Yay! Your Engaged! Congratulations! The excitement is real and so is the stress.
Trying to figure out where to start can seem like a huge undertaking but that’s were I can come in to help. Helping my amazing joyful brides is on of my favorite things! This time should only be filled with excitement, in my opinion. Though I know it isn’t all fun and games sometimes having a guide can be an amazing help! So let’s dive right in! From what you should do first to everything in between!
The very first thing I tell all my couples is to find and book their Venue. Weather it’s a venue you’ve been dreaming of or just a general location you want to be in for convenience of you and your guests, this should be done as soon as possible. This is because popular reception venues will book up to two years in advance of a popular date and many places will only book one wedding for that specific date . Wanting a specific date for your wedding date does not always mean that that date will be available to book with the vendors of your dreams. So being flexible in your date can get you a long way with securing your dream venue and other vendors. Once you put down a deposit on your ceremony and reception sites your wedding date is locked in, and you can shout it from the rooftops! Without a firm wedding date, you can’t hire any of your other wedding-related services or vendors. So…this is the place to start.
The Next Step after your Venue:
A general rule when booking your wedding vendors, if it requires a specific person you should book them as soon as possible. Many wedding day vendors like your cake, flowers and invites can provide their products to multiple couples on any given day. But services should be secured as quickly as you are able, because once booked for a specific date they can’t book another couple for that date. Wait to long and that photographer you’ve been dreaming about will probably be booked.
If you’re not sure if you need or want a wedding planner or coordinator, this is something you should consider now. A good planner can help you make the most of your wedding budget. In addition they can help you to you stay on budget and supervise sticky details like legal contracts. The most important perk of a planner is having someone who’ll fight for your wedding vision from start to finish. While some of those other vendors tackle more than one wedding per day or per weekend, a planner is focused only on your special day and will push to make sure everything goes according to your unique plan.
Your Photographer is one of the most important vendors you will hire because they are the ones who capture your day. They find those moments you will treasure forever and capture those moments for you to hold and share. You should include the wedding photographer in the group of vendors you hire immediately after setting your wedding date. The top talent will book first, so hiring a wedding photographer close to a year before your wedding is a good idea. I can tell you that most of the top-tier wedding photographers in any major metro area are going to be highly sought after so if you have a dream wedding photographer reach out to them ASAP after you’ve secured your venue.
Your Wedding Videographer
This is a tricky one. You’ll need to decide early in the process how important capturing your wedding on video is to you. If a fabulous, amazing wedding video is a high priority for you, then you need to treat the videographer the same as you would your photographer and book them as early as possible. If it’s a low priority and you’re budget is low and your looking to hire a cheaper company, it can probably wait until a little bit later. For the top wedding videographers in any area, the same scarcity rule will apply and they will get booked very early.
The same rules from above applies to your wedding DJ as well. You are hiring a specific person to be your disc jockey, and the top talent in your area will be the first to get booked. It may be a surprised that those sought after DJ’s are completely sold out at 6-8 months before their wedding date. As before, wait too long to book your wedding DJ and you may miss out on that on DJ you were set on.
Your Ceremony Officiant
Assuming that your ceremony site doesn’t come with a pastor/priest/rabbi included, you’ll have to book your own. Finding the right ceremony officiant is crucial. A really good officiant can make your ceremony magical and memorable. Since you’re hiring a specific person, the same rule applies as your other vendors above. Again I recommend booking them early in the process. This is yet another area where a wedding planner (as well as your photographer, videographer, and disc jockey) can really help. We’ve all seen great (and not-so-great) ceremonies and can offer suggestions based on what type of ceremony you want. No matter who you choose, make sure to lock them in early.
Your Makeup Artist
Research is vital when deciding on a makeup artist for your day. Bridal makeup artists book up months and sometimes over a year in advance. You will also want to decide early, if only you yourself are going to have your makeup done or if your going to include your girls as well. When choosing your artist, you’ll want to make sure they are a bridal makeup artist, meaning they do weddings and understand the severity of the day. Make sure they have a contract and are 100 percent professional. After you finally lock down your artist, it’s helpful to schedule a second trial closer to your wedding day, as you want to be sure of your final look. You want something that will last all day and look flawless in pictures. Also keep with your normal skincare routine to avoid trying something new and creating breakouts before your big day. Lastly, be comfortable with your artist; they are there for you and want you to feel your best. If there is something you would like to change, feel free to tell them.
