Planning events involves a lot of moving parts. Like an engine, each moving part is integral to its overall success. When you’re dealing with an unreliable or faulty piece, it doesn’t matter how successfully the other parts are humming along and doing their job, the thing is just broken. The same theory applies to events…unfortunately. Instead of a rusty cog or a sputtering fuel pump, you may find that a flakey vendor or sketchy venue is the reason your event machine isn’t chugging along at optimal performance. Buyer beware! If you encounter any squeaky wheels or unsettling thumping noises, you may want to give your event a thorough check-up before the little problems lead to a total breakdown on the side of the road in the town of “Oh S#*%!”.
The Written Word: Not only is it important to read a contract thoroughly before you sign, but it is important to have one to read. Some vendors may tell you they don’t expect you to sign contracts and that your word is good enough. While it sounds harsh, you don’t have to have the trust in them that they may have in you. Get it in writing! The more you have written down and agreed upon by both parties, the more protected you are from last minute woopsies like, “ I didn’t know you wanted the band to bring their own speaker system,” or “The event started at 8pm, we didn’t know you’d want to be in here earlier than that.” It sounds silly, but anything you think may be implied or obvious ISN’T, unless it’s in writing. This goes for working with friends and family, too: while Aunt Martha is an amazing florist, she may not be feeling up to the task of the 100 centerpieces she promised you last month, and since you’re family, assumes you’ll understand when she shows up with only 50 instead. A well thought out email agreed upon by both parties, or signed letter of agreement will go a long way in covering your buns (and ensure that both parties know what is expected of them). If nothing else, sometimes it takes another set of eyes to correct a contract, and they’ll be grateful!
Flakes are for Breakfast: We all understand that artists contribute their gifts to the world of event planning in ways we never could achieve on our own, from beautiful drapery and lighting, to creating an entire beach themed evening complete with sand, surf soundtrack, and the smell of Coppertone sunscreen being pumped through the vent system. We are truly grateful for so many creative minds, but leave your manners at the door if you’re dealing with a vendor that you can’t count on to even return your phone calls within the week. In a service industry, the person who pays gets all the say, and vendors would be smart to recognize and respect their source of income. Punctuality in responses, detail in requests, and ability to communicate are the Three Golden Rules for those in the event industry. If you can’t trust your photographer to remember the date of your event every time you speak, don’t trust him to show up on time. A vendor should help ease the stress of the event, not add to it by missing appointments, forgetting details, and being generally spacey.
GUTS: Trust ‘em! Aside from the above two suggestions, your instinct is the best decision-maker you have. If things keep changing, if contracts keep being re-written, if phone calls go unanswered, or if you just plain get that skeptical sketchy feeling when you meet them for the first time, GET OFF THE TRAIN! Going with your gut feeling from the start will set the tone of trust you’ll want to have moving forward with your event.
It’s scary to pull out or make changes last minute, but believe me, the stress of finding a better option late in the game is better than the stress of a failed event. If you have to jump ship with a vendor in exchange for a life boat, it’s better than going down with the ship!