Wedding Planning Timeline: A Guide to Booking Your Vendors
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” – Winnie-the-Pooh, by A A Milne
Planning a wedding can be a whirlwind! I remember it firsthand, and let me just say, I was impressed at how organized I became when the occasion called for it. I truly believe that organization is the number one asset couples must have to succeed. Without it, you’re going to feel like a mess, and you’re going to feel like your wedding day was a mess, even if none of your guests feel that way.
Booking your vendors is the most important part of wedding planning because you’re in competition with everyone else that’s getting married at the same time you are. Vendors are limited in their availability, so knowing who you want to work with and getting yourself on their schedule early is key.
I put together an easy-to-follow timeline so you know what steps you should be taking when it comes to finding and booking your vendors, plus a few other tips I have for making the process go smoothly for both you and your “team” on your special day.
Your Stress-Free Wedding Planning Timeline
18+ Months From Your Wedding Day
The first thing you want to lock in is your venue. Depending on what you like (rustic barn, stunning chapel, country club, etc.) you’re going to have maybe a handful of options to choose from. You want to claim your spot before they fill up, and honestly, most of them book more than a year out. So, if you can, you really want to get in touch with your first choice as soon as you get engaged.
In addition to the reception venue, you might want a separate ceremony venue, like a church or chapel. If you are going to be working with a wedding coordinator, consider booking them first so they can help you decide on the venues and negotiate add-ons and amenities.
12-18 Months From Your Wedding Day
This is when you’re going to book a majority of your other vendors. You’ll want to find your dream photographer as close to the 12 month mark as possible (trust us, our calendars fill up fast, too… especially during the popular wedding months). Once you book your photographer, you should immediately start planning your engagement session with them, since you’ll need to send out your Save The Date announcements six to eight months before the wedding day.
During this time period, you also want to book your florist, your entertainment (DJ or live band), your caterer, and your officiant. Depending on the venues you choose for your reception, the catering may be included. Likewise, if you’re getting married in a church, you likely won’t need to find your own officiant. However, these are important aspects to consider and your wedding coordinator can help you with these details. Oh, and don’t forget to reserve a block of rooms at a nearby hotel for out-of-town guests!
During this time, you’re also going to be doing a lot of dress shopping! Don’t forget that you’ll probably need a professional tailor to make sure your dress is a perfect fit. Some boutiques have a tailor on staff, so don’t forget to ask and compare their rates with other local options.
6-9 Months From Your Wedding Day
Okay, this is probably the most fun period of wedding planning because you get to lock in the cake and the honeymoon! What could be more fun than that! Choose a few cakeries you love and try some samples. Remember, you don’t have to go the traditional route if you don’t want to. Lots of couples are doing fun things like doughnuts, brownies, macaroons, or pies instead of the standard tiered cake.
When it comes to booking your honeymoon, you may want to work with a travel agent so you don’t have to worry about anything. However, you can totally DIY it. There’s lots of online tools to help, and you can even consider registering for your honeymoon using sites like honeyfund.com.
3-6 Months From Your Wedding Day
It’s starting to get real now. You’re pretty much going to be booking everything else during this time period: hair stylist, makeup artist, a calligrapher for your invitations and decor, tuxes for the guys, and your transportation. You’ll also want to find out what steps you need to take to get your marriage license so there’s no last minute hiccups.
At about three months out, you’ll want to touch base with all of your vendors to make sure everything is settled and everyone is clear on your expectations and timeline. Again, a wedding coordinator can make this a breeze, but if you’re handling everything yourself, you can simply call or email them to go over anything that still needs to be done.
Wedding planning is a big job but in the end, it will all be worth it. Stay organized, stay on schedule, and you’ll be perfectly fine. When your wedding day comes, remember to take a moment to appreciate your hard work. All the smiles on your guest’s faces will make the months of planning totally worth it!
Need more help planning your big day, head over HERE to receive your free Brooke Ellen Photography wedding planning guide.