When a bride shops for her wedding vendors, she frequently depends on word of mouth referrals and other vendors' "Preferred Vendor" list. This is usually a list of wedding vendors that a venue (and I'm going to use "venue" as the example while acknowledging a photographer, or wedding planner, or caterer could also have such a list) has listed on their website that pretty much says, "We recommend you try these folks."
A bride may look at this list and assume the venue is vouching for the quality and business practices of the listed vendors. This is not always true.
It is in the venue's best interest to only list vendors that are reputable and offer quality products and services to the venue's clients, otherwise it looks bad on the venue.
How does a vendor get on a "Preferred Vendor" list?
In my experience, some places just charge a fee for the exposure. I could have been on the Preferred Vendor List of one venue in town just by writing them a $300 annual check to be on the list. A bride would have thought my name on the list meant the venue was recommending me because of my great food when the truth was they were recommending me because I paid them to. (I refused to be put on their list just for this reason.)
Some places would have been happy to put me on their list if I just showed them a copy of my health department license and proof of liability insurance. Actually, every venue should ask for this documentation, regardless of whether I'm on their list or not, but in most cases, my name on their list merely meant "Yeah ... she's legal and we'll let her in."
Some venues required that I do a "payback" to them based on the bookings at their venue (notice how I refrained from using the term "kickback"!). I had no problem with giving finders fees or referral credits when I actually received the business from the venue (and for the record, there was only one I encountered who operated this way), but I DID have a problem writing a mandatory check to a venue when the bride/groom found me on their own and the venue had nothing to do with it. Had I agreed up front to this venue's terms, they would have been happy to make me a "Preferred Vendor". In this case, my name NOT on their list just meant I wouldn't play Kick(back) Ball with them.
Before you think I'm just a big Negative Nelly, many venues select their Preferred Vendors based on performance and the relationship they've built with the other wedding vendors over a long period of time. As I mentioned, the venue's reputation is also at stake if they refer a bride to a vendor is just doesn't make the grade. Many "Preferred Vendor Lists" are helpful to couples who have no idea who to call and the venue has done a preliminary pre-screening for them.
As you shop for your wedding vendors, ask the venue how a company gets on their Preferred Vendor list. Ask if the venue will personally vouch for their character, their quality and their service.
A big assumption is that couples believe the "Preferred Vendor List" means they can only use those vendors. While a Preferred List is usually exclusive, it's not always. Ask if the Preferred Vendor List is exclusive or if the bride/groom can select their own florist / photographer / caterer, etc. Sometimes there is an additional fee to bring in an outside vendor, but depending on the pricing, it could still be cheaper for the couple.