Soooo you just got engaged?! AHH!! As congratulations texts blow up your phone and the planning questions start to pile up, it can be tough to figure out what to do when.
Which vendors should I book first? How far in advance should I book? How do I even find vendors?!
Girl, I gottchu.
These are obviously just my opinions, based on my 10 years of experience in the wedding industry, both as a vendor and a past bride, and what I've learned from my clients and friends. I hope these vendor tips are helpful to your planning process!
Hint: to simplify this list, I am ordering vendor bookings as if it is a 12month engagement period.
What to book & when:
Venue | ASAP! 12-10 months out of wedding date | Locking in your date is the first thing on the list! You'll be able to find and select all your vendors more specifically once the date location is locked in.
Photographer | ASAP! 12-10 months out of wedding date | Photographer's schedules tend to fill up fast, especially during peak wedding season. The earlier you can lock in your documentation team, the better.
Videographer | Soon! 11-10 months out of wedding date | Similarly, the Videographer's schedule will be crunched for availability. If you want to save yourself the time and energy, find a duo photo/film team (like my husband and I's "Golden Hour" photo and film service!).
Dress Appointments | Soon! 11-10 months out of wedding date | Getting your dress might seem like an easy task, but from my own experience, I found it being a wayyyy longer process than I expected! Most bridal shops have a 6-8month turnaround on the gowns, and often that timeline only leads up to the first fitting session, before another 1-4months of a wait for final alterations. Smaller, off the wrack boutiques or custom gown companies may have shorter waits. My advice is the sooner you can get the conversation started, the smoother the process will go!
DJ / Band | About halfway! 5-7 months out of wedding date | Often the music and media portion can wait a bit before being booked. DJ's and Bands can often book multiple gigs in one weekend, making it a little more possible to book the talent you want.
Wedding Coordinator | About halfway! 5-7 months out of wedding date | About a few months into the process you'll get a better sense of how the planning is going. It's fair to recognize the limitations of coordinating the details by yourself. Evaluate your crew, see who can help, and make a call on whether or not it's time to hire a coordinator.
Caterer/Bar Tenders | About halfway! 5-7 months out of wedding date | A lot of times venues have preferred caterers and/or bartenders they work with. About halfway through the engagement season, check in with your vendor on what they recommend or book out the food services you are looking at!
Florist | Third Trimester. 3-4 months out of wedding date | Dependent on what flowers are in bloom in the season you get married in, you're safe to wait a little (but not until the last second!) to find a florist. Ask them for some examples from this season, and be sure to consider the whole venue, and how many arrangements you want.
Decor/Rentals | Third Trimester. 2-3 months out of wedding date | Often you won't fully know what items you're looking for to fill the space until the last few months leading up to the wedding day. (If you're looking for a few items from my personal collection, be sure to checkout Bohio Rentals!)
Baker/Dessert Chef | Third Trimester. 2-3 months out of wedding date | Bakers and Pastry Artists tend to have capacity to book multiple clients in one week, so waiting until after some of the other big ticket items are locked in is typically okay.
Wheeewwww! Take a breather! If you have been stressing over what to do since that ring has been on your finger, I hope this helps clear the fog just a bit. As a rule of thumb, the sooner a vendor is booked, the better. They'll be able to have more time to work with you more intimately, you'll be more relaxed with space to process and create the vision you are dreaming of, and you'll allow for supply chain catch up where needed.
Overall, this is your day. And during the engagement process, it is so vital that you feel supported, peaceful, and excited as ever to get to do forever with your person.
Now let's do this thing!