Capitol Advice: The F Word Revisited | Friends as Wedding Vendors – The Good, Bad & Ugly

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  • January 29, 2014

This topic is no where close to new in the wedding industry. Time and time again, vendors & bloggers tackle the “heinous crime” of having your friend serve the duty of a wedding vendor on your wedding day. Now these posts always bugged me because they never seemed to show more than just the side of the one vendor posting the article. What about the times where a friend was exactly what was needed and things worked out perfectly because it was done right? I always wondered if other people got turned off a bit, like I did, when you read a vendor telling you to hire them instead of hiring someone else. Well DUH they want you to hire them!

Now, before the entirety of the wedding blogosphere storms my house and tries to burn me at the stake, don’t mistake what I am saying here. I will 100% advocate (just like I did with my post on DIYing your wedding flowers) that a professional vendor is and always will be the best and safest choice for your wedding. Wedding Professionals know the intricacies and complexities that wedding days require and they will ALWAYS be the best choice for your wedding day vendors. You cannot compare a professional vendor’s services and outputs to that of a friend/novice. This is also a reason why you should work with experienced professionals and not “I have an iPhone so I can shoot your wedding” photographers – but that is a whole other blog I will someday write.

But what about all the countless couples (including yours truly) that have asked friends to serve as wedding vendors for their big day – and it worked out just fine? What if you just don’t have the budget to hire a professional for EVERY aspect of your wedding day? Well then, let us share some real insight, from REAL couples that used a friend as a wedding vendor so that you guys can see ALL sides of this argument, not just one.

Hiring Friends as Wedding Vendors – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

friend as wedding vendor

[My friend Dorothy on the left, helping my sister with the processional | Image: Live It Out Photography]

First let’s start with a note of caution. The all-important warning that just because hiring a friend worked for me and some others, it DOES NOT MEAN it will work for you. This is not an all encompassing post. This is a reflection of a handful of real couples that used friends as vendors to help YOU decide if it MIGHT be right for you and your partner too!

The [Cautionary] Good: It Worked For Someone Else [But that Does NOT Mean It Will Work For You]

Recent DC area bride, Ashley, hired her friend to serve as her day-of coordinator. For Ashley, this decision worked out perfectly! She shared:

“One of the hallmarks of our wedding was the way that our friends and family were so much a part of it. I had never considered a traditional coordinator (and frankly, felt that I would be more stressed out by one), so to have a friend that was willing to take this on was a gift indeed. She helped me feel confident about any decisions I second-guessed, she asked questions I didn’t think to, she handled some rather upsetting vendor issues effortlessly. ” – Ashley

Another former bride, Rachel explained that they also had success with hiring friends. She attributes her success to mainly 3 things. 1, that she was a fairly laid-back bride, 2, she was also highly organized, and 3, her friends that were involved were also pretty experienced at what she was asking them to do!

“I was laid back in that I was up for anything, but in general I was more so highly organized with checklists and timelines and charts (such as: “who is driving in what cars to which parts of the wedding” WITH pictures all neatly tacked up on the food cabinet… I got a lot of flack for that haha). I don’t recall setting out to have friends so involved in my day, but a few offered and we ended up reaching out to a couple others and it just happened that way! The friends that I involved in the day were already very experienced and very talented in what I asked them to do.” – Rachel

hiring friends as wedding vendors

I would second Ashley & Rachel’s sentiments. Personally, I asked a friend to help coordinate our wedding – she helped us make favors, decorations, and served as a day-of coordinator for us. Dorothy had a professional background in design and managing bands – two key items that lent itself to making her a great wedding coordinator. The other two things that set us up for success were:

1- Just like Rachel I was HIGHLY organized bride (is anyone surprised by this?). I had binders, budget spreadsheets, a calendar view schedule, and I even had a weekly meeting with Andy … including agendas that we had created (hah, I wish I was kidding). I was really hands-on and involved in my own wedding planning, so I did not feel I required the full-scale help/assistance that a planner might want to give me & Andy.

2- My catering company also provided us with a day-of coordinator that had worked with us from the minute we hired them to ensure our linens, tablescapes, escort cards, and decorations were all laid out properly. I do not think this is normal – but I could not say enough about what Catering By Uptown‘s Jeff did for our wedding day. He seamlessly decorated and setup a lot of our DIY details and decor – something that Dorothy might have had to do if not for them!

Click inside for The Bad & The Ugly …. and advice if you are still going to do this any way ;)

The Bad: This Might Be a Bad Decision For the Vendor Too

I think the one side of the “friends as wedding vendors” argument that is not often addressed is the view-point of the friend. It might be just as bad for the friend/vendor as it is for the couple! Did you consider that maybe they want to enjoy your wedding day as a friend and NOT have to be working? Did you consider that maybe they feel bad saying no? Did you also consider that they might feel a crazy amount of pressure to deliver something to you?

