When to Book Your Vendors: The Ultimate Timeline
By Lorna Urwin

04 January 2017

A wedding brings together many different skills, often requiring a host of professionals to deliver a beautiful and memorable event. Once you’ve done some big picture planning, it’s time to turn to some talented vendors to help transform your dreams into a reality. We’ve taken the hassle out of figuring out which vendor to book and when with the following handy timeline!

Deciding the order

vendor booking timeline

Image by Sandra Aberg Photography

The order that’s right for you depends on how important each vendor is, both as a component of the wedding and to you personally. You may care far more about locking in a beautiful vintage car than hiring the perfect DJ for example, in which case you may prefer to commit to the transport first! Our timeline is a loose guide but should be tailored according to your own needs. This is based on a yearlong engagement and the dates given are conservative ones, but naturally, you can adjust according to your own timings!

Bonus tip: A good rule of thumb is to make vendors that only serve one wedding per day your priority, as their availability will be far more limited than those who can serve multiple weddings per day. Typically one wedding per day vendors will provide services (like officiating, photography, and music) that require the presence and skills of an individual/s. Multiple wedding per day vendors usually provide products (like stationery, flowers, and wedding cake), which can be prepared in advance and supplied to multiple weddings in a single day. 

Top priority – 10 to 12 months before

1/ Wedding Planner

Timing: 12 months

If you decide a wedding planner is right for you, the sooner you book the better! A planner’s guidance and recommendations throughout the rest of the planning process is extremely valuable, including support with hiring, interviewing, scheduling, reviewing contracts of other vendors. They may even be able to save you money with other vendors, so it’s good to hire them as early as possible.

vendor booking timeline

Image by Patina Photography

2/ Venue

Timing: 12 months

Deciding your venue is another key initial decision and one that is inextricably linked to your wedding date, since the latter isn’t truly final until you have a venue lined up for that date. Since the venue will be an expensive outlay from your budget, it also makes sense to fix this cost early in order to gain a better understanding of what your remaining budget will look like. 

Bonus tip: At the 12-month mark you can certainly be researching other vendors, particularly officiants, photographers/videographers, and caterers, which will follow next on the timeline.

3/ Officiant

Timing: 10 to 12 months

For obvious reasons, an officiant is an indispensable part of a wedding! Many venues will offer officiants of their own, but if yours doesn’t and you have a particular individual in mind, it’s prudent to snap them up promptly. 

vendor booking timeline

Image by Caitlin O'Reilly Photography

4/ Photographer and Videographer

Timing: 10 to 12 months

It’s unusual for photographers to work more than one wedding per day, which can lead to the best being booked up far in advance. If photography is an important part of your wedding dream and you have a specific style in mind, you’ll want to arrange interviews and secure your number one choice early rather than risk their unavailability later down the line. 

Videography falls into much the same category as photography, often working only one wedding per day. In recent times videography is seen as more and more essential for fully capturing the essence of the day, but you’ll need to decide whether or not a high-quality wedding video is essential for you to determine if you want to book at this early date, or if you can afford to move this to the ‘second priority’ category. 

vendor booking timeline

Image by Luke and Cat Photography

5/ Caterer

Timing: 10 to 12 months

While caterers may be multiple-weddings-per-day vendors, food is often integral to people’s vision for their dream wedding, pushing the caterer higher up the list of priorities. Assuming the venue doesn’t include food, then, it’s a good idea to read reviews, get tastings in the diary, and pin catering down without delay. 

6/ DJ or Band

Timing: 10 to 12 months

With music driving much of the atmosphere at a reception, a band or DJ is something that many brides place a high value on. Given that talented musicians and DJs are often in demand for a range of events beyond weddings, it can pay to book your reception entertainment early on. This becomes all the more important if you have your heart set on a specific individual or band.

Second priority – 6 to 9 months before

vendor booking timeline

Image by Avodah Photography

7/ Florist

Timing: 6 to 9 months

Depending on the size of the business, florists can usually handle several weddings in a weekend. As such, booking them is slightly less urgent than with the vendors above. If the floral elements of your day are something important to you (or your wedding is at a particularly popular time of year) by all means err on the side of caution and book this in 9 months ahead of time, otherwise between 6 and 8 months in advance should be plenty.

8/ Hair Stylist & Makeup artist

Timing: 6 to 9 months

If you’re looking to hire a stylist who specialises in bridal hair, these vendors can be popular and require booking with plenty of notice. Alternatively, it may be that you’ve been going to the same hairdresser for years and want to have their level of experience with your hair with you on your special day. Provided they have the expertise to offer the bridal style you want, your history with the vendor should put you in a good position to know how early to book. This is also a good time to book your makeup artist too, particularly if you know they are in high demand or you're searching for a certain look or style.

vendor booking timeline

Image by Kristin La Voie Photography

9/ Invitation Designer

Timing: 6 to 8 months

The timing of your invitation selection depends on whether or not you’re sending save the dates and the level of customisation involved. Save the Dates should be sent between 4 and 6 months in advance. If you’d prefer to get them out towards the earlier end (6 months before) you’ll likely want to engage a designer at the 8 months mark to ensure enough time for any design adjustment, proofs, printing and addressing. If it’s just an invitation suite, 6 months before should be sufficient time to start planning the invitations with your vendor, with a view to placing a final order by 4 to 5 months before.

10/ Cake Maker

Timing: 6 months

The precise timing of this booking depends on the kind of vendor you choose, as speciality cake designers may limit the cakes they’ll make in a week, whereas larger bakeries may do multiple for any given date. 6 months is usually a good approximation.

Third priority – 3 to 5 months

vendor booking timeline

Image by Brad and Jen

11/ Transportation

Timing: 4 to 5 months

If your transport needs are complex (a whole fleet of vehicles for guest transport, say) you may want to look into transport earlier than this time. Otherwise, though, 4 or 5 months should be enough. 

12/ Rentals and other

Timing: 3 months

In general, you shouldn’t have a problem booking rentals like chairs, tables or tents, though for specialist offerings like photo booths or one-of-a-kind vintage items you may want to move them further up the priority list.

With 3 months to go, it’s time to ensure any remaining vendors are accounted for! Depending on your needs, this may include ceremony musicians, a calligrapher and a lighting company.