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A Planner’s Guide to Event Vendors 

Planning a successful event involves working with a large team of reliable, capable professionals. Planners work with venues, specialized staff, and vendors to ensure everything runs smoothly. A lot of tiny pieces must fall into place for an event to succeed, and the wrong event vendors could lead to lots of trouble later in the planning process. 

In this guide, we’re walking you through everything you should know about event vendors. We explore what vendors are, distinct types of event vendors, and where event planners like you can find them. Moreover, we examine the value of the planner-vendor relationship and its impact on event success.  

Everything planners need to know about event vendors 

Discover what characteristics to look for in a vendor, which vendors are best for different types of events, and more. From the questions you should ask vendors to what you should expect from them, you’ll uncover tips, tools, and best practices that make the vendor sourcing process a breeze. 

What are event vendors?  

Event vendors are businesses or individuals that provide goods or services for events. They may specialize in a specific type of event, such as weddings or corporate events, or offer extensive services for large-scale, private, and VIP events. While some event vendors—like caterers or wedding planners—play a particular role in the planning process, other vendors, such as event rental companies, oversee numerous aspects of an event.  

Although event planners, designers, and organizers build the outline for an event, vendors help bring it to life; they are the people and companies that make your event stand out.  

Many event vendors create the products they offer or provide their services directly. By bringing what they do best to the table, hiring local, notable vendors can elevate the appeal of any event.  

Popular event vendors and why we recommend them 

Vendor needs vary by event, fluctuating with event size, attendee count, budget, and other vital factors. Planners may rely on one or two vendors for smaller events, like a business luncheon, while food vendors may make up as much as 5% of the total attendee count at massive outdoor events (e.g., a musical festival). While some planners look for all-inclusive venues with contracted vendors on site, others prefer to find particular vendors that match their event style and message. Some of the most sought-after event vendors include:   

  1. Venue managers. Most event venues employ a manager or coordinator who liaises between the venue and the event team. They typically work with the planner leading up to the event, at which point the on-site event coordinator takes over assisting clients and their guests.   
  1. Event rental companies. Many venues provide tables, chairs, cutlery, and other event inventory but may not have everything you need. Eliminate the need to place numerous orders by consolidating equipment rental and setup with one vendor.  
  1. Decorators. An event decorator takes a client’s event concept and turns it into reality. They work with the event planner or organizing team to formulate a clear understanding of their vision. Then, the event decorator sets upon finding the right color palette, lighting design, props, and event decorations to transform the event venue into their client’s dream space.  
  1. Stage designers. Event stage design involves incorporating production elements into an event or presentation space to amplify the venue’s aesthetics and enhance the attendees’ experience. Event stage designers work with lighting, sound, and stage design to build an immersive space and improve the overall atmosphere of an event.  
  1. Ticketing services. Ticketing vendors, like online ticketing platforms, can streamline pre-event planning, speed up registration, and sell more event tickets through automation. In addition to offering online ticketing tools, onsite registration vendors help make event arrival a smooth, seamless, and satisfactory experience for attendees.  
  1. Licensers. Planning events often requires obtaining permission from “the powers that be” (i.e., city or county regulators). Confirm event policies for your desired host location, as they may require obtaining a license or permit for certain activities, such as serving alcohol, installing temporary lighting, playing live music, or booking performance artists.  
  1. Food & and beverage suppliers. Food and beverage (F&B) suppliers play a significant role in most events. Many venues that offer in-house dining or catering services require you to use them, while some allow clients to work with outside vendors. Reduce day-of-event stress by finding an experienced catering company with a reputation for flexibility and positivity. Look for F&B vendors who can adjust to any kitchen setup and bust out a smooth dining service, no matter how many guests attend.  
  1. Bartenders. For events with alcohol, hiring bar staff takes a lot of the day-off service work off your hands. Although many catering businesses offer bartending services or employ a barkeep, that’s not always the case. If not, hire a group of bartenders to mix up delicious cocktails or impress event attendees with a world-class mixologist.  
  1. Entertainers. If you’ve ever hired a band or DJ, you’ve worked with an event vendor. Magicians, acrobats, and other performers are also entertainment vendors, with mixologists walking the line between bartending and entertaining. Spice up your next event with unexpected vendor entertainment.  
  1. Lodging partners. You may need secure lodging for out-of-town events or events with non-resident guests. Hotels, B&Bs, and corporate apartments are popular event accommodation partners. Contact nearby hotels for room block quotes and rate proposals.  
  1. Transportation vendors. The layout of an event venue plays a prominent role in the transportation vendors required to accommodate attendees. If moving from one part of the event to another requires a long walk, offer guests rides in golf carts, rickshaws, or town cars. Consider offering airport transportation or providing hotel shuttles for out-of-town events.  
  1. Audiovisual (AV) suppliers. AV companies provide several forms of audio and visual equipment for private parties, corporate meetings, and other events. They design and install equipment that provides the high-tech event experience their clients envision. AV suppliers work with an array of event technology, including conference calling equipment, high-def video screens, speaker setups, lighting design, and more.  
  1. Florists. Most of the stunning floral arrangements you see at weddings, banquets, and other events are the product of a florist or floral designer. These artists use shape, color, and texture to create gorgeous, fragrant arrangements like centerpieces and bouquets. Florists operate differently than many other event vendors, as they arrive before the event starts to arrange their decorations and leave before attendees arrive.  
  1. Photographers. Instead of running around the event to capture snapshots of the most memorable moments, hire an event photographer. Photographers are responsible for anticipating and capturing the event’s most memorable moments, benefiting both the planner and the client.  
  1. Videographers. Although videographers are often associated with weddings, parties, and other private events, they’re also valuable vendors at corporate events. Book a videographer to capture the highlights of an international corporate convention or wellness retreat. Video will provide fond memories for company leaders and be a welcome addition to your planning portfolio.  
  1. Graphic designers. Consider hiring a graphic designer for event marketing materials. From invitations and banners to registration forms and dinner menus, a qualified graphic designer can create captivating print and online event materials.  
  1. Security personnel. Private vendor companies provide event security to diverse venues to ensure the safety and security of events. They may partner with local, state, or national government agencies to ensure events at all levels of notoriety are safe and secure. Security teams are trained to oversee VIP events, protect high-profile executives, patrol the venue, and perform similar duties.  
  1. Cleanup crews. Venues commonly hold planners or event organizers responsible for at least a portion of the end-of-event cleanup. Policies range from venue to venue, with some requiring minimal clean-up efforts and others requiring in-depth cleaning. Consider hiring a special event cleaning service to avoid post-event cleanup altogether.  
  1. Temporary staff. While most venues have a team of employees to assist during events, hiring full-time event staff can be expensive. Budget-conscious planners might be able to save a few bucks with temporary event staffing. To ensure attendees receive the care and attention they deserve without exceeding your budget, consider contacting a staffing agency to link up with temporary event staff. With little training, temps can fill important event roles, including line monitors, ticket collectors, and directional staff.  

