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Vendor Red Flags — From a Photographers Perspective

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February 15, 2022

I believe that the actual wedding and even the planning should be as fun and stress-free as possible and the best way to begin that process is to only hire professionals you trust. I know, I know. That sounds kind of obvious, but some couples end up regretting their vendor choices before the big day, or worse, they have unsatisfactory service on the big day or even after all is said and done. I want your wedding day to be as beautiful as you imagine it to be. And part of that is having a trusted wedding professional in your corner! They aren’t all created equal. I have a unique perspective of essentially being a fly on the wall at the weddings I shoot! When I need to, I like to fade into the background so I can capture all those candid moments. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly!

If you need any recommendations — just ask! I have a lengthy list of stellar vendors that I have worked alongside at countless weddings. If you’re shopping around for your vendors, avoid creating a horror story of your own by keeping an eye out for the following red flags when hiring wedding vendors.

Red Flag #1 – Poor Communication

If your vendors don’t return calls, texts or emails promptly or they aren’t great communicators even before you sign a contract, chances are that won’t change after you’ve signed on the dotted line and given them your deposit. If a vendor doesn’t get back to you within 48 hours max, cross them off the list.

Red Flag #2 – No Reviews

If you can’t find much about them online — or the only thing you can find are negative reviews walk away. Most wedding vendors have some sort of online presence these days. Even an amateur DJ should have a Facebook business page where people can leave reviews. If they don’t have a website, or the website looks old and outdated, you might want to consider how committed they are to their business. If there aren’t any reviews of their services online, you will want to ask them why. And if all you can find are negative reviews, you should question this as well.

Red Flag #3 – Outdated Website

Professionals should be keeping their website up-to-date for many reasons. First, a seriously out-of-date website can be a sign that a vendor is no longer providing services, which isn’t great news for you. Second, it’s important that you are seeing the latest work from that professional as their style may have slightly changed since they last updated their site. A professional’s website helps you set a certain level of expectations about them and their work, so the hope is that these expectations are based on what is current and not what used to be.

Red Flag #4 – Prices that are too good to be true

If prices are much lower than their competitors’ it may be a tempting offer, but it should be a red flag. Maybe they use subpar products or questionable staff…whatever the case, anything outside of the industry standard in your area should be questioned.

Red Flag #5 – No Full Galleries of Their Work

When it comes to hiring your wedding photographer, be sure to request full galleries of their work so you can truly get a sense of how they capture an entire wedding day in a variety of settings from the ceremony through the reception. Just because a professional produces beautiful work on Instagram doesn’t mean that they will have consistent coverage throughout a wedding. You should know that you are hiring someone who will provide the same attention to detail photos as they would on candid photos of Grandma enjoying your reception as the images they post on Instagram. While non-photographers may not have full galleries of their work to show, it’s still important to have access to a more in-depth look at their work than what social posts can provide. For instance, for a florist, what does their full wedding design look like versus weddings where they only designed the bridal bouquet? Remember, you aren’t asking too much of vendors to see more of their work before making your decision!

Red Flag #6 – Uneducated About the Industry

If they can’t answer questions about the wedding industry or they are unsure about what permits need to be obtained or filed, for example, this is a sign of inexperience. You want someone who can tell you what others have done and walk you through exactly what you — and the vendor — will need to do to make sure everything goes smoothly and is up to industry standards and codes so there aren’t any costly surprises that come up later.

Red Flag #7 – No Licensing or Insurance

If they can’t provide required documents upon request such as a business license or other things like insurance or a liquor license which are required for certain vendors or if they don’t want to show you proof of these documents, don’t risk it.

Red Flag #8 – They Don’t Listen to You

If they aren’t interested in hearing your preferences and working with you, ask yourself if this is really someone you want to be in charge of a significant part of your wedding day.

Red Flag #9 – Poor Reputation Within the Industry

If other vendors, or previous clients, speak negatively of them, listen. Let’s say you’ve decided on your reception venue and you’re talking to your coordinator about caterers. If he or she tells you to steer clear of a certain vendor, take this into consideration! And if you hear stories around town about “so-and-so worked with that photographer and had to wait eight months to get photos back…” think carefully before moving forward.

Red Flag #10 – No Paper Trail

You can only pay in cash. A discount for paying in cash is one thing, but if the ONLY way a vendor lets you pay is in cash (e.g., they don’t want the paper trail) this should be a huge red flag to you. If they aren’t filing taxes, they aren’t a legitimate business.

Red Flag #11 – Difficult to Understand Contract/No Contract At All

If their contract is hard to understand or it is so vague that you can barely tell what day or time they are agreeing to provide their services or it has so much fine print about additional (hidden) costs that your head is spinning you should definitely reconsider. Either way, if you can’t have it explained to you in plain English, you should ask an attorney to review the contract before signing anything.

Red Flag #12 – The Feeling in Your Gut

Something just doesn’t feel right. When you finally meet this person (and make sure you do meet face-to-face with all vendors) and you just get a strange vibe from him or her, pay attention to it. We know it might sound a little silly, but you should always trust your gut. If you’re questioning whether this person is going to be reliable or trustworthy …. don’t settle!

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