Your wedding day is the work of a huge team of talented and creative professionals who are all working together to make your dream wedding a reality. So after you have settled on your wedding budget and have chosen your wedding theme, the next step in wedding planning begins, and that is looking for trustworthy, talented, creative, and reputable wedding vendors that understand your vision and will help you materialize that vision.
One of the first questions engaged couples ask is how early should they try to book wedding vendors and in what order should they book these vendors. Most brides feel overwhelmed when they think about this. Don’t worry! It’s part of the process. You will be plagued with all sorts of wedding planning questions and decisions like when to send save-the-dates, when to select your bridal party, etc. While it might seem that your wedding is still miles away, you need to get in that wedding planning mode ASAP if you want to have any chance of having that dream wedding. It is fairly common that you need to book your wedding venue for 12 months or more before your actual wedding date because if you don’t, your wedding date may no longer be available, and wedding photographers get booked fairly early on and their schedules fill up well over a year ahead of time. Seems crazy huh? But before you get into a vendor hiring spree, take a minute to read this blog post and/ or research about wedding planning. Remember the big decisions will always affect the details. To help you during the process of planning your wedding we’ve outlined the best order to book your wedding vendors from start to finish.
One Year (or more) Before the Wedding Day
Once you have decided on your wedding date, you have to book your venue. Especially if the date you chose falls during the busiest time of the year - weekends during these months are in high demand and it would be impossible to book wedding venues if you prolong looking for a venue. Booking this early on will ensure that you can still pick the best locations. Getting on the calendar will take a huge load of stress off your back. Your wedding venue will take up most of your wedding budget. Knowing how much you will have to spend on the venue will give you an idea of how much of the budget will remain to work with. You should also decide whether you will hold your wedding ceremony in the same place as your reception or at a separate location (1,2,3,4,5,6).
Not everyone decides to hire a wedding planner, so don’t feel obliged to do so or don’t feel bad if you do not have the funds available. However, if you can afford - we definitely recommend that you hire someone to help you out throughout this arduous process of planning your wedding. A wedding planner can help you with the little details and even bring you together when you don’t agree with each other’s decisions (2,3,5). From start to finish, your wedding planner will be your counsel in every vendor interview, contract reviewing, and scheduling.
Ten Months Before the Wedding Day
Most wedding photographers are booked months (even up to 2 years) ahead of time, so you will have to start your search early so that you can find the perfect wedding photographer for you on your big day. Be meticulous in looking for your photographer. It is highly important that you skim through a variety of photographers’ portfolios. You can also interview several photographers so you can determine which one best suits you and your partner. This is one of the most important investments you will make for your wedding - photographers can make even the simplest venues look magical in photos (1,2,3,4,5,6).
Like the photographer, videographers are also booked months in advance by couples. You’ll want to get on top of booking this piece of the wedding so that you have a good choice of vendors. Videographers create a cinematic look at your wedding day, creating a short video that captures memories from the entire day (1,2,3,4,6). They’re a great addition to any wedding. Photos can only take you so far, but in videos, you can relive your whole wedding day - which makes this a really important decision.
Nine Months Before Your Big Day
There is a very small number of brides who walk into a bridal shop for the first time and walk out of the boutique with a wedding dress ready to go. Like everything in the wedding planning process, it’s a process, and processes take time. You’ll need to allocate time and money to go to multiple boutiques and try on multiple dresses in a day - then give your vendor time to actually create a dress that is specifically for you (1,2,4). Along with the bridal dress, you should also look for your bridesmaids’ dresses and what the groom and groomsmen will wear.
This is a very important part of wedding planning. Without a licensed and professional officiant, you can’t get married! You definitely want to be sure that your officiant is registered and experienced so that the ceremony is magical for you and your guests (3,4,5). Whether you are aiming for a religious or secular ceremony, hiring a professional officiant is a must.
Eight Months Before Your Big Day
Where are all those guests going to sleep? If you’re hosting out-of-town guests, you’re going to want to contact some of the hotels in the area and see if you can get a block rate of hotel rooms. This will not only ensure that your guests have a place to stay, but it will likely help them to save a few bucks.
Entertainment (Band/ DJ)
While you might not think about the entertainment at your wedding reception at this point in the process, you should. This is quite a difficult decision to make. But if you already have a band or DJ in mind - book them now before someone else does (2,3,4,5,6)!
Hair and Makeup Artist
Make sure you look your best on your big day! Hiring someone else to take care of your hair and makeup on your big day removes another stress factor when the day arrives. Be sure to schedule out a trial ahead of time so that you can get your style nailed down(4,5,6)! Just like any other vendor, if there is one artist or company you’d like to book, you have to make sure that they are available on the day of the wedding (1,2,3). When you have the logistics settled: Time, date, location, and the number of people that will need beauty service that day, it’s time to book your beauty package. Make sure that you really discuss everything, down to the smallest details - a hair and makeup trial run, and any other add ons you might want to avail. It’s better to have the exact quotation rather than be surprised on the day.
Some people choose to buy the flowers and make arrangements themselves, but if that’s not something you feel comfortable with you should probably hire a professional! (1,2,3,4,5,6) Decorating your venue will most likely be a team effort between you, your wedding planner, and the venue coordinator. Most venues will give you a lot of insight as to what you can do to the space they provide, but some provide a blank canvas for you to design. It can get expensive to purchase multiple decorations closer to the day of, so start compiling decor as soon as you can.
Caterer and Cake
If your wedding venue does not have a catering service or if you do not want to book the ones they recommend then you should look for someone you like. Your guest list might not be final yet, but you should have an approximate number of people that will most probably attend. You should not forget to include the wedding photographer, videographer, planner, and entertainer in the final number that you will give your caterer (1,2,3,4,5,6). You should also start looking for your wedding cake baker. Similar to the caterer, the cake is highly dependent on the guest count. Give yourself time to explore different vendors. You’ll want to make appointments ahead of time at a variety of places so that you can try out their cakes and decide which one is perfect for you! Some cake vendors have limits on how many cakes they’ll take a week, so it’s good to plan this out ahead of time.
Six Months Before Your Big Day
If you’re planning on having a destination wedding, then you’ll need to send these out a year in advance. However, if you’re having a wedding that’s a little closer to home, 6 months should be plenty of time. This gives your guests time to mark their calendars and start thinking about travel arrangements (if necessary (1,4,6)).
What will you give your guests? This is a great opportunity for the bride and groom to share their personality and style. The favors should reflect the style of the wedding itself. Make sure to check out Pinterest for ideas! You can either look for someone to make you the gifts you want to give away, buy, or you can even make a DIY project for the gifts (but this will take a bit of time and should be done earlier).
Once you have ironed-out everything else, it’s time to book your honeymoon! You might want to leave the day after your wedding, or a few days after, or even a few weeks. This is entirely up to you. Planning the whole wedding is stressful and tiring, so you deserve a break! Of course, you don’t need to book your honeymoon now – but also, why not?! There’s nothing stopping you, so spend a little wedding planning time putting together your dream vacation once the other items are taken care of. Book it while you’re still in planning mode, as it’ll be another item ticked off the to-do list!