I have a friend that is a professional wedding photographer that was asked by friends to shoot their wedding. She shot it, and now they are no longer friends. :( You’ve heard the age-old “never mix business with pleasure” – maybe hiring your friend isn’t the right course of action for either of you. As Slyvie mentions,

“In the end, the friendship is more important than some flaws on your wedding day. The wedding day is a big deal with lots of things to coordinate and full of emotional people.  It might feel easy to freak out on the wedding coordinator but you have to remember that she is doing you a favor. ” – Slyvie

Would you feel comfortable telling a friend that you want them to do something differently, that you are unhappy with what they are doing? Weddings are CRAZY emotional, no matter how “laid-back” you are and wedding professionals are experienced and equipped to deal with this. Friends, are not. The other thing to think about too, as we mentioned earlier, consider what the day might be like for your friend that is now working, instead of enjoying your wedding day.

“Now knowing what it’s like to work a long wedding as a photographer I wish that he was in the wedding party or a guest to enjoy the day and celebrate with us.  I feel like a jerk that I put the pressure on him to spend our day working that hard in something that he wasn’t even qualified to do” – Steve

“[Friends] would be completely unable to spend any time with you in the days leading up to your wedding and on your big day because [they]’ll be busy dealing with flowers/details/etc. Let your friends be your friends and let professionals be professionals!” – Rachel

hiring friends as wedding vendors

The Ugly: Reasons Not to Have a Friend, Validated

Let me just open this section with the fact that while some vendors might kill me for saying this, but I am going to say it anyway – there is ONE vendor that you should probably NEVER rely on a friend to be, and that is your photographer. I won’t drone on too much about this, but instead will refer you to an article on Rock and Roll Bride that pretty much sums this up. I will also let you know that a friend of mine hired a friend (I think their cousin to be exact) as their wedding photographer and they have NO pictures of the two of them together on their wedding day. None. I’ve already covered the importance of wedding photography on this blog, so really, I don’t think this is something worth gambling. Like Rachel says,

“Unless your mother’s-brother’s-wife’s-cousin who is asking to shoot your wedding is Jose Villa, I wouldn’t jump on the most readily available “money saver” that reveals itself! Just because your brother’s wife has a decent camera and likes to photograph things doesn’t mean they will have experience posing a bride and groom or managing their time properly to best capture your typical crazy hectic wedding day!”

Another recent bride, Liz told me about how they attempted to go the friend route first, but after some warning signs, they opted to go in a different direction. Liz shared,

“I have a close family friend who is a professional photographer based out of Ohio. I’ve always loved her work and thought that when I got married having her as a photographer would be a no-brainer.  I emailed her trying to figure out how she normally works out of state weddings and she didn’t reply to my email for over a week explaining her usual pricing for out of state travel.  I emailed her back pretty quickly and again she took a few weeks to reply.  After talking to my fiancé about her inability to respond to emails in a reasonable amount of time we decided we wanted to go with another photographer.” – Liz

Consider this: maybe the family friend won’t take you guys as seriously as they would a full-paying, non-favor related client. Did you even consider that? Though you might be getting a “deal” by hiring a friend – you might not actually end up getting what you are paying for regardless!

hiring friends as wedding vendors

Please also realize that even the friends that are tangentially experienced in the field you might be hiring them for, might not come through like you are expecting. Afterall, they are NOT a professional, they are your friend (isn’t that why you are hiring them?). Previous groom Steve, had just that happen for his wedding pictures. They hired a friend – a friend that was super talented and artistic in the field of photography … but was not a professional wedding photographer. Steve shared,

“The biggest problems were that he was a very new to this and he edited every photo in its own way so the whole set of images looks very disjointed and there’s no consistent story.  It makes for a horrible set of images to create an album or even hang them on the wall next to each other.  He took forever to get us our photos.  He didn’t take any photos of just the two of us.  All of our portraits were of our bridal party as a group.  Lots of bridal party shots were fun, but years later we would love a lot more images of just the two of us.  He also lost all of our images eventually so had we lost ours we would have been screwed.

It costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars to have a strong backup and recovery solution as a pro photographer, and family/friends don’t invest in those systems.” – Steve

Conclusion: If You Are Still Going To Do It ….

Now that you’ve read more than just one side of hiring friends as wedding vendors, we hope you are in a better place to make this decision. And if you are going to move forward with hiring your friend, let us at least offer some free advice on how to [hopefully] do it right to avoid falling into the bad or ugly stages of this decision.

Find a Friend You Trust Enough to be Honest With

Not all friends are created equal. You know you have some friends that you just don’t feel comfortably being completely honest with – or ones that have the thinnest skin possible. Ones that don’t handle stress well, or ones that THINK they can take it all on (but really can’t). Think long and hard about the friend you are going to ask to play a crucial part in one of the most important and emotional days of you life, and ensure you can be completely honest and open with this person.

