If you read the article about finding the perfect venue (which we’re sure you did!), you’re ready to start thinking about hiring the rest of your vendors! But who do you start with? First off, start with talking to your fiancé to determine which aspects of the wedding (and therefore which vendors) are most important to you both. If you’re both foodies, you’ll want to hire a caterer first off; if you love music, you’ll want to start with looking into musicians first and foremost. The approach that we find most successful is for you both to sit down and, without talking, write down your three most important aspects of the wedding—then compare them. Anything that shows up on both of your lists should take first priority. And any items that show up on his list but not yours might be a great opportunity to get him involved in the planning and hiring process. Maybe he’s really into photography, but you don’t know much about it—let him be in charge of finding photographers to meet with!
Aside from the priorities that you guys decide together, here is a general priority/timeline list about who to book when:
Reception Venue (and Ceremony Venue—if in a different location) – You can’t secure a date until you have your location booked, so this needs to be done first and foremost.
Wedding Planner – Whether you’re hiring someone for the day of or to help every step of the way, she (or he) should be the next vendor you hire—you could even hire them before settling on your venue. Not only do you want to make sure that they’re available for your date, but they are amazing resources in helping you find other vendors.
Photographer – For many couples, pictures are the only things from the wedding (aside from the marriage, of course!) that will live on past the wedding day. You might have a wedding video, and many brides will preserve their dress or bouquet, but pictures are something that you will cherish for years to come…as will your kids, your grandkids, your parents…you get the picture! Plus, Photographers can (and should) only work one wedding a day, so you’ll want to make sure that you book the one you want before someone else hires them for your date.
Band/DJ – This is another vendor that usually can only work one wedding a day, and they are also the ones that will set the tone for the party; so book quick! Make sure that you like their personalities as well as their music style; most DJs will also act as the MC, and the band’s personality will always shine through when they’re playing.
Caterer – This is a vendor that can work more than one wedding a day, but their numbers are still limited, so you’ll want to book the caterer next. Don’t worry about deciding on a menu before you book them (menu selection is something that happens much closer to the date) just make sure that their food is pleasing to your palate. If you’re hoping to incorporate family recipes or if a large number of your guests have dietary restrictions, make sure the caterer is willing to work with you before you book them.
Videographer – Many brides opt out of wedding videos (they sadly have a bad reputation dating back to our parents’ wedding videos), but it is a vendor we strongly encourage you to consider hiring! The day goes by so fast, and while images capture all of the amazing moments, they can’t quite capture your maid of honor’s speech, the emotion in your voices as you share your vows, or the high-energy dance party at the end of the night! And since videographers are another one of those vendors that can only book one wedding a day, they should stay pretty high on the list.
Officiant – Unless you decide to ask a close friend or family member to officiate your wedding, you’ll want to secure your officiant next; especially if you have your heart set on a minister, rabbi, or other significant figure.
Florist – Next on the list is the florist; they can generally have anywhere from two to six weddings any given day, but the good ones go fast! You don’t need to know exactly what flowers you want for your wedding, but you’ll want to hire someone whose style fits the theme of your wedding (a florist who creates mostly European-garden styled arrangements probably isn’t the best fit for your chic Asian-inspired theme). And make sure that when you look at their arrangements, your reaction more often than not is “Oh, gorgeous!”
Cake – If your caterer isn’t making your cake for you, you’ll want to book a baker next—especially if you want them to deliver the cake to the site! Many cake bakers fall into one of two categories; they either create visual masterpieces, or they bake mouthwatering and delectable desserts. There are bakers that can do both (and these are the ones that book up first), but you should still decide what is more important to you—look, or taste? Then seek out a baker that fits your priority.
Hair – You’ll want to look into booking your hair stylist first – especially if you want them to be on-location the morning of the wedding. Other things to consider: if moms and maids will also need hair done, if your hair and makeup will be rolled into one vendor, and if your current stylist is willing to do it for you (they are more familiar with your hair than other stylists).
Rentals – Many venues will provide the necessary rentals (tables, chairs, even sometimes linens as well), and often caterers will provide plates, flatware and glassware. But if you need to bring in your own, or if you want to add more personality, you’ll want to secure the extra rentals now.
Transportation – If you’re getting married during prom season (May to June), you may want to move this up higher on the list if you’re hoping to secure a limo! Other transportation options to consider: shuttle bus for guests, rental car for out-of-town parents, renting a town car instead of a limo, or even visiting the local Hertz to rent a fancy sports car as your getaway vehicle!
Invitations – You’ve spent all of this time securing vendors, now it’s time to start thinking about spreading the word to your guests! You may want to move this up the list if you’re doing custom-designed invitations.
Ceremony Musician – Not as crucial as the reception music, Ceremony Music is one of the later vendors you’ll want to consider. The larger the group, the sooner you’ll want to book—a solo guitar player is easier to find than a quartet.
Lighting – One thing that we think is way too underdone! Auxiliary lighting can transform a space; now that you have your style, your venue, and many of the décor details worked out, consider talking to a lighting company about bringing in some extra lights.
Makeup – If you aren’t having your hairstylist do your makeup, you’ll want to start looking into finding someone to take care of this for you.