Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Preferred Vendor Lists

Plus, how to build the best team of pros out there.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Former Associate Editor
  • Maddy is a Brand and Social Content Manager at Birdy Grey, and was a former associate editor at The Knot.
  • Maddy has written for several different publications, including HUM Nutrition, Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School of Journa...
Updated Jun 23, 2023

Everything about your wedding should reflect who you are as a couple, down to your decor, menu and attire. Finding the right team of pros can make all the difference when bringing your vision to life, but if you're required to use a wedding preferred vendor list, there are a few things you need to know beforehand. We're explaining the ins and outs of approved vendor lists to help you understand 1) exactly what they are, 2) the main points to look out for in your vendor contracts and 3) and how you can benefit from using a preferred vendor list for your wedding day.

In this article:

What Is a Preferred Vendor at a Wedding?

A preferred or approved vendor list is a collection of vendors that have been pre-vetted and evaluated, based on their industry experience and style. Wedding venues and event planners usually establish their own vendor lists based on the other businesses they trust and ideally want to work with. A wedding preferred vendor list typically includes options for catering companies, photographers, entertainers, florists, rental companies and transportation providers.

Preferred and approved vendor lists allow your wedding venue or planner to have some input in the other vendors you're hiring. This is done for a few different reasons, which vary from vendor to vendor. For example, you might hire a wedding planner who's known for designing weddings of a specific style—the planner could implement a preferred vendor list with other vendors who they know can successfully match their aesthetic and quality of work. A wedding venue might require you to use their approved vendor list for insurance or business partnership reasons, especially if the venue has expensive or irreplaceable features (like centuries-old details in a historical ballroom).

What Is the Difference Between an Approved and Preferred Vendor List?

With an approved vendor list, you're usually required to use only the businesses that are included on the list. Otherwise, you might need to pay an extra fee and go through some additional hoops in order to hire what's called an 'outside vendor.' A preferred wedding vendor list is more of a recommendation than a requirement—they'd ideally like you to choose vendors from the list, but you're also free to do your own research and hire other pros.

How Are Preferred Vendor Lists Created?

Wedding preferred vendor lists are created based on trust and experience. The list generally includes tried-and-true vendors who have worked at the specific venue or have previously collaborated with whoever's making the list, proving that they've established a good partnership and can follow through with their promised services. In some cases, the approved vendor list is part of a paid business partnership, where the vendors split a portion of your payment. If you're signing a contract that includes an approved or preferred vendor list, be sure to ask about how the list is actually created so that you know all of the details upfront.

Can You Only Use Vendors on a Wedding Venue's Preferred Vendor List?

Whether or not you can hire outside vendors will depend on the specifics of the approved vendor list and your contract negotiations. If you want to work with a vendor who isn't on the list, you could be required to pay a fee or provide extra paperwork, such as proof of an insurance policy for the potential vendor. In other cases, working with an outside vendor might not be allowed at all. Before committing to a wedding venue or other vendor, it's important to read every contract closely so that you can decide whether or not you're comfortable moving forward.

"Just because the vendor is on a preferred list, it's still your obligation to conduct your own investigation and research of the vendor before going into contract," says Desireé Dent, owner of Dejanae Events, a Chicago-based wedding and event planning company with more than 20 years of experience. "Make sure to have an in-person or virtual meeting with them to understand their business dynamics."

Benefits of an Approved Vendor List

Approved vendor lists can be a super valuable tool when you're planning your wedding, because they highlight trustworthy pros who are guaranteed to do good work. Consider these perks for using approved and preferred vendors.

They give companies more exposure.

When they're inclusive, preferred vendor lists are a great tool for both couples and vendors. "Vendors love being on a preferred list, as it is a great way to get new clients by connecting with couples they may not have met otherwise," says Jove Meyer, owner and creative director at Jove Meyer Events headquartered in New York City. A diverse, well-rounded contact sheet gives talented pros in the area more exposure—and potentially more business.

The pros are pre-vetted.

If a vendor has landed on an approved vendor list, they've had to undergo some kind of verification and vetting. "Preferred vendor lists consist of specific vendors or creative partners that a vendor or venue enjoys working with," Dent says. "[The venue or vendor] has vetted them via an interviewing process and has checked out their professional credentials." That means the preliminary research is already done for you, so you can focus on finalizing your wedding details and collaborating with vendors more quickly.

Vendors have already established a working relationship with the venue or planner.

Generally, if a venue or planner is recommending a wedding vendor, it's because trust has been established. Pros are often added to preferred vendor lists after a venue or planner has a positive experience working together. This can be advantageous because that means the vendors have experience collaborating on events within the space—plus experience working well with each other.

They can help you save money.

Similar to an all-inclusive wedding venue, working with a preferred vendor list can sometimes help you extend the reach of your wedding budget. As an incentive to hire them, the approved vendors might offer a small discount if you choose their business instead of an outside vendor.