Find a friend that has tangentially comparable skills

If you are going to hire a friend to be your wedding vendor, at least find one that has some comparable skills! Ashley hired her friend to be her day-of coordinator, but only because she knew that her friend had a passion for weddings and was already proven to be helpful earlier in the planning process.

“I knew from our early conversations that she had a passion for it and loved the romance of it all and on the days when I was really stressed out about it, she gave me perspective. I know that I am not the only one who nudged her to consider coordinating as a full-time gig. “- Ashley

Bride, Rachel, also hired friends but most were ALREADY experienced in the industry she was asking them to work in:

“The friends that I involved in the day were already very experienced and very talented in what I asked them to do. My florist friend had been working in shops for years but transferred her “shop” to my basement for the weekend and so generously charged me at cost for everything. Our photographer friend was my husband’s cousin’s wife (haha) and she offered! I of course immediately accepted seeing as she was/is an AMAZING photographer and is quite a popular lady now running Sea Chant out in Portland and doing all sorts of Kinfolk things. Our DJ had his own full time typical government job but did a LOT of DJ’ing on the side and his personality fit perfectly for us and we trusted him implicitly to be just the kind of guy we wanted running things at our reception. Our cake baker friend from church was up for helping us out because I wasn’t looking for anything complicated. I’ve seen people get their grandma to make a million layered cake that starts falling mid reception – but I was just looking for 5 single layer cakes! I probably could have done it, but they wouldn’t have tasted or looked anywhere near as good as this talented lady.” – Rachel

Get An Agreement In Place

This might seem odd, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to get SOME sort of agreement in place between you and the friend. Do NOT leave things up to assumptions. Get BOTH of your expectations out in the open, early on in the process and make sure even the hard discussions (like MONEY) are had. In order to protect both you and your vendor/friend, I would put at least something simple in writing.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

And then communicate again. There is no such thing here as over-communicating. Start your communication with the bullet above, and then communicate throughout the ENTIRE wedding planning process. What are their duties on the wedding day? At a certain point can they “become a guest”? When can you expect your pictures/video/etc? What time will they be arriving to setup?

“I think it is super important to have a really honest conversation with your friend and figure out if it would be a right fit.  Have they ever coordinated a wedding? I was lucky that my friend had already coordinated someone else’s wedding and I knew it was something she could handle. She is very enthusiastic about weddings and I loved her energy. How available will they be to meet with you to discuss the wedding? How involved will they be with the process?  Our friend was a day of coordinator but she met with me a few times before the wedding to talk over details.  It is definitely best to discuss everything up front.  Even a few days before the wedding, I met with our friend and basically gave her a briefing on the family dynamics.” – Slyvie

Copyright 2010

And finally … remember that the friendship is more important than anything else. If things are starting to go bad (or worse, towards ugly) then I urge you to reconsider hiring a wedding professional.

What do you think Romancers? Did we tackle the ‘hiring friends as wedding vendors’ in a way that made you consider it some more? Are we completely off on this and really only professional vendors should be considered? Would love to know your thoughts (the good, the bad, and the ugly) below!

 

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5 Comments

  • Amber Wilkie says:

    Love this post, and love how much time and effort you put into researching and writing it. And now I’ll have to disagree with you on the one issue I should be defending: using a friend as a wedding photographer. I have to throw it out there that some people either do not have the money for wedding photos or just don’t care. And honestly, the difference between a $1k wedding photographer and the friend with a good camera is probably close to nil. I was the friend-with-a-good-camera at a very good friend’s wedding. It’s terrifying to think of all the things I did not know and all the backups I did not have in place (I was literally buying extra SD cards the day of the wedding.) But it did turn out fine, they didn’t pay me a cent, and they’re happy with their photos to this day, even though they see what their images might have looked like had they hired a professional (namely, mine.)

    I will say, that if you do hire a friend to do the wedding photography, you will have to put in more time and effort to get what you want out of the situation. You’ll have to be proactive about getting those by-yourself images – in case the person gets stressed out and forgets – and think about all the other images that important to you that you want to make sure get captured (make a list, literally – the only time I will advocate for this!). Then again, I missed that whole wedding – I was working and wasn’t drinking or having a good time at all. But I’m glad I was able to give them that gift. For people who likely would have no pictures from their wedding at all (the likely scenario for my friends), it’s not a completely unattractive option.

    • Bree Ryback says:

      Thank you for sharing Amber! Always more sides to consider than just my own, so I appreciate the time you took to write this response! There is always an exception to the rule and you are right that it CAN work out for people to use a friend/photographer. But I just think (like you outlined) it requires some extra work and maybe realistic expectations?

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