In many industries, business, and in life in general; when one asks for, or is offered a “Recommendation” regarding a product or service, the response is most often based on personal experience and, or a working knowledge of the product or service they then recommend, given that they understand, either fully or a to a fair degree, the wants, and importantly the needs, of the person seeking knowledge. To a very large extent that is what a review or a testimonial is; a somewhat objective and honest appraisal of something. The underlying motive is one of wanting to share a positive experience, or alternatively warn people and protect them from sub-par operators.
When an engaged couple naively asks one wedding professional for a recommendation they are somewhat unaware of the baggage, the obligations and personal Biases that may accompany that recommendation. Many wedding pros are a part of a “Group”, be it small or large, whose primary purpose is cross-promotional. These groups are not to be confused with various associations such as the A.I.P.P. for photographers or the A.C.M.C.V. for Victorian celebrants whose purposes are consultation, credibility, camaraderie, education, representation and they often serve as the public face and at times a sanctioning body for a particular group.
By contrast there are independent operators that pool their resources and cross-promote inter-group. Unfortunately for the enquiring couple the recommendations from these groups members “may not be” based on the best possible choice for the couple, on their needs and wants, but rather on the said groups somewhat incestuous nature of cross-pollination for mutual gain. One hand washing the other.
So how is a couple to know? How are they to get the best for themselves and trust in the recommendations of those they ask ? The answer is relatively simple.
Ask why are they recommending that person or business, what makes the particular person extraordinary and the best option for the couple. Have they personally worked with their recommendation over a period of time; not just shared a drink with them at the groups meetings. If relevant, who did they use in the category you are asking about when they got married and why. Ask straight out, “are commissions being paid for the recommendations?”
The safest course of action when choosing any wedding professional is to do your own research. Look at websites, not just large “Portals” necessarily, just go straight to the operators sites and do your due-diligence (Search engines are your friend when you are specific with your search terms, unfortunately large portals can swamp markets because they have the budget to do so) Create a short list for each category of wedding pro and look at their site, is it professional, up-to-date, does it tell you, and more importantly show you, their service. Look for “Genuine” reviews from real clients, actual couples. Some of the above mentioned groups review pages are peppered with reviews by it own members recommending other members and praising the group. The poor, unsuspecting couple is sadly unaware that the person leaving the review is likewise a member and as such the review is near worthless.
Look for real couples pictures, not stock photos, genuine reviews from real couples and videos that display the services on offer. Look to social media, but again, for real people, not involved with the industry or some group being “promoted” rather than honestly and openly reviewed.
So why do I care ? Because unlike recommending your mechanic brother-in-law to service a work associates car where the consequences of a bad job means they move onto someone else next time and do not ask your advice again. A wedding is very often an expensive one-off event. It is one thing to accept a couples invitation to provide your service for their big day. It is up to the couple to do their home-work and make an informed decision based on the interaction with oneself. It is an entirely different proposition altogether to promote another wedding supplier unless you truly believe they are the very best option for the couple from the hundreds available. And that is despite the fact that they may be in the same clique or group as yourself and may recommend you on a regular basis.
Please, wedding professionals, by all means promote your services, but be very open, honest, transparent and prudent in your recommendations. Couples deserve the very best “they” can find and afford. That may or may not be yourself, your friends or members of your group.
Couples, don’t ask “who” without digging deeper into the “Why” and never assume transparency. You owe that much to yourselves, each-other, your family, your guests and the wedding professionals that you do choose to work with. Having said that, I do have a resources page on my website that lists various venues, photographers etc. but I clearly say on that page: “Here is a list of venues and a selection of some of the suppliers that I have worked with or that have been recommended to me by people I trust. As with all suppliers your choice should be made only after meeting with and discussing your requirements with them personally.” That page is, as the title implies a resource for couples, be they my couples or otherwise. They are not recommendations. Good luck with your search, I wish you well; I hope that is obvious from the above.