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Romantic proposal? Check. Engagement ring? Check. Venue? Photographer? Florist? Bakery? Make-up Artist? All the other vendors that will help to create your dream wedding? Oh wait…
With so many variables and moving pieces involved in the wedding planning process, we understand if it can all get a little overwhelming. On top of this, once you’ve done your research and favourited a good number of your preferred vendors, you’ll likely find that some of them will already be booked up at least a year out. Crazy, right?!
Fear not! You don’t need to book all your vendors and figure everything out all at once. To help you put together your perfect wedding planning timeline, we reached out to some of our experienced industry friends to share their expertise on the ideal time to start searching for and booking your various wedding vendors!
We recommend couples begin their search as soon as they get engaged, ideally more than a year from their desired date. Especially when choosing venues that are popular, unique or seasonal, as they fill up dates the quickest. To help speed up your search, have a budget in mind and request packages and pricing from your top venue choices and compare apples to apples. When you decide which venues to visit, book tours as soon as possible and come prepared with all your questions. That way you can quickly make a decision if you find your perfect spot!
Unless you’re working with a planner, we find that most vendors will typically ask if you already have your venue selected. If so, it means that you have a date and location already secured – this makes things a whole lot easier! Since you now have a solid foundation from which to work, you’ll now be able to provide all your vendors with this info to ensure that they can accommodate your date.
Photo Courtesy of Lindsie Grey
If a couple is looking to hire a planner in a full planning capacity (meaning they want planning help from start to finish), it is best to secure your planner shortly after you get engaged or as soon as you start planning for your wedding. They can provide valuable assistance for the venue search and budgeting process to ensure you start off on the right foot.
If you are thinking of hiring a planner halfway through or just for the wedding day coordination, there is no better time than the present. Just like most vendors, once they are booked they cannot be at another wedding on the same day. The earlier you search for a planner, the better the odds you will land one with availability for your date who is a great fit for you both.
For brides and grooms looking to book a full service planning package, it’s optimal for this to be top of the list of tiers of vendor bookings! For some that is a year in advance, and for some it’s six months - whenever you’re ready to jump in full swing! Ideally, I like working with about a 10 month window of planning time with my full service clients. This typically gives us enough advance notice to book our top choice vendor team, as well as have time to develop a well rounded wedding design with lots of great details!
See also: 9 things to do as soon as you get engaged
When it comes to booking your wedding photographer or studio, there’s no such thing as booking too early! We have clients who book us as far as two years in advance and on the other hand, those who try to book us within a couple of months of their wedding day!
Typically, for weddings in spring/early summer, couples book 1 to 1.5 years in advance. For mid-summer/fall weddings, timelines range from 1.5 to 2 years in advance, as August and September remain our busiest months. Off-season weddings are a bit easier to accommodate.
Wedding planning can become stressful, if you let it, so we encourage our couples to come in and have a cup of coffee at our cozy studio right after they have confirmed their date and their wedding venue, this way we can sit and chat without feeling pressured for time.
Start early and find a studio that encompasses passion in your vision. To ensure client’s dreams are precisely fulfilled, we recommend couples reach out at least a year ahead of their ideal ceremony date.
See also: 12 Tips: Finding your perfect wedding photographer
The best time for newly engaged couples to book a caterer is right after their wedding venue is booked. As a rule, clients typically book wedding caterers 6 to 12 months before the date of their wedding in order to lock in the vendor and have plenty of time to plan their dream menu. While it is possible to book your caterer with less time to spare, the sooner you start planning, the greater the chance of working with the catering company best suited to your needs and tastes.
If you are planning a wedding on a tighter timeline, a reputable catering company should be able to develop a menu in as little as several weeks. However, the more time you can give the caterer to work on your menu and provide a tasting—which I highly recommend—the better.
Popular dates are not a myth, so to ensure you get first pick and the time necessary to contemplate your options, we suggest reaching out to caterers at least 1 year out from your wedding day. Reaching out does not mean you have to book the on the spot, it just allows you the time to explore the services in a relaxed manner with time on your side. A caterer or any other service provider will let you know (and give you first right of refusal) if the date starts to book up and others want to commit. At that point it will force you to decide on who you plan to use.
Photo Courtesy of en Ville Event Design and Catering
Usually a good starting point is to reserve your décor company 1 year prior to your wedding. It takes time to go through all of the various options for your colour scheme, flowers, ceremony, table décor and custom built options! It also gives us time to book sample meetings with our clients so they have the opportunity to see exactly what their décor will look like, as well as attend site visits, and make changes along the way if necessary.
Where possible, most vendors will attempt to accommodate last minute requests where possible, but it limits the amount of time we have to make alterations, and decisions have to be made a lot quicker!
Keep in mind the point of priority that this particular element falls within your wedding priority list. Because flowers & decor are one of the most important elements to a wedding, it's typically one of the first major items to be booked during the wedding planning process.
