Don't let your heart overtake your brain when dealing with vendor contracts. If a price is too good to be true, ask exactly what you are getting for that price and have it put in your contracts because it just may be too good! If a decor professional is charging you $3500 for food, decor, linens, and favors, and your guest list is 200 people, it should start raising flags. Ask for pictures of other events with that budget and ask to see their serving pieces as well as a sampling of their foods. If they do not put what types of centerpieces and flowers in your contract, it may be best to walk away. Any vendor worth their weight in gold will be happy to accommodate your wishes and make a more detailed contract.
Time and time again I hear from heart broken brides whose contracts stated, "a lot" of flowers or whose vendors simply aren't as professional as they would have hoped. Make sure your florist specifies the types of flowers that will be used. Do not fall for the "bait and switch" at bridal shows. At shows we show our best work, ensure that what you pay for at the show is what you will receive on your wedding day.
If you choose silks on your wedding day, ask your professional if the silk arrangements have been used at different events, if so, ask to see them during a mock-up (which should be put in your contract). Make sure in all vendor contracts it is specified what time the vendor should arrive. You do not want your deejay setting up during cocktail hour at your reception, nor do you want your designer placing floral items while your guests are watching.
A final statement: be weary of vendors who say they can do "everything". A full service professional must have others working for them to make the event successful. Do not depend on one person to caterer, design, customize invitations, coordinate your wedding, and sell your dress to you. Especially if that person has no partners and staff and works from home. If they do have staff and partners, ask to meet the person doing your invitations, ask them for actual samples of the invitations. Ask what type of paper weight they use and why. Ask them specifics because they could be outsourcing your invitations and up-charging you.
Finally, anything under $400 is probably not a good deal for day of coordinators unless they are new. I actually charged $0 when I first started to build my portfolio. Make sure that if someone is charging you less, that they put in their contract what they are offering. I have personally seen day of coordinators who haven't bothered to see if the bride has food or if the pictures that the bride wanted to take were taken. It is a day of coordinators job to put out fires. If you feel that you are shouldering the burden during the planning process, then you or your family will probably shoulder it during the wedding day.
Most wedding professionals have home based business as this PSA isn't meant to discourage you from meeting with them, I work from home as well. Remember we are in business to make your day the best day of your life. These suggestions will gladly be incorporated by a professional who cares about the bride and their own reputation.