Wedding Vendor Etiquette: Making the Most of Your Vendor Experience

Hello lovelies!

ks-sweetheart-tablePhoto Credit: Chloe Moore Photography

If one thing is true about making a wedding come to life, it’s that the day undoubtedly rests in the hands of your vendors. From the enchanting florals, to the enticing eats, down to the exquisitely printed paperware, each vendor plays a fundamental and unique role in your wedding day shenanigans. That being said, making the most of your wedding day vendors is all based on having the best possible interaction with them. The goal is to leave both parties happy and optimistic to working together again in the future. We at Marisa Nicole Events strongly believe that you can always catch more flies with honey than vinegar… While dealing with vendors can be stressful, with the right know-how and a cheerful spirit to go with it, both parties will leave satisfied and smiling. So, here is our advice for getting the most out of your vendor experience!

leanneandmattwedding-1458Photo Credit: Booth Photographics

Getting Started

Three words… Plan in advance! Before you even think about contacting vendors, be sure to know what your budget is, both overall and specifically for the service the company you are meeting with offers. Once you do start connecting with potential vendors, let them know your price point and ask them what services they can include while staying true to that. Many brides worry that presenting a strict budget means vendors will shy away from giving her everything she wants for the wedding, but it is in fact the opposite! When vendors have an honest, clear budget to work with, and a straightforward idea of what you have in mind, each will do what they can to make it happen within your price range (and if they can’t, you’ll save a lot of time not communicating with vendors you can’t afford). As always, throughout the research process with potential vendors, kindness is key!

tracy-adam-wedding-4Photo Credit: Iris and Light Photography

Booking & Negotiations

Hooray! You’ve decided on a vendor to book, now you just need to solidify details and make things official! Here is where the precedence is set for what your relationship with each vendor looks like moving forward. Through all the planning, design, or what have you, remember that each vendor plays a massive part in making your day everything you want it to be, so treat your vendors with respect. In other words, don’t be that client who is a pain in the booty during this part of the communication and negotiation process, because you don’t want to end up paying top dollar simply because vendors think you’re a pill. When the potential vendors present you with their fees, understand that if you have been consistently specific and kind, it is their honest price. Trying to haggle a price point or talking them down can give off vibes that say you’re feeling as if the vendor isn’t worth what they think they are. Constant kindness from you means when it comes down to it, vendors will bend over backwards for you!

mel-and-andy-19Photo Credits: Ronca Productions

Wedding Logistics

As you approach the date of the event, don’t forget to communicate with your vendors! Don’t assume they’re off doing their job and don’t need to hear from you anymore. Ask for each vendor’s collaboration by sending your contact the working day of flow. See if what you have planned is setting their team up for success. When your contact gives you feedback, actually take it into consideration and try to work it into the day of plan. If what he or she is asking for just isn’t possible, be sure to communicate why, keeping the lines of communication open and allowing each vendor to feel as if his or her expert opinion is valued. If your vendors don’t feel heard, they are much less likely to give you their all on the big day. Just be clear and interactive.

ks-401-of-1130Photo Credit: Kim Fox Photography


When the big day arrives, the most important thing to keep in mind with vendors is to never, ever treat them like they are ‘the help’ (sorry if this sounds uncouth, but there just isn’t a better way to put it). Each one of wedding team members has shown up to make your special day even more wonderful, and should be treated as kindly and with as much respect as one of your guests. The key is to remember that although your vendors are providing a professional service on your wedding day, they are still people too, just doing his or her best to make your celebration fab. Oh, and please, please feed your vendors in a timely manner. We suggest having the vendors eat at the same time that your guests do, as you wouldn’t want them to have to miss a minute of the action once speeches and dancing commence (the photographer can’t snag photos of your bestie’s Maid of Honor rap if the vendor meal is served at the same time and a hungry band won’t able to perform their best with tummies rumbling).

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Post-Wedding Etiquette

In the same way that our mothers taught us to say “please” (see the “booking & negotiations” section above), they also taught us to say “thank you.”  We at Marisa Nicole Events truly believe that showing your hard working vendors how much you appreciate them is a must if you want your vendors to feel like you are happy with their work. This is where tips (and a kind note) come in. Which vendors should you tip, you ask? Our rule of thumb is that you tip the team members who are actually present during your wedding, pouring their blood, sweat and tears into making your day a success (whether or not the person on-site is an employee or the owner of the company)! If your vendor did a fantastic job and played a part in making your wedding as perfect as you had hoped, then put your money where your mouth is and give them a tip and a nice note to thank him or her for their service! If they’re not tipped, vendors will take it as a hint that they didn’t do a good job. Tip them, write thoughtful thank you notes, etc… Just give them love if they did their job well.

