@colorofmyheart: There are a lot of great websites out there that give you questions to ask your vendors.
For our cake, FI and I heard about them by word of mouth and decided to drive up there and do a tasting. They had little pieces of different flavors just set out for people to try, and we made it a fun time. OHHHHHHMYGOODNESS, it was so good and we knew we didn’t want cake from anywhere else. Their prices are a little expensive but on par with the national average ($5.00/slice is the avg, ours is $5.50/slice), so we kept the cost down by getting a simple cake with a fancy topper.
For our caterer, we went there (it’s a locally owned restaurant) and tried the food before even mentioning that we were considering them. It was very good, and the prices were great. And then when I called and met with the coordinator, she was absolutely a peach, extremely experienced with my venue, happy to answer questions any time, was totally honest about prices and so forth, and I have had a great working relationship with her. So that was that.
The venue sucks, we did that because it was in our price point and it’s gorgeous, but they have a lot of stupid rules and the office staff all say something different about the same thing. That’s a pain. >.< So be careful of those things.
And my florist is actually from Giant (the grocery store), lol. I looked at her portfolio and you can’t beat $300 for bride bouquet, toss bouquet, Moh bouquet, bridesmaid bouquet, best woman bouquet, 5 boutonnieres, corsage for mom of bride and mom of groom, and boutonniere for my granddad, FFIL and my brother. 🙂
Cost was a huge factor for me in a lot. But I have also been fortunate enough to work with vendors that are genuinely helpful and nice, which is a HUGE plus. If someone is condescending to you or rude or super snooty or insists you HAVE to have these things or tries too hard to upsell, I tell them to get lost. Aint nobody got time fo dat.
ETA: My caterer is taking care of all of the linens and we rented our venue’s sound system and are taking our laptops. One of the groomsmen is MC, so I can’t give you advice on either linens or a DJ, sorry! I will stress, though, that reviews helped me find my MUA and I love her (another super nice, personable, no nonsense vendor) . A DJ can make or break your reception, definitely find someone with good reviews and a good reputation.