Welcome back to the Positive Force Event Planning 101 series. Time is flying and we’re already on the topic of choosing vendors!
Keeping your Budgeting Excel Spreadsheet nearby will make this step much easier because you’ve already outlined what you have, what you need, and your budget. If you only just found this blog and have not yet made a Budgeting Excel Spreadsheet, be sure to check out our previous posts focused on Setting Your Goals, Budgeting, and Choosing a Venue before getting started.
Depending on the type of event you are hosting, you may need a caterer, bartenders, servers, tables and chairs, video and or audio professionals, a photographer, a florist, and a DJ or band. Or you may only need one or two vendors. Whichever category you fall into, when it comes to hiring vendors, I approach it by answering the three questions people ask most often:
1) Where do I find the vendors I need?
2) What are the important things should I consider when deciding on a vendor?
3) What kind of items/services should be included in my contract with a vendor?
Ready? Let’s dive in…
Where Do I Find Vendors?
- Your venue: Even if the venue you’ve chosen doesn’t offer packages that include vendors, they most likely have a “preferred vendors” list to share with you. These lists include vendors that regularly work events held at that venue, which can be quite helpful because it means they are familiar with the layout and the way the venue operates. Still, you’ll want to do your homework by researching each vendor to be sure they will meet your expectations and can work within the parameters set by the venue.
- Google: Considering “Google” is now a verb in the dictionary, it’s really a no-brainer that you can head straight to this search engine to assist you. If you have specific needs such as a “vegetarian caterer” or a “jazz musician”, just type that into the search field and boom! Results.
- Craigslist: Did you know that Craigslist has a section for vendors? It does! If you aren’t familiar, head to the website, scroll down to “Services Offered”, click “Event”, and type whatever kind of vendor you’re looking for into the search field at the top.
- Pinterest: This may not come to mind straight away but it’s a great place to search for vendors. Simply go to the website (you’ll have to sign up for an account if you aren’t already a member…but don’t worry, it’s easy and free!) then use the “Search” box up at the top left of the screen to search for whatever kind of vendor you need and your city. For example, searching for “florist, Houston” produced dozens of pictures of gorgeous flowers from Houston area florists for hire.
- Your favorite restaurant: If you are in need of a caterer, check with your favorite restaurant to find out if they offer catering services. Many do!
- Recommendations from friends: Always a good idea, taking a recommendation from a friend or family member is a great way to find a vendor you can trust.
Remember, no matter how you find your vendor, do your research to ensure you’re getting what you need at a price that you can afford.
What Are Important Things to Consider When Deciding on a Vendor?
- Reputation: Ensure that the vendor you’re considering is reputable by asking for references and doing some online research. Visit their website (Is it professional and up-to-date?), Yelp (How many stars do they have? Do they have positive or negative reviews from customers?), and check out their social media platforms such Facebook (Are they engaged with their fans?).
- Competency: Ask about their training, experience, recent work, and how long they’ve been in the business. A competent vendor will have no problem answering these questions. As seasoned event planner and owner of NYC-based Elite Style Events Jessica La-Rotta explains, “Knowing your vendor’s deliverables and work ethic really can enhance the flow of the event making your job a lot easier!”
- Perception: Trust your gut when it comes to hiring vendors. If they’re saying all the right things but there’s still something off, don’t go hire them. Period. If you’ve heard good things from others, they seem competent, the price is right, and you feel comfortable talking to them and asking questions, congrats! It looks like you’ve found the right vendor for the job! BUT before you sign a contract, let’s go over some considerations…
What Kind of Items Should Be Included In My Vendor Contract?
– The 4 W’s (and an H): Who, What, When, Where, and How of the event and their responsibilities for each should be clearly outlined. Don’t leave any “gray areas”. Be specific and get everything in writing.
– “P” Is For Policy: Be sure the contract includes a Cancellation Policy (in the case that either of you needs to cancel), a No-Show Policy (if they do not show up on the day of your event), and a Back-Up Policy (what happens if they cannot show up). These are worst-case scenarios but in the event that any one does occur, it’s better to be prepared and on the same page.
– The Devil Is In the Details: Ensure all special requests, the name of your contact person (both leading up to and on the day of the event), all of the product/service details (ex.: the color or quantity of a product you need or the number of servers you will have) are included. No detail is too small when it comes to event planning.
– Money, Money, Money!: Payment details are so important they deserve their own section. Be sure you outline all fee totals, due dates, and extra fees that may be charged (for overtime and travel) so that you are both covered.
And now, a few more tips for you as you begin your vendor search!
- Provide a secure place for vendors and their staff to store belongings and take a quick break when they need a rest. Including small snacks and refreshments is a nice touch and is greatly appreciated. This small gesture can make a huge difference in their enthusiasm to assist you and your guests.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your vendors specific questions about their services and their past work.
- Correspond with your vendor as much as necessary. Don’t be afraid you’re “bothering them”. On the other hand, don’t abuse their time by emailing or calling them constantly.
- Save yourself a lot of time and stress by being upfront with vendors about your budget.
- Hire friends for their talent, not for any deals promise you. (Make sure to still get everything in a detailed contract.) The quickest way to ruin a friendship is through bad business.
- If you have a very specific vision in mind, provide pictures to help the vendor understand what you’re going for.
- Begin looking for vendors shortly after booking your venue so you don’t feel rushed to sign a contract.
- Get your detailed contract in writing before laying down any deposits.
- Save your receipts!
Share your questions and experiences in hiring vendors with us here, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@PosForceHouston). Tune in next as we discuss how to organize your guest list and the invitation process for your event!