Being a wedding planner is a lot like being a football coach: You might have all the right moves in your playbook, but if you don’t have the best team to execute your vision, you’ll go nowhere. Similarly, building robust wedding vendor lists is the cornerstone to successfully bringing every wedding to life.
Vendors are the orchestra that makes beautiful music, and you’re the conductor.
Statistics show that the average number of vendors a couple will hire for their wedding is between 12 and 15. Here are some tips and tricks on creating wedding vendor lists full of dependable professionals who will best represent your work.
Where to Start Building Wedding Vendor Lists —Start Networking!
From industry events to the local chamber of commerce business development mixer, use your time wisely. Introduce yourself to other professionals in your field. Always have your business card, with your social media handles in addition to your standard phone number, email, and website, on hand. Most importantly, stay connected with new contacts.
Consider following up in a few days on LinkedIn or social media, so they also have your contact information.
When you’re at a business event that makes an impression on you. Whether the up-lighting is remarkable, the food is outstanding, or the décor is eye-catching, make it a point to learn about the vendors behind it all. Event and wedding industry professionals cross-pollinate all the time, and having a substantial network is imperative.
Ask for Recommendations
One of the best resources for finding great vendors is through other vendors! As you build your network and work with different companies, you’ll quickly notice many vendors have a unique synergy.
For example, the photographer and the DJ are two vendors who need to work together to orchestrate and capture a wedding’s most important moments.
Acting as emcee, the DJ or bandleader will often give the photographer a head’s up on the timeline, so they get the essential shots: the couple making their grand entrance, the parent dances, the cutting of the cake, or tossing of the bouquet.
Years of working together builds an undeniable rhythm and comfortable flow when working to make a wedding a success. Take note of which vendors work harmoniously and ask them with whom they love to work. Keep notes like these in your database so you can recommend them to clients.
Build Your Wedding Vendor Directory
Since COVID-19 altered the wedding landscape and countless weddings were postponed and rescheduled, many vendors agree that 2021 and 2022 are shaping up to be their busiest years on record. Because of this, vendors are booked well in advance and can even be hard to come by.
Make sure you have a good number of vendors in each category so that your clients have ample choices. Aim to have no less than five to 10 vendors in your network for each need:
- Photographers and videographers
- Attire retailers
- Transportation companies
- Hair and makeup pros
- Cake vendors
- Rentals and lighting designers
- “Specialties” including mobile cocktail carts, ice cream trucks, end-of-night food trucks, etc.
Most couples will turn to you as their wedding planner to recommend one to three vendors in each category. So your first step is to identify vendors that are the best fit for the couple, their budget, and the wedding they are envisioning, then check a vendor’s availability before going any further.
More Than Just Wedding Day Vendors
When it comes to your wedding vendor lists, think outside the box. As their wedding planner, couples will turn to you for obvious needs, but they’ll also find themselves asking for other recommendations.
Vendors like these might include rehearsal dinner venue contacts, dance instructors (got to get that first dance perfected!), massage therapists for the morning of the wedding, tour boats or other tours for wedding weekend activities, travel agents, and even on-site yoga instructors!
By making yourself a treasure trove of information and resources, you’ll distinguish yourself from the rest. Your clients will be grateful and recommend your services.
Host Informational Interviews
One of the critical components of your role as a wedding planner is cutting through the clutter and only arranging meetings with your clients and vendors that have the potential to flourish.
Get to know vendors on a one-on-one basis by meeting at their place of work (a floral studio or catering facility, for example) or even for just a cup of coffee to get to know them personally, understand their approach, and learn about their price point.
By better understanding these vendors and their styles, strengths, and personalities, you can make the best match for your clients.
For example, if you know that a specific florist is known for trendy, whimsical-style designs, you’d be less likely to recommend the vendor to clients looking for a classic, traditional vibe.
Likewise, if your clients are looking for a cost-conscious caterer, you can save them time and headache by only recommending catering companies that can accommodate their budget.
Informational interviews are also beneficial to learn how the vendor interacts with clients. For example, you can set a realistic meeting time should your clients be meeting with a talkative, personality-plus vendor who tends to run over your allotted appointment time versus a right-to-the-point vendor who might prefer to meet virtually.
Build a Referral Network with Other Wedding Planners
No one will ever better understand everything that goes into planning a wedding than your fellow wedding planners. There’s a reason you’ve all chosen this great profession!
Connect with other planners to establish reciprocal referrals, meaning if you have a query from a couple on a day you’re already booked, you can refer them to another planner you know and trust. Similarly, they can do the same.
Learn more about what your colleagues offer and how they are looking to grow their business. For example, if you provide day-of services and another wedding planner does not, that planner may be inclined to refer you to a couple looking specifically for those services, and you’ll be top of mind.
Fellow planners are also constantly looking to grow their wedding vendor lists. Take opportunities to refer vendors to them who you highly recommend, and they’ll likely do the same.
Organizing Your Wedding Vendor Directory
You’ve created robust wedding vendors lists in each category. Now what? Organization is the key to maximizing your time as a busy wedding planner. First, ask yourself if you respond better to hard-copies or if you live online.
If you love a Rolodex, then consider a three-ring binder to keep track of vendors. Organize the binder by vendor category, and create or download a contact template with all the essential information on the vendor and keep notes that might be helpful: what you discussed or where you met, their price ranges, style, etc.
Online, countless apps and CRM (customer relationship management) systems can simplify and automate contact management. For example, the ABBYY Business Card Reader scans business cards, instantly organizes the contact’s information, and creates a database at your fingertips.
Evernote Scannable is another scan-driven technology that can scan business cards and create contact lists as well as scanning other important documents for your wedding planning business, including receipts, contracts, or other vital documents.
Wedding Vendor Lists: An Ever-Evolving Process
In the wedding planning business, you will constantly meet new people, new business owners, and vendors who are also expanding their business. Building your network and growing your wedding vendor lists will always be a part of your business.
Be sure to make a connection and create a network that maximizes your talent and helps your clients experience the wedding of their dreams.