5 Tips for Avoiding a "Catfish" Vendor

Congratulations, you're engaged! After the date has been set comes the tedious task of choosing which vendors you want to be present on your special day. While this is an exciting and happy time for you and your fiance, it is an opportunity for some to take advantage of your...lack of experience, if you will. As with any other profession, there are some "bad eggs" and "scammers" in the wedding & event industry. And let's be honest, most of your vendor research will be done online, giving those scammers a perfect veil to their true nature. While you can't avoid all of the catfish vendors out there, below are 5 tips to increase your chances!

Laura Murray Photography

Laura Murray Photography

1. Do they have references you can contact?

This is a HUGE one! Throughout my planning career, I've been asked on several occasions to produce references that would be willing to speak with potential clients about me and my services. As a professional, I don't mind doing that at all! In fact, I almost welcome it and I know that other professionals appreciate it as well. Why do we welcome requests for references you ask? Because it proves that we have tried and true clients, as opposed to personal friends or family, that will speak to the value of our products/services and how our professionalism played a part in their big day.

2. What is their reputation within the industry?

Another big one! Ask other vendors what their opinion is of the vendor you're considering. Have they heard of them? Worked with them? What was their experience? Good? Bad? Would they recommend that vendor to another couple? Would they enjoy working with that vendor again? What was the mutual client's feedback about the vendor? Based on the responses you receive, you'll have a good indication of whether or not you should hire and work with that person/company.

3. Do they have insurance?

Again, as a professional, I carry a $1 million liability insurance policy. Most, if not all, reputable vendors will carry at least liability insurance on their businesses. It shows potential clients that the company isn't a fly-by-night venture because we're bored. Time was taken to protect the business and clients of said business. Now - if a vendor doesn't have an insurance policy, it doesn't necessarily mean they're not professional. They may be filling a niche where liability for their services is at a minimum (i.e. ceremony guitarist, stationer, etc...) or they don't feel it's necessary for their specific product/service. That being said, the most reputable venues, transportation companies, photographers, planners, photo booths, etc...all have some sort of insurance protecting them, you, and their investment in your day.

4. What is their experience?

Coming from a food & beverage background, I gained a ton of experience with weddings & events on the floor serving at banquets & fine dining restaurants and working with chefs to prepare tasting menus and suggesting wines. In addition to my work experience, I also have a college degree that required me to study the ins and outs of producing small & large scale events. Take both of those elements and combine them with my wedding experience (6 years and almost 150 couples) and you can bet that I have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. The same goes for all other professionals.  They have invested time, money, and energy into perfecting their trade and continue to do so by attending networking events, conferences, trade shows and the like. In most instances, wedding vendors didn't just wake up and decide to take up photography or catering or wedding planning. Also keep in mind that professionals had to get their start somewhere. But, it wasn't jumping full board into the industry without prior knowledge of what the job would entail.

5. Beware of price.

As noted above, all professionals got their start in the wedding & event world somehow. For me and Pink Champagne Events, it took a few bold & trusting clients (BIG thank you to Kellie + Austin, Emily + Peter, and Amanda + Tom) and a reduction in price for my services. That being said, beware of prices that are too low. If a vendor's quote is coming in at a shocking, "too good to be true" price, it is. As a beginner, I did my research and priced myself according to the current marketplace and my qualifications. By doing that, I was a bit lower priced, but not to the point where I raised eyebrows from my colleagues. If a vendor's price is coming in WAY lower than any other proposal, I refer you back to numbers 1 and 2.

Of course, there are still those vendors who appear as professional as they come, that can ruin your day. One of the most important things I tell my clients is to listen to their gut. If something seems even slightly askew with a potential vendor, trust yourself! Don't get trapped in a contract or commitment with a vendor that you don't have 100% confidence with.

Until next time,