feasting table at an outdoor wedding reception
outdoor wedding reception in pale colors and rich textures
I recently photographed a local wedding for a couple who planned the entirety of their wedding from another country. They found me on weddingwire.com, which isn't a common source of referrals for me, but the bride was delightful over email. I was thrilled when they chose me for their wedding! The bride didn't ask for referrals for other vendors, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up working with some of the top vendors in each category in the Phoenix area for her wedding -- most of them good friends who I have worked with many times before. I was so impressed that she was able to gather such a stellar team of vendors while planning her wedding from afar that I decided to pick her brain (and the brains of other past brides) to find out how they found the vendors they ended up loving to work with.

Based on my years in the industry as well as my personal experience planning my own wedding last year, I can assert that planning a wedding is incredibly challenging on a multitude of levels. I imagine that it's even tougher for those completely unfamiliar with the wedding industry, facing thirty options for florists, twenty options for wedding planners, fifty options for DJs, and hundreds of options in 10 other important categories. How overwhelming! Top that off with the desire to pick the PERFECT choice in every category, and it's a wonder that engaged couples don't end up in a puddle on the floor, unable to function. When you are doing research to hire a service provider you have never hired before for something as important as your wedding, how do you know who you can trust?

Here are some tips from some of my past brides who have been there:

1 -- Meet with them.
Of course you should seek out vendors whose work you are drawn to when you see their website and portfolio online. But don't just stop there. If you have the opportunity to meet with vendors, do so. It is so important to find out if you "click." If you can't meet in person, chat over Skype or at the very least on the phone. You can learn so much more from a conversation with a vendor than you can online.

2 -- Ask everyone you know for good referrals.
If you know someone whose word you can trust, who has worked with the vendor before, that goes a long way in building your confidence in them. But don't assume that just because your friend worked with a certain vendor that they had a good experience! Make sure to talk with your recently married friends to find out what their experience was like.

3 -- Make sure someone is up close to research.
If you are planning from afar, it's best if you can have someone on the ground locally to screen your top choices from your online research through in-person meetings. If you don't have a relative or friend available to do this, hire a planner to help. This is especially important in the choosing a location for the wedding. Photos can be deceiving. On a venue's website, you won't see what's next door, what the parking situation is, if there is a cow farm down the road that smells, etc.

4 -- If you hire one vendor who is well-established in the area and you trust them, ask for their recommendations.
A good wedding planner is especially well-suited to help you find a stellar vendor team because they will spend time getting to know you, your budget and your wishes, and can match you with vendors who have a proven track record working with her. Plus if you rely on recommendations from planners or a vendor, it's more likely that your team will work well together and everything will go much smoother.

5 -- Trust the numbers.
If you continue to hear the same name over and over from various vendors, your venue's preferred vendor list, on wedding blogs, in magazines and online, that is also a great sign.

6 -- Shy away from vendors who are uneasy talking about money.
Every single one of them has to charge for their professional services and skills. This is their business. If they are uncomfortable talking about money and contracts, it's likely they are either not very experienced or are hiding something.

7 -- Look at websites like weddingwire.com and yelp.com to find online reviews.
Look at the vendors who not only have the highest reviews, but the ones who have the most reviews. Although you don't know the people who are leaving the reviews, it's easy to trust the work of someone who has received 70+ 5-star reviews. That's a proven track-record.

I'm so grateful to my amazing clients, who helped me out by sharing these great insights! You girls are the best!

If you are planning your wedding in Arizona and are looking for some amazing vendors, check out my preferred vendor list here. I've worked with all of these vendors many times and can vouch for their professionalism, team-approach and quality work!

-----------> If you are caught up in the whirlwind of selecting your wedding vendors, click here to download a FREE form to help you through the decision-making process! We've created a convenient form to help you track and compare your top 3 vendors in each category. Download your FREE copy today!
7 Great Tips to Help You Pick a Stellar Wedding Vendor Team
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