Stay on track with this vendor timeline
Your new fiancé may have spent weeks, or even months, deciding how to pop the question, but now is when the real planning starts. Before you dive into the deep end of Pinterest, though, you need a game plan to give you structure in the midst of chaos and prevent you from becoming completely overwhelmed.
“There are so many details that go into planning a wedding. The time it takes to plan is like having a part-time job and with all of the items to juggle it can be so easy to forget something,” says Amanda Felsman, wedding stylist and director of coordination for Tailored Engagements. “Using a checklist can help make sure you aren’t paying for costly mistakes.”
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting too long to hire vendors. This can lead to extra rush fees, settling for subpar service because your dream vendor is unavailable or, at worst, going without a vendor at all. Wedding planning has no room for procrastination, so to help you get started, here is a typical timeline, according to industry experts.
12+ months: Book your priority vendors
The average engagement lasts 12 to 18 months in the U.S., so there are vendors who get booked a year or more in advance. “You want to book the vendors that there are only one of as early as you can so you have the most options,” advises Sarah Agee, owner of Indianapolis-based event company Plum and Poppy.
“Bakeries can make dozens of wedding cakes, so that doesn’t need to be as high of a priority as the photographer, for example.”
Top priority vendors should include the venue, photographer, videographer and planner. If you have a favorite vendor in mind for other services, such as catering or hair, you should also go ahead and secure the booking for your date.
“I tweak the timeline depending on the couple and what is most important to them, but the earlier you book vendors the more variety you have to pick from,” adds Felsman.
9+ months: Plan the reception
Next on your list should be many of the major players for the reception, such as the florist, caterer and entertainment (band, DJ, etc.).
Before you meet with potential candidates, though, ask your venue what their requirements are for vendors.
You don’t want to book a caterer who needs access to an on-site kitchen or a band who needs plenty of outlets if your venue can’t accommodate it.
Also, when interviewing any candidates, be sure you know exactly what you’re getting before you pay the deposit.
“You want to make sure you understand the services you’re purchasing, such as the number of hours of their services you are purchasing or how you’ll receive the product after the wedding,” says Agee.
8+ months: Choose your gown
Finding your dream dress takes time, so ensure you say yes to the right one by starting early. Plus, you’ll avoid rush fees for tailoring if you choose one early. If you are on a time crunch, your best bet is buying a sample size or from a resale website.
6+ months: Select the bridal party attire
By the six-month mark, you’ll want your bridesmaids and groomsmen (and, of course the groom), to have ordered their wedding attire. Like with the bridal gown, waiting too long runs the risk of not receiving something on back order or paying extra for last minute tailoring.
4+ months: Finalize your vendors
Approximately four months out from the big day, you should be finalizing any other vendors on your list, including the hair stylist, makeup artist, baker and transportation. Of course, other details can still be made closer to the wedding, such as purchasing guest favors or ordering place cards, but you should aim to have all your actual vendors hired at this point.
Not every couple takes a whole year to plan a wedding, though. “We have planned weddings in as little as three months, so it can be done,” says Felsman. “The average is about a year, but if you are planning in eight months or less, you will have to be more flexible with your choices.”
If you’re planning your wedding on a time crunch, be prepared to compromise. Less time means you might not have access to your first venue choice or favorite photographer. And once you find a good option, you have to be ready to pull the trigger.
“You’ll have to be decisive. You need to make decisions and stick with those choices. You don’t have time to change your mind,” advises Agee. “Use vendors your friends have had good experiences with. This can save you time on the researching end of wedding planning.”