Who you choose to join your wedding day team is just as important as the vision itself. We work with our couples to choose the right vendors for their wedding style & budget at the right time to make a wedding day team that creates magic.
When guiding my couples through the planning process, we focus first on what I call “key vendors”. Key vendors are the foundational members of your wedding day team and are the framework we build around for your wedding. The vendors who fit into this category are typically high on the priority list for couples and take up the largest part of your overall wedding budget.
Every wedding is different, so every wedding day team is unique. Once the foundational team is taken care of, who and when you’ll book is more based on your specific wedding needs, but there are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind.
If you’re starting to plan your dream wedding day, here’s our guide for when to book your wedding vendor team:
15-10 Months Until Wedding
We might be biased, but we’re big advocates for booking your planner first. Not only can we help you set up a clear budget plan before you book your venue (saving you massive budget headaches down the road), we also have a network of venues and locations you may not have considered that could be the best fit for you and your guests.
The most foundational part of your wedding day team as it is the literal structure for your entire wedding. Check out our post about How to Choose a Destination for Your Wedding Weekend for advice on finding your dream venue.
P.S. If you’re having a tented reception, you should also reserve your tent when you book your venue as it’s a structural and crucial element to the wedding
Catering & Beverage
If your venue doesn’t have a required caterer or bar service, you’ll want to check this off your list next.
We don’t recommend having an official menu tasting until you’re closer to the wedding – to ensure you’re choosing from their most current menu and are tasting in season food – but many of our foodie couples do want some samples before booking. If this resonates with you, we recommend looking for open houses featuring the caterer, trying their sister concepts – like a restaurant, or paying for an additional tasting focused on quality, not menu selection.
Photography & Videography Team
After the confetti has fallen and you’ve ridden off into the sunset, all you have left of your wedding is your memories and the images captured.
Our best advice to choosing a great photo/video team… make sure you like them. You’ll spend even more time with your photographer & videographer than you will with your new spouse. After you’ve perused some full gallery examples, make sure you actually enjoy their company and feel comfortable hanging around with them all day.
Hair & Makeup Artists
This is a new add to my foundational vendors list. If you talk to a friend who go married 3-5 years ago, they’ll say you can wait until 6-8 months out to finalize your beauty team, but this isn’t the case anymore.
Hair & Makeup artists are booking up further & further our from the date. So if you’re particular about your hair & makeup – or have a mid-sized to large bridal party (i.e. 6 people or more) – you’ll want to lock down your hair & makeup artists early.
Those looking for day-of grooming services – a great fit for grooms & men who want to look sharp day-of – can wait until the 6 month out mark to finalize.
If your dream wedding includes a band electrifying the dance floor, now is the time to secure them. While you can wait a bit further to book DJs (and even ceremony musicians), live bands are usually in higher demand and therefore require earlier bookings to ensure availability.
The last “key” vendor I recommend booking in the 15-10 month our range is your florist.
While you may not have your full floral plan in mind, again, your favorites have a limited capacity so getting on their calendar early is the only way to ensure you get your first-choice wedding day team. Whenever I’m helping a couple book a florists before we really clarify the vision, we talk with the florist about minimums, general counts (i.e. 8 bridesmaids, 15 centerpieces, etc.), and overall vision to help them put together a basic projection for booking.
9-7 Months Until Wedding
To be the host(ess) with the most(ess) reserve a hotel room block for guests. This is important for all weddings with out-of-town guests but especially for destination weddings where most or all of the guests will be traveling.
There are two main types of room blocks, courtesy or complimentary and guaranteed or contract. The main difference is financial responsibility. Courtesy blocks usually do not require a card on file to hold and the financial responsibility falls on the guest booking the room. Guaranteed blocks come with an attrition rate (usually around 10%) and if you book less that 90% of the “guaranteed” rooms, you’ll be financially responsible for the remainder.
If you didn’t use a designer to send your save-the-dates, it’s time to secure your spot on your stationer’s calendar. Many stationery designers calendars are booked out well before they actually begin working on your project. To missing out – or rush fees – book your stationer at least 9-7 months before your wedding.
Rentals covers a wide variety of items, from stunning tabletop items like chargers and glassware to the more practical restroom trailers. As you continue to build our your design plan, you’ll determine what you need
Be sure to cross reference what’s being provided by other vendors to ensure you have all your needs covered. A list of just SOME of the items to look for:
- Dance Floor
- Staging (for band)
- practical lights
- decor lights
- dance floor lights
- Tables (don’t forget tables for welcome, cake & other catering needs)
- Lounges/Soft Seating
- Dinner Guest Table Linens
- Cocktail Hour Table Linens
- Catering & Bar Table Linens
- Tabletop Items
- Salad Plate
- Dinner Plate
- Cake/Dessert Plate
- Bar Front
- Bar Back Tables and/or Shelving
- Glassware or Acrylic Cup
If you are opting for a DJ in place of live musicians, now is the time to find that right fit person.Talk to prospective DJs about their services especially who will be the emcee. Discuss your music style and vision for the reception from a guest experience stand point to identify the best fit for your reception.
If you booked a band but need additional sound for the ceremony, now is also the time to secure this. If you simply need a speakers, some music, and a microphone, and A/V company can handle all this including sending a tech to make sure it all sounds good.
6 Months Until Wedding
The timing for booking your baker will come down to your priorities. If you want to book a small (usually 1-3 employee) shop for your cake, you’ll need to secure your date with them before this point. If you’re open to who you book, you can wait until this point.
The reason I keep cake further down the list is so because it’s often not until this point that you’ve got a clear idea of what you want your cake to look like. Plus, often there is a tasting before booking and I prefer couples to have their tasting (cake, catering bar & beverage) 4-6 months prior to the wedding to ensure you’re trying the most current menu and don’t have time to completely forget – and therefore second guess – the plan before the wedding.
Transportation is often the last vendor we book for our couples. While I don’t recommend it, I’ve even booked transportation for couples 2 weeks before the date when they decided a Uber Black send-off simply wouldn’t do.
Think about the following possible transportation needs before booking:
- To/From Ceremony
- Wedding Party
- To Reception
- Couple & Wedding Party
- Grand Send-Off
- To Room Block Hotel(s)
- Guests (with wedding party & parents/family)
Keep in mind, if you’re getting married on a busy weekend (prom, holidays, big city events, etc.), it might be better to book your transportation sooner.
If you’re looking for a planning partner to come alongside you to provide expert guidance, creative vision, and on-site production management, the Skylar Caitlin Events team is here to help! Schedule a connection call for us to discuss vision, needs, and share a bit about how we help you create a rockstar wedding day team.