PSA for everybody who hasn't opened their mailbox in a few weeks: It's officially wedding season. And if you think you have wedding season PTSD, I'm here to story-top you, because being smug is in my nature and because I'm totally wedding-ed out for one human life time. And as much time and energy as we put into planning to attend weddings, it's nothing compared to what goes into actually planning a wedding. I worked as the office assistant of an upscale wedding cake boutique for six months, which was just long enough to understand the ins and outs of how to work with wedding vendors (and also eat more leftover cake that my poor arteries deserved). So stress not, humans who are walking down the aisle this year, because I am here to share all of the random wedding knowledge that still rattles around in my brain late at night long after my time of employ.
The truth is, although wedding planning is the stress, it doesn't have to be. A lot of it just depends on how well you plan and how particular you are. (Not that there is anything wrong with being particular—it is, logically, just going to lead to more stress. If you're willing to take it on, good on you.) I'm not by any means a wedding expert, but I have been in the game long enough to have a pretty solid idea of the dos and don'ts of planning. Here are some ways you can make life easier on yourself and the vendors you are working with:
1. Budget out everything before you even start looking at vendors
And I mean thoroughly budget. There are really handy sites like theknot.com that give you rough ideas of how people typically divvy up the amount they spend on each part of the wedding—like what percentage goes toward food, or location, etc. Of course, everything is going to be unique to the couple throwing the shindig, but it helps to get a sense for how much you should expect to pay so you're not balking at reasonable prices or getting swindled by unreasonable ones.
It's also important to budget so vendors have an idea of what kinds of options they shouldn't and shouldn't show you. It will save a lot of time and a lot of heartache if they know your budget right off the bat, even if it has some wiggle room.
2. Don't even talk to vendors until you have a definite location and date
Here's the thing about wedding season: THERE ARE A TON OF WEDDINGS. Some weekends, a vendor might have as many as 17 brides to handle, and at some point, they're going to have to stop taking weddings for particular weekends. So if you come into a flower shop or a cake shop for a tasting to "just peruse" and you don't have a place and a time set yet, you're wasting both your time and the vendor's time. They're going to need that information before they can do anything for you or get any contracts written up.
3. Narrow down your vendor options on Yelp before making appointments
Yelp is a vendor's best friend and worst nightmare. I know that it pretty much goes without saying that you should be checking review sites, but I can't emphasize enough how helpful they can be. People don't hold back on reviews for wedding services, good or bad—their bad experience might spare you some trouble, and their good experience might make your decision way easier.
4. Don't make too many appointments with vendors who offer the same service
Case in point: Sometimes we had couples who had tastings at five or six bakeries before settling on a choice. It might seem fun, but it's not—it's more stress over making a decision for the couple, and although you are encouraged to shop around, it's a little unfair to the vendors to be wasting their time when you know five of them are not getting your business. If you do your research on services, you can knock it down to two places, max. If neither of them feel right, then go to the third place. But over complicating your life is so not necessary at this point in the game.
5. It's never too early in advance to start looking
I had lots of brides calling in and asking if they were "too early" to be booking with us. Here's my definitive advice on this: If you're confident about a vendor, book them as early as you can. It's not necessarily cheaper, but it is safer.
6. Come in with pictures, and be as specific about what you want as possible
Yes, some vendors are ~dream humans~ who will read your mind and make everything you ever hoped and dreamed come to life. More often than not, however, they can guide you through the options that you have, and if you are looking for something specific, you'll have to be able to communicate it explicitly if you want to get it just right. It is a huge relief for vendors to have pictures in hand that they can put in your file, especially if you're doing a lot of the booking in advance. They might not remember the specifics of the conversation you had a year ago, but they will have a physical copy of something in their hands with notes on what to change or keep the same.
7. Limit the number of opinions you ask for
I had a lot of couples come into our store and leave very confident about what they wanted, and then they talked to a future sister-in-law or a friend or their neighbor and changed their minds so drastically that they had to go right back to the drawing board. Some just let the peanut gallery roam free right from the beginning by inviting a ton of relatives to tastings and wedding dress fittings and the like. Trust me when I tell you that bringing lots of people and asking for lots of opinions will be total chaos. You will never be able to please everybody, and besides, who the hell cares about "everybody"? It's your wedding! This is literally one of your only chances to be all "screw it, I do what I want".
I'm not saying you shouldn't bring anybody with you to these appointments, because bringing people is what makes it a ton of fun. But maybe limit it to one or two core squad members, lest your brain explode from all the unwarranted input. Vendors can only give each party so much time before they have to move on to the next couple, and as much as they want to satisfy everybody, you're at a risk of not getting your details squared away and wasting an entire trip.
8. Accept that something is going to go wrong
We are all humans. There is room for error pretty much at every turn. I think the only real mistake a couple can make is expecting everything to go ~flawlessly~ on their wedding day, because really, that only happens in Disney movies. Even the most professional vendors will endure mishaps. It might snow like bonkers, or the waiter at your wedding venue might shove an arm into your cake (IT HAPPENS), or somebody will have forgotten their matching shoes for the group shot. Yeah, definitely go get your money back if someone bails on you, but while it's happening...it's not the end of the world. Just keep your expectations manageable and, most importantly, enjoy yourself. Everybody knows weddings are just for booze and eating anyway.