First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement! As soon as the question is popped and 'yes' has been said, it's time to start planning and estimate your budget! So which vendors do you select first?
Local wedding tradeshows are an excellent place to start to get ideas. So if you get engaged during Christmas or Valentine's Day you are in luck...shows are everywhere! You can get an estimate of how much vendors charge at tradeshows and start putting your lists together. You can also see what special touches you can offer for your wedding at tradeshows.
We will assist you here on how the vendor pyramid system works in wedding planning and timing. Some of your larger vendors (i.e, caterers) will assist you in selecting some of the more complimentary ones (i.e., bartenders and rentals). Also, your wedding's location and time of year determine which vendors you select first. Some types of vendors fill up much faster than others, especially during certain times of the year. For example, venues, caterers and DJs run double duty during the Christmas party season. Some types of vendors only handle one wedding or event a day...so they must be confirmed as early as possible.
Wedding Planner -
If using a wedding planner (and of course, we recommend that), he or she should be your first stop! This should be done at least one year in advance. Your planner will assist in getting your vendors' list into a prioritized order. The planner can also usually provide you with a preferred vendor list to help you get started. The planner can attend any vendor interviews with you, if that level of service is purchased. If you have decided against using a planner (not advised) for the entire event, consider just hiring one to assist you in vendor recommendations only.
One of the first things to book is your venue. Your venue sets the mood for the entire event! Almost every vendor you interview will ask you if you have a venue yet! This must be done one to two years in advance, depending on the demand for your location. When approaching the venue with a specific date, be aware that you may have to be flexible...have at least a couple of dates in mind to avoid disappointment. Popular venues fill up during busy seasons and on special digit dates such as Sunday, February 2, 2020--02/02/2020. If you are lucky enough to get your date, be sure to have your deposit ready to put down quickly to hold your date on the books. Most deposits are non-refundable, so be sure of your selections. The style of your venue will dictate what other types of accents and vendors you will need to select...such as wedding attire, caterer, event design, and musicians. You will also now have the decision solved of whether your wedding and reception will be held in the same or different locations.
Hotel Blocks/Wedding Night Suite -
This selection sometimes goes along with your venue choice. If your venue is in a hotel, you can use that to your advantage by getting a great rate for a block of guest rooms and possibly a free wedding night suite. If you are using a location separate from your reception venue for your guests, the earlier the better especially if you are celebrating during a busy time of the year like summer, graduation time, prom season, near a holiday, or when a large event in your town is occuring (i.e., sporting event).
Book your caterer and bartenders at least 12 months in advance, depending upon your area's popularity. The caterer can be invaluable with providing the names of other great vendors they have worked along with successfully. The caterer can usually assist you with obtaining reasonable rates for linen rentals, dinnerware, and flatware. The bartenders can assist you with creating a great wedding signature drink!
If you live in a very busy location and have the desire to get an in-demand DJ or band, you will need to book them at least one year in advance. If you are also using musicians for your ceremony, this is the perfect time to book them also. Beware that bands do not always book with weddings a year in advance...their preference usually goes to larger paying events that may present more future opportunity for them.
Book your videographer and photographer at least 10 to 12 months in advance, depending on their popularity. Don't forget to let your photographer know that you will need to book your engagement photos once you know when your wedding gown will be available.
Honeymoon/Travel Agent -
Start looking for a honeymoon site early--at least one year in advance. Select an experienced travel agent and start your payment plan, if needed, as early as possible. This will allow you to set a comfortable budget so that you can enjoy a very nice destination.
Wedding Attire -
By this time, you should have selected your wedding party. So the next stop is for your wedding attire. Start searching for your wedding gown at least 12 months in advance. Gowns take months to make and ship...consider that multiple fittings and alterations must also be figured into your timeline. If you want to take engagement photos, you will need to get your gown early for those pictures. First of all, it is often difficult to coordinate you and your wedding party's schedules for browsing/shopping, so...the earlier the better. The groom should select his attire along with his groomsmen choices. The more months in advance, the longer the wedding party can stretch out their payment schedules and measurement deadlines. This also makes it easier for your wedding party to budget for your special day.
Makeup Artist/Stylist -
With your wedding attire selected, you should choose a makeup artist and stylist early...at least 9 months in advance. They book up early! Determine if you will book them for the entire wedding party or just yourself. If your wedding is in April or May, that is the prime time for proms so you will be in high competition for their time. Put that deposit down and secure your date! Also, don't forget to book the makeup artist and stylist for your engagement shoot, if applicable.
Florist/Event Designer -
Your florist and event designer, if applicable, should be booked at least 8 to 12 months in advance. The event designer will assist you in creating your atmosphere and will let you know what type of special effects and lighting you will need, if any...so lighting is your next visit.
Lighting Specialist -
Lighting technicians usually have enough personnel to handle more than one event per day. But due to their popularity, you should definitely secure them at least 9 to 12 months in advance.
The wedding cake should be ordered 6 to 9 months in advance, depending upon its elaborance. By this time, you will know your wedding style and your floral colors will be set...designing a cake will be a 'piece of cake'!
Depending on your wedding's time of year, you can select the transportation 4 to 6 months in advance. If you want a specific type of vehicle...the earlier the better (i.e., Rolls Royce--you need at least a year). If your wedding is during the month of April or May, you will want to put a deposit down at least 6 or more months ahead...again because of prom time. With this said, try to get in writing, which vehicle is guaranteed for your wedding...many times prom goers, offering more money, will bump your choice down the ladder. Don't forget to book transportation for your wedding party and out-of-town guests, if applicable.
If you are having a destination wedding or a wedding during a busy month, you will need to select your save-the-dates at least one year in advance. Your invitations will be sent out at least 8 weeks prior to the wedding. Therefore, you should start selecting your formal invitations at least 8 months in advance. Work on cutting your wedding list down to a manageable level within 6 months so that you will have the proper invitation numbers to purchase.
The remaining things that you will need to schedule depends upon on the complexity of your wedding day. We have discussed the major components of your celebration. You will definitely need to include later timeline items such as when to obtain your wedding license (depending on your local laws or your destination wedding's requirements). Your planner will be happy to fit those things in for you or we will be happy to provide you with a timeline, upon request. Your hired vendors will give you their timelines for payments and final counts for you to fit into your timeline.
Good luck with your wedding planning and remember, if you need assistance with anything, merchandise or services, please feel free to contact A Friend's Touch Events for a free consultation, advice or full, partial, or day-of services at 1-800-883-0868. Congratulations again on your wedding date and happy planning & prioritizing!