This one may be a bit easier as you may already have a trusted hairstylist. Also knowing when and where you’ll be getting married, whether it will be on a beach in the heat of summer or, in a ballroom in the dead of winter, or anything in between. This can have a big impact on the styles you may want to consider. You should also have selected your wedding dress and begun to shop for accessories—from a veil and headpiece to your necklace and earrings. Knowing the style of your dress can also influence how formal or relaxed your wedding hair and makeup should be. Likewise, your wedding day accessories can determine whether you rock an updo or opt for curls or a braid. We recommend booking at least 6 months a trial about a month or two ahead of your wedding—but only if you don’t plan to cut or dye your hair. You should discuss your vision with your stylist as far out as you’re able to so they can start working toward your end vision for your big day. It’s also ideal to have your stylist booked on your wedding day because they know your hair and your personal style best.
Now we’re getting into the wedding vendors who can do multiple weddings in one day.
Most florists can handle a few weddings at a time depending on the size of their shop and operation, so booking one at a year before your wedding isn’t as crucial. This being said, I think it also depends on how important flowers are to you. If you have your heart set on a certain florist or a certain style, then I say pull the trigger and put down a deposit. The really good florists in our area still sell out during the busy season, so again don’t wait too long.
Your Wedding Cake Baker
Most wedding cake bakeries will do multiple wedding cakes on any give date, so you’re safe with this one on waiting for a little bit. I highly recommend visiting multiple cake shops and sampling their cakes. This can be such a fun date night for you and your spouse-to-be. Plus you can’t beat free cake! Added bonus, you’ll end up making a better decision with both of you there together and you can find the best tasting cake in the town if you shop around a little bit.
Your Wedding Invites
You won’t be mailing your invitations a year before your wedding, so you won’t need to buy them that early either. However, I do recommend sending ‘save the date’ cards to your guests as soon as you secure your reception site and wedding date. Find a good stationer in your area that carries the styles and brands you like, and use them for both. Some photographers may even offer the option like we do! Wanna check what we offer? Click HERE
If you are going to hire professional transportation such as limos, shuttle bus, party bus,(etc.), then you’ll need to hire a company or someone who’s good and knows what they are doing. I recommend you hire your wedding transportation, if going this route, about 6 months before your wedding. Wedding planners will tell you that the wedding vendor they have the most trouble with are limo drivers. The good ones will provide you with a clean, great looking ride and get you to the church on time. The bad ones will show up late (or not show up at all), get lost, and make you late for the wedding you’ve paid so much to plan. Pay that little extra to hire the best company you can find. Ask your wedding planner(or your photographer or videographer if you chose not to have one), on who to hire, chances are they’ve had a bad experience with more than one of the limo companies in your area.
Extra Tip: If you are getting married from late April through the beginning of June, you should really jump on your limo situation. Most brides don’t think about it, but it’s prom season – most limo companies will completely sell out on Fridays and Saturdays.
That’s it! I hope this was helpful. Not all experts will agree on who to hire when. The best advice I can give is: 1) hire a wedding planner, 2) book your reception site and set your date immediately, 3) book anything that requires a specific person as soon as possible, and 4) do your homework when you hire your vendors and check out their reviews on websites like The Knot, WeddingWire, and honestly even wedding groups on Facebook. I’d love to hear what you guys have to say! Leave me a comment below, and happy planning!
P.S. We Need To Talk.
When you hire Jennifer Murray Photography for your wedding, a lot of things we offer are unlimited – unlimited smiles, unlimited laughter, unlimited joy, unlimited Photo requests, unlimited contact with me your Photographer – but unfortunately not unlimited availability. Once we’re booked out on a date (which is close to every Saturday between April and October) then that’s that! So if you love our work and want us to capture your special day, we’d love to work with you too! So please contact us as soon as you have your date and location set – we’ll set up a time to sit down and chat with you and also put a hold on your date! We can’t wait to hear from you!