There has been many conversations going on in my wedding professional circles about referrals (or preferred vendors, as its sometimes called) ; what they mean to each of us, what criteria we use to choose them, and about those “paid” referrals. Strangely, there seems to be both a general concensus and some confusion about what a referral is and should be. So, I wanted to do a blog to clarify referrals to couples, so that they may have a better understanding of just what it means when a vendor gives them one and how to differentiate between referrals born out of experience with a vendor from paid referrals.
While I can’t speak for all wedding professionals, I can definately speak for myself and what a referral from me means. When I referr someone, it is like an extension of my professional reputation. I do know from conversations with other professionals in my circles that, for the most part, many follow the same or similar criteria for choosing why and who they referr. So, what has to happen before a vendor is referred by me?
1. They have to have worked with me in the past: If I have never seen them in action, how do I know that they are any good at what they do? There are so many wonderful and seemingly professional people I meet through networking in our industry and I’d love to recommend them all. However, as much as I may like them personally, if I haven’t seen their work , seen them in action, and the results of said work , I simply can not put them on that list. This is because they have not yet demonstrated to me, the other criteria below. And, even if I did work with them, but they do not meet the below criteria, they simply will not be on my referral list.
2. Professionalism: Did they act and dress professionally? Did they arrive on time? Did they carry themselves in a manner becoming a true wedding professional? Were they at the ready when things came up or did I have to wait for them to pull their head out of their Iphone (this happened once.. very aggrevating). Were they prepared with the right equipment?
3. Communication and Responsiveness Were they communicative and responsive? As the planner of the venue, communication with the vendors is so very important. It is my job to make sure the couple gets everything they want or expect. I run the timing and throughout the event I check in with the couple to make sure that their needs are met or if there is anything else that they require. That sometimes means last minute changes to the event schedule, bridal paty line up for entrances etc. The couple relies on me to communicate these changes. So, when I communicate these things to the other vendors, how they react (or don’t) tells me how well they work with others and with me. If they don’t follow my direction, they make me look bad as well as themsleves. I don’t like to look bad.
4. Were the clients happy? If there is a complaint from a couple, particularly leading up to the event, I’ll hear about it. For example, if they are getting little to no responses when they call (within reason, of course) this indicates a problem for me. I can tell you that there are some weddings in the past as well as some upcoming in which couples have complained that they are not receiving a call back from their vendors. As a matter of fact, just this week a caterer that a couple hired for food at my venue has been completely unresponsive to both them AND me. Two weeks out from their wedding and they have failed to connect with me (the venue) in order to go over what they need or don’t need from me for food set up, and have missed or cancelled appointments with the couple to secure last minute details . This aggrevates them, makes them nervous and stresses them out. It also aggrevates me to no end. Vendors don’t have to answer their phone at all hours of the day, but when a couple sends email or even leaves a voice mail with some questions or concerns they should respond within 24 hours- not a week later or even worse, never! I always try to respond within a reasonable time. Answering questions that may not seem like a big deal to the vendor, may be something that is completely stressing the couple out. If the vendor gets back to them they can easily make the couple feel at ease and reflects on the vendor as being attentive, responsive and that they care. Needless to say, this caterer lost the job (no worries, they have secured another caterer, and if they hadn’t I would have helped them get it done) .
Keep in mind, that not all vendors are perfect all the time. We all have our good and our bad days. One mistake doesn’t put a vendor on the out. My list is ever growing and evolving, as I am fortunate to have worked with some very awesome talents in the industry that my couples have found on their own without my referral.
Who is your favorite?
This question gets asked of me often. I can honestly say that of all those on my list, I do not have a favorite. Even if I did have a favorite, it would be completely irrelevent to you as who you choose depends on your personal style , your personality and your budget. You have to find the vendor that matches that. The best way to do that is to call them and meet with them. Just know that every single one on that list, no matter how different they may be stylistically, have all met the above criteria.
Paid referral vs. Personal referral
Many professionalss, and particulary venues, have “books” ; which are basically nice magazine like publications that highlight the venue and have advertising in them from related wedding vendors. I have one of those for my venue. Its important, however, to distinguish between those in the book and an actual referral (or as some call it preferred vendor). Those vendors paid to advertise in that book and just because they are there doens’t mean that the venue actually endorses them (although some venues do have books comprised of only preferred venues). Couples should ask the venue or event planner who their “preferred” vendors are. More likely than not, those on that list meet the same, if not similar, criteria I look to for my list.
If they’re not on my referral list it doesn’t mean they are not good at what they do.
Lastly, it’s important to note that simply because a vendor is NOT on the referred list doesn’t mean that the vendor is not a great vendor. It may simply mean that the professional that is doing the referring has not had experience with the vendor to stake their own reputation on referring them to clients. Looking at reviews on The Knot or Wedding Wire is another great way to vet vendors.