Congratulations on the engagement! This is such an exciting time, and it’s finally time to start planning out your wedding day! Just two problems though, how do you choose which vendors you need for your wedding, and when are you supposed to book them? Don’t worry if this is where you’re at in your wedding planning process. Unless you yourself are in the wedding industry this is very likely the first wedding you’ve planned, so this is all going to be new to you. Luckily that’s where I come in! I made this article to help couples figure out which vendors are needed for your wedding, as well as how and when you should book them, so let’s get right into it.
The first thing I want to cover doesn’t really apply to one vendor in particular, but more is a concept I want you to keep in mind as a whole. EVERY wedding day is different! Just like you and your partner are completely unique and individual people, your wedding day will be completely unique itself. This can seem a little stressful when you first hear it, but it’s actually incredibly exciting. For starters, aside from wedding traditions that are a part of your families’ traditions, you’re able to include anything you want into your wedding day. This means that you can take parts or ideas you’ve gotten from other weddings and combine them with your own to create a wedding day wholly unique to you!
This also means that not every wedding vendor that you’ve seen at a wedding is 100% necessary for yours. It’s important to focus on the things that matter to YOU and prioritize those. Create the wedding day that YOU want and hire a wedding vendor dream team to make that vision a reality!
First up we have arguably the most important wedding vendor, your wedding venue! Your wedding venue is the first and one of the most important vendors for you to book of course since it’s where your wedding festivities will be taking place. You’ll also want to book your venue first so that you’ll have a concrete date for your wedding, and without this date you won’t be able to book any of your other vendors!
A good rule of thumb for booking your wedding venue is to book it around a year and a half in advance if you have a particular date in mind. If you are less particular on the date you can find venues with availability only a year or so out, but for more popular dates you’ll want to book well in advance. I also recommend booking early as you’ll be able to then start booking your other vendors earlier to make sure that you have your dream team of vendors.
Booking your venue itself is fairly straightforward. You’ll inquire with the venue and set up a time to visit so that you can see the space in person. After that you’ll simply put a deposit down if they have your date available and you’ll be set! Some key things to keep in mind are whether you’re having both your ceremony and reception at your venue, whether or not they have a required vendors list, and if you’re able to get ready on site (I wrote a whole blog covering this topic!). For some of my favorite wedding venues check out The Cannery, Destihl Brewery, The Ivy House, and The Hesed House.
Once you have your date and wedding venue locked in, the next vendor you’ll want to book is your wedding planner. If you do plan on booking a wedding planner for your date you’ll want to do so as early as possible so that they can help your planning process as early as possible. Wedding planners are great as they can take a lot of the pressure off of your shoulders in terms of planning.
Being professionals in the wedding industry means they also will have vendor recommendations, ones that will fit your wedding feel and help bring your wedding vision to life! It’s important to note that not every wedding needs a wedding planner. If you’re the type of person that likes to plan things out, or if they don’t fall in line with your budget, it is totally possible to have your wedding day take place without a planner.
Next up on our list of wedding vendors we have yours truly, your photographer! Now this might seem a little biased, but trust me when I say your photographer is one of the most important vendors you’ll book for your wedding, and also one of the earliest. Your photographer captures the moments of your wedding day, yes, but they do SO much more as well. From timeline planning, to helping to keep your day running smoothly, your photographer is an invaluable member of your vendor team! For this reason you’ll want to book your photographer at least a year out from your wedding date.
I wrote an entire article about what to look for when choosing your wedding photographer, as well as an article going over what it’s like to work with me! Check those out to get an idea on what to look for in a photographer, and whether or not we’d be a good fit for one another.
Your videographer, much like your photographer, is a vendor who you’ll want to book at least a year in advance from your wedding date. Like photographers, only through a different medium, videographers have their own individual artistic style that you’ll want to make sure aligns with what you envision your wedding day video to look like. You’ll also be spending a lot of time with your videographer throughout your day, so make sure you get along and will vibe well with one another throughout your day. If you do plan on booking a videographer as one of your wedding vendors I recommend that you inquire with a maximum of 3 at a time. This will help you keep things simple and not get confused on who you’re replying to. Once you have a videographer who’s available on your date put a deposit down to reserve them and you’re set!
Next on our list is the first vendor that your wedding guests will experience, and that’s your invitation suite! There are 2 formal invites that are sent out to your guests, your save the dates, and your invites/RSVPs. For your save the dates, the rule of thumb is to send them out 8-12 months before your wedding date for a destination wedding. If you have a non destination wedding you can send them out 4 to 6 months prior to your date. Then for your invites and RSVPs you’ll want to send those out 6 to 8 weeks prior to your wedding date. For both your save the dates and your invites you’ll want to order them 3 to 4 weeks prior to sending them out. This will give them time to ship as well as time for you to address them and get them out to your guests!
The catering for your wedding is our next vendor on the list, and this is a bit of a tricky one. Not because booking a caterer is particularly difficult, but because the requirements for caterers vary so greatly from venue to venue. Some venues have no requirements, so you can choose any caterer you want. Others have an exclusive list that you’ll have to choose from. Some venues have their own in house catering so there’s no need to choose a caterer at all! If you do have the choice of which caterer to hire I recommend reaching out to them at least 8 to 12 months in advance to ensure that you’re able to book them. Catering is a MUST for a wedding day, so be proactive in hiring your caterer!
Any bride can tell you that getting their wedding dress is one of the most exciting parts of their wedding day planning! It’s such a magical moment when you put on your wedding dress that has been altered to fit you perfectly for your big day. Believe me that there’s a LOT of work that goes into getting to that point though. You’ll want to start this process around 9 to 12 months out from your wedding day. First you’ll go in to choose which wedding dress you want for your wedding day.
