Choosing the right vendors to work with is one of the biggest decisions event creators make. All it takes is one subpar vendor to upset your event logistics and create a bad experience for attendees.

The good news is that finding exceptional event vendors isn’t as challenging as you might think. As long as you do your research, and make sure you map out the details, that is.

This guide will help you to feel more confident in your ability to hire and work with event vendors.

Create your vendor wish list

Before you start signing contracts, you need to figure out the types of vendors you’ll need to hire. Sometimes, your venue provides certain services. So, step one is figuring out which event logistics items you’ll be responsible for on your own. Here are some to consider:

The basics

Caterers: Finding a catering service that will tailor the perfect menu for your guests is important. You’ll want one that has a great reputation and experience in preparing food for large crowds in an event space.

Seating and décor: Depending on the venue — especially if you choose a nontraditional space — you may have to rent tables, chairs, and/or linens. Local event rental companies are usually a good place to start.

Security: If your venue doesn’t provide security, you’ll want to bring in experienced and licensed guards who come armed with credentials and professionalism.

Event extras

Interactive experiences: f you’re considering bringing in a vendor that does a social media wall or Instagram photo booth, for example, you’ll want to ensure that your contact is tech-savvy.

Entertainment: Other vendors you might inquire about include everything from beverage carts to artists to musicians or other entertainment.

How to recruit vendors  

You want to think of it as building a lasting relationship when you set out to hire vendors. That’s why it’s wise to do some up-front research so you can find people who match your needs and goals. It also wouldn’t hurt to create a list of event suppliers you come across for future reference. Here are some starting points:

  • Work with your venue: Oftentimes, your venue will have a list of preferred vendors they routinely work with, which can simplify your event logistics game plan. You might even ask if you can drop by to observe one of their other events in action.
  • Do some online sleuthing: This is especially important if your event is in a locale you’re not as familiar with. Vet your vendor potentials by looking at their Better Business Bureau rating, and check out review sites like Angie’s List and Google.
  • Ask for referrals: Whether it’s your clients, other vendors, or fellow event planners, tapping into your network is the best way to find reputable vendors.
  • Pay attention: When you go to other events, be observant about which vendors are providing a great service, and either grab a business card or try to have a quick conversation as the event winds down.

Nail down the nitty gritty details

Once you select a shortlist of vendors, you can hone in on the ones that work for your budget and needs. Then it’s up to you to be thorough.

It’s as important as hiring the vendors themselves, your contracts. Be meticulous and leave nothing to chance. Make sure the details you discuss with your vendors are clear and defined.

Start with these up front items:

  • Description of service, including date and hours
  • Cost and payment schedule
  • Insurance
  • licensing
  • Permit information

Leave room for negotiation. Good vendors are usually flexible and willing to offer a customized event package. Be honest about your budget and ask what they can provide for that price point. Other details you can try to negotiate are due dates; if a prepayment discount is available; and/or if they are willing to provide anything extra.

Take it a step further for your attendees

It’s not enough to have vendors at your event; it’s choosing the right vendors that’s most important. They help you elevate the attendee experience. But what about your VIP guests? Watch 17 Ways to Deliver VIP Experiences and find how you can create an exclusive event experience attendees crave — at the price they’re willing to pay.