What you can and can’t learn from a vendor’s website


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/ / CC BY 2.0

So many of you are planning your weddings long-distance. We talk regularly to couples in L.A., San Francisco, Houston, and other locales. Whether you or your family are Portland-based, or you just wanted a destination wedding in the Pacific Northwest, here you are doing your planning from afar.

Because of this, I get lots of questions about how one should pick a vendor or service provider. Some of my own clients tell me, "Oh, you don't need to help me with X or Y service, I found this great one on the internet." Which can be great, but I wanted to put my two cents in about some things to look for when you're wedding shopping on the web.

1. You CAN see photos. You CAN'T see their personality or how they will execute on the wedding day.

We've seen countless examples of vendors with stellar portfolios who in person are um, a little bit hard to deal with in person. I think back to one officiant an East Coast client chose by virtue of website alone, who came out of left field with an impromptu ethnic slur during the ceremony homily.

2. Are the photos representative of the service provider's work?

As a business person, I know I have to have some kind of "eye candy" on my website, and so I try my best to pick the best photographs from the weddings I have coordinated. However, I did not bake the cake, or arrange the flowers, or take the pictures! So website photos can only go so far in describing what I do or how well I do it. Clients will get the best picture of what we can do if they interview my team in person, check references around town, and find out what kind of experience they and their guests will have when we are working a wedding.

3. Are the photos actually of their work?

The ease of use of many blogging platforms allows pretty much anyone who can use a WYSIWYG editor to create a wedding blog and rehash content from other websites. The savvy consumer will dig deeper, both online, and face to face, to find out if the business is responsible at in any way for any the pretty photos or written content on the website.

4. You're loving photos of the vendor's real work, but it isn't work that will actually apply to your wedding.

For example, a makeup artist or hair stylist who has countless photos of gorgeous editorial and high-fashion features is obviously a skilled individual. But if you are buying makeup, for example, I recommend that you look at the makeup — not the lighting, photography, visual styling, clothing, or the attractiveness of the models! If you're shopping for wedding makeup…look for wedding makeup.

Similarly, a snappy website design is always pleasing, but unless you are looking at this wedding vendor to design a website for you, it doesn't tell you much about how they will perform at your event.

It's not that websites can't be helpful, it's just that there is so much more to your experience than what you can find on the web. In fact, some wonderful service providers I have worked with have little to no web presence, although this is becoming less and less common. Do your initial research on the web, yes, but there is no substitute for the face-to-face interview, client and vendor references, and other processes relating to your own due diligence.

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