The Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Best California Wedding Vendors: Questions, Tips, and Suggestions for the Discerning Bride or Groom

January 17, 2021 Comment

Your Guide to Finding the Best Team For Your Wedding

So you just got engaged. First things first, congratulations! But now comes the part that makes many, many couples feel overwhelmed: the wedding planning. These days, the average couple ends up booking around 14 wedding vendors by the big day. How do you even get started finding, booking, organizing, and paying that many different people?

Central Coast Bride has some suggestions. 

There are definitely ways to find the right wedding vendors for you. And when you follow steps like these you can reduce your own pre-wedding stress. That way, when the big day rolls around, you can breathe easy knowing you have the best team.

Within this guide, we’ll cover

  • Finding the best wedding music, photographers, planner, venue, and catering
  • The top questions to ask your potential vendors in the planning phases
  • Places to look for your vendors
  • and tips for ensuring everyone works together like a well-oiled machine.

Let’s dive in!


Which Wedding Vendors Do You Actually Need?

Weddings today are leaning more towards a DIY approach. In fact, around 80% of recent newlyweds have reported doing some part of the wedding themselves. The most popular DIY wedding aspect is the decorations and print items. Meaning modern couples are designing their own cards and decorating their wedding venues themselves.

There’s something to be said for a DIY wedding. One of the coolest parts of wedding celebrations is the couple mixing the traditional elements with personal touches. That’s how you create unique experiences for the couple themselves and all of the friends and family. 

However. There are vendors you can’t do without and vendors we suggest you don’t do without for your wedding day.


The Most Necessary Wedding Vendors

You need an officiant. We’ve heard many wedding officiants say “without us, it’s just a fancy party.” There’s definitely truth to that. Whether you’re planning an elopement or a full-scale throw-down, you need someone to tie the knot in front of.

In California, being an ordained minister is not a necessary prerequisite to being a wedding officiant. So that broadens many couple’s options. There are many multi-faith or non-religious officiant options. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

The second most necessary consideration is the location. A venue is in a comfortable first place of the “Top Vendors Hired” list with 92% of couples booking a special location. It’s also one of the first things newly engaged couples look into.

So in terms of first steps, you need someone to officiate and somewhere to celebrate.


How Do You Choose a Wedding Officiant?

Choosing an officiant for your wedding is often one of the most personal choices couples face. They set the tone for the ceremony, perform the vows, and are in all your ceremony photos.

Some couples elect to go with an ordained minister. But there are also specialist wedding officiants who only do weddings. Or even other vendors who may also offer officiant services (like your DJ or band). It’s worth asking around to other vendors and even married friends to make sure you find someone who fits with you and your vision.


How Do You Pick a Wedding Venue?

It’s important that your venue reflects the vibe and atmosphere of your day. If you’re having a 300 guest rager, then something like a banquet hall or an indoor & outdoor venue may be the smart move. But if you’re going for a more intimate day, then a smaller, indoor venue may make more sense. Also, think about the time of year and what type of guests you’ll be having.


Your Complete Vendor Dream Team

The officiant and venue aren’t the only vendors you need though. To have both the ceremony and reception go smoothly, usually a team must be assembled. Your team should probably have music, planning, catering, photography, florists, and beauty.


Is Wedding Music Important?

The music is one of the most important aspects of a wedding day. Which makes your band or DJ one of your most vital vendors.

Typically, a wedding DJ or band will also double as your wedding MC. That means if you’re the face of your wedding, they’ll be the voice. They’ll also be your line of communication between you and your guests, as well as providing microphones for toasts, speeches, and the ceremony.

A band or DJ will also set the mood for the celebration. If you want a complete party for all ages, a DJ may be the way to go. Or if you’re looking for more of a live music, concert-y vibe, a band may be for you. Either way, the music and hosting is top-tier in importance.


How Important is a Wedding Planner?

Your wedding planner will often be your point of contact to other vendors in the planning process. They also may have lists of vendors they’ve worked with who may be perfect fits. 

