When to Book Wedding Vendors to Secure Your Top Choices
Planning a wedding is kind of like being captain of a sports team (stay with us). You're connecting a group of talented individuals to work together toward a common goal—your wedding. And one of the most important parts of building your pro team is figuring out exactly when to book wedding vendors. It's a really timely question, as the wedding vendor booking timeline has somewhat shifted over the past few years, due in large part to the pandemic and subsequent wedding boom.
"We have certainly seen a shift," says Amanda Metcalf of Oh Hello Event Planning in Cleveland, Ohio. "Couples are booking their vendors much earlier which seems to have started with the post-pandemic rush but is continuing rather than bouncing back."
When it comes to how long it takes to plan a wedding, well, the answer varies. According to The Knot's Real Wedding Study, the average couple is engaged for about 15 months, which is an increase from past years—and over a quarter of couples are engaged for over 19 months. Of course, you can certainly plan a wedding in a shorter time frame, but an extending planning timeline means you'll have a greater selection of vendors available to you.
With Metcalf's help, we created a vendor booking timeline that reflects the shift in how couples are planning right now—and focusing specifically on the vendors you'll need to create a successful wedding day (for a more in-depth planning timeline, check out our complete planning checklist). Again, if you're planning a wedding with a shorter timeline (absolutely doable!), check out our 6-month and 3-month planning timelines. And when you're ready to start searching for vendors, be sure to check out The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find the best pros near you.
12 to 18 Months Out
While it might be tempting to jump into wedding planning head first and book pros as you find them, there's actually a specific order of operations when considering when to book wedding vendors. It's particularly important to follow this order for the first vendors you book (it'll all make sense in a minute, we promise).
If you're looking to book a full-service wedding planner who takes you through the entire planning process, you'll want to bring them onboard ASAP. And there are plenty of advantages to hiring a planner as the co-captain of your vendor team. "Planners know which vendors are a fit good for you, your vision and your budget," says Metcalf. "Some vendors offer discounts for working with planners they love, because they know the process will be smoother."
How far in advance should you book a wedding venue (or venues, if you're having your ceremony and reception in different locations)? It's actually one of the first steps of wedding planning—you haven't officially "set a date" until you line up your venue. "After hiring the perfect planner, we always recommend venue(s) be the next step," says Metcalf, who has 15 years of experience in event planning. "This dictates your date as well as timeline restraints in some cases, or the possibility of exclusive vendor relationships."
Food is a crucial part of any wedding celebration—no one wants hangry guests! If catering is not included with your venue, you'll want to find your wedding caterers next. And don't forget about bar service—your caterer may handle this, or you'll need to hire a separate company to handle the bartending.
Wondering when to book your wedding photographer? We recommend finding your photo pro shortly after picking your venue and setting a date. Most photographers work solo and can only shoot one wedding a day, so once you've found one you love, sign that contract and get them on board!
Your photographer and videographer will work together for much of your wedding day, so once you've booked your photog, ask them for videographer recommendations.
9 to 12 Months Out
Now that you've booked some of the most in-demand vendors, you can branch out and start researching the rest of your talented team. While we strongly suggest sticking to the vendor booking timeline order outlined here, if there's a particular vendor you're dying to work with, you can shift things around to snag 'em.
First things first: You'll need to decide whether a DJ or a live band is more your style. Then, you can start researching music pros in your wedding location. While many couples focus on the reception music, making sure you have pros to handle your ceremony's soundtrack is just as important.
It turns out that wedding attire can take a really long time to be produced, so you'll want to start shopping early. Find a retailer near you and begin the shopping process so you won't feel rushed (or face rush delivery fees!).
A talented florist can transform your venue to fit your wedding vision and style. It's a good idea to nail down your floral budget before interviewing pros and be open and honest about how much you can spend on flowers so potential florists can think creatively and work within your price range.
This is a biggie—without an officiant, you're not officially married! A professional officiant will create a personalized ceremony infused with traditions and rituals that are meaningful to you, your partner and your families, and many can provide premarital counseling.
Hair and Makeup Pros
Feeling fun, flirty, fresh on your wedding day is easy when you've got the right hair and makeup pros in your corner. Scheduling a hair and makeup trial well in advance of the big day will make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your wedding-day look.
Hotel Room Blocks
If you're hosting a lot of out-of-town guests, we highly recommend booking hotel room blocks near your venue so your guests can easily find a place to stay. Use your wedding website to share accommodation info with your guests.
You'll want to mail out save-the-dates about six to eight months ahead of your wedding day; invitations go out about six to eight weeks before. Source your stationery well in advance, so that you'll have time to find paper products that match your vision—and you'll have time to proofread any printed materials.
6 to 9 Months Out
As you're filling out your vendor team, it's important to keep everyone's information organized to ensure you have everyone's contact information, payment schedules and other details easily accessible.
A wedding cake isn't just a sweet treat, it also provides a focal point for your celebration. When it comes to finding a cake baker, you'll want to choose a pro who can create gorgeous cakes that also taste delicious (that's what tastings are for!).
Work with your venue and caterer to find out which rentals you'll need, from tables and chairs to linens, flatware, drinking glasses and more. You may be able to rent these items directly from your venue or caterer, or you may need to book a separate rentals company.
Whether you're envisioning a vintage car for two, or a party bus for all your nearest and dearest, it's important to come up with a wedding-day transportation plan. An experienced transportation company can help with all the logistics and ensure everyone is where they need to be on time.
Shopping for wedding rings is one of the most fun parts of the planning process—especially when you've got a jeweler you trust. Remember that you'll want to combine fashion and function here, as you'll be wearing this ring every day.