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Knowing that so many of you are newly (ish!) sporting an engagement ring, we’ve been working our way through wedding planning must-dos here on the blog for the past few weeks. After several rounds of budget advice, it’s time to move on to vendors: finding them, hiring them, and working with them! For all of our best wedding planning advice in one place, be sure to pick up your copy of the Joyful Wedding Planner!

For many of us, planning a wedding is the first time we’ve had to hire someone – maybe ever, and almost certainly for something creative! It can feel like a lot of pressure to get it right, because your wedding vendors are the folks who will transform your big, precious ideas into a celebration that can be enjoyed by the people you love most. We’ve got a whole roster of vendors we love for browsing, but today we’re taking it one step further and really breaking down the question “how do I find vendors for my wedding?”

Use your network. Naturally, some of the best recommendations come from people you trust. Loved the flowers at your best friend’s wedding? Ask her who she used. And remember, negative reviews can be just as helpful as positive ones!

Ask your vendors. Found a vendor you 100% click with? Ask him for other vendor recommendations. Photographers and planners, especially, work with countless vendors every weekend and can have great insight into the best options in your area.

Look to blogs and magazines. Wedding blogs and magazines can be a wealth of vendor leads, in a number of different ways. Search for real wedding or editorials that took place in your area and follow up with anyone whose work you love. Check to see if they have a vendor directory, usually a hand-picked selection of vendors that have been vetted in some way (ours is called the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory). And don’t forget print and online advertisements – if you love a publication, chances are you’ll love the vendors that care enough to advertise with them.

There’s a common belief that vendors and venues charge more for the same services as soon as the word “wedding” is mentioned. Surprise! That’s probably true – but for good reason. A once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding comes with an entirely different set of expectations, pressure, time spent planning, service, and creativity than your average cocktail or bridal party, and a higher price often reflects that. Though it can be hard to justify the expense on the front end of a wedding, talented vendors are worth every penny in the end!

I’d love to hear: how did you find your vendors? Who are your favorites?

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Joseph Requerme Photo reply

    Usually your suppliers will recommend someone that they trust, so, ask your supplier. Those points you have mentioned are really helpful.

  2. avatar Christine reply

    Yes to all of the above. Also, Instagram can be a great resource to find vendors. Follow beautiful wedding accounts and check to see who they tag. You can discover many wonderful vendors using that method! I found most of my wedding vendors via wedding magazines and trusted wedding websites and blogs (like this one!). I also turned to my wedding planners and their relationships for additional vendor intros. Honestly, the vendor finding process was so much fun!

  3. avatar Bri A reply

    These are such helpful tips because there are so many options out there! I especially love asking vendors that you have a rapport with, because working with someone brings a unique perspective!

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To round out the last few weeks of wedding budget advice (in honor of our newest e-book!), we’re going straight to the source: the smart, talented, creative, resourceful couples that grace our site day in and day out! I combed through several years of real wedding interviews to find 20 of my favorite ways our readers have saved money on their weddings, allowing them to have the celebrations of their dreams without sacrificing their budgets. Whether you’re a DIY-er or not, I know there’s an idea (or two!) here that will get your wheels turning!

Photo by Kelli Durham from Elle and Kegan’s wedding

“Rather than hire a popular cake baker, we hired a local lady who makes delicious cakes! She saved us a fortune!” – Elle and Kegan

“I found it helpful to make a dream ‘wishlist’ of things, from special foods to flowers to specific materials you want to incorporate into the weekend, and see it all listed out in one place. From there, it’s easier to figure out what you can afford to let go of and what’s an absolute must-have. The vendors are experts, so if there’s something you don’t want to compromise on but you don’t have the budget for, they likely have another idea on how to get the same point across for less money.” – Brent and Graham