Many couples become very close with their planners by the wedding day. So it’s important to choose someone you could see yourself having a lot of contact with. Someone with lots of wedding experience, an upbeat personality, and solid organizational skills would check all the necessary boxes.


Do I Need a Wedding Caterer?

Food is often one of the things that sets the tone for the reception itself. The more light-hearted will have taco bars or food trucks. A more traditional reception may have beautifully plated meals and a serving staff. No matter the catering style you choose, many guests will remember two things: the ceremony and the food.

Caterers do more than just cook. They’re generally in charge of plating, serving, and distributing the food itself. They also help keep mealtime orderly. Some are even in charge of cutting and passing out the cake when the time comes.


Are Wedding Photographers Necessary?

Sometimes we ask recently-married couples if they have any advice for the newly-engaged. One of the more common responses we hear is to not skimp on a wedding photographer. 

Following the pattern of many of your other wedding vendors, a professional photographer does more than just take your picture. They are often second-in-command (behind the planner and, of course, you). They corral family and wedding party members and make sure the lighting is always perfect.

On top of all they do, they’re one of the only vendors that provide something for you post-wedding. When you get those amazing pictures and see how dazzling you and your betrothed looked on the big day, you’ll be glad you didn’t opt out of professional photography.


What Does A Florist Do At A Wedding?

Your florist is probably the vendor who works with other vendors the most. What we mean is that flowers and decor are something that impact many, many aspects of your wedding day. The florist provides the bouquet that is thrown during the reception and carried in the ceremony. They provide table decorations, and often help decorate the venue itself. 

Table decorations create an atmosphere for guests while they eat and mingle. Venue decor is prevalent in all your photos from the day. Florists also may come in handy providing boutonnières for the gentlemen.

While a florist is more of a “behind the scenes” vendor, they’re also one of the most indispensable. In short, the florist is crucial in setting the atmosphere and decor of the wedding day.


Do I Need Professional Wedding Day Make-Up?

The final member of your wedding day dream team is the beauty consultant.   

Something we’ve learned from being in the wedding industry as long as we have is that wedding makeup is very different than everyday makeup. They’re also another vendor that veteran brides recommend newlyweds don’t pass on.

When you’re looking back at your professional wedding photos, there’s no reason you should cringe at the make-up. Trust us, go with a pro. 


Finding the Right Fit

When you’re planning your wedding, it’s easy to see which vendors you’ll need. You may not even need all the ones we’ve recommended. Really your wedding day is about you. If you want to order a bunch of pizza and pick your own flowers then go for it!

But if you’ve decided to go with the recommendations of wedding pros and recently-married brides and grooms, then there’s also the matter of finding the right vendors.


Where Do You Even Find Wedding Vendors?

One of the first questions many couples have is how to even go about finding these vendors. Luckily, much of the wedding industry has moved online. But there are some other places you can find the right vendors.


Checking Online Directories

There are many sites that act as wedding vendor hubs. Our own is one, but there are others if you wanted to check them out. 

There are also many local bridal organizations that may have chapter websites unique to your area. These are groups where wedding professionals get together to share ideas, network, and keep up to date on wedding trends. Networks like these can be invaluable for finding a wide variety of vendors


In-Person Vendor Hunting

Some vendors pretty much require meeting in-person. The venue would probably be the biggest example of that. In order to get a feel for the day as a whole, you have to see the venue in person before booking. Narrow down your venue list by thinking of areas you would want to have your wedding in. Also consider travel distance for yourself and your family and friends. Then work from there!

Music is another factor that can necessitate in-person meetings (or at least a phone call or Zoom meeting). The DJ or band leader will be the voice on the other end of the mic for the whole day. You don’t want them to be awkward and uncomfortable in front of your guests. Pay attention to your first impressions. That’s also how guests will feel when they encounter the DJ or band.

