On Preferred Wedding Vendor Lists and Why I Don’t “Pay to Play”

Everyone knows, I try to keep my blog light, fluffy and non-controversial. But I’ve got a bee in my bedlah today and feel like venting. So here goes.

Brides, picture yourself in the following scenario. You’ve booked the Orlando wedding venue of your dreams. In your meeting with the venue’s event planning staff, the catering manager hands you a glossy brochure with wedding planning tips and featured weddings, and tells you to shop for your vendors in the “Preferred Vendors” list in the back of the book and on the venue’s website. You go ahead and begin your search – after all, if those vendors got the blessing of a high-end reception venue, then they HAVE to be trustworthy and good, right?

Well….not exactly. How would you feel if somebody told you that those vendors paid $400 or more for their “preferred” status?

In the Orlando wedding industry, most Preferred Vendor lists are exactly what it sounds like – a list of vendors that have proven themselves, time and again, through their hard work, outstanding customer service, and amazing product and/or service. You EARN preferred status through your own personal track record of excellence, and by carefully cultivating relationships with key wedding professionals. This can take years, especially in a supersaturated market like Orlando.

So picture my excitement when a rep from a high-end Orlando wedding venue, which shall remain nameless, called me this morning to let me know that they were going to place me on their Preferred Vendor list. (Little ole me? I must be doing something right). And then, a whole bunch of random distribution and demographic info later, “surprise!” the sales pitch. For just $400, I could join the ranks of their “preferred” wedding vendors.

NO, thank you. (And next time, just tell me that you’re trying to sell ad space.)

I can’t begrudge the publishing companies for trying to make money, the sales reps for doing their job, or the venues for distributing these brochures. The brochures are gorgeous and a nice little value-added bonus that doesn’t cost the venue anything. But I DO have a major problem with this:

If you have to pay to be part of the list, it’s NOT a true preferred vendor list. It’s an advertisement. If it’s not clearly marked as such, then the publication AND the venue that distributes it, are misleading their brides.

Here’s the deal. When a Preferred Vendor list is determined by a third party (the publisher) and the sales quotas they have to meet, anyone with $400 burning a hole in their pocket can simply buy their way to the top – whether or not they have a good reputation or a quality product to show for it. Quality referral-based relationships get thrown out the window when money comes into play. Where’s the quality control? And what happens to the venue’s reputation if their “preferred” vendors are sketchy and mess up a few too many weddings?

We all know that the vendors with the biggest advertising budgets aren’t necessarily the ones who put out the best work or have the best local reputations – pampered wives with “businesses” are an unfortunate reality in the belly dance world. Will a paid “Preferred” vendor list attract legit wedding pros or any fly-by-night vendor looking to take a shortcut?

At the end of the day, my work speaks for itself and I get tons of referrals and repeat bookings. If I’m placed on a Preferred Vendor list, or a wedding pro refers me to a bride, then this is because they love my work and they know I’ll make their brides happy. No money has changed hands – only good karma. And that’s the way it’ll always be.

What do you think? Vendors, would YOU pay $400 to get on a Preferred Vendor list? Brides, how do you feel about this practice?

Orlando belly dancer, Carrara Nour
Carrara Nour, Belly Dancer in Orlando


About Carrara Nour: Carrara is an Orlando-based belly dancer offering custom entertainment for weddings and glamorous events. To learn more, check out her Booking or Weddings page, or follow her on Facebook.

Comments · 4

  1. I was automatically suspicious of ‘preferred vendor’ lists when I was planning my wedding, especially when they involved a glossy brochure! Stuff like catering and disco set-ups I could understand, but when they began including photographers, florists and favour makers, I started to smell a bit of a rat.

    There is enough advertising around weddings already, this just sounds like a way for venues and wedding planners to screw more advertising money out of vendors, which in turn raises the costs for customers!

  2. I don’t blame you one bit! While the majority of Preferred Vendor lists are based on quality relationships and trust, you do have to be careful of a) the glossy leaflets, and b) the possibility that a vendor might not be doing any “spring cleaning” to their list to weed out vendors that don’t deliver or to make room for new talent. Definitely give referrals their consideration, because any vendor worth their salt won’t refer a colleague that will let you down – but make sure to do your homework and go with your gut!

    You do bring up a good point about advertising costs. In many markets, especially supersaturated markets like Orlando, it costs a LOT more to build a wedding-focused business than to go after smaller social events. And it only gets worse if EVERY venue requires a $400 investment simply for you to get business from them. Thank goodness this only represents a small handful of wedding venues!

  3. Wow! I wish I could say I am surprised but I’m not. Anything to make an extra buck right? I consider this practice to be extremely unethical. It gives the industry a bad rap. I think that if you are having people pay to be on your list then that should be stated on the brochure. I would never accept money from someone to be placed on my preferred vendor list.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. Preferred Vendor lists should be based on quality relationships and trust, NOT who has the deepest pockets. Imagine if EVERY venue required a $400 investment to guarantee that they’d send you referrals. Yikes! I’ll stick to old-fashioned networking, thanks! And for that matter, I would never accept a kickback from a colleague I referred. If they do want to help me out, they can offer the kickback amount in the form of a discount and pass the savings along to my clients. Thanks for your comments!!

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