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Wedding Planning Guide: When to Book Your Wedding Vendors

You’ve got the date, you’ve got the lover, now all you need is to start the wedding planning. One of the most important parts to planning your wedding is putting together a team of vendors to help you put together your dream wedding day ! It’s estimated that 2.2 million people will get married in 2023 and 2024, which is a LOT of weddings. And though there are plenty of wedding vendors and venue options these days, if you want to have a lot of options when it comes to planning your wedding day you will want to be sure you start reaching out to vendors sooner rather than later.

If you haven’t been a part of planning a wedding before, it can be hard to know where to start in the early stages when it comes to finding and booking your vendors. In this blog, we are going to go over my go-to wedding planning timeline that I suggest for all of my Wisconsin and Illinois wedding clients along with how to book your wedding vendors.



How to Book Your Wedding Vendors

Start Early

Starting the wedding planning process can be a lot from the get-go, so if you have a general idea of when you’re going to get engaged, you can start doing a little bit of scouting before you even have a date set ! In the early early stages of planning start checking out wedding vendors on social media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. Start by browsing vendors in your area by searching hashtags like #milwaukeeweddings #chicagoweddingvenues #wisconsinweddingvenue and other hashtags that fit your vision for your wedding day.


Check Out Their Websites

As you’re browsing the internet and social media for vendors that excite you, take a little time and check out their websites. Things you’ll want to look for on their websites include, where they’re based out of and if their location is close to your venue, whether or not you like the majority of their website examples, and then if their starting prices are within your wedding budget. It’s important to note that If you have a venue or a photographer that are must haves, it's okay to check their availability and choose your date based on that.


Send an Inquiry

As you get to know vendors and start to find some that you feel might be the one, start filling out inquiry forms on their websites. I recommend only filling out two or three inquiry forms for each type of vendor at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed with calls and emails. This will help in making your wedding planning process much less chaotic and overwhelming !



Schedule a Consultation

For many wedding vendors, before you book with them you will need to schedule a consultation call. On the consultation call you will go over everything you need to know about your wedding vendor's services, and you will want to share your vision for your wedding day with your potential vendor. For vendors that will be with you throughout your wedding day like your photographer, planner or coordinator, you will want to make sure you like their services as well as their personalities. Remember that you will spend the majority of your wedding day with these vendors, so you will want to make sure you are excited to see them and spend time with them throughout your wedding day.


Sign Your Contract and Pay Your Non-Refundable Retainer

Know that in order to book your wedding vendor and reserve their services for your wedding date, you are going to have to pay a retainer fee and sign a contract. If your vendor claims to save your date without this step, this could be a red flag. Contracts protect both you and your vendor’s goods or services. You should go over these steps during your consultation call.


Email the Vendors You Didn’t Go With That You Went Another Direction

Once you get to the point in your wedding planning where you’ve found your dream vendors, you will want to make sure that you email the vendors that you inquired with and didn’t go with that you went another direction. Vendors greatly appreciate this and it lets them know that they don’t have to hold your date or follow up with you in the future.

If you’re feeling anxious about the idea of emailing vendors that you aren’t going with, here is an email template you can use to let them know !

Hi _______!

Thank you so much for your time and all of the information you sent our way about your ____ services. I just wanted to let you know that we decided to go another direction for our wedding day and won’t be needing your services! We hope you have a great wedding season!

Sincerely,

_________




Important Things to Note

It’s important to note that with how many wedding vendors, venues and products there are nowadays, you can put together a beautiful wedding day on almost any timeline. However, if you have a specific vision in mind, and you have a handful of dream vendors or a venue that you HAVE to have for your wedding day, you’re going to want to start the planning process early. Another thing to note is if the vendor you hope to hire is popular on social media platforms, you will want to reach out earlier as well.


When to Ideally Book Your Vendors

As Soon As You Can

Venue

As soon as you decide you’re ready to start the planning process you will want to start reaching out to wedding venues. Larger venues typically start booking their weddings 18-21 months out and can often become booked out within 9 months of a wedding day. When you choose your wedding venue, you finalize your wedding date, which will allow you to begin booking other vendors. The rest of your wedding vendors will not be able to be booked until you book your wedding venue and set a date.



A Year or More in Advance

Photo

On average, photographers begin booking out a year in advance, and end up capping their year with somewhere in between 15-40 clients depending on the size of their team and pricing. If you have a specific photographer in mind and have chosen a popular wedding month to have a wedding in (May, June, September, or October in the Midwest) you will want to reach out to those photographers sooner rather than later as you start planning your wedding.


Video

Similar to wedding photographers, videographers too book as far as a year out when taking on clients, and end up capping with between 15 and 40 clients as well. If you want a videographer for your wedding day and have someone specific in mind, be sure to inquire about a year out from your wedding day so you can get on their books for your wedding day !




8-12 Months

Florist

Wedding Florists book anywhere from 8-12 months out typically. There are variables that play into pricing such as cost of flowers, and then wedding trends, and the cost of labor to create the arrangements.


Caterer

Prior to reaching out to a caterer, you will want to check with your wedding venue to see if they have a preferred vendor list or any other parameter for what style of catering is allowed at the venue. After that you can begin to reach out to caterer’s and book your favorite within 8-12 months of your wedding day.


DJ

Depending on their popularity, DJ’s typically book out anywhere from 6-12 months from a wedding day. Like the other vendors listed you will want to check their social media following, and if you’re feeling good about booking them, send an inquiry sooner rather than later.


Hair/Makeup

Bridal hair and makeup vendors typically book out between 8-12 months in advance. Many vendors work in teams which makes for a great experience for you and your wedding party. You’ll want to make sure your hair and makeup artists have experience doing makeup and hair for people of all skin tones and nationalities. Be sure when you check out their social media or portfolios that you can see yourself and your style in the work that is being shown.


Officiant

In Wisconsin and Illinois there are a lot of great options for officiating your wedding. Hiring a wedding officiant, hiring a local pastor or religious figure, or having an ordained friend or family member officiate your wedding are all great options to consider when planning your wedding day.




5-8 Months

Tailor or Seamstress

It’s important to note that if you want your wedding gear to fit properly, you will need to hire a tailor or seamstress to alter your dress or suit. If you have a lot of changes that need to be made to your gear you will want to start this process at least six months out from your wedding day, and then you’ll have your final fitting about a month out from the day.


Day Of Coordinator

If you plan to have a DOC you’ll want to start reaching out to day of coordinators around 8 months out from your wedding day. Typically, DOC’s start to work with you fairly closely around 4 months out from your wedding day. They’ll help you with coordinating the rest of your vendor team and help you to keep your sanity as your wedding planning intensifies and your day approaches.


Your vendors are a huge part of your wedding planning process, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you start the search. This guide should help you to feel at ease and get you through this process so you can have the wedding day you’ve always dreamed of ! And as far as vendors go if you’re looking for a photographer you can check out my work on my blog page and send over an inquiry if you think we'd be a good fit !

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