The festivities are over and it’s time to get down to business. Let’s put a game plan together so you can rock your wedding planning journey. I promise this isn’t just another wedding planning timeline checklist from Pinterest. I never liked those and found them super overwhelming when I was planning my own wedding because my timeline was so different than most. Now that I’ve planned weddings for years the truth is that no one's timeline is the same. Plus, I wish there would have been someone to give me permission to steer from the path. Can we take a quick pause? Right now, I encourage you to DREAM BIG and to question all wedding traditions so you can create what's right for you. You don’t have to do all or any of it. If you don’t want a cake, toss it. If you don’t want a bridal party, nix it. Do what reflects YOU.
In this post I’m going to provide you with a quick overview of which wedding vendors are needed and when you should hire them. It’s a simplified wedding project timeline style of planning to make the process a little more manageable. This also includes a free download action sheet to help you hire your wedding team; we even provided recommendations for you.
There are many wedding planning timelines out there that break it all down by months and very detailed checklists. But I’ve learned in my business that planning your wedding works best if you approach it like a project timeline. You should only be planning for what applies to you. If you’re not having a ring bearer or flower girl then you definitely don’t need a list outlining all the tasks you need to complete for that item like dressing them, gifting them or even buying the ring pillow or flower baskets.
To give you an idea of this project timeline approach I’ll give you an example of how I work. Most of my couples hire a wedding planner and once that’s complete then we can move on to the venue searching. Once the venue is booked we can start the save the date process so we’ll need to book the stationer. If you want photos on your save the dates or for your website, the next step would be to hire your photographer and start designing and building the website. And then from there you’ll need to hire your beauty service to make sure that they can do your hair and makeup for your engagement session. The tasks go on like so, through a pipeline, when you check off an item it will most likely prompt you to the next step. It’s a simpler version of those wedding planning timelines.
So let’s take the first step together to figure out the vendors needed for your wedding ...
The first major task you’ll want to check off as you dive into planning is to book your venue. There is some preliminary work to be done here to help find your venue but let’s assume you did that already (if you haven’t you’ll want to read “How to find my wedding venue”).
Now that you have your venue, you can move into booking your design vendors (stationery, floral, photography etc.) as they book out sooner than others. We’ll want to start with hiring your stationer so that she can begin your Save the Dates if you need those. Save the dates serve as an announcement for your family to know that you “DID IT.” You put a ring on it! They also help your guests start thinking about travel arrangements and requesting time off from work. Save the dates are sent 8 to 14 months ahead of time. You can push it to six months if they are digital (I don’t recommend digital but absolutely understand the need to be more environmentally conscious where you can or are on a time crunch). Check out Paperless Post if you’re planning on going this route. Here is an example of a digital save the date I made for my clients, Pamela and Keith.
If you want a photo on your save the date or for your website, you’ll want to start looking for your photographer so you can start planning your engagement session. If you are planning on sending out save the dates this will need to take place roughly 12 months ahead to give your photographer time to edit photos, pick your favorite, submit it to your stationer, order the stationery and then stuff and send. Your guests should have the save the date by the 8 month mark. Photographers may also offer videography services or may be able to refer you out if this is a vendor you’re considering.
Because you’re planning your engagement session, a lot of times my clients like to use the hair and makeup trial session for their engagement shoot. If your hair and makeup artist thinks it’s too early to have a trial session (that may happen), at the very least you can get all dolled up for one day full of fun and check something major of your planning list. Consult with your beauty expert on this.
Don’t forget to create a website before your save the dates go out. The more information you give your guests, the more of an informed decision they can make about attending.
Next up, let’s start looking for your dress. You‘ll want to make plenty of time because this is a decision you definitely do not want to rush. You’ll need to make room for fittings and alterations. For my clients, finding a dress is a big pain point in the planning process. The reason is that most of my clients go into the process with an idea in mind. But 85% of the time my clients end up picking a dress that’s completely off from their radar. The other day, my bride, Erica texted me saying, “I found my dress.” She had gone to visit her sister in New York and went to Kleinfield just to look but to her surprise ended up finding it. I normally recommend boutique shops because their selections are curated and it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as a David’s Bridal or larger bridal store. When Erica first described the dress she was looking for it was something very simple and classic. She ended up going with something sexy and lacy, which isn’t typically her style but wedding gowns naturally are designed with a sense of elegance to them, so sexy and lacy has a whole other meaning to it, which she had no idea she’d love.
GUEST LIST AND INVITATIONS
These go out at least two months ahead so you’ll need to plan for enough time to design the invitations with your stationery designer, approve the proofs, order and ship, receive, assemble and send. This could be a 4 month-ish process depending on how quickly the designer turns the proofs around and you approve/provide feedback on the design proofs.
With your guest list in place you can go ahead and book your floral designer to bring all your pretty flower dreams to fruition. Knowing your guest count, your floral designer can put an accurate quote together for the amount of tables and aisle pieces you’ll need.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of the guests that you’re inviting and perhaps you might’ve gotten responses from some of your save the dates. Now you can review your guest list and see who might need accommodations. This might lead you to reserve a room block. I personally recommend that you keep it to the minimum (usually 10 rooms). Those that really need and want help finding a place will be the first ones to take advantage of those rooms. With AirBnb and Google, the rest will be okay searching for accommodations on their own. If you need a little help in this area, check out JC Room Blocks - amazing service.
CATERING, BAR, RENTALS
Now let’s work on catering, bar and rentals. These all go hand in hand because the caterers depend heavily on the equipment you provide. If you’re not providing any, their team needs to know what to source to make sure they are equipped for your big day.
ENTERTAINMENT, DJ, MC
Let’s move on to the entertainment, DJ, and MC. These all work hand in hand as well. They’ll also usually have referrals for one another. DJs and MCs can make or break your wedding so be very diligent in choosing reputable and professional DJs. Choosing a live bands for the rockin’ reception or a romantic string quartet for your ceremony can make a huge impact on your wedding. They’ll all kind of tie together via referrals.
Now you can work on the miscellaneous vendors. You can start planning your rehearsal dinner, request additional staffing as needed, order a photo-booth, employ a coffee cart, hire a bakery, think about transportation, order wedding day stationery and consider videography if you didn’t do so earlier in the process. These are not as high up on the list because they don’t really require that you know as many details for execution. This category of vendors can typically take multiple events a day which is why they aren’t higher up in the planning process.
Planning timelines are great but this simplified project timeline style of planning can make the process a little more manageable. This is a quick and simple overview of which major vendors are needed for your wedding and when to hire them. If you missed the action sheet, here it is again to help you book your wedding team.
You may have gotten engaged a few months ago, a few weeks ago or maybe even a few days ago (eepp!). You don’t have to try to tackle this all on your own. We invite you to spark up a conversation with us to see how we can support you along your journey. From helping you find your dream venue to helping you put your dream wedding team together, we offer multiple services to help you along your journey. We invite you to learn more here.