Broke-Ass Tag: tips


It can take a lot of time and effort to find the right vendor for any part of a wedding. And while lots of websites have list upon list of key questions that you should ask each and every vendor, here are the things that send up little flags for me personally as to whether I’ll consider doing business with a vendor.

1. Timely responses to my phone calls and emails! First  things first–let’s talk about timeliness.  I expect that as a prospective client, when I come a-knockin’, that my email will be acknowledged within a reasonable time frame; say, a week.  I don’t even expect to have all of my questions answered at that time, a “Hey Mellzah, got your message, I’ll have time to give you a full reply next week” response will suffice (provided that they do actually then respond to me within the time frame they’ve now set for themselves).

I don’t expect anyone to sleep with their phones under their pillow or devote their lives to email outside of business hours, but if a vendor doesn’t reply to an inquiry within a reasonable time frame, they’ve already sent me a message: “Your business is not important to me.” Think about it: when you go out to interview for a job, you’re on your best behavior–you arrive on time, you’re clean and well-dressed, you go out of your way to impress the interviewer because you want the job, even if your natural proclivities tend toward lateness and merely occasional swipes of deodorant, because you want their money.

As a personal example of businesses doing it wrong, when I was searching for my ideal venue,  I ended up cutting two I had initially loved off of my list: one had asked me if I wanted a tour, and when I responded in the affirmative, fell off the face of the earth and never replied to me again. The other, while beautiful, has negative review after negative review on Yelp for “weeks of no contact” “emails constantly ‘getting lost'”, “urgent voicemails left with no response”…it’s not something that inspires confidence. My personal belief is that if a business doesn’t impress me while still in the honeymoon stage of trying to get my money,  they’re certain to treat me even more poorly after they have it. On the flip side, when a business responds to my questions promptly and thoroughly, I’m nearly overwhelmed by the urge to fling money at them.

2. A decent website, with GOOD photos. My friends, it is 2012 and there is no reason for a vendor to not have a website. Perhaps back in 1997 when AOL billed for internet time by the minute and it took you the better part of an afternoon to download a picture of a unicorn it was fine to go without, but in this day and age, if you’re a vendor who doesn’t have a website, you pretty much don’t exist to me. The one paragraph blurb you paid out the nose to have placed in the back of Seattle Metropolitan Bride & Groom doesn’t begin to give me enough information.

Websites are the single best way to answer a ton of questions that many, if not all, potential customers will have, so you don’t have to answer them individually, saving you an assload of phone and email time. Seriously–put tons of information on your website.  Rates, packages, promos, reviews, FAQs–on a well-organized website, no one is going to say “Great googly moogly, I am overwhelmed by this readily available information and wish I could go back to the days of calling someone and maybe not ever getting a response or having to call again later when I remember a question that I forgot to ask earlier and then a third time when I need a clarification!” A great website with a ton of information directly influenced my decision for a wedding and reception venue.  I refer back to it when I’m trying to figure out what size tablecloths I need or what length aisle runner I need to construct if I want it to run from the door to the altar. It has been an invaluable resource to me.

Speaking of websites: those babies had better be loaded up with pictures. GOOD pictures.  I’m not spending three hours on Pinterest at a crack because of all of the compelling text, and if the pictures of your venue/food/rentals suck, it tells me that you accept mediocrity, and that if you aren’t trying when you advertise yourself, you’re not going to try any harder for me.  Venues:  If all I see when I visit your site are photos of the same fountain or fireplace from several different angles, you are telling me that there’s something wrong with the venue, because it’s the same trick apartment complexes use on Craigslist to hide the fact that their apartments have shag carpeting and no windows by only showing photos of their modern business and fitness centers.

If you’re a working photographer without a significant amount of photos on your website, this is an even bigger problem to me: how do you not have work available to show? This is your product! It’s what you do!  I saw a local photography company host a sale on one of those “deal a day” websites and the only picture they had to show was a blurry (not artistically blurry, just poorly-focused) first dance photo.  There is no price low enough for blurry, bad photographs to make it a good deal! If you’re a photographer and I can’t see your work, if you can’t show me a full wedding from beginning to end after I’ve inquired, if all you can show me is one lucky shot that you captured out of 300 weddings photographed, it is an enormous red flag to me.

3. A better than average reputation. I always take individual Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, as I know that people (a) are more likely to write about a bad experience than a good one, (b) like to complain, (c) write bad reviews in the hopes of getting special treatment or perks that they would not receive otherwise in the hopes of getting their negative review retracted, (d) are generally unreasonable douchebags (read: “I visited a steakhouse and there weren’t enough tofu options.” ), but a significant number of bad reviews is likely to sway me.

I place more emphasis on my monkeysphere; do my non-douchebag friends know or have had interactions with this business?  I put out a call on Facebook recently to ask my friends if there were any local photographers that they knew or recommended. A few recommended a friend of theirs (whom they had not hired); another friend wrote me privately and told me that he had previously considered this same photographer a friend, but that she had offered to give them a significant “friend discount” for their wedding and then pressured them to sign a deal with her that was $1,000 higher than the going local high-end photographer rate, taking advantage of the fact that they hadn’t shopped around on price. Given my friend’s personal allegation of this photographer’s dishonesty, I am not even considering her in my ongoing search for my photographer.

