This has been such an exciting week! Not only are we in full-swing with our 2014 wedding season, but we are getting tons of inquiries and emails from 2015 brides thinking about their upcoming nuptials! In the spirit of looking ahead, I wanted to give some suggestions as to when to book certain wedding professionals to ensure that you have the Dream Team on your big day!
When to Hire a Wedding Planner:
The Knot: 9-11 months WeddingWire: 9 months Brides.com: 11 months Kai Squared's suggestion: 12+ months Notes: 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 — the services — need 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. A wedding planner will have the greatest amount of utility to you and can help with the rest of your vendors, so we love it when couples contact us early in the process.
When to Book a Wedding Venue (Reception Site):
The Knot: 9-11 months WeddingWire: 9 months Brides.com: 11 months Kai Squared's 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 Kai Squared's 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 reviews. This is another 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 Book a Wedding Photographer:
The Knot: 6-8 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's suggestion: 10-12 months Notes: I was actually surprised by the “expert” timelines on this one. 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 in Sonoma, Napa and the surrounding areas 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 Hire a Wedding DJ or Band and Emcee:
The Knot: 9-11 months WeddingWire: 9 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's suggestion: 9 months Notes: This was one of the services that the timelines didn’t seem to agree on. The same rule from above applies to your wedding entertainment as well — you are hiring a specific person or group to set the tone for your party and provide sound and amplification support, and the top talent in your area will be the first to get booked.
When to Book a Wedding Videographer:
The Knot: 6-8 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's suggestion: It depends. Notes: This is a tricky one, so I’m going to give a slightly nuanced answer. 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 the wedding DJ and book them as early as possible. If it’s a low priority and you’re just going to hire the cheapest person you can find, it can probably wait until later. For the top wedding videographers in any area, the same scarcity rule will apply and they will get booked very early.
When to Hire a Ceremony Officiant:
The Knot: 9-11 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 11 months Kai Squared's suggestion: 9-12 months Notes: Another area where the timelines didn’t agree. I personally think that finding the right ceremony officiant is crucial, assuming that your ceremony site doesn’t come with a pastor/priest/rabbi included. A really good officiant can make your ceremony magical. Since you’re hiring a specific person, the same rule applies and I recommend booking them early in the process. This is yet another area where a wedding planner can really help – we’ve all seen great (and not-so-great) ceremonies and can offer suggestions based on what type of ceremony you want.
When to Book a Wedding Florist:
The Knot: 6-8 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's 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 in our area still sell out during the busy season, so you can’t wait too long.
When to Hire a Wedding Cake Baker:
The Knot: 6-8 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's 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 – this is a fun date night for you and your fiancé. You can’t beat free cake! Plus, you’ll end up making a better decision if you shop around a little bit.
When to Purchase Wedding Invitations:
The Knot: 6-8 months WeddingWire: 6 months Brides.com: 5 months Kai Squared's 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 and no later than 4 months before the big day. Find a good stationer in your area that carries the styles and brands you like, and use them for both.
When to Book Wedding Transportation:
The Knot: 2-3 months WeddingWire: 2 months Brides.com: 6 months Kai Squared's suggestion: 5-6 months Notes: Ok, I thought this one was ridiculous. If you are going to hire professional transportation (limos, shuttle buses, whatever), then you need to hire someone good and you need to do it more than 2 months before your wedding. As a seasoned wedding planner, I will tell you that the wedding vendor we have the most trouble on a regular basis is transportation. The good ones will provide you with a clean, great looking ride and get you to the church on time. The bad ones will show up late (or not show up), get lost, and make you late for the wedding you’ve paid so much to plan. My advice is to do this about 6 months before your wedding, and pay a little extra to hire the best company you can find. Let your planner help guide you on who to hire, chances are they've had a bad experience with more than one of the limo companies in your area.
***Additional note: 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.