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The bottom line is, always be as sweet as possible to your vendors! As we said earlier, you will always catch more flies with honey. Kindness is the the key to having the most productive interactions, getting the best price, and having the best overall experience. Just remember that it’s your day, and your vendors are there to make it phenomenal! Happy booking!

beccarillo_20151204_5223Photo Credit: Becca Rillo Photography

Wedding Planning 101 – Strategically Organizing Your Timeline To-Do’s!

Good morning friends!

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Photo Credit: Ronca Productions

Wedding season is upon us and whether you are planning your wedding for this summer or thinking pretty far in advance, there are a thousand things to do between when you start planning out your wedding and the big day. We know that there are plenty of checklists out there that you can find to follow, however timeline templates can be problematic, as every couple’s work-flow, time-frame, and approach to wedding planning as a whole is different (therefore, following a wedding timeline template blindly may not be so helpful to many of you out there!). To help you tackle this whole wedding planning to-do list thing, we are sharing a bit of a work-flow guide for putting together a wedding, start to finish. Instead of throwing a bunch of dates and timetables your way (which may or may not work for you), we will present our theory of planning and the overall process on how we like to approach organizing the details of your day in a strategic way. It is important to make sure that each of your decisions make sense in a timely manner.

Kim Fox Photography

Photo Credit: Kim Fox Photography


Although some people take a lot of time to plan out a wedding, and others do it in just a few months, we have found the sweet spot for the best possible planning experience to be about 9-12 months. This is a good amount of time since you can get the vendors you want before it is too late and give yourself enough time to make decisions, but not too much time that wedding trends begin to change (or you drive yourself and all your vendors crazy because with time, you keep changing your mind). With that being said, if you want to start planning at 18 months, or 6 months, go for it! We have planned weddings for 200 people in just 4 months, so it is doable. But, from our experience, less than 9 months can make you feel crunched on time and more than 12 months could be giving yourself too much time.

Clean Plate Pictures.

Photo Credit: Clean Plate Pictures

Overall Process

So, where do you begin now that you have found the cushion of time you need to plan your big event? We think it best to start with the bigger items and then focus on flushing out the smaller details as you get closer to your wedding… here is what we mean: In the beginning of the process, you will spend more time on larger decisions (think venue and vendors that you value more highly and might get booked for another wedding if you don’t scoop them up). Towards the end, you will be working on a number of smaller decisions simultaneously. Some decisions can take a couple months to commit to. For example, it is okay to spend a couple months going through the tasting and estimates process with caterers to figure out which one is right for you. At the end of the planning process, you will be spending time on all the little things at once – the little details that don’t need attention until your big day is getting near. Don’t over-focus on the smaller details of your day until the bigger decisions are nailed down and you are closer to the event date (about 2-3 months out), as going back and forth on these finite details can drive you (and your vendors) mad. It is important to prioritize appropriately.

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Left & Right: KStone Photography

Getting Centered

People want to hit the ground running. However some work needs to be done before a single vendor is booked. If you are hiring a wedding planner (and we think you should, because we save your sanity and more or less pay for ourselves through the savings we get you), then that is the first place to start! Then, work through what is the most important to you and your significant other – what we at Marisa Nicole Events call “vision casting and values” (which is basically centering your wedding values and overall design vision for the wedding – get on the same page regarding what you are willing to spend time and money on and what you aren’t). Having a strong overall vision for your day are crucial to knowing the vendors you want to hire. After you know the wedding items that are most important to you, the design you are going for and your overall budget, you can begin the process of selecting your vendors, beginning with your venue.

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Left: Yaroslav & Jenny Photography Right: Vasia Photography

Tier of Vendors

Setting a venue is vital in determining the date and location, so you have a set idea of when everything needs to be planned out by. Know your venue and date before you hire a single vendor (other than your planner, of course). Begin with the big hitters (we tend to start with catering and photography). Once your catering is set, you can start working on rentals. From here you can also start looking at entertainment. The idea is to secure the vendors that get booked extremely fast and may not have availability on your date if you wait too long. Once you have officially nailed down your design, you can figure out your florist, invitations and rentals. We would suggest focusing in on printed items first, as you will want to send out save-the-dates as soon as possible (6-12 months out), once your location and date is set. The next tier of vendors are the ones that don’t cost as much (linens, cake, hair, makeup and specialty rentals, transportation and valet).

Jessica Lynn.

Photo Credit: Jessica Lynn Photography

Day of Flow

With all your vendors and designs set, you can now begin to work on your day of timeline. I would suggest doing this once you are 3-4 months out since there are a lot that needs to be done before then. If you do this too early, things will change and you will only be creating redundant work for yourself and vendors. While you are working on your day of timeline, you will also start working on the super small details of your day. This includes thinking through the minutia of the wedding such as sending out invites, tracking RSVPs, creating a photo list, creating a music list and pretty much anything else your vendors need from you. You will need to figure out precise details of the ceremony and design accessories – exactly what signage and how many candles you will need. These are all included in this work for the month that can affect your day of timeline.

