The Dirty Little Secret About Venue Preferred Vendor Lists

When you’re looking for something or someone for your wedding, it’s wonderful when you can get a referral.  Because this person or thing comes with a built in stamp of approval.

They’re trustworthy because it comes recommended by someone you trust. 

That could be a friend or family member.  Or it could be your venue.

Wedding tent at Cornerstone Sonoma for a spring wedding by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events

(Photo credit: Arrowood Photography)

Getting referrals from your venue are great because they’re sharing vendors who have worked there before.  And as your venue is usually the first vendor you hire (outside of a wedding planner), they’re also the most helpful to get you started.  But, there’s a dirty little secret that no one ever tells you about preferred vendor lists…

Most preferred vendor lists are fee based.

What that means is the vendors on a venue’s preferred list are being recommended because they’ve either paid to be on the list or they pay the venue every time they book a client.  In other words, the venue is getting a kickback from these vendors for recommending them.

That changes your view on them right? 

It’s hard for it not to.

Bride and groom making funny faces at their Hawaii destination wedding by Destination wedding planner, Mango Muse Events

(Photo credit: Christie Pham Photography)

You think of your venue as trustworthy.  And they do want to help you and they want your wedding to be a success.

But, you need to know that if their recommendations consist of vendors willing to pay them, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily great vendors.  It also doesn’t mean they’re bad vendors either.

But, the key is that it’s not a referral based on merit alone. 

They aren’t recommending these vendors purely because they’re awesome at what they do.

And, that changes things.

Now you might be thinking, man that’s shady.  And you’re not wrong, it kind of is.

But, it’s also a common practice at many venues. Because since your venue is the first major vendor you select (unless you have a wedding planner of course), it’s in a vendor’s interest to be recommended from the get go.

Now of course, not all venues operate this way.  And some venue’s lists are purely created based on merit.

But many do and it’s super important you understand this practice because it affects you.  And here’s how…

If you take their recommendations you need to know…

1. What that referral actually means (i.e. that it’s not based on merit alone or at all)


2. That it may affect the pricing your vendor charges you

Ražnjevi?a Dvori A.D. 1307 wedding venue in Biograd, Croatia

(Photo credit: Danielle Coons Photography)

So, we covered the first point a bit already.

But, I do think it’s important you understand that the vendors on those preferred vendor lists aren’t necessarily good or bad. 

Please know that I’m not claiming that they’re one or the other.  But the point you need to understand is that they aren’t on the list based on merit alone.

They might be on the preferred vendor list because they’re good and they’re willing to pay a fee.  Or they might only be on there because they were willing to pay a fee.

You don’t know.  And you won’t know.

But, the key is to be aware and understand those possibilities as you explore these preferred vendor lists.

Now you can certainly (and should) ask the venue how they create their preferred vendor lists and see what they say.  How much honest detail you get from them though will vary.

But I will say, if they are honest about the creation of their list, it usually means you can trust them as a venue at the very least.  Because they’re honest about their practice.

Elegant wedding reception setup at Quail Lodge Golf Club

(Photo credit: Sabine Scherer Photography)

Ok, now on to the second point regarding pricing.

Since these recommended vendors are either paying the venue a kickback for each client they book or a yearly fee to be on the list, they may recoup those fees from you.

You won’t notice the extra fees because they aren’t going to tell you that they’re charging you more.

They’ll just build it into the price they quote you.  But that means you’re paying more than you normally would for working with this vendor.

And you’re not getting anything extra, it’s just because you’re working with your particular venue and this particular vendor.

Now once again I want to stress that not all vendors will do this. 

But, some may in order to come out even.  And it’s important you understand that and thus what you’re paying for.

If you know that vendors pay to be on the preferred vendor list (because you asked the venue), you can certainly ask a vendor if that affects their pricing.  But, once again, their answers will vary.

Outdoor wedding reception at the Los Altos History Museum designed by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events

(Photo credit: Bethany Carlson Photography)

Preferred vendor lists can seem great, like a godsend!  After the time it took you to find the venue, you just want everything else to be easy.

So, you’re excited and eager to use them.

You think they’re great…and they can be! 

But, they also come with some strings attached that no one will tell you about.

But, you’re here which means that now that you know and you can be prepared for it.  And you can use the venue preferred vendor lists with that insider knowledge in tow.

Need some help finding your vendors?  Ones that fit what you’re looking for and are perfect for you?  With no shady strings attached?  We can help!  Contact us today.

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