After, what I would consider, a substantial amount of time in the industry, I think I have some advice on vendor selection that may be helpful to brides. This may or may not be information that you would have previously considered or even thought about. While I am not trying to say that it is typical of vendors to be untruthful about their abilities, in the day and age of "anyone can be anything with a good website", you need to be more careful.
1- ASSOCIATIONS: If your vendor belongs to an association, that is wonderful! First thing you need to do is find out what it takes to become a Member of the association, in order to understand how "wonderful" that really makes your vendor. Some associations just require a payment. Yes, that is it. Your DJ can be "certified by the "Amazing Wonderful Awesome DJ Association of America", and all he had to do was pay them $100. While other associations have a lengthy review process and even referral requirements. Find out which one your vendor participates in.
2- REFERRALS: Another thing that usually helps with choosing a vendor is referrals. Some vendors just have "quotes" on their website, while others will offer you the numbers of several clients to contact. Keep in mind, NO ONE, is going to give you the phone number to an unhappy client. You'll need to know what matters most to you before you call, so that you have specific questions for the client. "Were they on time?" "How long did setup take?" "How do you know the vendor or how did you find the vendor?" "What type of attire did they wear?" Sometimes even a simple "When did you last work with the vendor?" may bring up surprising information, such as "Eight years ago" and in that case, you might want to find someone who can offer useful, up to date, referrals.
3- PHOTOGRAPHY: I am not referring to photographers. I am referring to the photos that some vendors use on their site that have been provided by photographers. A florist can do "okay" designs but when working with an "amazing" photographer, those designs/centerpieces/arrangements come out looking spectacular. I'll be kicked out of the Wedding Planner Club for this one, but even some wedding planners can provide pictures of events that they worked, but that doesn't mean what you see has anything to do with what they did, sometimes they didn't even coordinate the vendors OR their work. A Wedding Planner can work with great vendors to create a great day, that you CAN tell from a photo. A Wedding Planner may not be able to create the design, color, creativity, layout and themes that you see, that you CAN'T tell from a photo. Sometimes, if you are inclined, it is okay to ask Planners what part they had in the design of certain photos. Don't count on your Planner to be able to create 6-story high centerpieces OR to even be able to setup place cards JUST because they show photos of those things.
I know, I know no one wants to hear this awful truth but it must be told. I have researched many "Wedding Planner" sites and some of them, after investing time and energy to review, are nothing more than someone who has seen Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner, one too many times. You can't tell JUST from someone's website, so do your research. Don't be fooled by the pretty pictures and the "I love you" quotes from clients.
I'll continue to expose the secrets of vendor selections (that no one wants to talk about) as the months go on, eventually you'll be able to sift through the Flash Sites and fancy blogs and find what matters!