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Left: Abby Jiu Photography Right: A Little Tipsy

Whew! With the month of your wedding approaching and all the details set, you will be able to do last minute things, make final payments, final counts and finalizing your day of timeline. There is no need to rush, we hope to have laid out for you everything that needs to be completed before your big day. Now you may strategically plan away!

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Photo Credit: Andrew Abajian

Let’s Get This Party Started: Picking the Right DJ For Your Day

Good morning friends!

A wedding is about celebrating two people joining their lives together and telling the story of their love (I know, sounds cheesy, but it’s true). It is a time to celebrate, which often includes plenty of dancing (I mean who doesn’t love good music and letting loose on the dance floor). Although we love a good band, many couples opt to hire a DJ for their dance party for one of two reasons: they prefer for the music they choose for their day to be heard in the specific format in which they first fell in love with the song and/or it is a better financial fit for their budget (as a DJ is usually at least a quarter of the price of a live band). With that being said, the style of the DJ you select will set the tone of your entire party, so it is important that you choose the right one. To that end, today we’re sharing a few guidelines on what to discuss during your entertainment consultations to help you find the perfect DJ for your celebration.  Your first step is to compile a list of potential DJ’s to consider for your day. We usually send these out to our couples, but if you don’t have a planner, then do some research, get some referrals, and then choose two to three DJ companies to meet with for consultations. During those meetings, be sure to cover the following items! Without further ado…

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Photo Credit: Iris & Light

Music Selection

Be sure to talk music with each of your potential DJ’s! Let them know the kind of music you are interested in playing at your wedding and get a sense of what they are drawn to. Try to determine what kind of musical chemistry you have. The vibes for any party is determined by the music that will be played throughout the night. The idea is not to hire your musical soul mate, but that you choose someone that gets what you are going for, is happy to take your music taste into consideration and is excited to execute the kind of style you are looking for.

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Photo Credit: Iris & Light

Communication & Process

Communication is important in every relationship, even one with your DJ. Understanding how they would like to be reached and what their expectations are prior to the event can help alleviate a ton of stress in the final stretch of your wedding planning process as you are communicating your song selections and musical desires for your day. Don’t forget to inquire regarding how much freedom they tend to like in terms of the actual music being played. Some DJ’s are happy for you to choose just about every song that is played, while others see what they do as an art and (other than the songs for specific moments like your ceremony and first dance) want you to allow him or her choose the music throughout the party based on the general genres that you like. Take some time to consider your own personality and how intense you are going to get when it comes to choosing the specifics of your dance party music and be sure to choose a DJ whose process will work well with yours.

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Photo Credit: Dennis Kwan Photography


Prior to your DJ consultations, be sure to think through in which areas of your venue sound is needed and then share this info with each prospective DJ. Most DJ’s will offer different packages that come with different items and speaker set-ups. When choosing a DJ package, make sure to gain an idea of what equipment comes with each option (such as the different kinds of mics they have, how many speakers, lighting, etc.). Some DJs also offer extra rentals such as up-lights, draping or dance floor lighting. Be sure to identify the equipment and rental options you are super interested in (and the ones you can do without), along with the number of speaker systems needed so you can get a strong price point at the end of your meeting (see far below for more on this).

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Photo Credit: Booth Photographics

Master of Ceremony Services

Don’t forget that your DJ company will serve as the voice of your wedding. He or she will be the one to communicate any and all important information to your wedding guests! Some couples want a DJ who is more communicative, making jokes and hosting the night throughout. While others want a DJ who will talk only when absolutely necessary. Most couples want something in between the two extremes. Take some time to think through the kind of personality and style you would like your DJ to have. Be intentional about getting a feel for the personality of the DJ you are considering. You need to have a good “gut” feeling about their style so that you can make sure they would be a good fit for what you want in an MC as well as a DJ. Side note – we at Marisa Nicole Events like to avoid the overly talkative DJ and go for the one who communicates with party goers in a clear, strong, concise yet friendly manner. We think it is important that your DJ be remembered for the good times he or she provided throughout the party and not for their charisma or wit.

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Photo Credit: Lukas & Suzy VanDyke Photography

Packaging, Pricing, Logistics

When looking at the packaging options, look for how many DJ’s come with each package and how much equipment is offered with the package. To help figure out what you will need, talk through the layout of your venue and what you will need from them. This way, you will know what package is suitable for you by determining if everything you need is included in that package. Keep in mind that every DJ’s hours of operations can be different. Some will charge by the hour, while others will charge for the day. So check and see how this will fit into your DJ package.

