This is the fifth post in a year-long series chronicling the process from engagement to wedding. We will share tips, ideas, and real-world experiences that may help you through your own planning process.
Knowing when to book your vendors is crucial to not only making sure your event goes as planned, but also for keeping your stress levels low and keeping a steady flow during your planning stages.
There are many, many guides available on the Internet. Below are my suggestions and best tips for a timeline of when to contact vendors and when to confirm.
Since a typical wedding takes about a year to plan, for our purposes here, we’re assuming your wedding is on a twelve-month timeframe. Adjust as necessary to suit your needs.
12 Months Out
- Wedding location and style – Before starting your venue search, it helps to have an idea of what location and style would suit you. If you would prefer a rustic barn wedding, then the middle of a city is unlikely to meet your needs. Spend some time researching what styles and locations you like and narrow down your preferences.
- Wedding date – Select your preferred date and two backup dates. When you talk with each venue (which should be your first vendor contact), see if they are available on your dates.
- Wedding planner – Will you have a planner or a day-of coordinator? If so, narrow down your choices and plan to conduct interviews. If not, make sure you know who will handle these essential duties for you.
Contact and confirm:
- Venue – Once you select a few potential venues based on your wedding location and style, you can begin to schedule tours. In the era of coronavirus, or if you are travelling to your wedding destination, in-person tours may not be possible. If you can’t visit in person, see if a virtual or livestream tour is an option. Once you do decide on the venue of your dreams, confirm your date and put down the deposit. Keep in mind that popular venues are booked a year or more in advance, so if you are tied to a specific date for your wedding, you may want to lock this in early.
- Caterer – Your venue may have a preferred caterer they work with. If so, you may need to book the caterer at the same time as the venue. Be prepared in case you need to put down two deposits instead of one.
- Planner/Coordinator – If you are hiring a coordinator, you want to make sure they are available for your wedding date. If you’re hiring a planner to take you through the entire process, you want to start early.
10 Months Out
- Honeymoon – Start thinking about where you would like to go for your honeymoon and what you would need to accomplish before then. If you are planning international travel, do you need to update your passport or get any immunizations? Are you going to hire a travel agent to book anything for you? In the era of coronavirus, travel may be restricted, so keep this in mind when planning. You may even want to hold off on booking the honeymoon until a more stable time. Consider a staycation or a mini-moon in your home state until you can travel more widely.
- Music – Start thinking about what you would like for your reception and/or ceremony music. Do you prefer a live band or is a DJ more your style?
- Officiant – Who would you want to actually marry you? If you like the idea of having a family member or close friend become ordained to do this, check the laws in your area to ensure this is a legal and viable option, then float the idea with your desired person.
Contact and confirm:
- Photographer/Videographer – This is one of the most important decisions. You want to make sure you have memories from your special day! Confirm with your photographer that they are available for your wedding date and get quotes from two or three to consider all your options. If you also want a videographer, this is often a separate vendor. You will likely need to have your photographer and/or videographer confirmed with deposits by this date in order to reserve their services for your event.
- Florist – Confirm your florist. You will need to have some idea of what flowers you’d like, how many you will need, and if you will ask the same vendor to make your bouquets or centerpieces. You could also buy flowers in bulk and DIY the bouquets, but keep in mind that this option comes with more work and potential stress.
- Caterer – If your venue does not have a in-house caterer, you are free to choose your catering company, usually from their preferred vendor list. If so, you can plan to do this about ten months out. Follow the same process of checking for your wedding date and narrowing down available caterers from there. Review their menu selections to narrow your choices down to one or two possibilities before you schedule your tasting(s), because there is usually a fee for this service, especially if you end up booking somewhere else.
8 Months Out
- Baker/Cake –Research bakers in your area and think about what you would like for your wedding cake. Do you want a traditional tiered or sheet cake, or something more modern, such as a cupcake tree? Having a cake for cutting and offering other desserts is popular now. Narrow down your preferences and have two or three bakeries in mind that you could visit. Schedule a tasting, typically six months before your wedding. Remember to ask your bakery when scheduling if there is an additional fee for tastings.
- Caterer – Select the menu choices for your tasting(s) and schedule your tasting approximately six months before your wedding. NOTE: Once you book your caterer, ask if all or part of your tasting fee can be applied to the contract price.
- Hair and makeup – Start thinking about what you would like for your hair and makeup for the big day and whether you will get ready at the venue or an off-site location. Will you do your makeup yourself but hire a hair stylist? Will you have the same stylist available for the bride as well as bridesmaids, or do you need a team of stylists for a large wedding party?
Contact and confirm:
- Music – Confirm your reception and ceremony music. This may be two different vendors; for example, if you want live music for the ceremony but a DJ for the reception, you need to talk with two different companies. Have them both confirmed and deposit(s) placed as needed around this time.
- Officiant – Once you’ve decided on who you would like to have as your officiant, make sure to confirm the details with them.
- Stationer/Calligrapher – If you plan to DIY your stationary, you can skip this step. If you plan to have a vendor create all or some of your stationary (save the dates, invitations, table cards, programs, etc.), then you will need to contact them and confirm their services about eight months away from the wedding. If you are hiring a calligrapher or want your stationary to be handwritten, check with the vendor’s timetable and follow their guidelines for how far out they need to book to fulfill your order.
Six Months Out
Contact and confirm:
- Cake and Caterer – Have your tastings. Who wouldn’t love this step?
- Transportation – Do you plan to hire a limo, bus, or other transportation for your wedding party on the big day? Have an idea of how many people need transportation and confirm with a company about six months out.
- Makeup and/or Hair – If you plan to have a makeup artist and/or hair stylist for the bride and the bridal party, you need to have them confirmed by six months out. For a vendor who is really popular, you may need to book them further out. You will need to set up a trial with your artist or stylist about two or three months away before the wedding.
By the time you reach the six-month point, you should have all of your vendors confirmed.
NOTE: I strongly suggest having a written agreement with vendors, especially with the current health crisis. Most vendors will have a contract. Remember, no agreement is binding until it is written down, signed, and money changes hands. If you do accept a more informal agreement for services, I suggest corresponding by email with the vendor and keeping the email chain for documentation.