Be a Guest or Be a Vendor, Never Both
My role as a "day-of" coordinator allows me to take over a bride's year of planning and turn it into a reality on her big day. When I finally meet the couple getting married, it is typically a week or two prior to their wedding and 99% of the time, their menu, linens, decor, and vendors have been picked (well, hopefully!). Now, I am not an expert, I simply have worked a countless number of weddings and have gathered my personal opinion of simply what tends to work and what doesn't. When I see that a bride and groom have entrusted a special friend or family member with the duties of playing photographer, videographer, or DJ, I panic.
Now, I understand everyone has very different budgets, and we all have those special connections that really come in handy, especially on a day such as your wedding day where things tend to add up quickly and become expensive. However, there is a significant difference between hiring someone you know who may give you a slight discount or even someone you were referred to, compared to having a close friend or someone you would have as a guest otherwise, to handle the events of your wedding.
For example, several months ago, I had a bride who wanted to save a few dollars and had one of her bridesmaids (who is in fact a photographer, or at least had a fancy camera and some business cards), take all the photos for the wedding. Some of you may immediately realize what a disaster that might have been, simply because it is such a drastic example. While that example isn't as common, I do see close friends or even family members left with this heavy responsibility all the time. Having a close friend or family member be a vendor at your wedding can be very catastrophic even if they aren't physically in the bridal party.
Because of this, I have created a rule that I know I will stand by on my wedding day and have tried to instill in my upcoming brides to save them these troubles: If someone is close enough to you and your fiancé, that you would want them to be a guest at your wedding, you should NOT hire them to work it. On the flip side, if they don't make the guest list, and you trust their SKILL SET apart from the relationship you have with them, then you have my approval to consider them. However, just because you know them or have some sort of friendship with them, does NOT always mean that they will be less expensive or do a better job for you than the other options.
I should make this clear; I continue to reference photographers because that is by far the most common vendor replacement I see. However, this same advice could go for DJs, videographers, coordinator or any other vendors who will be required to ACTIVELY work throughout the day. Vendors that could be excluded from this list would be people like your minister, florist, and possibly caterer. The minister SHOULD be someone special who knows you both very well and can be even more special if it is a family member. The florist and caterer do their jobs prior to the event so that is a little different but it is still a lot of pressure to put on someone close to you.
Being a vendor for someone's wedding is a non-stop job, ESPECIALLY photography. There is always something to be done behind the scenes to prepare for the next order of business. If someone is juggling being a guest and trying to do their "job" as well, it is easy to get distracted which essentially leads to falling behind schedule which could detract from your day overall. Some of the best photos are the candid ones; crying at the altar, laughing with your best friends, or sneaking that kiss from your new husband/wife when no one is looking. A photographer's job is to capture these moments and capture all the other moments that you may not remember so that one day you can look back and relive the beauty and magic from start to finish. What ALWAYS happens, is your friend who you've entrusted doing all these tasks want to enjoy the day as well. They might make their way to the bar, have a couple drinks, say hi to family members they haven't seen in ages or even (heaven forbid) want to jump on the dance floor with everyone else. Meanwhile, there are precious things happening around the venue, whether between the bride and groom, family members, or friends.
There is too much responsibility and pressure placed on someone when they are asked to work a wedding for a friend. Majority of the time, the expectations are not made clear by either party so there always seems to be a problem. As mentioned before, there is a difference between being referred to someone you may know and giving full responsibility to someone who is also expected to enjoy the day with you as a guest. It is very difficult to juggle both roles. This also doesn't mean you have to pay a significant amount of money, but when given the option, go with the professional who doesn't have any emotional connection to you so they can focus on their one and only job. Not only will it eliminate pressure from your friends, but it will make for better photos in the long run, TRUST ME!
If you are struggling with choosing vendors, use your venue to their fullest! Majority of the time, your venue will have a preferred vendor list, USE IT! Or at least start there! Those vendors have worked at the venue before and that can be a HUGE benefit for the day of your wedding; knowing the lighting for photos, knowing where to put speakers for your first dance, and so much more which eliminates all confusion of what to expect. Happy Planning!