When to Start Booking Your Wedding Vendors

Here are some wedding planning tips that I have for you. On average, couples take around 12 months to plan their wedding. Sure, if your timeline doesn’t allow for this no worries you can still get it done and it can still be totally amazing. Don’t have 12 months to plan? Well, try to follow the order if possible but speed up the timeline to fit your needs.

Don’t skip this paragraph!

After the proposal and the romantic excitement has settled, talk to your loved one about what your budget is going to look like and or who is paying or helping to cover some of the cost. This isn’t the most fun topic but it’s very important to talk about and agree upon. Either way, you need to know your budget before making decisions on vendors. Sure, feel free to do some research on venues and other vendors, just don’t sign anything until you have a budget as you want to make sure you have the funds for all the things that are most important to you on your wedding day and not just end up with the one or two things on your list if you can help it. Another tip to this would be to write down the things that are most important to you for your wedding day and rank them. This will also help you should you need to remove things to save money or apply more money to what is more important to you. One last suggestion here would be to think about how many guests you think will be coming as well as how big is your wedding party going to be as this will be useful when looking at venues as well as planning for food etc. 

Now, it is time to start finding your vendors. This is going to be fun especially at first but don’t get discouraged if something doesn't fall perfectly into place so keep your options open too. Remember, you are going to have a beautiful wedding day either way! 

Wedding Venue/Planner

So, your now about 12 months from your wedding day; if you’re thinking of hiring a wedding planner to do all the wedding planning such as finding you the venue and other vendors, etc., now is the time to find the one that fits your style and budget. Otherwise, this is the time when you need to find and book your ceremony and reception venues (if they are not at the same location). This is important as you don’t officially have a “save the date” until you have locked in the venue dates. Also, if you’re booking an all-inclusive venue, they may include other vendors as well such as caterers and other rentals, saving you time by not having to look for these yourself. This really should be the first thing you book in my opinion especially if there is a date that “you’re really wanting”, venues can often be booked out 12-18 months in advance.

10 Months from your Wedding Day

I’m a wedding and portrait photographer and you may be wondering why didn’t I list photographers first? Well, while we are typically an essential part of the wedding day its hard to book your photographer until you have the wedding day and time set therefore, we are not quite at the top of the list.

Wedding photographers can also be booked out months in advance so be sure to leave enough time to look at several who fit into your style, budget, and are available on your special day. While style and budget are important, even more so be sure to find the photographer that you can also connect with as you’re going to be spending a lot of time with him or her and they can really be of help on your wedding day. Bonus tip: do an engagement session with them if all possible, it will allow everyone to get to know one another and help you get comfortable working with them. This will most certainly make your wedding day photos look even better emotionally. While us photographers may not be delivering you with video, many of us can provide professional quality wedding albums, wall art, and prints so that you have mementos in your home that won’t require a device to enjoy your special moments as well as something you can physically touch.

Videographers have been on the rise over the last several years and are becoming a staple in the wedding industry as well. They can provide you with that cinematic film that features motion and sound. Like photographers, you will want to book an experienced videographer sooner than later but note they too need to know the day of the actual wedding so that they can verify their availability also. Again, find one that you can connect with, you like their style and fits into your budget as like photographers you could be spending a lot of time with them also.

Note, you will want these two vendors to be able to work well with one another, but you should also be clear up front with them who is “lead”. Meaning your saying which one your giving priority to and this will help them as well but also will help ease any confusion between them and having to bother you during the wedding day because of any confusion. Remember, they are both trying to cover similar events throughout the day while trying to stay out of one another’s way and in some cases what they need for their final product is somewhat different too.

Now for those gorgeous flower arrangements that you are seeing in those wedding magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and across other social media platforms. This is a good time to find your Professional Florist who’s work you love and can help you create your vision and within your budget.

Food- don’t let your guest and of course yourselves be “hangry”. Weddings are typically a long day and everyone will begin to get hungry at some point. So, this also makes finding your Caterer a good idea if they are not already included with your chosen wedding or reception venue. So, whether you’re doing a full course meal, buffet style, food truck, or simply providing appetizers don’t overlook this in your wedding day vendor timeline. 

9 Months before your Wedding

Music of course is a classic staple for any reception providing an ambience of sound for those in between moments while you’re eating or socializing with your guest etc. But they also can help get the party going with music that wants to have everyone grab their partner and shuffle around the dance floor while providing laughs, magical moments, and memories too. This is a good time to find your wedding day band or DJ that you love and has a great personality while providing fantastic sound and playlist.

Ceremony music- if the above is not doing the music during your ceremony this is also a good time to find out who is. This is also a good time to consider having a live musician that can really help create that romantic live sound to your wedding day. With options like a solo guitarist, violinist, harpist, or a saxophonist are just some of the sexy romantic options I can think of.

