Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

With our venue booked and our date secured, we needed to move quickly to lock in our other vendors. Reserving the Wang took a little longer than we thought, but luckily I had been researching and inquiring with other vendors all along, so within the span of a week after the Wang was done, we locked in our caterer, band, photographer, and officiant.

Wedding planning is a bit like trial by fire. You learn as you go, but you’ve got to be a quick study. Dilly-dallying on wedding decisions can cause you to stress out, lose money, or worse – miss out on booking a killer vendor.

Fortunately, my philosophy when it came to to finding and securing vendors rapidly became, “If we like what they do and it’s in budget, book it.” I wasn’t out to research every single photographer in the Boston area. That task alone would take months. We met with four and even that felt like a lot. Sure, you may find something out there that’s even better. But the precious time and effort it takes to get to them usually cancels out any added benefit.

So, ask yourself, “Do I like/trust this person/company?”

“Do their services fit into our budget?”

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, book them and be done.

That’s how we operated when it came to our officiant and our band. We met with Deb Goldman once (unfortunately, I don’t think she has a website I can share) and were immediately struck by her kind and spiritual nature. Though our wedding ceremony will not be religious, we knew that she would be able to make it special and personal to us. She walked us through a sample ceremony and for the first time I realized how important and meaningful the ceremony itself really can be. We were excited by the idea of incorporating our diverse backgrounds and traditions into the ceremony, along with special things like a community vow and a unity ritual. And she was in budget.

So, the officiant? Done.

The band was a stroke of luck. For a few weeks I was researching live music options (I really, really wanted to find a way to make live music a part of our wedding but didn’t know if it would be possible with our budget), and coming up short. Everyone wanted at least $3,000, some went as high as $7,000. That was just not realistic for us. Finally, Four Guys in Tuxes was recommended to me from a friend on Twitter. They’re a great, experienced band that was willing to offer us a four-piece band for the whole night for $2,000, including live music for the ceremony and cocktail hour.

Um, hello? Done.

The photographer was a tough choice but ultimately we went with the wonderful David and Jo of Allegro Photography for their experience, fair pricing, and fabulous photos. Not to mention the fact that they shoot together, which means two experienced photographers for the price of one. Already, they’ve been wonderful. As evidenced here. And here. And here.

The greatest learning experience came when we booked our caterer. Working from the list of 10 or so approved caterers for the Wang, we ended up doing tastings with Gourmet Caterers and Cuisine Chez Vous. Both were very good, but I though the quality and complexity of the menu items Gourmet presented were, frankly, better than Chez Vous. Still, Chez Vous was decent and the price was fantastic, almost $5,000 less than what Gourmet would have ended up being. Andreas and both our moms (who were in town for the tastings with us) were sold on Chez Vous.

Still, my heart wasn’t in the decision, so when I broke the news my contact at Gourmet, I think she sensed my disappointment – and saw opportunity. She asked me, “Are you dead set on your decision or would you like me to see what I can do to bring down our cost?” I said, “We’re fairly certain, but if there’s anything you can do, I’d be open to at least seeing what you can offer us.”

So she took another crack at the proposal and was able to bring down the estimate by about $2,500. Still, it wasn’t as affordable as Chez Vous, and their proposal included the lovely chivari chairs (which will look gorgeous in the Wang), a linen credit, and a basic cake. At the end of the day, I’m dead set on not spending a fortune on this wedding. I felt bad, but I pushed back.

Again, Gourmet asked to take another crack, and magically, they were able to bring the price down to $200 below Chez Vous’ offer, including the good chairs, a $35/linen credit, and a simple cake. I was overjoyed! Here I was getting the caterer of my dreams for a price squarely within my budget.

You better believe I booked Gourmet on the spot.

When I started the wedding planning process, my Dad told me, “It’s just a series of decisions.” And he’s right. But what I’ve learned is, you have learn how to go with your instinct and make those decisions with confidence – even when you don’t have much time to do so. And sometimes, you have to bargain a bit. But you can really only do that the way I did if you have a real second option to use in your negotiations. Without the great second choice of Chez Vous in hand, I could have never negotiated for my dream caterer, and for that, I’m so thankful to Cuisine Chez Vous.

Ultimately it comes down to people. Find people you trust and go with them. After all, your vendors are the real worker bees who will pull off your dream wedding. Your confidence in them? Worth its weight in gold.