What should you look for when booking event vendors?  

Delegating responsibilities is one of the most essential roles you fill as an event planner, and hiring the right team of vendors can make your job much easier. Reliable vendors take pride in their work and excitedly greet attendees; they are welcoming and add credibility to the event. Ultimately, event attendees perceive vendors as an extension of their host, so selecting the right vendors is crucial. 

Whether you want to hire the best caterer or book showstopping event entertainment, look for vendors with the following characteristics:  

  • Professional industry experience 

If you’re hosting a casual backyard event, asking friends and family to help you set up or cook is no big deal. However, more elevated events require a refined, professional touch. Whether planning an office holiday party, formal anniversary celebration, or silent auction, seek out vendors with experience working your type of event. Contact fellow industry professionals or local event venues for vendor recommendations, as they tend to have the inside scoop.  

  • An eye-popping portfolio 

Vendor portfolios are remarkable resources for event planners and are similar to event planning portfolios. In addition to awards, testimonials, and photos, portfolios give you an idea of the vendor’s aesthetic—their brand. If you’re interested in collaborating with a vendor, request to view their portfolio or see examples of their past work to ensure that their style matches your event vision.  

  • Fantastic communication skills 

The best vendor relationships flow seamlessly; you communicate your expectations, and they share theirs. A great vendor maintains open lines of communication and is available to assist when needed. Find vendors you can build a strong rapport with, which can help the event team feel more comfortable asking questions or making requests.  

  • Positive reviews 

When researching potential vendors, always check their reviews. Read reviews on the vendor’s main website, but don’t forget to dig deeper. Because venues, vendors, and other businesses tend to highlight their best reviews online, it’s vital to seek out the reviews they don’t want splashed on their front pages. Take some time to research potential event vendors on review sites like Yelp to review honest consumer feedback. Read a few reviews from each star rating for a well-rounded perspective.  

  • Willing to collaborate  

In event planning, teamwork is everything. Collaborating with event vendors is critical to executing events smoothly, so finding vendors willing to collaborate can make or break an event. Work with vendors to form a strategic approach to events that reduces costs, boosts efficiency, and improves the attendee experience.  

How to find the right vendors for your event  

Every vendor isn’t the right fit for every event, and executing successful events means working with vendors who fit your style. To find the right vendors to assist with your event, follow these steps:  

  1. Establish your event needs 

What will your event look like? How large is it? Where will it take place? What’s the theme? Who’s your target audience? Once you have a clear idea of the event, you can better assess how much help you need to coordinate the affair.  

