Adventures in Cake Tasting (or How I Chose My Wedding Vendors)
Today was a great success in the world of wedding planning. With my own wedding less than four months away, we are hovering right in the region between "leisurely planning" and "crunch time." As things finally begin to come together, we have settled on almost all of our vendors, with one remaining biggie: the cake baker.
My fiancé and I went to two cake tastings today with two different bakers, and the contrast between them was the perfect representation of how we chose our wedding vendors, and particularly how we chose not to choose certain vendors.
As a bride planning a wedding, here are five things I looked for when meeting vendors for the first time:
1. Present yourself well.
Do you have a website? Is that website well written and edited? Is it clean, clear and easy to follow?
I can't express to you how many vendors I didn't even schedule consultations with because they didn't have either a website or a stellar social media outlet. I know it sounds self-important, but my once-in-a-lifetime wedding day is too important to entrust to someone who bakes as a hobby, or doesn't know how to present themselves well online. If web design and social media aren't your forte, the line of people waiting to give you a hand extends from one end of the internet to the other. Invest in your online persona. It's worth it.
2. Know your potential clients' names.
When we arrived at the first bakery for our scheduled cake tasting, we didn't even have to introduce ourselves. The baker knew exactly who we were and was expecting us with a gorgeously plated cake and fillings for us to sample. At the second, she didn't even seem to know we were coming, our paperwork had gotten lost and only half the flavors we had selected to sample were available.
I felt immediately welcomed in the first bakery, and like an inconvenience in the second. As a bride, I want to feel a connection with my vendors, like they want to get to know me and to make me happy. When a vendor isn't even prepared for a consultation, I can only assume they wouldn't be prepared on my wedding day either.
3. Act like you've been here before.
The first baker we met not only treated us like honored guests in his bakery, but he asked questions we hadn't even thought of and helped us to make decisions we certainly were unprepared to make. He didn't even have to pause to think before suggesting the perfectly sized cake for our guests or guiding us to cakes that matched our wedding style...which we didn't even know we had until he asked us to describe it to him.
I'm in the middle of planning the most important event of my life for 150 people, starting a new job and mentally preparing for the end of my singleness. I don't have the time to research every nuance of wedding-cakery to ensure that I ask the necessary questions to get the cake I need. If a vendor can make my life easier, and comes off as an expert in their field, I'm 500% more likely to choose them. Even if they are a bit pricier. I consider it a convenience fee.
4. Show your work.
I feel like decorating wedding cakes and painting walls are similar in at least one way. Maybe more, I can't say for sure. But when I go to Home Depot to choose a paint color, I will always pick one that is on display in one of those little booklets that shows how it looks on a wall. Just like I can't look into a bucket of paint, or at a little paint chip, and imagine how it's going to look on a wall, I can't look at a container of sprinkles and envision what it will look like coating a layer of cake next to another differently decorated layer.
Display your work, and display it well. At the first bakery, we were able to scroll through an enormous selection of previous wedding cakes. At the second, they showed us two previous wedding cakes, and some sprinkles. Don't get me wrong, both cakes tasted delicious, but I want to see that a vendor is capable of doing something well before I ask them to do it. It gives me the confidence that they will do it well again, this time for me.
5. Explain what's next.
Wedding planning is the most scatter-brained situation I've ever participated in. One minute, I'm choosing linens for the tables, and the next I'm creating a "don't play" list for the DJ, and the next I'm answering a question about what I want to do at my bachelorette party. If a vendor doesn't clearly lay out the next (easy) steps to book them, they will likely not hear from me again.
Receiving a detailed proposal via email, that gives me both a quote for the vendor's services and a reminder of everything I said I wanted at the time (because I'm being asked so many questions on the spot that sometimes I just panic and pick things and then forget what I picked) is the most mystical and magical thing. It helps me remember what we talked about, but it also gives me the confidence that the vendor will remember that, too. And that same vendor will very likely see my mom and me at their shop the next morning, deposit in hand.
Planning a wedding is no easy feat, and I would imagine being a wedding vendor isn't either, but nailing down these five things could attract other brides like me to include you in our big, stressful, thrilling, overwhelming, beautiful day.