how to plan an event when vendors don’t get back to you

how to plan an event when vendors don't get back to you |

One of the most frustrating aspects of event planning is when you people that you rely on- caterers, venue managers, wedding planners – don’t get back to you in a timely manner. Well, let’s be honest – it’s one of the more frustrating parts of life, not just event planning. I’ve been asked by friends or colleagues planning an event for the first time how to deal with this issue so I thought I’d put together a post on it.

To start, let’s distinguish between pre- and post-booking. If this issue is before you have committed to using a particular vendor (and vendor can mean anyone providing a service or product for your event – it could be the contact at a venue or the helium provider for balloons – basically vendor refers to anyone you will be paying related to the event) then you have a bit more leeway. My thought is, if someone is difficult to get in touch with before I’ve committed to working with them, how do I know they won’t be difficult to work with during the planning or the event itself? I prefer to just find another vendor. Of course, I live and work in the Washington, DC area where there are tons of vendors for pretty much every service you can imagine. This strategy may not work if there is literally only one helium provider in town.

If that’s the case, I would express your concern about proceeding. Don’t be afraid to be honest! Explain your preferred method of communication (phone, email, etc.) and your timeline. Most event-related vendors are in the service industry and want to please their clients.

If you’ve already committed to use a vendor and you’re having trouble tracking him down, first assess the situation. Do you really need information ASAP? You might be working on an event that’s a few months away and a caterer doesn’t need to confirm menus until closer to the date, but you really want to get started. If you do need information immediately, have you picked up the phone? It seems silly, but I’m noticing more and more people wanting to do everything over email. When I’m having a hard time getting someone to write back to an email, I’ll pick up the phone. There’s no guarantee that the person will answer, but you’d be surprised how much more forthcoming people can be when they do pick up the phone versus having to respond to an email.

If you have tried emailing and calling several times to no avail, it might be time to reach out to the vendor’s colleagues. I try not to do this right away because it seems a bit backhanded, like I’m going behind my vendor’s back. But if you haven’t been getting what you need from your contact, calling the company’s main line or asking to speak to a supervisor (be careful here!) might either get you the information you need, or prompt a response from your main contact. (Related: How to deal with high turnover in hotels – in case your contact has left the company!)

In the same vein, you can always stop by. I use this as a last resort but sometimes it can be helpful – especially with restaurants where it can be hard to get anyone on the phone.

What about if your vendor is a one-woman show? If you haven’t been able to get in touch and it’s truly serious – such as your wedding is next week and your day-of coordinator is incommunicado – then it’s time to start searching for a plan B. There may be a good reason she isn’t getting in touch – perhaps there was a family emergency – but it might start to be considered a breach of contract. You would be smart to put feelers out to other vendors just in case.

The important thing is to be realistic about your needs and what a typical turnaround time should be and act appropriately. And it’s always helpful to have a conversation about the best way to communicate and make sure your priorities are outlined. At work I’m often juggling multiple events (and priorities) at once, so a vendor might be trying to get in touch with ME about something but I’m swamped with another event and just don’t have time to talk until next week. I try my best to communicate that to vendors – even if it’s just a quick email – so that they don’t have to waste resources trying to track ME down.

Hope this is helpful! Happy planning!

Photo Credit: { Connecting Directors }

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