Drawbacks of an Approved Vendor List

While there are a lot of pluses to wedding preferred vendor lists, we also recommend doing some independent research to double-check that the vendors feel like a good fit for you. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Preferred vendor lists can be selective.

"Oftentimes, preferred vendor lists don't provide vendors from an array of different backgrounds and cultures, but I hope to see this change in the future," says Jennifer Price, CEO and owner of Event Shoppe Chicago, a team of five experienced wedding planners specializing in unique and custom events. If you don't feel like the preferred vendors on the list represent your values or needs, it's okay to look for other options or try to negotiate changes before signing your contract. Meyer also encourages couples to consider additional vendors, if necessary or allowed. "Do not limit your exploration and research only to that list," he says. "You need to make sure your wedding vendors align with your style, personality, budget and values."

The vendors might not align perfectly with your style.

Every couple is different, from cultural backgrounds and traditions to wedding styles, budgets and personal preferences. Because approved vendor lists are designed with a communal approach in mind, you might not feel totally aligned with every single pro on the list, which is totally normal. But don't give up hope just yet. If you have a specific request in mind that's beyond their current offerings, ask your vendors if they'd be willing to expand their services to meet your needs—chances are, they'll be eager to give it a try. And if not, you'll potentially have more leverage to find a vendor who can. "The vendors you choose help to carve and create the perfect wedding day, and you shouldn't be limited to a list that never changes," says Price.

Pay-to-play lists can exclude certain businesses.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some lists are, first and foremost, a business transaction. Some wedding venue preferred vendor lists are comprised of vendors who pay the venue in return for an exclusive contract agreement. "This simply means the vendor paid money to be on the list, versus going through an interviewing process and showing their credentials," says Dent. It's something to be cautious of, because the pros aren't being recommended based on their performance, and this financial requirement can sometimes exclude talented local vendors. As always, it's a good idea to ask for full transparency before moving forward.

How to Find Your Own Wedding Vendors

If you have the flexibility, we recommend crafting your own vendor list—or at least doing some preliminary research to get familiar with the industry. Search for vendors in your area by category, price point and style on The Knot. Hire and support small, minority-owned businesses if inclusivity is important to you, and after your wedding day is over, be sure to write reviews for vendors you loved working with. It's a big way your wedding can make a real impact on the industry. Here are a few tips for finding your wedding vendors.

Look for vendor pledges.

One of the most effective ways to find an inclusive team of vendors is to look for allyship pledges on their websites (similar to the one on Jove Meyer's site). "I wanted to put a pledge into the world that shows our work is not just beautiful and magical, but that it can change the world," Meyer says of his pledge. "By hiring and working with allies, you empower them and the communities they come from."

Despite the happy nature of weddings, some couples can face discrimination throughout the planning process. Meyer wants to change that with his pledge—and he hopes other pros will follow suit so all couples will feel safe and represented. "If we are truly in the business of love, then there is no room for hate," he says. "Rather than assuming my vendors and partners stand for what's right, I want them to make it clear to me and my couples so everyone is proud of who they hire and what those people represent."

Organize and contact your fave vendors on The Knot.

Did you know that we created our very own tool to help you keep track of all your wedding vendors in one place? Through your account on The Knot, you can contact the pros directly and request information about their pricing, availability and more. You can also read reviews from real couples and explore the vendors' previous work.

Browse social media profiles.

Dent says that using social media is another great way to search for wedding vendors. Instagram, for example, allows you to search for local wedding vendors based on hashtags and recent posts. Follow local wedding accounts to check out popular venues, florists, caterers and more. (Pro tip: If you click on a venue's location, you can see all the pictures that have been taken there, which makes it easy to find local pros who have previously worked at the venue.) And of course we share plenty of daily inspiration featuring talented wedding vendors on The Knot's Instagram and TikTok, so follow us there if you haven't already.

Be specific when typing your Google searches.

"Don't be afraid to add qualifiers when doing your Google searches," says Price. "Google just added filters for Black-owned businesses, LGBTQ-friendly businesses and more. This is a great way to find diverse wedding businesses with the stroke of a keyboard." And if you're searching for vendors on The Knot, remember that you can also filter by veteran-owned, women-owned and award-winning pros.

Ask your other vendors—or friends—for recommendations.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to source a diverse team of pros is to start with your wedding planner. "Wedding planners' careers are centered around our relationship with our creative partner," says Meyer. "We get to know your style, personality and vibe, and match you accordingly."

Price agrees, saying that she doesn't use preferred vendor lists at Event Shoppe Chicago. Instead, she focuses on growing a diverse network of local pros. Then, when she meets the couple, she's able to recommend a few different vendors she thinks would be a good fit for them. "We pride ourselves on connecting with a wide range of vendors so that we can find the perfect vendors for all our couples."

If you don't have a wedding planner, Dent recommends asking friends and family for recommendations. "But make sure to check their reviews and credentials before hiring them," she says. "You want to choose your vendor team wisely." Hiring your team is an opportunity to live out your values—so remember to give that responsibility the time and care it deserves.

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