When To Book Your Wedding Vendors

We always have a lot of last-minute requests from brides and grooms, and we’re often sold out on their wedding date. For some of these couples, they know they are “late” in their planning, and are looking for any wedding officiants who are still available on their date. For others, however, I get the impression that they have no idea that most of the companies they are calling will not be available. Are couples being told that they don’t need to hire an officiant until later in their planning process?

Curious, I went to the top three wedding planning websites to see what they tell brides. Some of what I found made sense, but certain parts of each “wedding vendor checklist” didn’t seem to match reality. There is a general rule of thumb that you can follow when booking your wedding vendors, “If it requires a specific person, do it as soon as possible.” Certain wedding vendors provide products (like cake, flowers, and invitations) and can provide those products to multiple couples in a single day. Anything else needs to be secured as quickly as you can, because they are a scarce resource. Wait too long, and the one you want will probably be booked.

When to book a Ceremony Officiant, Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Priest or Rabbi:
The Knot: 9-11 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 11 months
My suggestion: 9-12 months
Notes: Finding the right ceremony officiant is crucial, assuming that your ceremony site doesn’t come with an officiant included. A really good officiant can make your ceremony amazing. Since you’re hiring a specific person, I recommend booking them early in the process.

When to hire a Wedding Planner or Day of Coordinator:
The Knot: 9-11 months
WeddingWire: 9 months
Brides.com: 11 months
My suggestion: 12+ months
Notes: A wedding planner will have the greatest amount of utility to you and can help with the rest of your vendor selection, so start here. I highly recommend hiring one — you’ll thank me later.

When to book a Wedding Venue:
The Knot: 9-11 months
WeddingWire: 9 months
Brides.com: 11 months
My suggestion: 12+ months
Notes: This should also be done as soon as possible. This is another scarce resource, and reception venues will book up to two years in advance of a popular date. Contrary to popular belief, simply saying a date is your wedding date does not mean that is your wedding date — unless it doesn’t matter to you where you have your wedding . You do not have a wedding date until you put down a deposit on your ceremony and reception sites. Without a firm wedding date, you can’t hire any of your wedding-related services. Hence, this is the place to start.

When to hire a Wedding Caterer:
The Knot: 9-11 months
WeddingWire: 9 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 10-12 months
Notes: Once you have your reception site booked, it is imperative that you hire your caterer as soon as possible, unless catering is included at your reception venue. Every caterer has a limited number of events they can do on any given date, and booking early ensures that you will be able to choose the one you want. I would also advise you not to wait for a tasting if it’s more than a month into the future — you should be able to get a clear picture of a caterer’s quality and their style of food from their website and WeddingWire reviews. This is an area where a wedding planner can help a lot. They have probably worked with every good caterer in your area and know who is good, who is not, and who will fit your budget.

When to hire a Wedding Photographer:
The Knot: 6-8 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 10-12 months
Notes: I was actually surprised by the “expert” timelines on this one. Six months? Really? Most couples think the photographer is an important part of their wedding, and I can tell you that most of the top-tier wedding photographers are going to be long gone at 6 months to go. In my opinion, 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.

When to book a wedding DJ, Band or Musicians:
The Knot: 9-11 months
WeddingWire: 9 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 10-12 months
Notes: The same rule from above applies to your wedding music as well — you are hiring a specific person and the top talent will be the first to get booked. Waiting too long to book your wedding music will leave you with a limited number of available vendors to choose from.

When to hire a wedding Videographer:
The Knot: 6-8 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 10-12 months
Notes: If you’re going to hire a wedding videographer, you need to decide early in the process how important the wedding 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 the photographer and book them as early as possible. For the top wedding videographers the same scarcity rule will apply and they will get booked very early.

When to hire a wedding Florist:
The Knot: 6-8 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 6-9 months
Notes: 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, so booking one at a year before your wedding isn’t as crucial. That being said, I think that it also depends on how important the 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 still sell out during the busy season, so you can’t wait too long.

When to book the wedding Cake:
The Knot: 6-8 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 6-9 months
Notes: Most wedding cake bakeries will do multiple wedding cakes on any give date, so you’re safe waiting for a little while. I highly recommend visiting multiple cake shops and sampling their cakes. You’ll end up making a better decision if you shop around a little bit.

When to buy wedding Invitations:
The Knot: 6-8 months
WeddingWire: 6 months
Brides.com: 5 months
My suggestion: 6 months
Notes: Since you’re not going to be mailing your invitations a year before your wedding, you don’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.

When to hire the wedding Transportation:
The Knot: 2-3 months
WeddingWire: 2 months
Brides.com: 6 months
My suggestion: 5-6 months
Notes: If you are going to hire professional transportation (limos, shuttle buses, whatever) you need to do it more than 2 months before your wedding. My advice is to do this about 6 months before your wedding. Remember If you are getting married from late April through the beginning of June, you really need to 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.

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