Preferred Vendors? or Paid Vendors???

This guest blog is from my colleague Lyssabeth, whose group of amazing and caring officiants create ceremonies on the west coast.So, you have the ring, set the date and have found the picture-perfect venue for your wedding ceremony and reception. Phew! But faster than you can say, “I do” there are, it seems, a million and one other wedding vendors to line up for the big day. Photographer, Officiant, Cake-Baker, Videographer, Florist, Caterer, DJ, Invitation-Engraver. Wow! Throw in a chocolate fountain-provider and it’s enough to make your head spin!

Assuming you haven’t done the getting-married thing before (or even if you have, we figure that you don’t do it with any great frequency), where does a couple turn for information and referrals for all of the above? It’s natural to seek the assistance of the staff at your wedding venue, of course. After all, with all the wedding vendors with whom they work in the course of a year, who better to refer you to quality wedding professionals?

Voila! The Preferred Vendor List appears. Also known as the PVL, it is handed to the overwhelmed couple with a flourish. All of their wedding vendor problems are obliterated! Simply pick one from the list, right? After all, a venue wouldn’t recommend a vendor unless they could personally attest to their standards, would they? Would they? I mean, if someone is a “preferred” vendor, they must be pretty darn good, right?

Well, the answer is yes…and no. Most couples would be under the assumption that if a venue coordinator hands over a Preferred Vendor List (or posts one on its website), it means it is a compilation of vendors with whom the venue has had firsthand experience and they can therefore attest to the quality of their work. And this is the case with many venues.

However, the unfortunate truth is that sometimes, PVL should stand for Paid Vendor List. Yes, indeedy–there are some venues who request a fee (and a hefty one at that) in order to place wedding vendors on their list. And that would be okay–if said venue staff were forthcoming that their list is a paid list. That’s called advertising. Nothing wrong with that. It ranks up there with the likes of T.V. infomercials, glossy magazine spreads, radio spots and sites like theknot.com. All perfectly above-board and perhaps even a handy resource to the engaged couple.

Advertising, however, is light years away from the nature of a true Preferred Vendor List (emphasis on preferred). Let’s get real, if a wedding vendor offers a venue $400 or more for a listing on a PVL, then the venue is hardly going to refuse. It’s advertising–pay your fee and that’s that. In spite of any protestations to the contrary, (“Oh yes, we do charge a fee for the privilege, but believe you me, we thoroughly check out any vendor on our list and if they don’t make the cut, they’re outta here.” Yeah, right!) these venues do not turn down cold hard cash from a willing vendor.

Personally, I think that trying to pass off a Paid Vendor List as a Preferred Vendor List is an abomination. It’s one of the things that gives the wedding industry a bad name. A Preferred Vendor List implies a recommendation. A Preferred Vendor List infers that the one who created it endorses the vendors on the list. Period. The creator of the list has worked with these vendors. They stake their own reputation on their performance. In other words, it’s a trust-building exchange that says to the couple, “I’m in the business and I wouldn’t steer you wrong; this is someone I’d retain if I was in need of their services.”

Do you hear my voice getting high and squeaky? Sorry about that, but as you can see, paid vendor lists are a pet peeve of mine. In short, the Preferred Vendor List should not be akin to the Yellow Pages!

The solution is simple, assuming the venue staff dispersing the list have any modicum of ethics. Ask how vendors are added to the list. If you’re told it’s a paid list, you can certainly start with it as a resource, but don’t assume that placement on the list is tantamount to a testimonial. Also, don’t assume that the absence of a vendor on a paid list makes them unworthy of your consideration. Many vendors (like Lyssabeth’s) refuse to be placed on paid lists as a matter of principle and ethics. (Ergo, you might want to use a paid vendor list as a source of vendors with whom you wouldn’t want to do business.)

And another thought to ponder. Since there are so many quality venues who do have genuine Preferred Vendor Lists (i.e. unpaid), why would a wedding vendor pay to be on such a list? Hmmm…maybe because getting on a true preferred list is difficult.

Why would that be, do you think?