Perhaps an essential part of wedding planning is building your vendor team—hiring a group of professionals who will make your vision a reality. If you’re just getting started, you’re probably asking yourself the big question: Who should be on your wedding vendor list? What types of vendors do I need to make my big day a success?
Photographers, DJ, florist, bakery. It takes a whole team to make your dream day come to life! When it comes time to book vendors for your wedding, it’s essential to keep your taste and preferences in mind. While there are many amazing vendors in the wedding industry, you want to select vendors who match your style and needs. We’ve put together a wedding vendor checklist to help you cover your bases when searching for your perfect vendors.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Venue
- 2 The Wedding Planner
- 3 The Caterer
- 4 The Wedding Officiant
- 5 The Photographer
- 6 The Videographer
- 7 The Band/DJ
- 8 The Baker
- 9 The Florist
- 10 The Transportation
- 11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Wedding Vendors
- 12 When should our vendors eat and take breaks?
- 13 Should we tip our vendors?
- 14 What should we do if we’re unhappy with something?
- 15 Which vendors do we have to feed?
When you’re choosing your wedding venue, you’re going to want to check out a few places to see what’s out there. Start looking at venues as early as possible so that you can book your favourite one 10-11 months in advance. Some venues can be booked over a year in advance on popular dates, so if you have a specific place in mind, don’t plan a save-the-date until you’ve booked your venue in case it is unavailable on the date that you hoped for. Lastly, before handing over the down payment, get all the information you need to ensure the venue is suitable for the celebration you want.
The Wedding Planner
If you plan on hiring a wedding planner, the sooner you can do so, the better. Similarly to venues, many wedding planners are booked far in advance, so if you can, hire yours 11 months before your big day. So the latest you should be engaging your wedding planner is 9 months before your wedding date.
Shortly after you’ve booked your venue and planner, start seriously considering your wedding caterer. You’re going to want to have this ready 9 – 10 months before your saved date. Know what to look for when hiring a caterer and read through reviews. It’s also essential to have a tasting before you book your caterer. Your wedding planner may help point out caterers that they have successfully worked with in the past.
The Wedding Officiant
Some venues provide you with a rabbi, priest or pastor. If yours does not, or you prefer choosing an officiant yourself, ask friends and family for recommendations. A great officiant can affect the vibes of your reception, so try to find someone whose style speaks to you. Hire someone 10 months in advance. If you plan on writing your wedding vows, talk to your officiant about it ahead of time because some are less accepting of this custom than others.
Your photographer should make the list of vendors to book early. While there are many to choose from, the best get booked far in advance. If you can, hire your photographer 8-9 months before your wedding. When interviewing photographers, find out if you are on the same page about what you want and that both sides are clear about what the other expects so that no problems arise during the process. Make sure to communicate if there is a specific style of wedding photos you are interested in. Furthermore, check out their past work and read through reviews.
How far in advance you should book your videographer is primarily dependant on you. For example, is a wedding video essential to you? Does your photographer also come with a videographer? If you want a fantastic high-quality video, you should book a professional around the same time you hire your photographer. On the other hand, if the video is not a priority for you, you can book your videographer 6 months in advance. When interviewing videographers, be sure you know what questions to ask to determine if they are right for you.
The music at your wedding is going to play a significant role in getting people out on the dance floor and having the time of their lives. You’re going to want to hire your DJ or band 9 months in advance. Before making any big decisions, listen to their music ahead of time and discuss what type of music you want them to play on your big day. While it’s more than okay to hand over a list of songs to play, avoid being the DJ at your wedding. Discuss the type of music you prefer, create a (short) list of specific songs and let the professional handle the rest. At the end of the day, if you’re out there rocking to whatever music is playing, your friends and family will be right there beside you!
Of course, picking your wedding cake is a fun part of wedding planning. You and your fiancé get to dedicate an afternoon to cake tasting, followed by decoration options. Visit several bakers before deciding which is the right one for you. Once you’ve found the place, book them 6 months before the wedding. Since bakers can generally prepare more than one wedding cake a day, this vendor makes the list of less time-sensitive hiring, but still, you don’t want to learn that the cake you fell in love with won’t be available.
When it comes to your florist, you should book them 6 months before your wedding date. While the availability of florists tends to depend on the time of year, it is better to have this vendor squared away early. Once you’ve found someone and seen their work, the talk style, discuss this early if you want a particular style of bouquets or flower crowns.
If you plan on providing wedding transportation, you should book them at least 4 months in advance. You want pleasant transportation and drivers, whether that means a limo, a shuttle bus, or a trolley.
When planning your wedding, the best strategy is to book all of the essential vendors as early as possible without stressing yourself out by simultaneously taking on all of these tasks. Instead, create a wedding timeline that allows you to see what to tackle that month. If it will help, instead of sitting down together or taking things on yourself, split the list with your fiancé. Hiring your vendors early will help you feel more at ease and prepared for your big day, and it will assure you and your spouse-to-be that you get the wedding that you imagined!
Tips for Choosing the Perfect Wedding Vendors
Do your homework with your fiancé and set a ballpark budget in advance.
Set your budget and the number of guests first so that you don’t fall in love with a venue or vendors out of your price range or can’t accommodate the size of your group. Even if you do end up spending a little more than you had anticipated, it’s better to lay out your expectations in private. You don’t want to put yourselves in an awkward situation where one of you wants to book, but the other is concerned about cash flow, and you’re arguing about it in front of the wedding planner, DJ, or whomever. As you comparison shop, you’ll get a much clearer picture of how much this is all going to cost you.