I would definitely suggest that once the decision has been made and your reception and ceremony venues have been solidified, the next major items on the list would be to hire an event professional to decorate that space. Typically, within 4 weeks of confirming your venue, it would be a great time to start searching for that perfect florist! The longer you wait to do your research and inquire about the larger wedding elements, the greater risk you have of missing out on all of those vendors that you really want to work with as they may be unavailable on your date.
When should you book your wedding band? Like everything on your wedding to-do list, it entirely depends on how important live music is to you. If you happen to be passionate about music and would like to secure a specific band or musician, booking a year or more in advance is actually quite reasonable. Popular wedding bands will typically book well into the next season as they are, well...popular!
Having said that, if you don't have your heart set on someone specific, many professional bands will have great secondary options available regardless of how busy your wedding date might be.
It's always wise to book your Officiant, Rabbi, Priest or Minister as soon as you can. To book other aspects of your event efficiently, your other vendors will need to know what time of day your service will be held. When you have a firm start time of your service, then the rest of the day falls into place.
In general, most people are looking for that same prime date: Saturdays from 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Most officiants tend to book quickly in these hot zones. If your heart is happy with a Friday or a Sunday wedding, then there's typically far less competition and much less of a rush factor to book.
If you wait too long, you may be stuck with changing your wedding day flow to incorporate the availability of your first choice officiant.
You’re hoping that your guests enjoy your wedding ceremony, not just survive it. Therefore, it pays to hire an experienced professional who can help you create a personal, engaging and memorable ceremony. Be sure to allot enough time to obtain referrals from friends, read online reviews, and meet face-to-face with the Officiant of your choice. Like any good professional the best Officiants book-up quickly, so we suggest that couples reserve their Officiant 10 months before their big day to ensure they find someone who can help them tell their love story.
Photo Courtesy of Alicia Thurston Photography
Cakes are one of the final pieces of the wedding puzzle. They are in fact the icing on the cake... pun intended! Cakes can truly pull together the look of your wedding. It's great if invitations and florals have been picked so that they can provide inspiration for the overall design. This typically means that you're booking your wedding cake approximately 6-12 months from your date. If you're planning a wedding between May-September, booking 9-12 months is most likely required. If it's off-season, then 4-6 months is most likely okay. Every vendor has a different window in which they start booking the next year, knowing when that is, will greatly help to determine when appointments/tasting and design consults need to take place.
Between 6 months and 12 months prior to the wedding is typically a good amount of time as dates book up fast! By that time, you should have your décor ideas set: it’s best to know what flowers and style of centrepiece you will be using, linen colours, and overall décor style as these elements influence the style of the cake. Often, we also incorporate details of the wedding gown into the cake design, so it’s good to have a photo (hidden from the groom) to show us!
Start early–but not too early! We find that 8 months out from your wedding date is the perfect time to come see us. Once you have a few vendors secured, it will help guide the design process, as we often take aesthetic cues from florals and the venue!
To make the best use of your time when booking wedding rentals, it is best to have booked your wedding and reception space. Once you have that aspect of your process confirmed, the venue will be able to provide a list of what is included in the space. From there, you'll be able to begin compiling a list of rental and décor items.
Some of the other vendors that may have an influence on your wedding rental needs should be consulted prior to choosing your rentals. This includes your wedding planner, florist and caterer. Those vendors’ requirements will be needed in order to put together a complete list of needs to execute the day. Planning for wedding rentals should begin approximately 6 months prior to the wedding date to ensure availability of product. Rental options and their combinations are extensive, so knowing the style of the wedding will save precious planning time. Most importantly, have fun in the planning process!
Typically, we would recommend that engaged couples inquire about wedding rental requirements once the venue has been decided on and the caterer/planner selected. Once those decisions are made the couple can move on to choosing their table top selections.
If your are looking to host an outdoor tented wedding, we would suggest that preparation begin a minimum a year prior to the wedding date.
Photo Courtesy of Tara McMullen Photography
When planning your wedding, one very important aspect is your hair and makeup for the big day! Remember: you will look back at your wedding photos for years to come, so you want to ensure you look and feel your absolute best! We recommend finding and booking your hair and makeup artists at least a year in advance. This timeline will allow you to find the perfect artist that suits your specific style. It will also give you time to have a full trial run of your hair and makeup so you know exactly how you will look on your special day! That way, there will be no surprises and you can just relax and be pampered on your wedding day.
When it comes to the world event planning, keep in mind that it can be a very personal journey particularly when combined with real-world budgetary constraints and competing interests from everyone involved (cough you’re future mother-in-law cough). While there are no hard and fast rules, the points above should help you maintain perspective and keep a clear head throughout the process. Don’t let the TV horror-stories fool you: planning your wedding can be an immensely enjoyable experience. Give yourselves some breathing space and aim to avoid having to make hasty last minute decisions.
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