You may also want to take a moment to listen to what kind of music the wedding DJ or band plays. While many won’t be keen to bring you to a wedding with them, they may have sample mixes or videos of past performances. These can be crucial in making your decision.


Just Asking Around

With so much being online these days, it’s easy to forget you can just ask around to find vendors. If you know recently-married couples, see which vendors they loved working with and would recommend. That’s often one of the truest tests: if a recently-wed bride would recommend a vendor to a recently-engaged couple. Take that recommendation seriously.

Asking other vendors can also be a huge help. Many have their own preferred vendor list, even if it’s only in their head. Getting a feel for how a vendor works with other vendors can be very telling about how they’ll be working with you.


Finding Bridal Expos

At a local bridal show or expo, you can find many vendors in one place. If you wanted, you could probably even find all of your vendors at an expo! 

Going to a wedding expo can be a smart choice for many reasons. First, you get to meet the vendors in person. This provides a feel for how it’ll be when you and other guests interact with them day-of. 

Second, expos can also be a smart move financially. Many vendors will offer special bridal show deals and packages. So if you’re working with a tighter wedding budget, this could be a smart move.


Some Vendor-Specific Questions

To make your hunt a little easier, we’re also including some vendor-specific questions you can ask to hopefully begin narrowing down your list. These aren’t the be-all-end-all of questions, but in our experience, knowing this information is very helpful.

Questions to Ask a Wedding DJ or Band

  • What genres do you typically play?
  • How do you handle requests?
  • Can you offer us a written contract? (Important!)
  • Do you also MC?
  • Can we hear sample mixes/performances?


Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue

  • How many guests does the venue accommodate?
  • Are any other events happening on the same date?
  • Are there hotels nearby?
  • What kinds of restrictions do you have (eg, renting dance floors, outside decorators, etc)?
  • How long is my rental package?


Questions to Ask a Wedding Planner

  • How many weddings have you planned?
  • Have you planned a wedding at my venue?
  • Do you work solo or with a team?
  • Do you have a preferred vendor list?
  • Do you have a phone number or email I can always reach you at?


Questions to Ask a Wedding Photographer

  • Do you have a specific style?
  • Are you primarily a wedding photographer? How many weddings have you shot?
  • Will you be the only photographer or do you have a second shooter?
  • Can I see examples of your work?
  • Have you shot a wedding like mine before?


Questions to Ask a Wedding Caterer

  • Do you frequently cater weddings?
  • Can I try samples before the wedding?
  • Are you catering other events on my date?
  • How many guests can you accommodate?
  • Do you provide servers and tableware?


Narrowing Down the List

Hopefully these questions help get the list a little narrower. If they’ve checked all the boxes so far, the other main consideration is how it felt just talking with them. You can tell a lot about someone by how they speak and the energy they put off. If you can see yourself vibing with a vendor, and they’re able to accommodate everything you’re looking for, then make the leap and book!


Some Final Thoughts on Vendor Booking

Planning a wedding and finding all your vendors can be an overwhelming experience. But when you go in with a plan, you can simplify your process while removing planning-induced anxiety. 

The most important piece of advice we can give is to have a plan. When couples decide to just wing it, it opens the door for things to go sideways. It’s by no means a guarantee, though. But having a plan is like having insurance that you’re going to get what you wanted.

In conclusion, don’t feel overwhelmed! Wedding vendors are generally trying to do their best to make sure you have the best day possible. Just remember

  • Who your top-priority vendors are and to look for them first
  • Places you can find wedding vendors, like online, through referral, or at an expo
  • The questions you can ask to narrow down your lists


If you have any other questions about finding your wedding vendors, we’d love to help! Email us at info@centralcoastbride and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you have the best day (with the best vendors). 

Leave a Comment

Payment details
Setup fee  
Subscription plan  
Coupon discount (%s)  
VAT (0%)  


Payment details
Setup fee  
Subscription plan  
Coupon discount (%s)  
VAT (0%)