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Planning a wedding is no easy task, I know from experience! You have to find the perfect venue, decor, food and entertainment for your guests. You want to find the perfect photographer who fits your style and your budget. You might want a wedding videographer, band, photo booth or maybe something completely unique like a Beer Burro (see bottom of post for more info!)

There are so many great wedding vendors in Michigan to choose from, how do you find the ones that are right for you? I’ve heard so many horror stories from couples who thought they’d hired the right vendor, only to never get their wedding photos, have their DJ not show up, or their flowers arrive late. As a wedding photographer in Michigan, I can tell you firsthand that I know there are many people advertising a wedding photography business (a lot that even look amazing and completely professional) who don’t have the necessary skills and reliability that you would expect a legitimate wedding photography business to have. You don’t need a licence in Michigan to call yourself a wedding photographer- all you need is a camera.

Most couples don’t have a lot of experience when hiring wedding vendors (it’s usually their first time!). As wedding photographer with over 8 years of experience and over 50 weddings under my belt, I’d like to share with some of the most important things to remember when hiring your wedding service.

1. Make sure their business is licensed and insured. Any legitimate wedding business who provides services should be licensed and insured- to protect both their business and you. Some venues actually require proof of business insurance from certain vendors. A business that is not licensed and insured is a big risk, and do you want to take a big risk when your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event?

2. Ask to see the final product. A business might have an incredible website with great photos of their work, and an awesome online presence. What you see online is just the tip of the iceberg, though. As a photographer, I’ve seen and heard of naive photographers stealing images from other photographer’s websites and social media to put on their website and make it look like they took those photos. The best wedding photographers will show you examples of full wedding galleries that they’ve delivered so you can see what to expect. Most vendors will be able to do the same, and for others (like DJ’s for example) don’t be afraid to ask for references.

3. Expect a contract. Contracts protect both sides of a service agreement, and should spell things out thoroughly, in black and white. At the bare minimum, a contract should cover who the parties are, the details of the service being offered, exactly what will be delivered, the price, and the time frame. Don’t be afraid to have a lawyer look over a contract if you’re unsure of anything. Beware of a vague contract and run from anyone who doesn’t ask you to sign one!

4. Ask about their backup plan. Things happen- emergencies, accidents, etc, and every experienced business owner should have a plan in case something happens. Ideally this plan should be spelled out plainly in their contract.

5. Watch out for hidden costs and fees. Sometimes, in an effort to squeeze as much money out of you as possible, businesses try to use hidden costs, fees, or not providing the full service and making you add-on in order to get what you want. Make sure you’re aware of exactly what you’re getting for the price you’re paying. At Lume Photography, I keep everything super simple and I’m up-front about all of my prices, because I want my clients to have that peace of mind.

6. Meet them before you hire them. When you meet a person, you can usually tell within minutes if you like them or not. Why would you want to do business with someone you don’t like? It’s mandatory that I meet all of my couples before I agree to work with them. We either meet in person or by Zoom video meeting. I want to make sure they like me, and trust my vision. It might seem like a no-brainer, but meet and make sure you like a person before you do business with them.

7. Beware of hiring amateurs just to save money. Your wedding is a big deal, no matter what size wedding, your expectations, or budget. It’s a an event that happens only once, and it’s going to be one of the most important events of your life! Hiring a wedding vendor who seems decent but charges a lot less than the average is probably not that experienced, and you’d be taking a risk to hire them.

8. Don’t pay attention to bad reviews. It might seem crazy, but hear me out. If a business has mostly good reviews, and a bad one comes up, there’s usually a reason behind it that doesn’t have to do with how good a business actually is. For instance, I’ve heard of a photographer who received a fake bad review from a really mean local photographer who wanted to tarnish their excellent reputation just to gain a competitive edge. Or there might be some other completely ridiculous reason for a bad review. If you see a bad review for a business that otherwise seems great, I encourage you to reach out to that business and ask them about it. Another idea is to reach out in local bride groups on Facebook and ask for testimonials to see what other couples have experienced.

9. Find out how many weddings they’ve provided services for. This is mainly for your photography, videography, DJ, officiant and planner, but can be helpful for other services, too. Weddings are a whole experience of their own. Everyone needs to be on their best game because, usually, they’re a high-stress event for everyone involved and the more things go as planned, the better. The energy is high and people are more sensitive than normal. As a seasoned professional wedding photographer, I can tell you it takes more than a few weddings to get used to the high-pressure and the way things go at a wedding. This isn’t something you can re-do if things don’t go right. You need to know your equipment, know where you need to be at what time, know what shots you need to get, know what to do if the unexpected happens, and, most importantly, know how to interact with everyone else at the wedding.

groom kissing bride on forehead in winter

10. Pay it forward. If you’ve hired and worked with a wedding vendor that you loved, don’t be shy about sharing your experience! Word of mouth is the best and most trusted way to help a business succeed. Take a few minutes to write a great review for them! Go on social media and sing praises about them! Offer to be a trusted reference should they ever need it!

* If you’re looking for a Beer Burro or Tequila Burro for your wedding in Michigan, check out @duckduckdonkey on Facebook!

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