As a wedding photographer the number 1 thing that I get asked is when couples should book other wedding vendors. I always say “the sooner the better” but I know that people like to have a timeframe to go off of. And with 2022 weddings booking faster than any year prior I thought I would put together a timeline for those needing something to help guide them. I asked local vendors for their inputs and I am so happy to have a list of great information for anyone planning a wedding! Keep in mind this is not a hard and fast rule, it just is a guide to help you navigate it all. I know some engagements are short and some are long. I hope whatever stage of the planning you’re in, this helps!
The first thing you want to book and secure are your venues. Whether it is a church and a reception space or a venue that is all in one, you will want to book this as soon as possible to secure a date. It seems wild that venues tend to book 2 years in advance, but many brides just getting engaged are running into this issue. Their dream venues already have several 2022 dates filled. Some venues are already seeing inquiries for 2023 weddings. WOW. So in short don’t wait to book your venue, it might not be there for a date you want if you wait too long.
If you are hiring a planner, this is the next step! You’ll want to book them around the same time that your venues are booked. And sometimes, before if you really want them to take the lead and help in the search for your dream venue. Planners have an incredible amount of knowledge about weddings in their area, they can make your visions and dreams for your wedding day come to life. And Cher at Merry Me Events is the ideal person to help plan your perfect day!
There’s a big group of vendors that should be booked at the beginning of the planning process as well. Two of those are your photographer and videographer. Typically, I start getting the bulk of my injuries around 12-14 months from the wedding date. But, for 2022 I started booking 20 months out. I am booking into fall already and have only a few June/July dates available.
Tim with Mohr Entertainment says that he has typically been booking over a year out and drives home that it’s important to book photo and video first because we tell the story of your wedding day and preserve the memories. It’s important to remember that after all the planning, these are the visuals you’ll have to remember your day and pass to future generations.
I know I am partial (because flowers are my FAVORITE part of the wedding day), but I think florals are something you shouldn’t skimp on. And good florists book up fast. Leah at LB Floristry is currently booking up 12 months in advance. Your florist helps fulfill your vision, fills your reception with delicate and luxurious blooms that your guests will rave about long after your wedding is over.
If your venue doesn’t offer in-house catering or if you are deciding to do specialty catering, this is something else you’ll want to nail down early. Specialty catering includes something like fun dessert stations or food trucks. Kim with SugarEllas has been recommending booking a year out, but it doesn’t mean that if you plan your wedding on short notice that they won’t be available 6 months out. (and this goes for all vendors) but the sooner you book the better chances are of working with your dream vendors. Also, just to brag on SugarEllas a bit, their cookie dough bar is TO DIE FOR. The sugar cookie dough is my favorite treat I have ever had at a wedding! The milkshake bar is incredible as well and it is also served from the cutest little mobile camper.
This is another important one! The DJ/Band totally sets the tone of your reception and also helps the reception flow. And the guys at 27 Entertainment are booking around 12 months out. And if you want a Party with a capital P – THIS IS YOUR TEAM. When they DJ a wedding, everyone is on the dance floor and the party goes all night long.
I have two sections for invitations. There are box store invitations and then there are my personal favorite, completely custom wedding invitations. Custom wedding invitations are literal works of art. Kelsey, the watercolor artist and calligrapher behind K.Kelley Designs says the sooner you book the better. Like many custom stationers, she only takes a certain amount of clients for a wedding year and had brides booking her in 2020 for their 2022 weddings. So if you’re wanting custom invites, run don’t want over to chat with Kelsey, she is incredible gifted and has the most adorable southern accent!
This is another that has a little leeway with booking. The team at AAYS Rental says the sooner the better so they can get your counts reserved and insure that the decor you want will be in stock. Plus it’s really fun to go to their warehouse and see all the stunning decor to make all your wedding dreams come true!
I am going to start by saying, this is probably the most debated “when to book” vendor that I have come across. The answer is different for everyone but in my experience, hair and makeup is something that you want to book farther in advance than most wedding planning timelines suggest. Chelsea with Makeup by Keria and Ashley Urban Artistry are both highly in demand makeup artists in this area. They are booking 10-12 months out and have both already gotten an inquire for 2023. Teams that offer both hair and makeup like Beauty and Bliss also suggest to book around the 10 month mark to secure their team on your wedding day.
Ahh dress shopping!! The fun part! The part when you finally feel like you’re a bride! The girls at Simply Yours in Granger and Nancy’s Bridal Boutique both recommend starting the process 10-12 months in advance to allow time for your order to come in and for any alterations you need.
I personally thing this is also a great time to start the process for your grooms attire. I am partial to getting a custom suit for your guy. My husband, Miles, used Nicholas Joseph in Chicago and we started that process 10 months before the wedding. It was so worth it. But even if you go the rental route, I would start looking and booking your suits around this time.
Cake tasting! Probably the best part of wedding planning! Bakers are recommending contacting them and setting up your tasting no later than 9 months before your wedding date. They fill up fast and only take a maximum number of cakes per weekend. So be sure to reach out and get those tastings scheduled!
Officiants can be hard to find in general, so if you don’t have one at the church or you don’t have someone in your life that you’d like to marry you, finding an officiant around 6-9 months out is perfect! Also, if you’re looking for a fun and spunky officiant, my sister does officiate and she is so much fun!
This one is subjective and I suggest researching who you want to use for your invitations, save the dates and day of paper items. Everyone is different. If you want to go professionally handmade from a vendor through a site like Etsy, I would reach out around the 8 month mark. This gives you time to discuss what you want, and turnaround times for small stationery shops can be a little longer than places like Minted.com. Keep in mind, you will want to send your save the dates around 6 months before you wedding and you’ll want to send your invitations 2 months before your wedding. So look for your dream invites now, inquire with who you want to do them and see what their turnaround time is and order accordingly.
Side note: I do offer semi-custom invitations to all my brides and grooms! I designed and put together the invitations above! My turnaround times are 2 weeks for proofing and 4-6 weeks for putting together. So I recommend starting the ordering around 5 months before your wedding so you’ll have them in plenty of time to send out 2 months before.
There are lots of things to consider when planning a wedding, a lot of little things, like transportation (6 months out) , hotel room blocks (9 months out) and favors. I didn’t want to overwhelm so I didn’t include the little things on this list. But if you are looking for some direction from a wedding website, I think that Wedding Wire has a great checklist to help you know all the big and little things in between when planning your wedding!
I know this is a lot of information at once, so feel free to bookmark this and refer to it whenever you need. I am also always here for you with anything that you might need during the planning process. So please reach out to me with any questions! I hope this was helpful and informative. I can’t wait to see all your wedding dreams come to life, it’s going to be amazing!!