Ask for referrals from friends and family members. Talk to recent brides who have used the service you are considering. Ask for their pros and cons. Interview at least three different firms before committing. Don't accept a banquet halls recommendation without first checking out the firm. Don't accept an absolute ("On tables, we always put carnations in bud vases.") Insist on reviewing sample books of florists' and photographers' work.
Hire a company with a successful track record. A firm that has been in business for years has proven itself to hundreds of customers. Although this is not a guarantee (management can change), it is a positive sign.
Trust your feelings. A wedding-service professional who seems haughty, patronizing, overly rushed, or resistant to your suggestions in an initial interview is unlikely to change over the next several months. If simple conversation is uncomfortable, go elsewhere. Avoid anyone who asks for an initial deposit that is more than 50 percent of the total price of the service. Withholding full payment is your only leverage if the service is not provided or if it is substandard.
Be suspicious of any professional who refuses to sign a contract. Anything that has been promised verbally must be spelled out in writing. If a company says they do not have standard contracts, ask for, or provide, a letter of agreement. Both you and the service provider must sign any document to make it legally binding.
Never be pushed into signing anything. Give yourself time to fully understand the document. Ask as many questions as are necessary. An ethical professional whose services are in demand should courteously answer all questions and never pressure you for a quick decision or deposit. For example, never cave in to pressure to put a deposit down on a gown before the store closes that day. If this means that you must return another day to finalize the deal, do that. If you were made to feel uncomfortable about delaying your decision, rethink buying from the store or hiring the firm.
Keep tabs on the professionals once you've put down a deposit. Bands, in particular, may break up or re-form during your engagement months. Market changes may make it impossible for your florist to deliver a particular flower. Stay in touch!