I was working as a secretary at a preschool for special education during the months before my marriage. Our school had a main building and an annex a few towns away. Though I normally worked at the main building, occasionally I'd be called to sub for the secretary at the annex. I loved going over there. I'd gotten to know the staff -- the teachers and therapists -- and I'd even made acquaintances with a number of the parents of the children who attended as I tended to coordinate the children's initial evaluations.
It was maybe three months before my wedding when I was called on to spend the day at the annex. It happened to be a special event day, a day when the parents were all there. The day was hot, and the school, except for the office and the individual classrooms, wasn't air-conditioned. The event was being held in the gym, which was sweltering despite standing fans everywhere.
I was sitting in the office with the door shut, the air conditioning blasting, when one of the parents knocked on the door. I gestured for her to come in. She was pregnant, and asked if she could sit with me in the air conditioning for awhile, since the heat was making her feel faint.
She was a nice woman, someone I'd only met on a few occasions. We started talking, and she noticed my wedding ring.
"You're getting married soon?" she asked, and we got on the subject of my wedding.
It turns out that she and her husband owned a wedding business, the kind of one-stop-shopping place that matches couples planning a wedding with needed services.
"Do you still need anything?" she asked.
We did. I told her we were still looking for a photographer and hadn't yet picked out invitations.
"This school has done so much for my child," she said. "Come by our store and we'll do right by you."
She gave me her business card and later that week, my husband-to-be and I made a trip across town to pay them a visit.
She lived up to her word. They gave us not only a great deal on both photography services and invitations, but they matched us with the best photographer they had to offer. We weren't disappointed.
It was a lucky happenstance for me to be at the annex on just the right day. The truth, though, is that networking can be one of the best ways to find wedding services, from DJs to photographers and beyond. People you know will almost always provide the most reliable service for the simple reason that they know you. They may have some loyalty to you for some reason or another, as in my case where the school had been a blessing for her family. But even if there is no specific loyalty, a person you know, who knows they will see you (or the person who's referred you) on a regular basis, is less likely to squelch on a deal, or skimp on services.
Sometimes it amounts to being in the right place at the right time, but there are other ways to network. Don't be afraid to ask. We all have family members or friends who've gotten married. Don't be afraid to ask about their weddings. Ask who they were happy with and, just as importantly, what services they were dissatisfied with.
Talk to people in the know. If you know someone in the service business, whether it be a restaurant owner or a caterer, ask them for recommendations. They work with industry people every day and tend to know who's in-demand and who to avoid at all costs.
There are other ways to network, too. Many venues have bridal fairs where you can taste food, look at flower arrangements and ice sculptures, and the like. These are great places to network, not only by meeting the vendors but by talking to other couples attending.
Ultimately, it pays to talk to people. You never know who might just steer you in the direction of a wonderful service that you might never have found otherwise.