  1. Look for venues with an open vendor policy  

Your venue may not offer all the services you’d like for your event. Book an event venue with an open vendor policy to streamline the planning process and avoid headaches later. An open vendor policy allows the booker to use non-venue vendors for their event, which can benefit event planners in numerous ways. Shopping around for the most affordable vendor in each area is a fantastic way for organizers to save money and reduce vendor expenses.  

  1. Research potential vendors 

Conduct diligent research to create a shortlist of vendors with solid reputations that meet your needs. Many event planners take recommendations from fellow industry experts or locate vendors through word of mouth. In addition to their professional network, search engines can help put planners on the right track. After reviewing search engine results, planners may check sites like TrustRadius, Eventible, or WeddingSpot for more detailed information.  

Cvent’s Vendor Marketplace provides venues and planners access to thousands of tried and trusted vendors. With over fifteen vendor categories, finding vendors who fit your needs is easy. Load event details from an existing request for proposal (RFP) or create a new event and peruse through a curated list of trusted event vendors.  

  1. Contact potential vendors 

After creating your vendor shortlist, contact potential vendors for more information. Discuss their general business, services, availability, and pricing. Review their terms and conditions, and ask them to send you a quote for their services. Request a list of references to be included.  

  1. Look for vendors that match your personality  

If you’re structured and meticulous, you’d probably work best with vendors who operate similarly. Similarly, if you’re creative, laid-back, and free-spirited, you may find it challenging to communicate with rigid vendors.  

  1. Check references and complete final interviews 

Follow up with vendor references and whittle your list down to the final two or three recommendations in each category. Meet with final vendors to see how well your energy flows, as the final planning stages may require a lot of one-on-one cooperation. Request a sample contract of your event to review and confirm the deposit deadline.  

Take the contracts home and read them closely before signing. If you have any questions, write them down and discuss them with the vendor. Ensure all payment and billing details are clearly stated in the contract. Look for payment schedules, due dates, deliverables, and so on. Identify contract items you like, dislike, or may want to negotiate and prepare to discuss them with the vendor in a final meeting before booking.  

  1. Final vendor review 

Meet with vendors one final time before signing the contract. Review various event policies, like setup and teardown times, noise restrictions, cleanup requirements, and other procedures. Ensure everything you discuss during your meeting is in the contract before signing; if not, ask the vendor to update it and provide a new copy.  

Tips for building better event vendor relationships  

Fostering strong, respectful vendor relationships enables planners and event organizers to grow a network of dependable event partners. Follow these tips to improve event vendor relationships:  

  • Respect vendors’ time  

Vendors do business with many clients, from hotels and venues to event planners and organizers. Remember that you’re not their only client and can’t expect their attention 24/7.  

  • Regularly check in with planners  

Although you don’t want to bombard event vendors with calls or questions, staying in touch throughout the event planning process helps ensure a more successful event. Reach out regularly through the process to touch base, making sure everyone is on the same page. 

  • Communicate regularly  

Clearly communicate deadlines and expectations and ask that vendors do the same. When changes occur or requests must be addressed, share that information as clearly and quickly as possible. Leading up to the event, review load-in times, breakdown needs, and other day-of event details.  

  • Make yourself available to vendors  

Vendor respect doesn’t just go one way. If you want them to pick up the phone, you must do the same. Caterers may have follow-up questions about allergies or dietary restrictions, or the event rental company may need to check in about the final chair count. Making your team available to vendors helps ensure all details are ironed out before the event date.  

  • Show gratitude 

Display appreciation for the demanding work that vendors do to make events happen. Making vendors feel valued can lead to stronger, longer-lasting relationships and a growing vendor network. Tip generously when appropriate, send vendors holiday cards, or follow up with a thank you letter and survey after the event.  

  • Pay when you say you will  

A significant part of maintaining strong vendor relationships is following through on your side of the agreement. Whatever your contract’s payment terms are, ensure you follow them. Additionally, exposure doesn’t pay the rent, so avoid asking photographers, bakers, or other amateur vendors to work your event for “exposure” instead of payment.  

  • Keep track of event vendors 

Whether an event planner or a venue manager, you’ve undoubtedly been faced with a last-minute vendor cancellation. Avoid the headache and unnecessary stress of last-minute cancellations by quickly accessing a network of committed vendors. Store vendor information in event management software to ensure it is organized and easily accessible. Keep track of how much each vendor charges, how satisfactory their services are, and other essential details, such as annual closure dates or specialty services.  

Hiring the right event vendors can make a substantial difference. 

Now that you understand what event vendors are, why they matter, and the significant role they can play in an event’s success, you’re ready to find vendors that fit your needs. From major corporate events to smaller private parties, event vendors can make or break a function.  

Vendors are crucial in ensuring an event runs smoothly and in cross-promoting it. However, working with multiple event partners isn’t always easy, so we’ll walk you through the four steps to cross-promotion success next.