Officiant: Your wedding vendor timeline needs to include one of these as your not actually married without a licensed one. Whether you’re hiring a professional or you are getting your best friend or family member ordained so that they can do this for you be sure you have this on your list of to-dos.

Wedding Dress: Buying your wedding dress is very different from going to the store and getting jeans or shorts, cute tops, and shoes. You need to allow time to try on all the different styles and options to choose from that are within your budget and some online research says, that on average the bride to be tries on at least 4 to 7 dresses before finding the’ one. Therefore, finding the right dress takes time and oh don’t forget that you’re looking at “months” before taking it home. You need to allow time to order it, allow time for custom sizing, and re-sizing if needed. 

8 Months prior to your Wedding Day

Guest accommodations: If your hosting a-lot of out-of-town guests, booking a block of rooms at a hotel or two that are near the wedding venue (if possible) now is a good time to do this. This can help your guest not only maybe save some money by booking early but ensures they have a place to stay while they are in town. This may also be a good thing to link to your wedding website and or invitations.

Save-the-Date: It’s recommended that if you’re doing a destination wedding, then send these out as soon as you book the venue so that your guest and everyone else can make plans too. If it’s closer to home, 6-8 months then is a good time frame to get them out. 

7 Months to your Wedding Day

Now is a good time to start planning your wedding cake unless you did this already. Remember these cake bakers typically only take so many orders per week, so don’t let this one slip bye. Don’t be shy on trying some samples during a scheduled tasting.

Bridesmaid dresses are not as hard to come by like a wedding dress is, but you still want to leave time to find the perfect ones, allow time for ordering, as well as allow time for alterations. As a suggestion, let your bridesmaids be a part of this decision so that you all can come up with a look that is agreed upon.

Men’s attire: Suit or tux, rent or buy? While you maybe ok waiting another month or two, I would consider looking into this sooner than later. If your renting, check with local shops to see what they suggest as far as when do you need to reserve these.

This is also a good time to now start thinking about that honeymoon. If your feeling like your plate is still rather full due to everyday life and/or you’re falling behind from all the wedding planning, consider hiring a travel agent to help you with this.

 6 Months before your Wedding

Rentals: This is anything that your wedding or reception venue is NOT already providing. So, this is a good time to make sure you will have things like tables, chairs, linens, flatware, etc. Work with your other vendors as needed to make sure you have what is needed.

Hair and Makeup artist can help you ensure that you will look your best on your wedding day in person and in your photos. I would strongly suggest setting up a trial run so you can get an idea on what you will look like but to also get a good estimate of time that it will take to get the look you desire. Find the ones that fits into your style and book them in plenty of time. Having these two artist will not only help you look amazing but they will take the pressure off of doing it yourselves but it makes things easier for your photographer and videographer too. Side note: I know those really long eyelashes are often the thing and that’s fine, but for this day NOT having them so long will be a good thing for your photos and video as they tend to hide your eyes and or can create unwanted shadows on your face as well.

If you haven’t done your invitations now is a good time to get these set up and ordered vs waiting until the last minute. You can use these to let your guest know where to find your wedding website, what your wedding style will look like, where to go, leave your cameras at home, or all sorts of info that you wish to share. Allow enough time to get them ordered, and ready to be mailed out. Sending them out 6-8 weeks before the wedding day is fine though. 

3 to 5 Months out from your Wedding Day

Your wedding day Accessories fall into this category. Brides will want to purchase their shoes and undergarments so that they have these accessories on hand in time for their first fitting. But don’t forget about other accessories such as veils, headpieces, jewelry, bridal and brides’ maid’s robes etc. so that you have them in time for your wedding day.

Transportation arrangements for the day of the wedding also come into play at this stage. Hiring a limo, shuttle bus, or other transportation is a helpful tip to help your day run smoothly and everyone arrives safely and on time. Note: This is also an important step in notifying your photographer and videographer (before your wedding day) as this also plays a part in your wedding day timeline.

Wedding Rings: If this is not already done, now is a good time to complete this task. You will want to allow time to find the ones that fit your style as well as your budget but also allow time for sizing and getting them back.

Go back and review your list to make sure you either got everything you wanted or at least got the things you decided the most important to you. It's better to check off all your boxes sooner than later, thus making it easier on you and anyone else helping you as your wedding day gets closer and closer. Remember, do not let the things that didn’t happen to perfection ruin your moment. You will most certainly have a beautiful wedding day either way – so enjoy the moment.

I hope that you enjoy these tips and that they help you with your wedding day planning. These solutions are based of off of my knowledge as a wedding photographer, my experience in time management, as well as some tips from a blog from weddingwire.com. I hope your wedding day is absolutely amazing! - Jerry Moyer Photography Wedding and Portrait Photographer, Boise Idaho

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