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Wedding Planning: Tips for Choosing Online Wedding Vendors

If you're looking to the internet for help with your wedding plans, you're sure to benefit from the wealth of organizational and comprehensive wedding tips, ideas, tools and resources available right at your fingertips! The internet is packed with useful websites, as well as online stores offering every wedding product and service imaginable. You'll find everything from wedding invitations, wedding keepsakes and wedding favors to online bridal gift registries, travel agencies for destination weddings and honeymoons, wedding consulting services and much more. To ensure that you can recognize and hire or purchase from qualified wedding vendors, the key is to be aware of a few general guidelines.

First, it's important to understand the two basic kinds of online wedding vendors with whom you may choose to do business with.

Wedding Vendor Type 1) An actual, physical storefront who opts to have a website to further broaden their customer base and supplement their offline business.

+ Possible benefits of this type of wedding vendor: This is a wonderful opportunity for you, as you may familiarize yourself with the wedding vendor's offerings via their website and then choose to drop by their store to have a look around and complete your purchase in person. Or you may do this vice-versa - have a look around their store and then go online to make your purchase. This is a very flexible consumer environment for you, as there can be multiple sources of contact and convenient ways to browse! You can also get a personal feel for the type and level of service you may expect from the wedding vendor and their staff.

- Possible drawbacks to this type of wedding vendor: Though not true or hard to measure in many cases, the wedding vendor with a physical storefront does have the potential to be more expensive. And though the storefront exists, it may not be within reasonable driving distance for you to visit in person and explore.

Wedding Vendor Type 2) A virtual store who deals exclusively online.

+ Possible benefits of this type of wedding vendor: You'll often find a reasonable value for your dollar here, as in many cases, online wedding vendors tend to have lower overhead. As well, take advantage of shopping anytime you feel like it...even if it's the middle of the night!

- Possible drawbacks to this type of wedding vendor: In general, you will never actually meet the wedding vendor with whom you are entrusting a certain aspect of your wedding to. To some brides and grooms, this may be worry-some, for others, not a big deal. Do what feels right for you, as this issue may be dependant upon what item or area of your wedding you are shopping for.

What to Look for in an Online Wedding Vendor:

  • Quality and selection: Look around the website to gain a sense of the overall image of the wedding vendor or their company as a whole. What general impression do you get from the products or services offered? What about the tone, variety and general appearance of the website? As with offline wedding vendors, first impressions speak volumes online.

If applicable, browse through photographs, screenshots, detailed spec lists, virtual tours and any other information provided. When dealing with products specifically, many websites display close-up versions of product pictures, which accurately showcase items from several different angles or viewing points.

  • Availability and delivery: Check into shipping rates and time frames for delivery, as well as possible limitations/restrictions of service in your area of residence. In regards to products, ensure that you are aware of shipping cost variations for items exceeding a certain weight, or oppositely, any shipping discount awarded for purchases in large quantities, such as wedding favors.

  • Physical address or mailing location: Many wedding vendors are eager to supply this information to give customers a sense of security that they're a dependable and trustworthy "real" business.

  • Methods of contact: Wedding vendors want to communicate with you! Quality wedding professionals look forward to meeting your needs and usually provide several means of communication. Look for email addresses, online forms or phone numbers. Some wedding websites even provide a "Live Help" button with which you can carry out a real-time conversation with a staff member. In addition to giving you many options for contact, many online wedding vendors also have a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on their website that may be of some assistance to you. Often, common questions are outlined and explained for immediate answers.

  • Helpful suggestions or advice: Not to be confused with the above point! While a wedding vendor may offer open lines of communication with you, they must follow through on it! Keep an eye out for their attitude toward you. Was their response to your inquiry prompt? Enthusiastic? Informative? Look for a willingness from the wedding vendor to answer your questions, provide details and offer you suggestions. See if they have an overall positive attitude toward you and about your wedding, as well as toward their business in general.

  • Experience: Wedding vendors want to prove that they are trustworthy and reliable! Check out the wedding vendor's "Testimonials" or "Reviews" web page. See what other brides and grooms have had to say about their experience with this wedding vendor's product or service. If available, check out their "Press" section to see what media coverage they have experienced and for what reasons. Look for a wedding vendor who takes pride in what they do and in the level of service they provide to their clients.

Take it a step further and type the appropriate business name or web address into your search engine of choice to spend at least a few minutes paging through the search results on a particular wedding vendor before buying. You may find articles and press releases about the wedding vendor. Even more helpful: you may come across forums or other valuable feedback from brides and grooms who have personally dealt with the wedding vendor.

  • Free sample or trial options: With wedding products, many online wedding vendors get your attention by offering a free sample of their wares. For example, a wedding stationery store may offer to mail a sample invitation kit mailed right to your door so you can see the quality of the cardstock and design in person. With wedding services, many online wedding vendors may offer a free trial option. For example, a guest list software company may offer a trial version or time period for you to check out their system and see how easy it is to use. Often, if a wedding service provider does not offer a free trial, they will provide screenshots or an online tour for you to experience a "sneak peek" of their services. If no sample or trial options are available, see what money-back guarantees or refund policies are in place.

  • Secure payment options: Many online wedding vendors accommodate with several payment options for your convenience. Some process credit cards directly on their website, or through a third party website. You may also have the option to mail in a personal check or money order. Please be advised that this could delay processing and shipping until payment is received by the company. It may require longer, more flexible timelines on your part, often by one week to 10 days.

Keep these general guidelines in mind while shopping online for your wedding, and you'll be ready to make smart, conscientious decisions. When you choose to be informed and aware, you possess savvy online shopper skills that enable you to make the best wedding product or service purchases for you and your dream wedding!

About the Author

Jennifer Benson is Vice President and cofounder of Wedding Websites, a leading online wedding service provider. WedQuarters offers complete personal wedding websites, enhanced with dozens of useful and fun features.

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