Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wedding Wednesday - Supplier Success


Welcome to another wedding Wednesday post - how are all you brides, grooms and interested others doing? This time I thought I'd make it all about the people you choose to help produce your wedding: your suppliers. No doubt if you are newly engaged this will be one of the first things you're thinking about, once you've got your venue and date sorted. It can be a daunting prospect with more wedding suppliers out there than ever and all of them claiming to be 'the UK's best' 'multi award winning' 'loved by' various blogs or 'amazing value'. If you're a bit further along the process you may have bookd most of your suppliers by now but need to make sure they know how you want them to fit into your day. I'm going up run through the suppliers you'll probably need to think about, when to do what and how to keep them in the loop as your wedding progresses. Being a recent bride and a wedding supplier myself, both as a service with my band, The bb Collective, and as a product with my homemade favours and d├ęcor, I have a pretty good understanding from both sides of the client / supplier relationship. There's a nifty spreadsheet you can download to help keep track of them all and make you feel all efficient too - gotta love a spreadsheet!

Jumping In

So, you've finally decided on a venue and a date and now it's time to jump in and start approaching suppliers and gathering quotes. Here's a few tips I worked out along the way when we were planning our wedding day:

1. Who are we looking for? Sit down with your other half and anyone else involved in the planning process (wedding planner / parents / bridesmaids) and make a list of which suppliers you want for your wedding day. What does your venue provide? Often hotels will require you to use their in house caterers and will have a list of preferred suppliers for flowers, entertainment etc where as if you’re having a marquee in the garden you’ll have to think about toilets, bar and furniture as well as having free choice on everything else. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages but making a list early on will keep you on track. It’s worth noting that while venues may have preferred supplier lists you are usually allowed to go “off-list” as long as you get the OK from them and the supplier covers the venue’s Health and Safety requirements.

2. Book whatever is most important to you first. You might be desperate to get the photographer you have had your eye on since you first saw them featured on a wedding blog, have seen a great band at a friends wedding that you want at your own or know exactly which caterer you want to feed your guests. Get in touch, request a quote and ask them to pencil your date so you get first call on them if someone else enquires about the same day. You don't have to confirm them but at least you are firmly on their radar so you don't lose out to another couple with the same excellent taste!

3. Sort the people before the products. There will only be one of the photographer / singer / make up artist that you have your eye on which means they will of course only be able to book one wedding per day. Cakes, furniture, AV equipment, photo booths, ice cream bicycles – all of these are products and will be able to go out to multiple weddings on one day or deliver early if needs be. So focus on the people first to ensure you get them booked in early.

4. Get multiple quotes. Even if you are dead set on a specific supplier it’s worth getting a few quotes in to reassure yourself you are paying around the right level and to see what other people are offering – you might uncover a gem you weren’t expecting or realize your chosen supplier is much more expensive than others offering the same thing.

5. Haggle. I know we’re British and we hate it but you honestly can save a lot of money simply by asking. Wedding suppliers would rather have a fully booked diary and know they are on track for the year ahead than book every wedding at their optimum price. If nothing can be done on the price, see if you can get something extra out of them – they may well agree to arrive a bit earlier than usual or throw in a bonus if you ask nicely…

6. Commit. Don’t look around forever – once you’ve narrowed it down and got the shortlist to give you their best price make a decision and get yourself signed up – it’s so satisfying to get things ticked off!

Bridal cars: Photography credit Tino & Pip
Keep in Touch

Most suppliers will ask you to fill in a booking form of some sort to confirm the date and get some details about how you see your day going. Don’t panic that you don’t have a confirmed running order yet – a brief idea will always do, they just want to be able to plan their arrival time and know roughly what will happen over the course of the day. Once you’ve filled in the booking form and have sent it back they should confirm you are booked and let you know if they need anything else from you at this stage. In the run up, here are a few key times to get in touch:

1. After your venue visit. Once you’ve been and seen your venue and discussed timings and details with them, drop an email to your supplies with anything the venue requires for them, plus an update on your timings and plans for the day. If you’re having a marquee, you will probably have a site visit with them and then a chat with your caterers which will determine the same things. A few things to consider at this stage and ask your venue contact if they don’t let you know:
a. Parking – where can suppliers park and is this free? Note how far parking is to the room you will need your supplier to get to – is there somewhere else they can unload if it’s a trek?
b. Requirements – what do they need from your suppliers? Often venues will ask to see Public Liability Insurance, PAT Test Certificates for electrical equipment etc – this shouldn’t be a problem for your suppliers but is worth getting sorted early.
c. Room – often suppliers are onsite for over 12 hours and will require a room to get ready in and go back to when they’re not needed, ask your venue where they suggest for this.
d. Sound limiters – as a member of an 8 piece band this is a particular thorn in my side. Sound limiters (read fun police) are often in place in venues to stop your music being played over a certain level. I could go on about these but suffice to say check it out and let your band or DJ know any limits that are in place so you can work around it together.
e. Food – The suppliers who will be onsite all day will require feeding at some point – ask your venue or caterer what they suggest for this. Don’t let them convince you to spend lots of money on it – there should be a low cost “crew food” option they can give you which will satisfy everyone. 

2. 6-8 weeks before. This is the point that you should have a clear idea of what your schedule is for the day so you can confirm when you would like them to arrive, when you need them to be ready to go, what time you are doing the speeches / meal / first dance etc. This is also a good time to let your supplier know any specific requests you may have for the day – a list of family shots you’d like taken, key moments you want captured on video, a first dance you’ve chosen etc – try to give at least this much notice so they can get it covered.

3. 1-2 weeks before. A great time to touch base, say how excited you are and make sure you’ve covered everything – suppliers will usually do this themselves but it’s worth contacting them if not.

Our alternative wedding cake: Photography credit Tino & Pip
On the Day

If I can leave you with only one thing, it’s this: delegate. Assign an usher / bridesmaid / sibling / chum to each of your suppliers and make them the go to person for them to speak to on the day. Download everything to do with that supplier from your head to theirs – timings, phone numbers, when they're being fed, requests etc. There shouldn’t be too many questions on the day but at least if there are it won’t be you or your new spouse that gets involved in it! I’ve allocated columns for everything you might need to give your chosen contact person on the subject so you can easily send this over to them.

Oomph Band: Photography credit Tino & Pip
Post Wedding

Make sure you let your suppliers know if you were happy – and also if you weren’t! Feedback is so important to anyone working in the wedding industry – one of my dreams is to set up a Trip Advisor style website for the Wedding Industry so people can’t get away with bad service and get glowing reports for being brill…maybe one day!

Here is a template version of the Supplier Spreadsheet I used for my own wedding. There will be lots of suppliers you can take out as you won’t be needing them and others you may need to add in but hopefully it will get you on the right track. There are two sheets – one for comparing quotes before you choose your suppliers and one for your confirmed and booked suppliers. Delete the first row of each sheet once you’ve had a look – this is just there as an example.

I hope this post was helpful – do leave me a comment with any questions or if you have words of wisdom to add! x


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