Questions to Ask Every Vendor Before They’re Booked
Working with vendors is an essential component of being a professional Event Planner. In the beginning, you’ll be spending a lot of time sourcing vendors with good reputations and building relationships with them. Over time, you will have a roster of dependable event planning vendors that delivered on their promises and you enjoyed working with.
Comparison shopping will be a critical first step for sourcing vendors. Once you’ve short-listed a few promising candidates you’ll schedule vendor meetings to gather more data. Your vendor meetings will be similar to an interview. Knowing what questions to ask will give you an advantage. We’ve listed the top 10 questions to ask during your meetings to help you find the event planning vendor that best suits your needs and budget.
1. Do you have my event date available?
This is a no-brainer. There’s no point asking any of the other questions if the vendor doesn’t even have your date available!
2. Have you had professional training? If so, where did you receive your training (florists, caterers, etc.)?
Since you’ve not worked with this vendor before you’ll want to get a sense of their skill level and compare it to the other vendors. For added security, you could also check out the program or school’s reputation in the industry.
3. How long have you been in business? How many weddings do you do per year?
It’s important to know how much experience your event vendor has in the industry. A vendor who has done hundreds of weddings will be a valuable source of information and better at avoiding potential pitfalls than a less-experienced vendor.
4. What is your pricing structure?
Before you schedule vendor meetings you need to have a ballpark idea of the budget you are working with. How else will you know whether a particular vendor fits within your budget constraints? Keep in mind that more experienced vendors typically come at a higher price point but their well-developed skills are usually worth the extra fees.
5. Is a deposit required? If so, how much would it be?
Not all vendors require a deposit while others require the full fees be paid immediately so it’s important to know this up-front. Deposits can be anywhere from ¼ to ½ of the fee due at the time of booking. Typically, the remaining balance would be paid on the event date or broken down into monthly payments.
6. What specifically is included in the cost?
Don’t assume anything when working with vendors. You need to be told explicitly what is included in the fees. Getting this information right away will help with comparison shopping since the lowest cost might not be the best deal when you factor in extra fees. Find out if the quoted fees are all-inclusive or if you also need to take taxes, service charges or travel expenses into account.
7. What happens if I need to cancel? What happens if you (the vendor) cancels?
You’ll want to know if the deposit is non-refundable or if there are specific conditions to having the deposit refunded if you cancel the booking. When it comes to vendors cancelling, find out if they have a back-up plan and if not, be aware that you should make one so there’s no risk of you scrambling to replace them right before the event.
8. Can you provide me with a contract?
Not all vendors will provide you with a contract but you definitely need to find one that will. Contracts act as a guarantee that protects yourself as the planner as well as your client. Without a contract, there are really no repercussions if the vendor doesn’t deliver what they’ve promised on the day of the event. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security with a verbal agreement since it won’t hold up in court like a contract!
9. Do you have liability insurance?
Accidents happen no matter how well you’ve prepared. The last thing you want is to be on-the-hook financially for an accident that happened at your event. This is why you should only hire vendors with liability insurance. Ask for a copy of their policy and check that the policy meets or exceeds 1 million dollars of coverage.
10. Can you provide me with 3-4 recent references? Do you have a portfolio I can review?
Most vendors will have a portfolio you can check out to see examples of their past work. Keep in mind that a portfolio is put together to showcase the vendor’s best work so you can’t solely rely on a portfolio to vouch for the vendor. Your vendors should also have a list of satisfied past clients that can vouch for the quality and dependability of their service.
These questions will help you differentiate the quality vendors from the less reputable ones. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to ask more specific questions of each vendor. The questions you need to ask your caterer will be different from what you should be asking your florist before booking! Download this free checklist to conveniently access these important, specific questions during your meetings and easily keep track of the vendors’ answers. Save the checklist for interactive use on your computer or print it out if you prefer to take notes by hand.