Because of our bug to start planning early in our engagement we were looking at venues and vendors in 2010, a full 2 years before our 2012 wedding (how did it get to 2012 already?). Thanks to my obsession with wedding blogs I had learned that some venues and vendors did not like to book weddings so far out, and I read horror stories of couples that paid their deposits and signed contracts with vendors far in advance only to find the vendor was unresponsive and/or out of business by the time their wedding day rolled around.
I will not lie, I was petrified that we would choose the wrong vendor and be stuck without our deposit(s) and scrambling to find a vendor at the last minute. I am also not someone that typically likes to be rejected, to me approaching a vendor and having them tell me to come back in a year would have felt like a rejection. So I hopped right back into researching and came up with a few steps that (so far) seem to be working out.
1) Read through the vendors website obsessively, checking for indications about how far ahead they are willing to book events
2) Check 3rd party wedding sites for reviews and reading each and every one of them (I did not jut check one site but 3 or 4)… and each vendor needed to have at least a 4 star rating
3) Check yelp.com, the vendor needed to have a 4 star rating
4) Identify how long they had been in business (liked the ones that had been in business for at least 5 years)
5) Checked the Better Business Bureau to make sure there were no complaints filed against a vendor
Every vendor we reached out to met the review requirement, we didn’t contact vendors that mentioned a hesitation with booking events in advance, and for the most part our vendors have been in business for a few years… there are some exceptions on the time requirement, namely our DOC (who has only had her business explode so I think we are safe there).
We started conversations with vendors at 2 years out and within a short time we were signing contracts starting with the reception venue, DOC, florist, and photographer. Every month or two we were signing a new contract it seemed, those have tapered off for the most part by now. I also actively stayed away from booking the transportation, there seemed to be enough stories to leave that contract for closer to the wedding (guess I should hop on that).
At this point we have been in contract with several vendors for well over a year. We have been able to build our relationships over this time which has been wonderful. We stay in touch by e-mail and include them in any wedding related mailing, when we have a scheduled trip to Kansas City we try to meet up with them in person. I can’t promise you that everything will be perfect with our vendors, but so far things seem to be working out very well. We have developed a true affinity for the work our vendors do (let’s be honest for them as people too) and we have been able to get to know them when we aren’t crazed and in crunch time. This kind of planning is definitely not for everyone but for us it has been working out perfectly.
For the long time planners out there do you have any extra pointers?