Photo by Anna Paschal from Olivia and Scott’s wedding

“Having a custom invitation suite and calligraphed envelopes was really important to me. In order to stay within my budget for invitations and paper, I decided to forgo paper items like individual menus and programs. I also decided to learn the art of modern calligraphy so I could address the invitations, create the place cards, and hand-paint the table numbers and signage myself. I walked away from my wedding day with the man of my dreams and a new skill to boot! – Olivia and Scott

“We used a ticket system for our bar, where every guest was given three drinks. After that, they could purchase more (or use a friend’s ticket)! This was great because it allowed us to serve our guests while also having a budget and no surprises.” – Whitney and David

Photo by Jenna McElroy from Madeline and Jordan’s wedding

“We used acrylic plates, flatware, and cups, as well as paper napkins (cute ones, of course). I couldn’t even remember this stuff from other weddings I had attended, so I felt it was a great way to cut costs. I also did not make programs for our ceremony. Instead of lots of florals for our ceremony background, I chose to spend only $300 having a banner made, and used it as our only ceremony decor. I felt that God’s creation surrounding us in the Texas Hill Country was the best decor we could have asked for.” – Madeline and Jordan

“For the ceremony, we used a lot of greenery and candles for the front of the church, instead of large floral arrangements. Central Presbyterian Church’s sanctuary has massive, colorful stained-glass windows throughout and lots of natural light, vaulted ceilings, and large lanterns; it’s a beautiful place and didn’t need much extra.” – Anne Elise and Nick

Photo by Jennings King from Kristen and Rick’s wedding

“We married on a Friday evening and saved an enormous amount! I also replaced some florals with lanterns (and pineapples, of course!). Lastly, instead of renting a dance floor, we arranged the tables so that there was enough space to dance on the venue’s existing patio.” – Kristen and Rick

“Music is very important to Andrew especially, and we went with a DJ over a live band to cut costs; however, with a live performance for our first dance and the harpist at our ceremony, we were able to get the feeling of live music without a band’s price tag. Our first dance was performed by Andrew’s brother-in-law, professional musician Will Evans. “Life is Just a Photograph” is one of our longtime favorite songs written by Will, and it speaks to lifelong love and commitment. It was very special and emotional to have one of our close family members perform this song live as we danced together for the first time as a married couple.” – Lauren and Andrew

Photo by Jen Fariello from Janie and Adam’s wedding

“We cut costs by choosing a venue in our family and performing the landscaping ourselves. We spent two months beautifying the grounds of the house. Although we worked tirelessly, we recognized that any imperfections would hopefully just make the outcome even sweeter! We also cut costs by having close friends play the processional and recessional music, as well as by having an iPod and speakers for music at the cocktail hour.” – Janie and Adam

“There was a bride getting married at our venue the Monday following our wedding, so we tried to find ways to share items and split the costs. Our lighting company was nice enough to extend their pickup so we could do just that!” – Tracy and Ryne

Photo by Becca Lea from Callie and Chris’s wedding

“My grandma and mom made all of our napkins. They sewed fabric that fit into our blue color scheme and worked on them over the course of our engagement. My mom also started buying Walmart out of all their silver utensils so we would have plenty for our family-style meal without having to rent them.” – Callie and Chris

“One thing I did to save money was to do all of the hair and makeup myself! The morning of the wedding was so fun–we relaxed and the bridesmaids did each other’s makeup while I curled everyone’s hair, including my own. I’ve always been notorious for playing with my friends’ hair while hanging out, so why would I do it any differently on my wedding day?” – Julie and Jonathan

Photo by Elisabeth Carol from Brittany and Eric’s wedding

“We knew from the beginning that we wanted a small wedding with just our closest friends and family, and although our decision had nothing to do with cost, it ultimately did help out quite a bit. Since we had a much smaller guest list, it became easier to put the emphasis on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of guests in attendance.” – Brittany and Eric

“A great feature of our venue was that we could bring in our own alcohol. Instead of doing an open bar with our caterer, Michael and I selected and bought all of the wine, champagne, liquor, beer, and specialty cocktails. Not only did this save money, but we were able to select top shelf and the drinks that we enjoy. What bottles we had leftover (since we definitely over bought), we were able to return to Total Wine and Costco for even more savings.” – Lauren and Michael