Once chosen the dress will likely need to be ordered and it can take some time before it arrives in the dress shop. Once it’s in you’ll have to schedule multiple fittings throughout the coming months to make sure the dress is sized perfectly to you. I’m sure you can see now why it’s so important to start this process early!
The next wedding vendor on our list is your day of coordinator. A day of coordinator can be a life saver in terms of wedding vendors, but they aren’t completely necessary for all weddings. For starters, if you already have a wedding planner there’s a good chance that their services include day of coordination. It’s also possible that your venue has a day of coordinator included as a member of their staff. In this case it can still be a good idea to hire a coordinator though as the one you hire will be looking out for you, whereas the venue’s coordinator is more there to look out for the venue.
Lastly you can always delegate your day of coordination to a trusted friend or family member if you’d rather keep things small and simple. If you do plan on hiring a day of coordinator I recommend inquiring and booking with them around 9 months prior to your date.
Our next wedding vendor is your hair and makeup artist, someone who will help you achieve the look you’ve envisioned for yourself for your wedding day. Your hair and makeup artist is a vendor that can be the key to your wedding day. They hold so much power in that they can help you to look your absolute best for your day. And you should look stunning, this is your wedding day after all!
This all of course depends on your style and the look you want for yourself on your wedding day. If you like to keep things simple or more natural, choose an artist that specializes in hair that can do simple touch ups to your makeup if you’d like. If you typically do wear a lot of makeup, find an artist that you connect with and that you know will be able to pull off the style you want. I recommend booking your artist around 9 months out from your wedding day. You’ll also want to make sure that you go in to see them for a test run to make sure that you have the perfect plan in place for your look before the big day.
The décor of your wedding day is another area that has a lot of factors to consider during the planning process. For starters, what décor does the venue allow into their space if any at all? Does the space itself even need extra décor, or is it the style you want on its own? Are you looking to rent larger items like stylish seating and tables, or smaller things like string lights and vases? This amount of factors to consider is what makes renting your décor for your wedding a somewhat tedious process, which is why I recommend you start renting the décor anywhere from 6 to 9 months out from your wedding day.
An incredibly important wedding vendor for your day is of course the entertainment that you’ll have for your reception! Now of course you can go super DIY with this and create a playlist of songs that you’ll then play over the venue’s speakers for the night. This often leads to a much less exciting dance floor though. DJs and live bands excel at getting people moving! They know how to read the room, they know when things should pick up, when to slow things down, and when people need a break. They’re masters of their craft and will get more people out and enjoying the dancefloor when compared to a playlist every time.
In terms of choosing between a DJ vs a live band it depends on the experience you want. With a DJ you’ll be able to get more stylistic variety in your songs, while with a live band you can basically guarantee a packed dance floor the entire night. Either way I recommend you book these vendors around 6 to 9 months out from your wedding date.
Cutting your wedding cake is a long time staple of the wedding day and is such a fun moment for the couple, not to mention a tasty treat for everyone after! There’s a lot of variety in terms of what you want your wedding cake to be. Do you want something large and extravagant, a real centerpiece of the desert table, or do you want something smaller and simpler with numerous other deserts around to make sure everyone gets something they love? Either way it’s important to reach out at least 6 months in advance of your wedding day. This will give you time to choose what you’d like for your day as well as do a tasting!
Your florist is a very important member of your wedding day vendor team, whether you go all out or keep things simple! Even if you opt for just a bouquet and a boutonniere for your wedding, these small touches can have a huge impact on the feel and style of your wedding day. This is even more the case if you do decide to have floral décor all throughout your ceremony and reception space(s). I recommend that you reach out to book your florist around 6 to 9 months in advance. This will give you time to determine what you need for your wedding day, and to make sure that the flowers your florist can provide that are in season fit your wedding colors.
Just like with the bride’s wedding dress, the groom’s tux will need to be taken care of well before the day of the wedding! If you plan on renting your suit you’ll want to start the process around 4 to 6 months before your wedding day. If you plan on buying your suit, give yourself some more time and start the process at least 6 months before the big day. Starting early is key in case your shop needs to order anything prior to your tailoring. Once you have all the pieces in house you can then start the tailoring process and ensure that you have a suit that perfectly fits you for your wedding day!
Our last wedding vendor on our list is of course the transportation for your big day! This depends heavily on the location(s) you’re using for your wedding day. If you have an all inclusive venue, one with getting ready spaces, a ceremony space, room for cocktail hour, portrait opportunities, and a reception space, then transport really isn’t necessary other than if you want a private ride home after the evening’s festivities.
On the flip side, if you have multiple locations that you’ll have to stop at throughout the day, you’re going to want to book some transportations services. Of course you can handle transport in house and either drive yourselves, or have friends and family chauffeur you around. This can add more stress to your day though, especially in cases like a wedding in Chicago. If you do plan on using transportation services for your wedding day, book them at least 2 to 4 months out from your wedding day if not even earlier.
Now that we covered each and every wedding vendor as well as when you should book them for your wedding day, there’s just one more thing I want to cover. I somewhat alluded to this earlier, but it’s worth saying again that you should book the vendors that matter to you as soon as possible! You have a specific vision for your wedding day, and the best way to make that vision a reality is to have a stellar wedding vendor team.
Prioritize hiring the vendors you want as early as you can. For some they won’t book out more than a year in advance. If that is the case, set a reminder for yourself to inquire with them exactly one year out from your day to make sure you get to book them. Again, you only get to do your wedding day once, make sure that you have a dream vendor team that can help you make the most of it!
And there you have it, everything you need to know when planning out when and how to book your wedding vendors! I know this was a lot, so be sure to bookmark this article as you get into your wedding planning so that you can reference it as you go. If you’re ready to book me for your wedding send me an inquiry through my contact page and we can start planning your wedding day together!