Wedding Timelines: Who Should You Book When?

December 12, 2022

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If you’re recently engaged and are at the start of your wedding planning journey, you may be wondering what timeline you should follow when booking your wedding vendors. You might be asking:

  • Should we book the wedding venue or the wedding planner first?
  • When should we book the photographer?
  • Should we book the band or DJ first or the caterer?

Well definitely in the right place! In today's blog post, I’m throwing away the outdated “12 months prior, 8 months prior, etc.” kind of dialog you see online and sharing more insight into the order you should hire your wedding vendors (and more importantly – why!).

If today is your first time visiting Verve Event Co., welcome! My name is Desiree Adams and I'm a wedding planner based in upstate NY. Through my blog and podcast, Ask the Planner, I share all the tips and tricks I've gathered over the years to help YOU plan an unforgettable wedding.

Today I’m sharing the order I believe you should *actually* hire your wedding vendors, despite what you read online. Listen, as a luxury wedding planner I have to add a disclaimer: Your priorities do matter. If you want to hire that wedding cake designer first or don’t want to get married without a specific wedding florist, you're in the driver's seat. You CAN move vendors that are more important to you to the front of the line. Seriously.





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To fast-forward to a specific part of the podcast episode, check out the timestamps below:

  • Should you book your wedding venue or wedding planner first? [4:23]
  • Do you book the reception and ceremony venues at the same time? [6:14]
  • When to book your “main” vendors (catering, photo/video, and entertainment) [7:35]
  • Wedding attire [8:20]
  • Wedding Florist & Decor [9:20]
  • Wedding Stationer [10:02]
    • Save the Dates 
    • Invitations and Day-of Paper
  • Rentals [11:40]
  • Anything else you want to make your wedding extraordinary! [12:36]

Links Mentioned in the Episode


Here's the summary of the podcast episode!

Wedding Timeline: Wedding Venue or Wedding Planner First?

You probably saw this coming, but I'm definitely team WEDDING PLANNER FIRST!

Hear me out. I’m over all the checklists that tell you to book your wedding venue first. Your wedding venue will likely be one of your biggest expenses. It's so important to have clarity over your overall wedding budget before you sign on the dotted line. However, a wedding planner can help you find that clarity before committing to an expense that eats up the entire wedding budget that you end up regretting. For example, should you really book a venue if their venue fee and food and beverage minimum come out to $62K if your budget is $100K? (True story.) Maybe…but probably not. 

There's a reason why many planners offer venue selection services in addition to wedding planning.

Cheaper Doesn't Always Mean Least Expensive

Also, you don't need to choose the cheapest wedding venue. Often, it may make sense to choose a seemingly more expensive wedding venue that includes more. Don’t worry – this is why I recommend you hire your wedding planner FIRST. They come with so much expertise and pour it into every single one of the hundreds of major (and micro) decisions you make in the wedding planning process.

While online checklists may tell you to hire your wedding planner after your venue, I firmly believe that they are referring to more of a coordinator than a full-service wedding planner. So keep that in mind!

Recently engaged? Use our Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist for all your wedding to-do's.

Wedding Timeline: Your Wedding Reception & Ceremony Venues

After your planner, you're ready to book your wedding venue(s). You can’t book any other wedding vendors until this step is complete, because you don’t really have a wedding date until your venue is booked!

If you live in a popular destination wedding weekend location like me, you're going to want to book your hotel block pretty soon after your wedding venue too. We run out of hotel space fast here! 

As part of your venue search, you should definitely be looking at churches or synagogues at the same time as your wedding venue if you’re not getting married at the reception venue. It would be terrible to book your venue only to find out that the church that you grew up in can’t host you for your wedding ceremony!

Wedding Timeline: Your Other Big Budget Vendors 

Now that you have your venues locked in, let's move on to your other primary vendors. I’m talking about your wedding caterer (if it’s not provided by your wedding venue), your wedding photography and videography team, and potentially a wedding band or DJ for your wedding reception. These vendors tend to eat up a significant portion of your wedding budget and are some of the first wedding vendors you should hire.

This is your mid-way reminder that if any of these vendors are more or less important to you, it’s okay to move them ahead or down your wedding planning timeline.

Wedding Timeline: When to Shop for Wedding Attire

Did we just skip to the good part? You're going to want to start shopping for your wedding dress about 8-10 months before your wedding day, and leave ample time for it to arrive (especially in a post-COVID world where delays are the new normal). 

