Weddings are the work of a giant team of creative professionals all working together to make your dreams a reality. So, after you determine your wedding budget and choose your wedding style, the ultimate step in the wedding planning process begins: hiring trustworthy, reputable wedding vendors to carry out your vision. But, who do you hire first? The big decisions will effect the small decisions so following the schedule will ease your stress in the end. To help you with the process we’ve outlined the best order to book your wedding vendors in from start to finish.
We like to categorize wedding vendors into two categories: those that can serve one bride per day and those that can serve multiple brides per day. The number of clients they can serve in a day effects how soon you should book these vendors along the process because if a company can only serve one bride per day, you want to get your date confirmed with them first. Plus, one decision may effect the next.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – One-Wedding-Per-Day Vendors – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Following are wedding vendors who typically serve one wedding per day.
1 – Wedding Planner (12 months in advance): You should choose your wedding planner first to reserve your date on their calendar and have their guidance during the entire wedding planning process. From the beginning to the end, your wedding planner will be your experienced counsel for every vendor interview, contract, and scheduling question. Don’t feel like you can’t do anything before hiring your wedding coordinator. While you’re interviewing and deciding, you can still start to do research on venues and take tours, but we don’t suggest booking anything until your wedding planner can review a contract with you.
What if you only have the budget for a month-of wedding planner? That’s okay. You’ll still want to book them in advance to reserve your day and it’s likely you can pay them an hourly fee leading up to your wedding if you need help with vendor contract reviews or have other questions.
2 – Wedding Venue (12 months in advance): The most obvious reason to book your wedding venue next is to reserve your date. If you live in a popular metro area, event venues will likely be booked for weddings up to one, maybe two years, in advance. Getting on the calendar sooner than later will take a huge level of stress off of your shoulders. Secondly, your wedding venue will eat up the bulk of your wedding budget. Knowing how much money you will be spending on the venue, will give you a remaining amount of budget to work with. And lastly, the style of your wedding venue will effect the overall style of your wedding. Whether you choose a glamorous ballroom or countryside barn – everything from your wedding dress, flowers to music selection will be effected.
Ceremony Plans. This is when you should also decide what your ceremony plans are too. Will you be married at a separate location (like a church) or will your wedding ceremony take place at the same venue as your wedding reception? Who will perform the ceremony?
3 – Photographer and Videographer (11 months in advance): We suggest the third vendor to hire for your wedding is your wedding photographer and wedding videographer. Why? Because these are most often single person (or small teams) of creative professionals that work one wedding per day. Much of why you’ll hire them is based off of loving their style and loving their pricing even more, so once you find your match – make it official by signing the contract. Don’t let your date get booked by another bride!
4 – Band or DJ (11 months in advance): While you might not think about entertainment for your wedding reception at this stage of the game, you should! Your Band or DJ is a perfect example of a wedding vendor who can only service 1 wedding per day. If you have your heart set on a specific band, or love the energy of the DJ you saw at your friend’s wedding – book them now. This goes for ceremony musicians too.
5 – Wedding Dress (11 months in advance): Once you decide on where you will get married and where the reception will be, it’s time to go dress shopping! Unless you opt for a store like David’s Bridal, most bridal stores will need to place the order for your dress from the dress designer at least 10 months in advance.
Bridal Party. Along with the wedding dress, pick out bridesmaid dresses and what the groom and groomsmen will wear. Kate Donachy from The Modern Gent says “We recommend picking out and ordering the Groom’s menswear at least six months out. This gives us plenty of time for any product category we offer: rental items, purchased, or custom orders.”
6 – Hair and Makeup (9 months in advance): Chances are you are as thick as thieves with your hair dresser and have your cut and color pre-booked every time you leave the salon, and for good reason! A talented hair stylist is coveted by many and hard to get in with. But does your stylist do bridal updos? Many don’t. And if you think your hair girl gets booked, just imagine what the schedule of a top bridal hair stylist and and wedding makeup artist looks like. Busy. Your beauty vendors will likely only be able to serve one full bridal party per Saturday. So, book them sooner than later.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Multi-Weddings-Per-Day Vendors – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Following are wedding vendors who can serve multiple weddings in a weekend.
7 – Caterer (8 months in advance): If your venue does not offer onsite catering, its time to hire an offsite caterer to feed your guests. During this time you will review their menus, read customer testimonials and brainstorm on setups like buffets, plated or stations and maybe even have a tasting. Aaron Castellanos of The Grand Gourmet says “When a bride hires us based on word of mouth from a friend, a planner or a venue they typically sign their contract first and then we set up a tasting. Others who find us through social media or our advertising and don’t have a personal referral often have a tasting first and then book us.”
8 – Floral and Decor (8 months in advance): Next up are wedding flowers. At eight months in advance you have a good amount of time to get on the schedule for the best wedding florist in your area and brainstorm with them on what the vision of your wedding is.
9 – Wedding Cake (6-8 months in advance): While a wedding cake baker can serve multiple weddings in a weekend, chances are they can’t serve an endless amount. So, we say get on the schedule in advance by signing the wedding cake contract. Again, it’s likely you’ll have your tasting a bit later in the process, but reserving your spot in their weekend schedule ahead of time will make sure you get the cake baker you like the best.
10 – Invitations (6-8 months in advance): Time to talk invitations and stationery. If you would like to send out save the dates, you’ll want to choose your stationery designer eight months in advance. Terry Saxe of Special T Events says “If a couple is sending out save the dates, then those need to be sent out six months before the wedding. In that case, the stationer should be hired at least two months prior to that date in order have time to pick something out, do proofs, have them printed and addressed. For invitations only, a bride should start to look at her options six months out as the standard is that invitations should be mailed out at least eight weeks prior to the wedding date.”
11 – Transportation (4 months in advance): While this may seem like a last minute reservation, you may change your mind after reading what Kirkley Hennessey, owner of Hennessey Transportation has to say. “We typically ask brides and grooms to have their wedding transportation arrangements booked at least 3-4 months in advance. This allows the company they choose to reserve the fleet equipment without any issues. As that is a suggestion, I personally feel it’s best to contract this service as soon as they know what they need. Whether it’s just a getaway car or an entire manifest of guest travel, the sooner the better for all parties. A lot of times they know they need transportation, but they are not certain what exactly they’re looking for. A lot of times when they contact us they realize what a helpful experience it can be as we can identify and suggest services needed and provide pricing all on one phone call.
Something to note: if your wedding is ever in April, and you absolutely want a limousine, book the day you got engaged! Prom season always derails brides.”
Other items that will need to get decided on and completed about a month out: obtain your marriage license, please pick out your wedding march song, get your wedding bands and get your engagement ring cleaned, finalize transportation to and from wedding and reception, count your RSVP’s and finalize numbers with all your caterer.
Read more to learn how much to tip your wedding vendors on your wedding day.