Offbeat Bride reader Liane sent us this seemingly FANTASTIC wedding planning tip…
Having your wedding in a small town, where you don't live, leaves vendor searching near impossible. Sure, in this day and age everyone's online and you can Google your little heart out. But in small towns, most vendors haven't quite caught on to the internet yet.
I'm getting married 40 minutes outside of Campbell River, BC, Canada — and I don't know a soul who lives in the area.
I've been searching for someone to do my hair for months, someone who can travel to my venue. All of the salons I found online wouldn't travel, or didn't seem quite capable of doing a decent job. After months of searching and finding nothing, I decided to get creative.
I looked up wedding photographers in Campbell River and sent them emails asking they knew of any hairstylists. I figured they'd shot countless weddings in the area and have surely met hairstylists while taking ‘getting ready' shots.
I was up front, I told them “I don't know you, and I don't want your services, I'm just hoping you'll help out a stranger.” If I got an email like that from someone, I wouldn't just ignore it — even if it wasn't going to bring me business. Lo and behold, they all responded with multiple suggestions that I never would have found online – and I've found my perfect travelling hairstylist!
So when you are struggling to find vendors, count on the kindness of strangers to help you! It never hurts to ask. -Liane
But it got us wondering… is it inconsiderate to ask help from vendor you know you aren't going to hire? Would vendors feel like they don't want to waste their time helping non-clients? So we took this to Seattle wedding planner (and orchestrator of our big Empire bash) Kelli, from Shindig Events.
Here was Kelli's expert response…
Liane is smart for about 300 reasons. #1 of them is that she is having her wedding in a small town that stretches your nuptial dollar in rubber band-like proportions. I grew up in Prophetstown, Illinois (population 1700). When I tell my friends and family back in the Midwest that most of the weddings I plan in Seattle area are in the $20,000 range, they scream, laugh, and are kinda grossed out. You can invite ALL OF PROPHETSTOWN to your wedding on $20,000.
But, even as a wedding and event planner, I would have challenges finding vendors if I were planning a reception there, for many of the same reasons Liane mentioned. I would also do what Liane did — reach out to the vendors that are in the area, even if you are not hiring that service.
Most of us in the wedding/event biz rely on referrals from our colleagues for new clients. So when Liane sends an email to Holly Hair Stylist saying that “Fab Fran Photography sent me,” you can bet your sweet bippy that Holly will reach out to Fab Fran to say thanks, or refer business back to her.
And that's not to say we all do good deeds because we get business in return — many of us just know it's the right thing to do! I can also tell you that somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who is just starting his dessert business. You might be able to get a great deal on your sweets table with a brand new company. And if you are ever hesitant to hire anyone who is just starting out, ask that person for a couple of references.
And don't be afraid of doing this with ANY of your vendors in ANY town. Each market is different, but in Seattle, I can tell you the wedding network is pretty tight.
Photographers hang out with photographers! Planners go to open houses together! It might seem crazy in another industry to kick it with your direct competition, but I have found it to be completely the opposite. It's actually helped my business! When a planner colleague is booked on a date I am open, she will refer me. In fact, there is a group of us planners who have a Facebook group page where we share our availability, exchange ideas and ask for input on other vendors or issues. I just booked a big corporate event based on the initial recommendation from a caterer I've done business with previously.
And often times we will ask our vendor friends for “above and beyond” requests. For example, I have a photographer friend who doesn't advertise that she does her photo booth independently but will hire that service out if she is not booked for a wedding.
Sometimes, all you have to do is ask… the worst someone can say is no, and then you just move on.
Vendors, do you agree with Kelli? Would it bother you if brides asked you for references, even if you knew they weren't going to hire you?