your guide to preferred suppliers | uk wedding blog

facebook-profile-picture By Phoebe
Hilltop country house cheshire wedding photography (139)

Photography by Laura Babb

Good afternoon! Today’s post is directed mainly at brides, but also those in the industry that feel passionate about this topic too. You may or may not be aware that quite often a venue will have “preferred suppliers” list. This may mean they will show you a pretty brochure of who they like and if you use them, you may also get a discount. Whats not to love? Well…

Whilst this may sound like it would ease your planning woes, it may also hinder them. You may love the venue but realise that they have strict rules about who they like to work with for a wedding, using lines such as “it makes everything easier using caterers that know the venue” and “oh the DJ is fantastic, he has been working with us for years, we know we can rely on him“. How is this fair? What if you would like a specific band? It is your wedding day and you should be able to book whomever you damn please, not be dictated to by a 22 year old events manager.

out door wedding decor

Photography by Victor Sizemore

All I want you to do is ask how they got on the preferred supplier list, quite often it is because they paid to be there rather than the venue having an excellent relationship with the suppliers. You may be receiving a discount by using them, because they paid to be there. This does not mean they will be the best choice for your wedding. Just be savvy and ask questions at your initial meeting. Thankfully a lot of venues will compile a list based on their passion and love for a particular company, these are the kinds of people you want to work with for your wedding because if they take that much care in selecting some excellent people to recommend then they will also take excellent care of your wedding.

I am not saying that all venues that have paid preferred suppliers lists are bad and neither are the suppliers that are on them. You may like the people they suggest  and you may not mind that they have paid to be there, even if the venue gets a % of the booking, I just want you to go in to your first meeting with a little bit of knowledge behind what that list may actually mean. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I also don’t want you to miss out, the venue has narrowed down such a teeeeeeny selection of the industry, you may not feel inclined to search further, when actually there may be (probably is) better out there. Especially when it comes to the photographer.

uk wedding blog outdoor wedding

Photography by Marcus Bell

If anyone has anything they would like to add to help brides out on this matter then please do leave a comment. This is the edited and watered down version, I think I did ok to keep ranting at a minimum so that it was of some help?


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Matt Bowen //

Great advice. I have never really wanted to get tied into being on a suppliers recommended list for various reasons and most of these you cover. Brides and grooms need to be savvy and have a look around at what else is out there. A friend of mine used a recommended supplier at a wedding venue and felt that they got ‘Wedding Photography by Numbers,’ in that their pictures were taken in exactly the same spot as everyone else. When wedding coordinators tell me that most photographers ‘usually’ shoot in a particular place I immediately don’t want to shoot there. Sometimes using a photographer who has not been at a venue before can actually be the best thing to get original shots.

Pavone Photography //

Well done you for speaking up and putting this information out there!

It’s unbelievable how many couples are unaware of the fact that many of the suppliers being recommended to them by venues are not genuine recommendations based on merit, talent or professionalism, but ones that have been paid for.

As you say, that’s not always the case and there are some wonderful suppliers out there on these lists with good reason, but the paid route seems to be becoming increasingly common.

With spots on some lists at around the £500 mark, it’s clear why some venues exploit the opportunity to “cash in”. It’s completely irresponsible though (in my opinion) to take paid recommendations when you’re in a position of trust (or authority) yet know nothing more about a vendor than their name and credit card information.

Venue lists are always a great place to start your search for suppliers but never feel bound by them.

