much more that goes into it than you’d EVER think – choosing a date, venue, budget, dress, photographer, caterer, florist, sending out invites. . . the list goes on and on and on. One of the biggest (& most important) parts that goes into planning your wedding? Finding your vendors!
You want to find vendors that you KNOW will execute the dream, the vision you have for your beautiful day. Vendors that will provide you with not only a product or service, but an EXPERIENCE. Vendors who you know you can trust to contribute to one of the biggest days of your life, despite probably never having worked with them or known them previously. But when you’ve never gotten married and never planned a wedding, you may come to a halt before you even start, and ask: how the heck do I book my dream vendors without even knowing how to FIND them?!
Vendors can MAKE OR BREAK your wedding day, lemme tell ya. I mean, hopefully they won’t break them, because your wedding day is supposed to be a day where all that matters is the celebration of you & your partner, no matter what goes “wrong” or not how it was planned. But vendors add so much to your wedding day, so it’s important to find ones that you connect with, and whose products/work you ADORE. Here are a few tips + ways you can go about finding & booking your dream vendors!
Come up with your dream/vision BEFORE finding vendors – don’t base it on the vendors you’re able to find.Your vendors CAN make or break your wedding, but you shouldn’t base your dream day off of the vendors you’re able to find. You want to make YOUR dreams happen—after all, this is one of the biggest days of your life—no matter if that dream consists of a tiny elopement or a big wedding. Come up with your vision for the day (Pinterest is a lifesaver for this!), and THEN search for vendors who can execute that dream. Don’t just combine the styles of all your vendors and mix it up to create a day that you won’t end up loving. It’s YOUR day, and the vendors you find will be there to serve YOU and make YOUR vision come to life!
Plan as early as you can.Life can become a bit of a whirlwind once you get engaged. Family and friends congratulating you left and right, trying to navigate being a new fiánce, and having to start planning your wedding day. But here’s my advice: after you’ve taken the time you need to breathe and really take in all the beautiful things that are going on, start doing your research. A lot of vendors (especially if you want to get married in a popular place or on a popular day—like any Saturday in July—) book pretty far ahead, especially venues and photographers. There are always going to be couples who are farther ahead in their wedding planning than you, but don’t let that stress you out. Start finding vendors that are possibilities, and reach out to them to see how early they’re booking ahead so that you KNOW, and aren’t surprised when you reach out to them later on and what do you know—they’re now fully booked for the next year.?
Talk to your married friends.The best way to find vendors you know you can trust & are amazing at what they do is to talk to any married friends you have. Sometimes, finding vendors online and not getting to meet them before booking them can be difficult, because you don’t know how well you “vibe” with them. But if you have friends who have gotten married and worked with vendors that they loved recently, that’s a great place to start, because somebody YOU know & trust is recommending someone to you who THEY trust.
Do a Google search.Google is the simplest way to find anything these days (why do I feel like an 80-year old when I say “these days”?). Go to Google and type in the area you’re in or the area you’re going to be getting married, and then the type of vendor you’re looking for (e.g. “Nashville wedding florists” or “Seattle bridal shops”). Most businesses have Google listings with contact information, a website, and reviews!
Ask your venue.Often times, wedding venues have a list of “preferred vendors,” or vendors they’ve worked with and love. This is a great way to go about it, because then you know that the vendors you’re reaching out to, have experience working at THAT venue specifically, and the fact that the venue trusts them + their skills is super comforting!
Instagram stalk.Doing a deep-dive into Instagram is a fantastic way to find wedding vendors! There are a few things you can do if you choose to use this method:
Search.Do a search just like you would in Google. Most businesses on Instagram have a little title under their name on their account, which often contains the name of what they do and will come up when searched—e.g. “Austin wedding videographer”
Find a photographer first.One great way to find a ton of vendors is to find your dream photographer and go through their feed, story highlights, & blog posts. When I shoot a wedding or styled shoot of any kind, I ALWAYS tag the participating vendors in the captions & content of any photos I post. If you find your photographer, you can either ask them for their preferred vendors (they might also have them listed on their website, or in a wedding guide they give to you), or go through the people they tag often or talk about in their stories, and stalk those vendors and who THEY have worked with! And so on and so forth. Told you it becomes a deep-dive.?
Geotags.Use the “Places” search to look for vendors who post often in the area you’re getting married at, or search for your venue and look at their tagged posts!
Hashtags.Doing a hashtag search is similar to doing a Google search. Search in the “Hashtags” section of Instagram and type in, for example, #portlandelopementphotographer , and go through the people who have used that hashtag, or who use it often.
Facebook stalk.Facebook is a little harder just because most (not all) businesses don’t use it quite as heavily as Instagram, but you can search in Facebook just as you would Google or Instagram!
Hire a wedding coordinator/planner. If you choose to hire a wedding coordinator/planner, a big part of their job is connecting you with other vendors who they know will be able to bring your vision to life!
Use a wedding planning service.If you don’t hire a personal wedding coordinator/planner, you can register with a service such as The Knot or WeddingWire, which are services that help make sure you don’t forget anything when planning, and can also connect you to vendors it thinks may be a good fit for you + are available on your wedding date!
And lastly, read reviews.Reviews are the BIGGEST way that vendors are able to build trust with you, their clients, because by showing praise from past clients they’ve worked with, they’re able to present their credibility. Read reviews that vendors have on Instagram, Facebook, and on their websites to get a good feel for the client experience they provide!
And there ya go! My best tips + ways that you can go about finding + booking your DREAM wedding vendors. It can seem overwhelming at first, but finding vendors that you ADORE and that you trust completely changes the wedding planning process from stressful to EXCITING. And just think – when it’s all over, you’ll be married to the love of your life. Remember that, and you’ll make it through! Now, go get those dream vendors & make your dream day happen!?