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From venue to flowers, cars to dresses we all need suppliers for our wedding day. For most people it's their first experience of dealing with these sorts of companies and you might feel a bit alarmed at the thought of receiving a shoddy product or being ripped off. Here's some help to avoid that happening:

Before you start

Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want and how much you want to spend - before you speak to anyone.

How to find them

You'll want to find a few different suppliers for each service that you need. Good places to try are:

At this stage you'll need to know if they can provide roughly the sort of service you need - eg you can ask a photographer if they do 'reportage' style photography and a venue if they do barbeques. You'll also want to get a rough idea of price at this stage to avoid wasting both your time and theirs with a detailed quote that's 3 times your budget.

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Getting a quote

For each service you need try and get three suppliers that look like they meet your needs. Put together exactly what you need from them - eg for a florist number of bouquets, plus number of pew ends, centrepieces etc. Specify any other details such as time of arrival/delivery of a product. For some suppliers (eg venue, photographer, caterer, florist) you may well want to meet face to face.

Once you've got quotes back you can then decide which supplier to choose. You'll want to look at their reputation, you impression of them as a person and, where possible, examples of previous work as well as the price they give you. Once you've decided who you want to go for don't be afraid to negotiate a little on the price. It's worth asking!

At this stage it's normal for most suppliers to get a contract together and to pay a deposit, which for most services will be 10-20% with the exception of wedding dresses where 50% is the norm. Your contract should contain as much detail as is practical - certainly a basic description of service and prices.

When to pay

Once you've paid the deposit most suppliers will need to be paid the balance on or before the wedding day. You might find it gives you peace of mind to have paid in advance so your best man isn't walking around with wads of cash. Alternatively you might want to pay your band/dj for example after satisfactory completion of service. If you can arrange for payment after the wedding day then that's even better. Some venues allow this - which means you only pay on completion of a satisfactory service which can be reassuring.

Confirming a booking

For peace of mind you might want to confirm with a supplier key details. You could do this either by phone or email, depending on how you've been dealing with them. You could do this a few weeks before the day and then in the week beforehand if you're still in need of reassurance.

What to expect?

It's key that you get your requirements included in the contract so that at this stage you can hold them to those requirements. For example if a photographer turns up late, that is a breach of contract if you'd specified it. If you didn't get the details in writing you'll find it hard to get any compensation after the event.

What you should do for them

Some suppliers will have food/drink included in their contract, others you might want to give some perks even if they've not requested it. It's a good idea to look at how long a supplier will be around for and work from there. It might seem odd that you have to feed a supplier (how many of us get fed at work?!), but if it's in the contract it might be worth £8 for a basic meal and retain goodwill. You might feel that a band/dj will have eaten before so if they don't request a meal then you could give them soft drinks and arrange for someone to buy them a beer after their slot.

If a supplier requests a meal then this doesn't generally mean you should sit them at the table and provide a full wedding package for them! Usually a plate of sandwiches at the bar or a hot pie and chips will be what they expect.

Should you invite the vicar to the wedding? This really depends on your relationship with him and how short on space you are. A vicar would generally be pleasantly surprised to be invited, so don't feel you have to if you don't want to.

If there are problems

With items such as wedding dresses you get a chance to sort out disputes before the day. Any other problems you will be unlikely to fix at the time and the best you can do is request a refund/claim on your wedding insurance. Luckily, you probably won't notice or care on the day that the dj ignored your playlist or that the photographer left an hour early. If you maintain good communication with suppliers about what you require then you are less likely to be disappointed on the day.