Mark Dolby //

I’m often asked if I’ve shot at a venue before when being compared to preferred supplier photographers. I think photographers are often at their most creative in new settings and could get stuck in a rut shooting at the same venue too often and I make sure to let potential clients know.

shelly //

Being on one of those preferred supplier lists, I gotta say that I disagree with some of your points there. I agree that some venues can be a little unaccommodating with some of their suppliers – I know plenty of couples who want a certain type of catering but aren’t allowed because of the preferred supplier list. When it comes to florists and photographers however, there is absolutely no reason why a couple can’t do a bit of research and find someone they love. They do not have to book off the preferred supplier list. It is a guide! The list I am on for the National Trust is vetted every single year. I even help suggest people to go on it if I think their work is brilliant or innovative. Not all wedding co-ordinators at venues are out to make their life easier and make everyone fit in a wedding box. They are a suggestion. I don’t do photography by numbers…. I too hate it when hotels tell me that there is a staircase or a fountain to shoot in front of. But not all co-ordinators are like that. And not all of them are 22-year-olds. In fact, the older the co-ordinator, the less they think outside the box. It is the responsibility of everyone in the industry and also brides and grooms if they want to see a change in how weddings run. More and more we are seeing that brides and grooms don’t want a bog standard scatter crystal affair with lycra chair covers thank god, but unless we push for the change, venues will continue to offer that kind of stuff because we keep buying it. I’ve never known a venue insist on their dj or deny access to a band unless it’s for practical reasons. Yes we pay a percentage of our fee for being on the list, but I get a lot of enquiries from the list. But I’m going to say it again, they don’t have to book me. Couples have a choice. They can look locally, they can search nationally or internationally. They can look on blogs and in magazines. Lots of my clients find my work on blogs and that’s great. Lots of my clients also come via recommendation from venues where I’m not even on the preferred supplier list! It’s about choice. If a couple chooses not to do research and plumps for the first name on a list, that is their prerogative. If you check out a photographer’s website and see photography by numbers and that’s not your bag, don’t book him! I do not pay to be on a list…. I pay a percentage of my fee if I get a booking through them. If you don’t want to be on a list, you don’t have to be.

Phoebe //
    Thank you for your comment Shelly, it is nice to hear from the other side. Like I said, I just wanted to make brides aware of what it may mean to be on one. It sounds like the National Trust list is quite different to other standard venues though.
Mark Dolby //

A useful insight Shelley and I hope my previous comment didn’t come over to negative, just another perspective. Sounds like the venue your on the list for has it right!

Phoebe //

I think its good the national trust sound like they actually listen and dont just put people because they are willing to pay.

Cameron | Crest Marquees //

I think venues always recommended a preferred list of suppliers, as they know how well they can work with their venue! Matching venue to suppliers can be hard, so its good to have a team that you know will work easily together 🙂

Jay Archer //

This is a very interesting post, but I do feel it is quite one sided. I have built my floristry business up over 3 years, and am proudly preferred supplier to several prestigious venues- something which, for a young business, I am extremely proud of. I agree that some venues offer lists to clients that have not been vetted, or whose work they know a great deal about and only want the cash. HOWEVER, I agree whole-heartedly with what Shelley says.

I am ‘on the list’ for many venues who actively push me, and those who don’t or I don’t think appreciate what I do, or are interested in just the money, I have withdrawn from. For me, working at a venue means I push myself to constantly think of new ideas within those 4 walls- how can I make the next different from the last, what will look good in the venue?

It is all about the venue and their investment in you. To be, being preferred supplier means I have a book full of tried and tested ideas but also a million more ideas of things that’ll look amazing. To be it’s about exploring that with the client, and suggesting things that really make the venue personal to them and different.

And I agree that in many cases, the younger the coordinator the more open they are to ideas although a good planner will always be open to ideas and possibilities within the realms, and will embrace your ideas as they’re trusted supplier doing the best for the venue, and the client.

I have had many a case where people have got a quote, then gone away to get others and come back to me which I think proves that as preferred supplier, I do really know what is best for the venue and client.

A certain venue of mine takes pride in hand selected their suppliers, as the property is family owned and they have more of a vested interest in it and they want to ensure what I do is right for them as ultimately it reflects on them too.

I am proud to be preferred supplier at all my venues, and hope my work and that of my team continues to prove why!

Phoebe //

I think a bride would see your work and know that you would be the best choice, and being a preferred supplier would reassure them in this.

I have heard some awful stories lately. One of which being a venue wouldn’t let the bride have her chosen florist and had to choose between the venue or the flowers 🙁 It just seems so unfair.