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. As the booking/client half of a wedding cinematography team, I have had this come up several times!

    I agree with many of the reasons to answer, and I always do. I have even given recommendations over the phone, and I don’t mind that either.

    One reason not mentioned by other vendors so far is this…
    ***There is a small chance that the original vendor might fall through or a financial situation may change. ***

    In one case, the other video team disappeared and we stood out as a friendly and engaging and generous second choice. In another case, a bride had told me she didn’t have any kind of budget for video at all ever, but could I help… and their budget changed or they paid less than they had expected for something else or whatever, and BAM, we were booked!

    Another reason to just be helpful and nice all the time… you never know what will happen with referrals!

    • That’s a really good point, Morgan! If my photographer backs out for travel or any reason, I’ll definitely go first to the photographers that helped me with this.

  2. We asked the photographers we interviewed for recommendations for videographers. In the end, we didn’t end up hiring a videographer but that wasn’t because of a lack of recommendations. Of course, one or two names appeared on multiple lists but they also recommended ones we never would have found otherwise. I figure it makes sense, if you like one vendor, that you’d like him/her to get along with another key vendor in your wedding entourage.

  3. Hay,
    If someone was upfront with me and told me they weren’t going to use my services but did need a referral I would 9/10 times help them out. Its when people string you along and pretend that they are interested in your services just to glean you of your insights that’s not cool!

    Just for the clients out there who are going to use this approach, there is a big difference between getting a name and number from a supplier you aren’t using and expecting that supply who referred you to start getting involved with coordinating of the person they suggested..

    Rebecca x

  4. I work at a grocery store (stay with me) that carries a large number of requested products because we are locally owned and operated. If the customer has time for me to check with vendors, we can usually find what they are looking for and at least bring in what they have requested, if not start stocking it. If they need it NOW or this weekend, I offer to call ahead to the next place they want to look. If they want me to call [competitor] down the street to see if they have the product, then let’s do. Our customers remember that kindness.

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