You’re engaged! Congratulations! Now, it’s time to start planning your wedding! But, where do you start?
I think every bride there’s ever been has said, “I’m excited, but I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.” What brides don’t realize is that this is completely normal. In fact, this is how most brides feel.
Unless you’re a wedding coordinator, you’ll likely only plan one wedding in your lifetime—yours. So, don’t panic if you don’t feel like an expert!
The key to having an engagement you can enjoy and a wedding day that you love is to work with trustworthy wedding vendors who are good at what they do. Once you have a team of vendors in place, you can relax and look forward to the big day!
But, which vendors should you book first? And, is there a particular order you should book these professionals? The average engagement is 12 months long, so with this timeline in mind, here’s a timeline for when to book your wedding vendors!
Have you been dreaming about a specific venue? Would your wedding day not be everything you imagined without a certain photographer? Is there only one band you want to dance the night away to?
If you’re dying to have a specific wedding vendor, book this professional first. Once you know this vendor’s availability, everything else can fall into place!
Some vendors—like florists—can take on multiple weddings in one weekend. However, this isn’t possible for most wedding professionals because many can only handle one wedding at a time. For example, many venues only have space for one celebration, and wedding photographers can only be in one place at a time (unless they have affiliate photographers).
So, when it comes to when to book your wedding vendors, book your fave wedding vendor (or vendors) first so your big day can be everything you want it to be! Don’t have anyone specific in mind? That’s okay! Just move down this list.
Nobody knows more about weddings than wedding planners! If you’re planning to use a wedding coordinator, this is one of the very first vendors you want to book. After all, you’ll want your coordinator to be part of the entire wedding planning process.
Plus, wedding coordinators know and have access to all kinds of vendors. If you aren’t sure who to book, your coordinator can make recommendations, point you in the right direction, and even take care of booking vendors for you!
Like I said before, many venues can only host one wedding at a time. And, there are only so many wedding venues. So, one of the first things you’ll want to book is your ceremony and reception venue.
Keep in mind that it might be hard to find a venue if you already have a date in mind. Your best bet is likely to contact venues you’re interested in, visit them, and then decide on your wedding date based on their availability.
Wedding photographers often book out a year to a year and a half in advance. And, most have a wedding cap for the year (For example, 20 weddings per year is my limit). So, when deciding when to book your wedding vendors, this is one of the first professionals you’ll want to book!
Every photographer has a different style and offers different packages. Do online research to find photographers with styles you like and then interview two or three. Your photographer will be with you all day on your wedding day, so you’ll want to make sure he or she is a good fit for you and your hubby to be!
It’s a good idea to book your wedding photographer and videographer around the same time. It’s also wise to book a wedding photographer and videographer with similar styles so your wedding photos and video are cohesive.
Not sure which videographer to book? Ask your wedding photographer if he or she has any recommendations (or vice versa). Photographers and videographers work together all the time, so your photographer will likely be able to help.
You can’t get married without an officiant! If you’re getting married in a church or at another religious venue, an officiant may be included. If not, you’ll need to do a little searching.
While many brides and grooms ask a pastor, priest, rabbi, or another member of the clergy to officiate their weddings, you can also use a justice of the peace, judge, or professional officiant (There are people who do this full time). Or, you can ask a loved one to become licensed to officiate your wedding. There’s nothing sweeter than having Grandpa marry you!
Chances are, you already have a hairstylist you love. To make sure he or she is available for your big day, don’t wait too long to book your stylist! Most stylists can only take on one wedding per weekend, as wedding hair takes hours and doesn’t leave enough time to serve two brides and her maids.
You likely don’t have your makeup professionally done on a regular basis. So, ask your hairstylist about makeup. He or she may offer the service or at least be able to refer you to an excellent makeup artist!
Depending on where you buy your dress, it can take up to six months for your gown to arrive. So, you want to make sure you order your wedding dress with plenty of time to spare.
When you purchase your dress, you’ll also want to book your seamstress. Chances are, your dress will need alterations here and there. Your bridal boutique may offer in-house services, but if not or if you don’t live close to the boutique, you’ll want to give another seamstress plenty of notice so he or she budgets time for your dress—especially if you’re getting married in the spring. Prom time is a crazy time for seamstresses!
