This is something that a lot of vendors and venues don’t want you to know about. But I think this is something that every couple should be aware of, and take into account when they hire vendors.
Here’s the story. Wedding vendors know that the venue is the first thing that most couples book. There are lots of photographers, DJ’s, and the like, and they all want to work, so what do they do? They go to the venues and they say,
“Hi, Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall, I’m Johnny Sleeze and I’m a DJ. I usually charge $800 for my services for a wedding reception, but if you recommend me, I am willing to send YOU $100 of that fee, every time you refer someone to me!”
Wow, Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall’s banquet manager, Tanya Trouble, says,
“Cool Johnny! $100 every time someone I recommend to you, hires you? That’s a sweet deal!”
So from that day on, Tanya Trouble tells ALL of the couples that she talks with that Johnny Sleeze is a FABULOUS DJ!!! And the checks start rolling in to Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall!
Johnny Sleeze isn’t the only vendor who does this, there are lots of photographers, DJ’s, videographers, florists, bakeries and musicians who are all in the same boat. They all want to have a leg up on the other guys in their field. Getting the recommendation of a venue gives them a competitive edge, and consequently they get hired more frequently.
Tanya is thrilled because they make a TON of money for doing nothing but recommending vendors to their clients. Many banquet facilities make thousands of dollars from kickbacks. It’s a big part of their revenue stream.
So, you say, what’s wrong with this system? It sounds like free enterprise is working, it’s the American Way!”
“Oh nay nay!” I say, and here is the reason why.
If you have a list of 5 DJ’s and they are each giving you a kickback, but you know that Johnny Sleeze is giving you a BIGGER kickback than the other guys, who are you going to tell your clients is the “best” DJ?
Johnny might be good, but he also might be really mediocre, even really bad, but Tanya is going to tell you that he’s wonderful because she wants that check to come in after your wedding!
THAT’S what’s wrong with this system. When the hall starts taking kickbacks they are working for the vendors, NOT for you, their client. They are pushing vendors to you, NOT because they are the best vendors you can get, but because they are the vendors that pay them the most. Is that where you want to get your referrals?
Do you want to have the DJ, photographer, florist or bakery who is the BEST? Or do you want the one that pays your banquet facility the biggest kickback?
Particularly in big cities, Chicago, New York, LA, this is the way everyone does it, and it’s an accepted thing. My feeling though, is that if you are doing this, you need to be up front about it with your clients. They should know that you are receiving money from these vendors for referring them, and then they can check the references of these vendors and screen them just as they would someone out of the Yellow Pages under Wedding Services. If a venue is receiving kickbacks, their referrals are not based solely on quality.
If your venue hands you a referral list, your first question should be “Do you receive any remuneration from these vendors if I hire one of them?” If they say “yes”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t good vendors, but it does mean that you will need to be a lot more careful about checking their references.
You should also ask the same question of the vendors that they recommend when you interview them. “Do you pay my venue anything for their referral?”
Be up front with them! Be assertive! Be aggressive! This is your once in a lifetime day that you are talking about!
You should get at least 6 references from a vendor, of clients they have worked for in the last 3 to 6 months, and you need to CALL them! Everyone loves to talk about their wedding! If they wax poetic about Johnny Sleeze and tell you what a fantastic DJ he was and how everyone at the reception was raving about the great DJ, and you hear the same thing from all of the references, then you are probably safe in hiring Johnny. You might also want to stop in at a reception and see him in action though, if possible. If they say, “yeah, he was ok”, you might want to check a little further or think about another DJ. Keep in mind too, that there are different tastes and different types of weddings. Talk with the reference person about the type of wedding they had, where it took place (was their venue similar to yours?), who their other vendors were, what sort of menu and bar they had, (this can give you a clue to what sort of budget they were working with).
When you check references you need to go into “detective mode”. Listen to what they say, but also listen to what they DON’T say! Are they hesitant to talk about the vendor? Do you get the feeling that they aren’t telling you everything? Do you feel like they are telling you the truth? Some less than scrupulous vendors have actually been known to give a buddy’s name as a reference and had him/her pose as a newlywed!
At Aberdeen Manor, we have been offered kickbacks many times. And we have always turned them down, and told them to pass it along to the client as a discount. My belief is that as a wedding consultant, as well as a banquet person, it is my duty to work for YOU the client, and ONLY YOU. My job is to make sure that you have the best services you can get, and the best wedding you can possibly have.
I have my own selfish reasons for recommending the best vendors too. It’s so much nicer to work with good people! Weddings go much more smoothly when we have terrific vendors who have worked with us before and know the ropes. It makes MY job much more fun, and more rewarding. Fighting dragons all evening can be exhausting! I would much rather work with folks that are wonderful, and know their jobs inside and out.
Our vendor list is solely based on performance, personality, and product. We are very careful to keep our list up to date and accurate. We provide it to you for one reason, to save you time, energy and effort in hiring your vendors. We know that all the people on our list are good folks who are going to do a great job for you at a fair price. You can hire them without reservation. Nobody gets on our list without working at our facility at least 3 times. We have to see their product, and know that it’s up to our standards. We have to work side by side with them and know that they are nice folks to work with. We only put them on our list after they have passed our stringent criteria.
Just realize, not every venue feels the way we do. Know what you are getting when your venue hands you a referral list. Ask questions, and be aware. Don't let anyone "sell out" your wedding day!