It’s also important to discuss your significant likes and dislikes. That way, you’re both on the same page about what your must-haves are — a stellar band, an out-of-this-world menu, gorgeous photos to look back on — as opposed to what would be considered bonuses. Finally, come prepared with a list of questions so that you don’t get so carried away with their amazing portfolio, film or demonstration that you forget to nail down the specifics.
Determine if your personalities mesh well.
Let’s say that you and your fiancé evaluate their work and find it’s top-notch and in line with your wedding style. Great! Another not-so-obvious consideration is whether you have chemistry with this person. You’ll be entrusting them with an essential service (not to mention the high monetary costs involved), so it’s crucial to be comfortable around them. Remember, you’ll be interacting with them on what will likely be the most emotional day of your life, so you want someone who will be able to put you at ease, not stress you out even more.
If something feels “off” and you’re not sure what it is, that may be your subconscious telling you to keep searching. Beware of the following red flags: disparaging talk about a current or past client (who’s to say they won’t bad-mouth you, too?), it takes 10 phone calls to get in touch with them, or they make judgmental assumptions about you based on your budget, whether by trying to strong-arm you into adding more features or making you feel bad that you’re on the lower end of their client roster (e.g. “Well, most brides I work with spend $2,000 more on their flowers”).
Ask for client referrals.
The adage of “you get what you pay for” isn’t always necessarily true — you might find that a $10,000 videographer is just OK, whereas one that costs only $2,000 could blow you away. This is where other brides’ testimonials come in! Ask vendors to provide contact info for recent clients who can vouch for their services. Don’t forget to pay it forward when you’re married by writing glowing reviews on YP, along with thank-you notes, for those who went above and beyond to make your big day special.
Since many vendors work closely together in a given region, you could also ask others you’ve already booked if they’ve worked with this particular person before and if they would recommend them.
Get everything that’s included in writing, down to the smallest detail.
To truly understand what’s included in a quoted price, the vendor should itemize everything for you. For example, if you know that you want orchids, garden roses and hydrangea in your centrepieces, then all of that should be listed. Although this might sound slightly over-the-top, this information will safeguard you in the event of a dispute or if the items you requested aren’t available during that time because of unforeseen issues.
When reviewing the contract, look out for any hidden costs (wording such as “additional costs may be incurred” and “plus the cost of setup and delivery” are dead giveaways). Ask for clarification if anything is unclear. You’ll also need to know their policy on late fees if the ceremony or reception runs later than you expected.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
Already have tons of beautiful photos of the two of you that you’ll be able to use for your save-the-date or other wedding elements? Skip the engagement shoot or, if that isn’t possible, ask if you can use that photo session for your future child’s birth announcement instead. Unsure about whether you need a two-hour wedding video? Inquire about whether you can get an edited highlights clip and raw footage if you change your mind at a later point in time. Using the same vendor for multiple services (e.g. music and lighting) may also help you save a bundle.
When should our vendors eat and take breaks?
Timing is everything. When it comes to your wedding planner, photographer and videographer, plan to have them eat while dinner is being served at the reception—that way, they won’t miss anything significant. While you won’t schedule specific breaks for these vendors, expect them to be “on” until the dancing is underway, at which point they may sneak into the back to sit down, have some water and perhaps even a slice of cake.
Your wedding band or DJ/emcee is another story. Ideally, they should be fed during cocktail hour—so before your guests are seated for dinner. This will ensure that they’re ready to go as soon as it’s time to announce the bridal party’s entrance, the newlyweds, and set the mood for the reception’s festivities. Depending on how long they’re contractually scheduled to entertain, the band will likely play in sets, with small breaks in between; the wedding toasts also offer an opportunity to take a discrete break.
Should we tip our vendors?
In one word: Yes! If you loved their services, definitely tip your vendors—and their assistants or staff. Just make sure you check their contracts first, as some vendors will include gratuity in their total fee, in which case a separate tip isn’t necessary. Also, if your photographer, videographer, baker, florist or wedding planner own their business, providing a tip is not required—although you should tip their assistant(s) anywhere from $50-$150 per person.
What should we do if we’re unhappy with something?
After spending so much on your wedding day, the thought of not loving your services is a tough pill to swallow. If you don’t love what you see as samples or during a trial, speak up! Ask to see different types of flowers, try another cake and frosting combination, or make changes to your hairstyle or makeup during the pre-wedding trial run. Don’t be afraid to ask to consult with the company’s owner if you’re working with a particularly challenging employee. They should know if one of their employees leaves you, the customer, unsatisfied with their services.
If your wedding day rolls around and things don’t go the way you thought they should have, first check your contract and then say something to the vendor. If they billed you for huge, flowing floral centrepieces and you got bud vases, you should be reimbursed. And if someone was unprofessional or didn’t show up at all, you have recourse. Schedule a meeting and bring along photos of the event if they’re relevant. Know your rights and where you stand, and be prepared to negotiate.
Which vendors do we have to feed?
Ensuring your vendors are appropriately fed is incredibly important—and might even be specified in their contract. You will need to provide your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, band, or DJ/emcee, plus their assistants. (On the other hand, you won’t need to feed your baker, florist, or anyone working only at the ceremony). Talk to your caterer about what they offer for vendor meals—most have a set list of options, whether it’s a “chef’s choice” or the same main course your guests will be eating.
Sometimes it’s included in your catering fee, while other times it’s a lower set price, depending on what’s offered.
Now that you know what vendors are needed for a wedding, you’ll want to ensure they will work well together to make your big day exactly as you imagined! After checking off these significant tasks on your ultimate wedding checklist, your wedding will be that much closer to perfection.