Wedding professionals can be considered to be a team of players whose responsibility it is to bring their clients’ wishes to fruition. Locating, screening, interviewing, hiring and working with those professionals is the single most important element in planning a wedding and insuring its success. Unfortunately the process is all too often becomes a stressful, unpleasant task. It need not be. If it is approached in an organized way, with adequate research and preparation, breaking down the process into smaller components, the process need not be overwhelming.

Before a couple begins their search, they need to be clear about their personal preferences and the style of wedding they want. This should be a time of delightful sharing that results in a consensus. The discussions should also clarify any budget issues. This can be accomplished accurately, by breaking out all the wedding-related costs and determining what contribution, if any, will be made by anyone other than the bridal couple. The resulting numbers should be as “hard” as possible, so that price parameters can be set and real figures presented to the professionals.

HudsonValleyWeddings.com is an excellent resource by which couples can begin the screening and elimination part of the process. It offers an extensive listing of wedding services providers that couples can “meet” in the comfort of their home, any time, day or night. Links to the web sites of many of the vendors allow the couple to have a good first look at the vendors in question. Another excellent resource is friends, relatives and business associates, who can be called upon for referrals and recommendations. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to check on any complaints that may have been registered against an individual or business.

Once the pre-screening phase is complete, it’s time to make phone calls and set up interview appointments. There is even something to be learned by the act of making the phone calls. The way a call is answered, the message or lack of one on an answering machine, the availability of the professional and the timeliness of a response become part of the information upon which choices are made.

Adequate preparation can make appointments more valuable and informational. Couples can prepare a check list for each interview. It can contain any number of questions they want answered, with adequate room for responses. The appointment check lists can serve as a basis for comparison when the meetings are over. A couple never need to feel intimidated. Any professional with a good reputation will be pleased to answer questions.

Couples should begin their search well in advance of their wedding date, because the best people get booked up quickly. Should they find someone who is already committed for the date they have chosen, and there is sufficient time to do so, they can ask to be placed on a waiting list and called if the date becomes available.

There are several basic inquiries that should be part of every interview. Name, contact person, contact alternate, phone number(s), E-mail address and web site address are the basics. Any professional will be delighted to comply with a request for names and phone numbers of satisfied customers. Couples would do well to take the time and make the calls. It is absolutely worth their effort. The Better Business Bureau should be contacted to check on any complaints that may have been registered against an individual or business. It is also important to check the insurance coverage of the professionals couples choose, to make certain that the coverage is complete.

The appointment/interview is the opportunity for the couple to get all the information they need in order to make an educated decision. It’s goo to know if the wedding professional is familiar with the venues they have chosen. Preparation and setup for any vendor are easier in a familiar location. A discussion of budget and fees is imperative. The more details that are reviewed and explained, the better. They should include questions about discounts and/or packages, gratuities, service fees, sales or other tax, overtime charges, deposits, cancellation fees and whether the price is fixed or subject to change. It is not overkill to include even the smallest details. It is also comforting to know if the vendor has a backup or replacement in the event of illness.

In addition to meetings with vendors, there are visual aids which can help a couple makes their choices. Photographs of weddings showing the vendor working, videos of music and/or entertainment in progress, photos and/or samples of products are a few. A vendor who offers up his or her product or service for scrutiny shows a level of confidence that is important. When the couple has made their selections, each vendor should be asked for a firm price and a contract with all the details included. The more specific the contract, the less left to memory, the less possibility for disagreements later on. Once contracts are signed, the partnerships begin. To get the best work product from the professionals they have hired, couples should be as specific as possible in describing the visions they have about their wedding. The more information they share, the more likely it is that the end result will be right on target. Vendors will no doubt share some of the “rules” they have learned over years of business experience. It’s always a good idea to listen to suggestions. Accepting advice doesn’t mean compromising on individual creativity, personality or sentiments. Each wedding professional should be given as much information as possible: time, day, date, location, level of formality, numbers of guests, etc., along with a schedule(s) of the activities for the day. The schedule will ensure that everyone is on the same page. It should include a contact person to whom each vendor can turn for assistance if that becomes necessary.

With the process done and the wedding professionals prepped, it’s best for the couple to sit back, relax and let the pros do their jobs.