Wedding planning can become extremely overwhelming. Who should I hire, and when, is one of the most common questions we see in the planning process. Danielle Pasternak of DPNAK Weddings has provided the perfect guide for when to book your team of wedding vendors/pros.
Written by: Danielle Pasternak of DPNAK Weddings
When it comes to planning your wedding, I subscribe to the fact that there is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing things. That said, as a wedding planner, I have found that there is a way to hire your team of wedding professionals that is smart and efficient, which saves you time and ideally a few headaches. So, here is my insight as to when to book your team of wedding vendors/pros.
First, we need to talk about your budget and your priorities.
Before we go any further, I want you to have a discussion with your partner and any other people that have their hand in planning your wedding. This discussion needs to cover the icky-sticky topic of MONEY and the more dreamy topic of PRIORITIES.
Your budget is going to be your guideline as you research, talk to and choose your wedding vendors. Your priorities are going to be your North Star to help you allocate that budget. This is what determines what’s most important to you.
To give you an idea of some priorities you might have:
- You want your guests on the dance floor all night long. (This tells me you should hire a GREAT Band or DJ).
- You’ll want to have some AMAZING food. (Best to find a caterer or venue who knocks your socks off with new and interesting menu ideas).
- You want everyone to spend time together all weekend. (You’ll want to choose a venue with lodging on-site or very, very close by).
- You want some amazing photos or video to remember the day by. (Obviously, this means finding yourselves a photographer and/or videographer that produces great work and you really “click” with).
I’d say to have everyone pick their top three priorities and see if there’s any similarities. It’s ok if there isn’t, but it will help as you go through the planning process.
If you don’t have any similarities, keep an open mind that what may be important to you, isn’t as important to someone else. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
If this is an area that you’re having trouble with, this might be a good sign that a wedding planner will be a helpful investment for you.
Yes, I know I’m biased. As a wedding planner, I believe that many couples HIGHLY benefit from having a dedicated planner on their team. But navigating the budget is one way (of many) that a wedding planner can help make things a WHOLE LOT EASIER.
Ok, let’s start picking the “big pictures” pros who you want to work with.
Once you’ve got your budget and priorities sorted out, it’s time to start choosing your vendors. I like to break this process up into three phases. This is based on how the vendor works and how high on your priority list they are for you.
During the first phase, you’ll want to select what I call your “Big Picture” vendors. These are the pros that typically only take on one wedding per day or per weekend. Which makes their availability more limited.
They are often your higher-priced vendors compared to those you’ll select in phase two or three. This helps you maintain your budget and adjust as you need.
The “big picture” vendors are also pros that you’re going to be working more closely with throughout the planning process. Making sure your personalities are a good fit will also be very important.
You’ll be hiring these vendors as early on in the process as possible. During a twelve-month engagement, you’ll want to hire these pros 10-12 months out.
Your venue should always be your first choice as it determines so many variables. This includes your official date and general location.
Hiring a wedding planner as early on in the process as possible will be one of the best investments you can make. They can also help with selecting your venue, if you need.
Photography is often high up on many couple’s priority list because it’s one of the few things you’ll have after the wedding besides your memories. Selecting someone who does great work and you jive with is so important.
If your venue provides food and beverage, you’re already good to go and don’t have to worry about this step. Or if not, this is often a big chunk of the budget and should be squared away as early as possible. If your space is very DIY and you also need rentals like tables, chairs, linens, dishes, glassware, etc., see if your caterer has any options for you.
At this stage, you’ll want to focus on your MAIN entertainment vendor. Typically, a band or DJ for the reception and musicians or a DJ for your ceremony and cocktail hour.
If you’re on the fence about hiring a videographer, know that it’s one of the most common regrets couples have when they don’t hire one. Photos are fantastic, but video captures your day in a way that really brings you back to the moment. Hearing your vows, the toasts, the dances you shared with your parents – it’s a gift to go back and relive it all.
Technically, some officiants can work more than one wedding a day. But this person is the KEY to your ceremony and I recommend finding a good fit early on.
If you’re getting married in Pennsylvania, be sure to do your research. If you plan on having someone close to you marry you, there are some tricky laws you’ll want to keep in mind.