I love planning lavish parties, and this isn’t my first rodeo–friends still talk about the insane circus sideshow themed birthday party I threw in 2008–so I’m no stranger at throwing gobs of money at vendors to bring my party vision to life. I’m also colloquially known as Seattle’s equivalent of Kevin Bacon; I connect people. So when a vendor impresses me, I intend to use them for future events, and I’ll recommend them to friends as well. Vendors can’t have a “well, they’ll only get married once so it doesn’t matter how I treat them” attitude. It matters.  Websites. Reputation. It’s how you’ll get my business. Timeliness, honesty,  and respectability is how you’ll keep my business.  Because when it comes down to it, I’m just one person and it doesn’t really matter whether I hire you or not…but I’m far from the only person who holds these viewpoints, and the steps you take today will ensure whether or not you have a healthy future business.

  • 6/1

    Yes. Please. (Courtesy of Style Me Pretty)

    Dear Liz:

    If we have enough tables and chairs for everyone, why can’t they just sit wherever they want? It seems like a hassle to figure out who is going to sit at what table, and like we’re herding cattle. Do we have to have assigned seating for our guests?


    Tables For None

    Dear Tables,

    Well, nooo, you don’t have to have assigned seating, but I think it’s worth it. There are two cardinal rules for wedding guest management: 1. Don’t confuse them 2. Don’t make them uncomfortable. And a little structure is necessary to avoid both of those.

    I’m trying to think of a good analogy. Okay, it’s like if you and your fiancee decided to go see  the Avengers on opening night. Sure, you can sit where you want, but there are a ton of people in the theater.The row you would usually sit in doesn’t have two open seats. Neither does your second choice, and you end up spending anxious minutes looking for seats, until you finally end up in the fifth row, with a raging, eye-strain induced headache during the movie. Now imagine that situation while you’re all dressed up, and trying to be on your best behavior and not offend anyone. At least in a movie theater, you’re dealing with total strangers in jeans. Figuring out where to put your guests is a minor hassle, yes, but again, the alternative is a tight-smiled game of musical chairs. And, if you don’t want to print out place cards, you can use one one big table chart, instead.

    Dear Liz:

    I graduated from Veterinary school last year, so my degree is in my maiden name. I’m getting married in August, and I’m planning to change my last name to my husband’s.  I want to do this for a lot of reasons, but we’re also planning on having kids soon, and I really want us all to have the same last name. But when I told one of my bridesmaids, she was shocked that I was doing it, because my medical degree is in my current last name.  I’m pretty sure I still want to change it, but I’d like a second opinion. What do you think?


    Doubtful Doc

    Dear Doc,

    Actually, it would be a third opinion, but really, the only one that counts is yours.  If your reasons sound good to you, that’s all that matters. This probably isn’t the first time someone’s objected to something you’re doing wedding or marriage-wise, and even though you’ve only got a few weeks to go, it probably won’t be the last time, either! And I’d bet good money that if you decided to keep your maiden name (such a weird phrase these days), there are people who would give you a hard time about that, too. You can’t win, so don’t play.

    Dear Liz:

    This photographer calls back. There's one near you, too.

    I love this one photographer I found online, but I can’t get in touch with  him! Since last week, I’ve called and emailed three times, and no response.  What should I do?


    Waiting by the iPhone

    Dear Waiting,

    Cross him off and contact the next photographer on your list. If he isn’t getting back to you after all that, he’s not interested enough in your business to get your business. It could be that he will get back to you eventually, hopefully with a good excuse, like he was out of the country on vacation, or trapped under something heavy for most of the week. But,  it’s my experience that his apathy will only get worse after you sign a contract. There are plenty of photographers that will get back to you within 24-48 hours, like they should. Find one of those.

    So, have you been to wedding or had a wedding that didn’t have assigned seating? How did it go? How many people have given you flack for changing or not changing your name? Let us know in the comments below!

    See you at the end of the aisle

  • 4/20

    So the past week, I've been working on the 10k Wedding Workshop website. Built it in iWeb, which turns out was my first mistake, because it has a lot of "junk" code that's not compatible with servers any more.  Stay with me, I have a point, other than the blatant plug. But check out the workshop, it's virtual, so if your budget is in the…

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    Photo: Puruhito Photography A while back, I wrote Three Assumptions They're Making About Your Wedding, a list of what people really won't stop bugging you about, ever. But after talking to a lot of couples in the past few weeks, I'm starting to realize that you're making a lot of assumptions about your wedding too: 1. That the minute you step into Wedding World, everyone is…

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    I know, I know, two weeks in a row. People email me and ask stuff, stuff you might want to know, too, and I didn't want to wait. This is not a precedent. Most likely. :-) Dear Liz, My mother is contributing to part of our wedding, so when she told us we had to invite certain friends from her college days, I obliged even…

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  • 3/2

    Dear Liz, I thought I was just another BAB until I came to this site, now I think I am THE BAB.  I see these posts where people have $5,000 budgets, and I have no idea where they come up with that kind of bank!  My fiance and I are both teachers and neither of us have family to attend, let alone help pay for,…

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    Well, it's almost Valentine's Day, which means that Mr. Officer and I have been engaged for almost a year already. Yikes, where did the time go?! Aargggh, that means our wedding is right around the corner....there's so much to do! Okay, now that I've gotten that little panic attack out of my system, I'm ready to talk about getting engaged. I know there are some readers…

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    No matter how you break down your wedding day schedge, there's almost definitely going to be some time that is solely dedicated to photography. For some camera-shy people, this is a nightmare, but a necessity if you want to have a Christmas present for Grandmammy this year.  For other people, posing for photos is a fun side adventure on the wedding day where you can…

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  • 9/30

    Green is definitely a big wedding thing these days.  And, while most people would love to have a green wedding, there are also a lot of things that most people aren't going to do either. Like, you might buy vintage wedding rings or a pre-owned dress (says the wedding planner who had both), but you're probably not going to send out plantable invitations. Which leads…

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