I'm a DIY bride, trying to plan my own wedding and, truth be told, going a little nuts along the way. My wedding is only about a month away now, and one thing that I have learned (which I wish I knew when I first started with the wedding planning) is that it really helps to check out your local wedding vendor association. Nowadays there are tons of them, in nearly every state, county, and city accross the country! What they are are simply a group of wedding vendors who live and work in the same area who have gotten together in order to "network" (basically give referals to one another as well as tips to help each other out in the bussiness). This is great for vendors, but also GREAT FOR BRIDES!
As a bride, I have discovered how many options there are out there (enough to make a girls head spin) and how difficult it is to narrow things down, find people who are willing to work within your budget, who share your style and vision, and who are personable people that you want to work with. But, if you check out wedding associations, automatically things get easier! You are suddenly presented with a few of each kind of wedding vendor that all work within your area and have different styles, pricing, and different personalities! It's like one stop shopping! And you have the option of going to a wedding vendor association's mixer or meeting and talking to them in person (as several associaitons are more than happy to invite a bride to one of there member events---and it's free! unlike a bridal show). Or you can just go to a wedding vendor association's website or blog and check out a nice group of vendors in the comfort of your own home :-)
Another plus is that these vendors are more than likely experienced since membership requires each vendor having worked a certain number of years in the bussiness AND members have more than likely worked together which will help your wedding planning and wedding day go all the more smoothly! Not to mention the fact that vendors within an association are usually committed to good customer service! And last but not least, if you talk to a group of members in an association its more than likely you are going to get vendors who are willing to work within your budget because of close competition, vendor refferal discounts, and also that commitment to customer service!
How did I find out about all of this? Well, in addition to being a bride, I am also in the wedding photography bussiness and my business partner and fiance, Ryan, and I just joined the California Wedding Asssociation in June of this year. Again, I wish I had realized all this earlier, say April 08 when I first got engaged and started planning, it would have saved me a lot of time, energy, research, and probably money, but oh well, my epiphany can now help all of you brides out there who are just starting out! Good Luck with everything and google "your area or state wedding association" as soon as you can!