Honorable Mention: Save The Dates
If you’re going with custom stationery, you’ll want to add your stationery designer to this phase since you’ll need to send out your Save the Dates early on.
Another Honorable Mention: Hotel Room Blocks
If you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town, set up a hotel room block to keep everyone close.
Time for phase two and selecting your “detail” vendors.
If you stay on track throughout phase one, I recommend taking a little “planning break” before starting phase two. It can be a week or a month, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure to put in some non-wedding time together with your partner. Maybe plan a little celebratory date night for what you’ve accomplished so far.
The second phase of booking vendors involves more of the “detail” vendors. This is often when you start thinking more about the LOOK and FEEL of your day.
Many of these vendors are able to take on multiple weddings per day and per weekend, so their availability is less limited than the above vendors.
During a twelve-month engagement, you’ll want to hire these pros 7-9 months out. That said, if any of these vendors are high priority to you, be sure to add them to your phase-one list so you can work with exactly who you want.
Florists are commonly hired in the first phase of planning when florals are a high priority to you. No matter when you hire them, know that it’s ok not to have all the details worked out just yet. That will get finalized as you go.
Hair and Makeup
In order to get an accurate quote for hair and makeup services, you’ll want to have a few details worked out before contacting them. Namely where you’ll be getting ready, how many ladies will need services and roughly what time you’ll need to be done by. (This is where it’s especially helpful to have a planner/coordinator on your team to help navigate a solid timeline.)
If you are providing transportation for your guests, or need vehicles for yourselves and your VIPs, it’s best to book your transportation at this point. (As a planner, I can talk transportation logistics and schedules all day long.)
If your caterer or venue isn’t handling your dessert, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start tasting some sweet treats. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
While your invites won’t be mailed to your guests until around 8-10 weeks before your wedding, there is a lot that goes into designing them. You’ll want to start on this sooner vs. later so you aren’t rushing to get them shipped to you.
If you’re having your wedding in a space that requires a lot of rentals, this should be higher up on your list in phase one. If you just need a few items to rent, this works well to secure during phase two.
If your venue or catering company does not supply staff to serve or bartend, there are some great companies who offer this service. They will guide you through what you’ll need based on your guest list and details of your event.
And last, but not least, you want to hire any remaining vendors you need for your day.
The vendors you choose in the third phase are relatively low on your priority list and often considered “nice-to-have” if the budget allows. They aren’t critical to the success of your event, but do give a nice improvement to your overall guest experience.
During a twelve-month engagement, you’ll want to hire these pros 4-6 months out.
I believe that professional lighting is one of the most effective ways to completely transform the feel of a space. It can easily take your event from a six to a ten.
If you have a lot of parents attending, but wish to keep your celebration kid-free, I recommend hiring a babysitter to watch any children in a nearby room or hotel. This gives parents the room to be adults but also know their babies are safely nearby.
Photo Booth, Strolling Magicians, and Other Entertainment
Having a band or DJ is a great way to entertain your guests. But if you know most of your guests aren’t big dancers, it’s a good idea to find another form of entertainment that they will enjoy. Photo booths are a common choice. However, one of my favorite things I’ve seen was a strolling magician (dressed in a way that he looked like a guest) who casually entertained guests during the cocktail hour. People LOVED it!
Any remaining vendors
It’s best to hire any remaining vendors for your day by the time you’re 4-6 months out for your wedding. This will allow you to get a good grasp of your remaining budget and make tweaks as you need.
Still feeling stuck?
I co-host a podcast for couples planning their wedding called “Put A Ring On It”. We recently put out an episode that goes into detail on this topic AND gives some added resources and help to guide you along the way.
No matter what, know that you’ve got this.
Like I said in the beginning, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to plan a wedding. Feel free to use this list as a guide, but feel free to tweak it in a way that works and makes sense for you. At the end of the day, you’re getting married and that is awesome!
More from DPNAK Weddings: DPANK Weddings: Wedding Planner in the Lehigh Valley, 13 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your Wedding, An “App” for Love and Pizza: Amy and Joe’s Modern Romance, and Molly and Brett: Traditional Elegance with a Touch of Navy.
This article “When to book your team of wedding vendors/pros” we hope will be an incredible guide for you as you plan the best day of your life.