Photo by Sarah & Ben from Dacie and Dennis’ wedding

“We purchased all of the vases, glasses, and plates for the wedding. In addition to the fun look of it all, each item was less expensive than if we had rented it. My mom set a strict budget for each plate/ glass/etc. so we wouldn’t spend more than it would have cost to rent. The effect was great, cost-effective, and it gave us dishes to hold on to as a fond memory! – Dacie and Dennis

“Sterling and I decided early on what was important to us: a lively band, delicious Southern food and an open bar, transportation for all of our guests, and having the venue in Linville. Beyond that, our response to most decisions was, “Which is cheaper?” Sometimes, our moms had other opinions, but for the most part, we invested in the things we cared about and cut costs elsewhere. We also decided not to have a bridal party, which ended up being one of the best decisions we made. It allowed us to cut costs and save some headache around logistics (pictures, timelines, hair and makeup, dresses, gifts). But, most importantly, our amazing friends still made us feel so supported and loved throughout the whole process, and isn’t that the main reason for a bridal party? Whether or not to have a bridal party is a really personal decision, but one that proved right for Sterling and me over and over again.” – Leila and Sterling

Photo by Lynnesy Catron from Libby and Matt’s wedding

“My bridesmaids were amazing. They would come over for movie nights and sit on the floor putting programs together or helping to assemble table numbers. I would have been far more stressed and spent far more money without them!” – Libby and Matt

“One of the simplest but most effective ways we saved money at our wedding was prioritizing what I had always dreamed of including vs. things I had never given much thought to.” – Lindsay and Ty

Photo by Clark Brewer from Catherine and Hunter’s wedding

“We hosted our wedding on a Friday instead of a Saturday. This simple compromise cut our venue rental cost almost in half and saved us money on several other vendors. We also hired a food truck for dinner, which cut the catering cost per head in half.” – Monique and Tim

“We used my uncle’s Jeep Wrangler, the beloved car I drove during college, as our getaway car! It was a fun, lighthearted contrast to the more formal details of the wedding. We hopped in the car and took it for a drive down Broadway on our way out! – Catherine and Hunter

Elisabeth Carol is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
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A few weeks ago, with our shop relaunch, I mentioned that we had added a whole new category to the Southern Weddings Shop: our e-book library! This was a natural next step for us, gals who have always been equally devoted to the pretty AND the practical. It’s my joy to give you a more extended peek into one of our first two digital offerings today: the Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Wedding!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely passionate about personal finance. Since I am also passionate about weddings, this new e-book is pretty much the culmination of my life’s work! :) The good news is that you do not have to be passionate about either to get the most out of our guide — in fact, it’s meant for people who want to cover their ears when they hear the word budget!

In this 26-page digital download, we equip you with everything you need to know to spend, save, and celebrate your wedding with money smarts. Topics covered include:

— How to set your wedding budget
— Ways to supplement your hired professionals (and save money!)
— How to negotiate while hiring vendors
— Our favorite ways to cut costs
— Creative ways to stretch your budget
— Setting your budget priorities
— How to talk to your parents about money
— When and how much to tip wedding vendors
— Industry standard percentages for your budget
— 11 line-item budgets from real weddings (ranging from $12,500 to $100,000+)

…plus a budget spreadsheet, a payment tracker, and plenty of encouragement along the way!

We believe that if you can do your budget well, the rest of wedding planning will be so much more joyful – and that’s our greatest wish for you! Get more info and purchase your Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Wedding.

P.S. Curious about the intersection of our e-book library and the Joyful Wedding Planner? Our e-books can be used alongside our planner (since we go into more detail on each topic than we were able to in the planner) or in tandem with another planner. We’ve heard from so many brides who were sad to have purchased another planner before finding ours, so this is a way that all of y’all can still get our perspective on individual topics without purchasing a second planner!

emily Written with love by Emily
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Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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