For me, the most successful method I have come up with when planning from out of town and working (a lot) is the power of three. I use it when I am ready to choose a vendor - or anything really.
Here's my motus operandi: after tons of Internet research (reading reviews, searching for pictures, etc) I narrow my choices down to three and choose from there. I probably do this because to get anything approved at work over a certain dollar amount we have to show we have looked at three different options. We put together an analysis of the costs, deliverables, and any other factor that would lead you to choose one thing over the other two. Or, maybe I learned this method from Goldilocks?
So far this Goldilocks method has worked with numerous items. It really just helps you pull the trigger and decide on something.
I did this with a reception halls. I scoured the Internet, read countless reviews, saw millions of pictures and made an astonishing amount of phone calls pleading for available dates but when it came time to visit - I only went to 3. I went with my Dad and Stepmom and 3 sheets of questions. There was one that stood out to me and I chose The Woodlands. It was actually the first we visited and I loved it from the get go but I just needed to get other prices and see what was out there.
I did this with bridal salons (not dresses but the salons). First, I went to one with my Maid of Honor (MOH)in Manhasset, then to Bergdorf Goodmans, then Saks - which was my final destination. Even there, I had tried on a multitude of dresses and then found three I loved. The one I chose was hands down my favorite but it wasn't what I had pictured so I had to think about it for a while. But in the end, narrowing down to three really helped and when I thought about all three I knew I found the one and it was time to stop looking.
I narrowed my choices of photographers down to three via Internet research. I contacted all three and heard back from two - and well, that narrowed me down to two right there. If you are planning from out of town or you are on the road a lot like I am, the number one priority is good communication via email and phone. I only met with one, the one I went with - Matthew Sowa - and he was great. I got a DVD and spoke with Gail Chetalain and really thought she was fantastic, I will totally recommend her to friends. She was also a great price for a photo journalist photog, I just felt like I really clicked with Matt and that FH would not be annoyed by him (and thus be a little more patient during picture taking - something he despises). Gail is a free spirit - she returned my calls while on the road from Cali to Florida "I normally fly but I needed to find myself" is what she told me! Works for me but that attitude is definitely not one for the hippie-hater FH!
Not so much the power of three but the power of two. We wanted to meet with the DJs and thought this was something we should both decide on - and given FH's limited patience for wedding planning- I needed to make this as painless as possible. Here we met with two, we loved the first one DJs Unlimited, our guy Dave met with us and totally pegged us within seconds of introduction. He knew we were a little older and didn't want to turn the beautiful 1920s mansion into a night club "I am guessing you are not a laser show or strobe light type couple," (Um, you got it) he actually suggested one of the least expensive packages. Our second visit - well- she tried to sell us an Andean Pan Flutist for the cocktail hour(I wish I was joking) at which point FH laughed in her face and I knew I was going to have an entertaining car ride home. We went with the first one.
Right now I am collecting florist quotes. I know which one I want but just don't know if I can justify her price quote. The second quote I got was SIGNIFICANTLY less but I really do not like their style. I am going to get a third quote this week to gauge how far off my preferred gal is. Just like Goldilocks, I am hoping to find the one that is juuuussst right.