Recommendations from relatives and friends who have either recently gotten hitched or planned a party are the best resources because you can get an honest opinion from a recent customer. But if you don’t know anyone who recently got married you may want to ask your parents and their friends who have been to weddings and large events in the past year because they may be able to lead you to newlyweds you can talk to or email with.
If you’re not going to hire a wedding planner, who is also a great resource, I would recommend looking through a local wedding magazine -- both editorial credits and advertisements -- for leads. Both The Knot and BRIDES have local issues for areas across the country but in the past few years a number of independent local magazines have hit newsstands -- Washingtonian Bride and Groom, Charleston Weddings, New York Weddings magazine, D Weddings and Portland Bride & Groom are some of my favorites
There are also a number of blogs and websites dedicated to specific regions (Beantown Bride and Landlocked Bride come to mind) that feature real weddings, with credits, as well as vendor directories, which you should be aware are usually paid to-be listed directories but the editors have probably vetted them.