Vendors: Part 1 – Where to Find “The One”

When I worked for an event planning consulting firm, the younger associates always asked me to sit with them and help them while they “broke up” with a vendor. No one enjoyed the conversation but it was a necessary part of doing business. So I decided to write a series on vendors: how to choose them … and how to lose them.Finding a good vendor is a little like dating. With so many out there, it can be challenging to find the right one. A Google search for “wedding caterer, Arlington, VA” returns over 1 million results. So, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

This post begins a three-part series on working with event vendors: Part 1 discusses where to find qualified contractors to do the job.  Part 2 will discuss the dating process (aka the bidding process). And in Part 3, I’ll cover how to let them go. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Where to Find Event Vendors |

Word of Mouth

Friends or family local to the area where the event will occur is a great place to get recommendations. It’s helpful if you both have similar tastes so you don’t receive suggestions for something that’s completely out of your budget or clashes with your eclectic (or not) style. You might be surprised how many people have actually planned something similar to what you are planning.

Professional Associations

Convention Industry Council’s glossary of event terms lists over 50 professional industry associations and organizations. Not all of them are relevant for every event, so I’ve narrowed down the list for you:

International Special Events Society: A great organization to begin your search, utilize their vendor search form here.

Meeting Planners International: MPI’s a little different from ISES where you need to choose the MPI chapter where your event (or vendor) will be located prior to starting your search. The list of MPI chapters is located here.

National Association of Catering and Events: Originally known as the Banquet Managers Guild in the 1950s and re-named by its members in 2012 from the National Association of Catering Executives to the National Association of Catering and Events, NACE is one of the original events-related associations. Its members search form already breaks down its members in helpful categories and is located here.

Event Planners

Rounding out this list are, of course, people like me – event planners! A good event planner is your partner throughout the planning and execution process and they truly want to help you. They aren’t in this for the late nights followed by early mornings…followed by late nights…for multiple days…and weekends. They do this because they sincerely enjoy it. And a good planner has experience working with a variety of vendors and they will tell you who is appropriate for your event’s style, budget, and complexity. Utilize their experience. They’ve already test-driven the vendors for you!

Well this post got longer than I thought it would and I have so much more to say! Stay tuned for next week: Vendors: Part 2 – Dating Around and Reeling Them In: How to solicit bids.


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