You're getting married, how exciting!

Now what? After your partner (or you) proposes, what do you do next?? Some people already have some things planned out, others start at ground 0. But EVERYONE can agree that one of the first things you need to start doing is booking vendors. Whether you're having a small elopement or an all out affair, you'll need professional services of some form.

These days, unfortunately, the price tag on anything "wedding" generally adds at least one extra $, which some people use to try to scam brides and grooms. Fake vendors and scammers are RAMPANT in the wedding industry. Sometimes they were actually wedding vendors once upon a time, and figured out how to work the system to their advantage, and some are just outright liars. Some people WANT to be wedding vendors but get in way over their head and eventually can't deliver what you're asking for, but they hope they will! As a wedding photographer, it is SO disheartening to see how many people have their big day ruined by these kinds of people. ESPECIALLY on the photography/ video side. You only get this day once, you want it captured right! Here are some general tips to help ensure you are talking with LEGIT vendors, and not scammy people.

Where do I even find leads??

This is such a great question! While social media can be so helpful and I get many leads from there, Facebook and Instagram is an absolute breeding ground for scammers. Anyone can join and anyone can make a business page.

In my opinion, the best places to get reputable referrals are:

  1. Friends and family who have used the vendor before. If it's your sister's best friend that's probably okay, but it's always best to use a vendor that someone you trust has had a great experience with. Truthfully, many vendors do not work for family and friends as it blurs professional and friendly boundaries.
  2. Your wedding venue probably has several vendors that are approved to work there! If you have a smaller or new venue or are using private property this may not be an option for you.
  3. Reputable sites like Zola, The Knot, and WeddingWire. Vendors have to pay for leads on these sites. Personally, I am on all 3 sites and had to be approved before even being listed. They take vendors very seriously and will not let just anyone be a vendor on their site.

Ok, I'm ready to start talking to vendors. How do I know they're real??

Again, ANYONE can pose as a wedding vendor online. Maybe they steal someone else's photos, maybe they have fake reviews, maybe they even have their own website that looks legit! It's time to put on your Investigator hat to make sure you are talking to a REAL person and a professional vendor.

Ask For a Phone or in person meeting

Maybe you've checked out their work, reached out via SM or email and you are really considering booking them. Please, please, PLEASE ask for a phone or in person meeting. Admittedly, in person may be tough as many vendors have day jobs and families. But at the very least, ask for a phone call or FaceTime. Truthfully, many vendors will offer this without you even asking. Professional vendors don't necessarily take on all clients. They want to get to know you to make sure they're a good fit and can handle the job you're hiring them for.

Internet Stalk them

I'm not kidding. A true wedding professional will not just have a Facebook and Instagram. They should also have business versions of these and a website. Even just beginners! Wedding professionals who have been around for a while will also likely be on Google, wedding sites like Zola, The Knot and WeddingWire, and maybe Thumbtack. The point is, if you Google their business name they should have a LOT of things pop up. The saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket" is so true! Leads come from EVERYWHERE and real professionals want to be SEEN. They are not hiding behind a fake Facebook account. If you can't find a lot of information on them, you'll want to ask where you can find more of their work.

A few things to look out for for professional websites:

  • It's cohesive.
  • They have their own domain (ideally, not necessary, but good to make note of).
  • They have a VARIETY of work. If they have photos from the same wedding over and over, they may not have much experience.
  • They have reviews/ testimonials.
  • THEIR FACE IS ON IT. You would be SHOCKED at how many people don't think an ABOUT ME page. It is so important to SEE your vendor's face more than once. These days professionals KNOW they have to be visible.
  • They have links to their other pages. Again, they should WANT you to check them out everywhere.

Ask questions!

Something that will really put off scammers is by asking them questions. They tend to get uncomfortable because they may not know the answers. They just want to get your money and disappear. Some general industry standard questions are:

  1. How long have you been in the industry?
  2. What is your workflow/ process like?
  3. What is your favorite part about working a wedding?
  4. Can you share some references with me?
  5. What kind of equipment do you use?
  6. Will you be the one providing the services or do you outsource?

  • Look for GENUINE answers. If it seems vague or they don't really answer the question, big red flag.
  • If they stop responding that's pretty evident in and of itself.
  • Ask clarifying questions. Even if they have a good answer, asking something more specific can put a good scammer off their game and they'll start to flub.

Some other General Red Flags

  • No contract, or an unprofessional looking one.
  • Full payment required up front. (50% non-refundable retainer or less is industry standard)
  • CONSTANTLY running "sales" or "specials".
  • Wanting to "help out a special bride" by advertising a huge discount. (No offense, this is my livelihood. I'm not in a position to just give you 80% off out of the goodness of my heart. I have bills too.)
  • Evasive, lack of communication.
  • Negative or few reviews in the last year.
  • Limited showcase of work.

Hopefully this gives you a little more clarity and confidence in choosing your wedding vendors! Happy shopping!