1. When asking them to provide references, do not ask for the names/contacts of former clients. It goes without saying that businesses will only provide names of highly satisfied, happy clients who will give raving reviews of their work. Instead, ask for a list of venues they work at most often, and then reach out to the events department at those venues to ask about their experiences with these event professionals.
2. When reading online reviews, pay close attention to any negative ones. You can often tell if the reviewer is a high maintenance, overly demanding client or if the event professional truly failed in certain areas. If possible, see how the issues raised were resolved. Did the event professional respond to the review in a defensive manner? Or did he/she show sincere regrets and tried to make things right for the client? The truth is, we all make mistakes no matter how great we are at our jobs. The important thing to note is how we handle mistakes that come up, which can be telling of our integrity and business/personal values.
3. What kind of processes do they have in place when working with clients? Those who have been in the business long enough knows the importance of having some kind of process. There are so many details in a wedding, and by having a good process in place, you can rest assure that the event professional will be organized and on top of the details for all of their events.
4. Attitude matters. How excited are they about your wedding? Does it sound like your event is just one of many events for them? Hiring people that are passionate about what they do makes a big difference on the quality of work they produce. We all know that if we love what we do, it never feels like a "job" and we would put in our best efforts at all times.
5. What other event professionals are they associated with? For example, if the company you are vetting claims to do "high end weddings" and prices their services that way, check out their past work to see what venues, event planners, and other event professionals they have worked with. Are those all high end professionals as well?
6. Be wary of prices that are too good to be true or that are not in line with the quality of event you're looking to host. Event professionals who are serious about their jobs know that they need to charge fairly for their time and expertise. Those that are quick to give discounts may either be weekend warriors (they have another full time job during the week) trying to gain more experience, or they have to make up for the loss somewhere else (such as cutting the time they have to spend preparing for your event, or taking on more volume even though they are not equipped to handle it).
In this age of social media, it is often hard to tell if a company's online persona is truly reflective of their real personality and business values. Therefore, we encourage you to chat with them over the phone, Skype, or to meet in person. Getting to chat with them live will allow you to see if you can establish a good rapport with them. At the end of the day, you want to hire people you genuinely like and trust, because you will not have the capacity to micromanage them on your wedding day.
Lastly, I want to mention that the team dynamics on a wedding day can really impact how well the event is executed, so it would be to your benefit to hire a team that is already familiar with one another. Just like in an office setting, working amongst team members that you know and genuinely like can make a project so much more fun and productive. Everyone pitches in to help one another and works harder. It's the same for wedding professionals! Once you've hired a photographer, ask them who they enjoy working with for makeup/hair, cinematography, flowers, etc. Chances are, those references would be a great starting point for you to go off of!