Is it fair to ask for advice from wedding vendors you’re not going to hire?

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I have way too much on my plate planning weddings for paying clients, I don't have time to answer your questions… or do I?  (Photo credit Shane Macomber)
I have way too much on my plate planning weddings for paying clients, I don't have time to answer your questions… or do I? (Photo of Kelli by Shane Macomber)

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?

Comments on Is it fair to ask for advice from wedding vendors you’re not going to hire?

  1. I think as long as you’re up-front with them about not planning on hiring them, there’s nothing wrong with it. They are certainly under no obligation to respond either way.

  2. I am generally the type who doesn’t mind offering a few suggestions. I truly want people to have a great wedding. But, if it came to the point where I felt like someone was asking me countless questions that were specifically photography related and it became a real time investment; I might want to draw the line. I think that it’s fine to ask someone and honestly is greatly appreciated – but I also think you should be careful not to take advantage of someone’s generosity. When you own your own business, your time is money. And it becomes even MORE valuable when you happen to be a work at home parent as well! So, yes, ask, but always be respectful of the hard working vendors as well.

  3. I have people ask me for advice all the time, whether or not I am hired to be their florist or coordinator. I never mind giving it, so long as the person who is asking goes about it as this bride did–politely and without expectation.

    (…But don’t expect or demand a response–you are asking for a favor, not paying someone for their time. 🙂 )

  4. Even in non-wedding businesses this is a good idea for vendors. If someone is like “I need this, where do I get it?” and it was something we didn’t have, I would 100% refer them to the competition. Because then, the customer remembers you as that nice helpful business that knew where to get what they needed.

  5. I totally agree that it can be sked in a kind way. As a jewelry vendor I would definitely help and especially if it is referring other vendors from my town! Everyone has different tastes and yes a competitor can suit someone else tastes. As Amanda says, the person will remember you as a helpful business and might refer you to her friends. There is too much self-centredness in the world today, let’s help each other and it will come back to you a hundred times!

  6. Totally diggin this post.

    I definitely LOVE helping others find what they want or need….and YES i get the SADFACE if they are not hiring me…..but i think i agree, if WORDED PROPERLY as polite and asking for help – I would be more likely to help and respond with vendors I love. I hate to say this – but a lot of people kinda don’t say much like “Hey, how are you doing?….is it possible u could recommend…blah blah”….I usually get the “cold” comments and messages…. “What ______ do you use?”…no hello, no how are you, hope you are having a great day. Let’s not forget that we are people talking to other people that need a kind word or something uplifting!!! 🙂 I know it sounds weird, but after a while I really have started to see a pattern in the ways we approach each other now.

    Happy hunting to all the vendors though! I know it is tough to choose!!!!
    I’ve done 2 wedding shows this spring…and I really try to think about the brides/grooms shopping and how hard it can be to really decide on the multiple factors of the day as a WHOLE. Best of luck to all yall searching…I hope u definitely find who you need to connect with!

    If i’m busy or unable to shoot a wedding, I definitely have a LIST of friends/common goal oriented folks that I can refer. <3 🙂

    Community. 🙂 It's awesome.

    • Amen, Jen! What goes around comes around! I love referring great vendors in general and I hope they are just as enthusiastic about referring me. ; ) While I have my go-to peeps I like to refer, my list is pretty deep & it’s all about the right fit for the couple/vendor relationship. We wedding vendors aren’t all about making money, or we wouldn’t have gotten into this crazy love biz to begin with!
      (PS – Your website & vibe are RAD.)

  7. I love to refer vendors! As a videographer, I’m usually one of the last vendors booked, so I don’t get as many chances to refer my “vendor crushes,” so I’m tickled when I get the chance to help a couple find amazing people to help on their event and to send some of the love back to those who have helped me in the past. I too also have a section on my webpage with vendors I recommend.

    However – it is not OK, to call, take up thirty minutes to an hour of our time pumping us for suggestions with no intention of hiring us. A quick email is totally fine though!

    • I think part of it is actually **saying** that you don’t intend to hire us. If we are all honest with each other and on the same page, we vendors will be able to help you much better or decline your request and not be resentful when it comes out later that you never intended to book.

  8. This falls under what Miss Manners would call “Not necessarily rude to ask, but it’s not rude to decline the request either.”

  9. I work in another industry, but I occasionally get questions like this and if I *know* the answer (ie., I don’t have research it or spend a lot of time figuring it out) I always answer. I figure, times are tough for us all, and even the most talented people need to have enough work, or they’ll leave the industry and do something else, which would suck . People getting paid to do what they are awesome at makes the whole scene more vibrant–I’m happy to help facilitate that if I can.

    Even if I had no idea, or did not care to make a big time investment solving someone’s issue, I wouldn’t be offended by the question. I’d just write a “sorry, I can’t help you” email and that’d be that! As long as you’re polite and prepared to hear “no,” I think it’s always worth asking!

  10. I work in a business shop (technology, stationary and printing.) I have met many people in the wedding industry through my work and they have refered work back (banners, business cards stationary papers,printing, ect.) even though we arn’t a wedding shop. The biggest impression was made by my photographer who sat us down and explained wedding photo language and what was available in my area. Businesses he wouldn’t make money from but means we understand what is available and get what we want. I think I have told upwards of 80 people I have met at work about this already and my wedding is still 3 months away. I had two other photographers who were booked send me in his direction. I have found my venue through photographers. My baker through florist supply, makeup through my sister, some decoration supplies through my venue…ect.. I have alot of people come in to print invites, the minute I see engagement wedding talk ensues and I have heard many a time, “I don’t’ know where to start,” and within 5 mins they have a list of vendors I have met / been refered / printed for even if I didn’t hire them for my own. It isn’t just those in the wedding industry who help the wedding network. So don’t underestimate your lowly stationary and photo printing shops. Remember BRIDE’S TALK! It is one of the most exciting time in our lives.

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