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Photo Credit: Iris & Light

When picking your DJ, the most important thing is to make sure you feel competent that he will be able to keep the party going the way you want it to. With these tips in mind, you will find the right DJ to help set the tone of your party and keep the celebrations going all night long! Once you find the right company, book him or her right away or the DJ you have come to love could end up getting scooped up by someone else!

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Photo Credit: Kim Fox Photography

To Look or Not to Look? That Is The Question

Good morning friends!

Spring is in the air and wedding season is in full bloom! Whether you are flushing out the day-of logistics for your celebration this year, or thinking through what you want your wedding to look like next year, one of the first questions any photographer or planner will ask you is if you plan on doing a “first look.” If you’ve never heard of this, it is a wedding trend that has taken on both a ton of traction and a lot of controversy over the past five years. When you have a first look, the photographer will choose a spot with great light where the couple can have an intimate moment and see each other for the first time prior to walking down the aisle. The first look is a great idea for some, while sticking to a more traditional route is better for others. But how do you know where you land and what is right for you? Today we want to help you better understand key factors to consider when thinking through this important decision so that you can determine what will be best for you and your sweetheart on your special day.

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“That Moment”

You know what we mean when we say “that moment.” It is the moment that everyone dreams of when they think of getting married and they see their soon-to-be spouse for the first time. No one knows exactly how they will feel on the big day before they get married, but you imagine you’ll be a bit nervous, a little giddy, and really excited when “that moment” happens.  Some brides have a difficult time giving up the idea of “that moment” taking place in any form or place other than the aisle. If that is you, no worries. We know a lot of couples who love having “that moment” at the altar and could never do it any other way. With that being said, it is a common misconception that you can’t still have “that moment” during a first look. Believe me when I tell you that you totally can (and some couples even like it better)! When you choose to do a first look, you keep the special nature of the moment but without the pressure of all your guests’ eyes on you while it is taking place. Either way (whether you choose to have a first look or wait to see each other until you walk down the aisle), “that moment” will happen, it is just up to you to determine where and when you want it to take place!

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Tradition, Values & Personality

If a strong sense of tradition is a key value in your wedding, the first look may not be the best path for you. Participating in set traditions on your wedding day can be a lot of fun and, based on your personality, can really help make your wedding special. Therefore, if sticking with tradition is your plan, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if you are having a less formal, more unconventional day (or you just really want to enjoy your own cocktail hour), then having a first look is something you should definitely consider! Some couples want that feeling of the tension rising until the moment that the ceremony starts. However others really enjoy getting the whole ‘seeing each other’ part over with and being able to let loose, have fun and experience their ceremony at ease. Having a first look gives us the ability to really play with the day of flow and gives us the freedom to make your wedding day all your own! Again, you need to consider your sense of tradition, the feeling of your wedding, and your personalities to determine if a first look is or is not the right choice for you.

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Let’s be honest, a solid wedding photographer usually costs a pretty penny. The truth of the situation is that the first look helps you ensure the best quality product from your photographer possible, as they have more time to shoot everything you hired them to capture and that is important to you. As event planners, we love when a couple chooses to have a first look, as it helps everyone stay on time and not feel rushed during cocktail hour. You can only imagine how hard it is to try to cram all your more posed photos (family, bridal party, and romantics) in the confines of a 60 minute cocktail hour (and trust me when I tell you that extending cocktail hour is simply not a great option in terms of flow for your guests). If your aunt goes to the bathroom or the groomsmen get lost on their way to the bar, it can be like herding cats trying to get everyone pinned down in one place at the moment when we need them, and photographers usually ends up sacrificing some of the time he or she was planning to spend getting those foxy shots of the bride and groom that everyone wants. On the other hand, if you don’t do a first look, you might not need your photographer for quite as long on your wedding day (about an hour less, since most of the posed stuff will be done during cocktail hour), which may end up saving you money if your photographer’s package is based on an hourly rate.

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Ultimately the decision of whether or not to have a first look is 100% up to you, and while your photographer may want you to (it is easier for them), you and your future spouse need to pick the option that best suits your vision of that day. Any planner or photographer worth their salt won’t force you in a direction that simply isn’t right for you. Here at Marisa Nicole Events, we do first looks often and think they are a super helpful, allowing you to get the most bang for your buck and making it easier stick to the day of schedule. However it is important for you to consider the dynamics that we have described above to see if the first look is a good option for you, or if it is better for you and your honey to keep with tradition and not see each other until you walk down the aisle. Wherever you find yourself landing on this issues, there is no right or wrong answer, just what is right or wrong for you!