After you’ve chosen your dress, it’s time to dress your maids! Bridesmaid dresses take an average of six weeks to arrive after being ordered, so it’s wise to order these dresses well in advanced so your girls have time to get them altered.
You’ll want to pick your dress first for a few reasons:
If you can, pick a day when all of your girls can get together to dress shop and go out to eat or grab cocktails or coffee afterwards. This is always a fun way for your bridesmaids to meet and kick off your wedding celebration!
Flowers are one of my favorite parts of weddings! Your florist will make your arrangements a few days before your big day, but you’ll want to book your florist pretty far in advance, especially if you’re requesting more than just bouquets and boutineers. If you ask me, nothing makes a reception more beautiful than floral arrangements!
That said, it’s a good idea to have your venue, color palette (this one is a must), wedding dress, and bridesmaid dresses picked before meeting with your florist. These items will definitely affect your flower options.
You have to eat! Your venue may include catering, but if not, you’ll want to reserve a caterer pretty far in advance, as most caterers can only take on one wedding per weekend. Schedule tastings with two or three and enjoy!
It’s not a party without music! Your wedding band or DJ will set the tone for much of your reception, so you’ll want to pick a musician who fits your taste.
You’ll likely want to have music for both your ceremony and reception. While some DJs or musicians may be able to help with both, that isn’t typically the case. So, you’ll probably need to make two bookings.
While there are a lot of photographers, hairstylists, and other wedding vendors out there, there aren’t nearly as many wedding DJs and bands. So, I recommend booking your music sooner rather than later.
I love photographing invitation suites, so I get particularly excited about this vendor!
You’ll want to send your save the dates six to eight months before the big day. Therefore, finding a designer nine months beforehand gives you time to choose a design, order save the dates, and mail them.
After you save the dates are sent, your designer can get to work on your invitation suite, which you’ll want to mail out eight weeks before the big day.
I won’t lie. Wedding cake is one of my favorite parts of being a wedding photographer! Whether you want to go with a wedding cake or something a little less traditional (like wedding pie or a dessert bar), you’ll want to book your baker six months in advance. This will give you time for a taste test and will give your baker plenty of notice.
I highly recommend making a day out of your tasting for you and your groom. It’s a really fun experience and should be enjoyed together!
About six months before the big day (You can even make this part of cake tasting day!), you’ll want to choose tuxedos or suits for your guy, his groomsmen, and any other men you want to look dapper on your wedding day.
Let your groom be part of and take lead in this process. He’ll enjoy your wedding day so much more if you allow him to pick something he feels comfortable and confident in.
Once you’ve selected a style, let your groomsmen and the other gentlemen know where and how they can order their tuxes. Chances are, you won’t be able to pick tuxes up until the day before your wedding. But, it’s wise to have your groomsmen place their orders at least four or five months before your big day to ensure the tuxedoes will arrive on time and to give men time save for their final bill (Tuxes are pretty expensive.).
Your fiance may have purchased your wedding band when he bought your engagement ring, but if not, you’ll want to purchase your wedding band and your hubby-to-be’s ring about three months before your wedding.
Your bands will stay safe and clean until your big day, but I highly recommend having your engagement ring cleaned a couple days before your wedding. This will ensure that it really shines in photos!
When you build a team of wedding vendors who are great at what they do, you can relax, take a step back, and enjoy your big day. So, as soon as you can take your eyes off of your gorgeous engagement ring, it’s time to build your dream team of wedding professionals!
I’ve had the pleasure of working with several incredible wedding vendors! In case you need help getting started, here are a few I recommend.
Supporting small businesses is important to me, so all vendors listed are small businesses in or near Lafayette, Indiana.
If you aren’t having a wedding coordinator, I recommend at least considering a wedding decorator to relieve some of your wedding stress!
If you don’t choose me, I completely understand! Here are other wedding photographers that I recommend:
Victoria Rayburn Photography is a Lafayette, Indiana wedding photographer and family photographer. Victoria strives to make photo sessions enjoyable memories and help clients feel comfortable in front of the camera.