We have a TON of resources on the podcast about attire, so make sure to listen to episode 74 where we discuss custom suits – they aren’t as expensive as you think – and episode 56 where we talk about wedding dress trends.

For custom suits and tuxes, earlier is always better, but around 6 months out is a good starting point once you have a lot of the other vendors squared away and figured out your design.

Wedding Timeline: When to Book Your Wedding Florist

It’s probably not a big surprise, but I love beautiful wedding florals. In terms of your wedding design, they likely eat up a majority of your wedding budget too. With that said, they are one of the vendors (and to be fair – I could probably say this about every vendor) where experience makes the biggest difference. Trust me when I say, you want to do your homework and check reviews for this one! Flowers will likely make an appearance in many places on your wedding day (from your bouquet to aisle markers and a ceremony arch, to wedding centerpieces that literally every guest will see). They are SO worth it though. 

Quick pause: I recommend having an idea of your floral design and overall aesthetic when you book your florist. It helps a lot in determining what kind of person you want to work with, the color palette, etc. However, this is not a requirement and I've had to book the florist before we figured out the design because of time constraints. 

Wedding Timeline: After your florals, you're ready to book your stationer.

Are you obsessed with thick cardstock and letterpress details? Me too. I have to be honest with you guys, even though booking your stationer tends to happen later on in the wedding planning timeline, they are one of my favorite vendors to book. After all, nothing brings your wedding together quite like a custom invitation suite (which includes your save the date!), ceremony programs, and menu cards or place cards at every setting. Oftentimes, these will be the things your guests hold on to as mementos of your wedding day. It might just be me but that’s well worth investing in.

As an aside, some couples opt to have their engagement photos be their save the date. Others opt for something like a custom watercolor or something else unique for their save-the-dates to set the tone. Not gonna lie, I’m in the camp of something OTHER THAN your engagement photos. I just dont like the idea of my face staring back at someone for 9 months from the fridge. But that’s me! I do recommend to all my couples to get engagement photos, so it makes sense to show them off! I just prefer doing that on your website, not your save the dates.

Wedding Timeline: Wedding Rentals

Remember earlier when I said that the cheapest wedding venues are not always the cheapest? I was talking about rentals. If your wedding venue includes tables and chairs that you’ll actually use, you’ll save a little money in your rental budget. If not, you’ll have to account for a larger number here (head to episode 75 for more on wedding budgets!).

If you're wondering what to purchase for wedding rentals, we also have a complete wedding rentals checklist at verveeventco.com/63.

In a nutshell, it’s your tablecloths, napkins, flatware, glassware, a lounge or two, etc. 

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What's Left?

Now that you have the essentials – yes, that was all essential. What else do you need to book?

If you’ve listened to the podcast for a while now, you know I try to provide helpful wedding planning tips for couples planning with all budgets, but let me just say that when it comes to planning an heirloom occasion, the sky is the limit. From a luxury getaway car to welcome bags filled with local flair, to a live painter capturing your wedding day, your options are endless for additional vendors once you have your “main” vendors booked!


I hope today's post gave you insight into the perfect wedding planning timeline and you feel confident about who your next booking should be. 

As a quick recap, when you think about what vendors you want to hire, you want to go in this general order:

  1. Your wedding planner
  2. Your reception and ceremony venues
  3. Your hotel block
  4. The vendors with you a majority of the day and/or take a big portion of your budget (catering, photography and videography, and possibly the band or DJ)
  5. Your wedding attire
  6. Florist
  7. Rentals
  8. Wedding Stationer for Invitations and Day of Paper
  9. Anything else you want to make your wedding extraordinary (from that Rolls Royce getaway car to welcome bags filled with local flair!)

How are you feeling now? Ready to tackle the next phase of your wedding planning? I hope so! While I hope this episode gave you enough clarity for your next step if you want even more detail make sure to head to shop.verveeventco.com for all of my ready-to-use downloadable wedding templates (including the mother of all wedding planning checklists – I promise!). This checklist breaks down month by month on which vendors to focus so you’re not doing everything at once. It spaces it out so that you don’t get overwhelmed but also continue to make progress.

For the episode show notes and links, go to verveeventco.com/77

Questions? Comments?

If you have follow-up questions or want me to talk more in-depth about something you heard today, leave me a voicemail on our wedding planning hotline at 585-210-3467. 

I would also love for you to join me Wednesday nights for a quick IG live to talk about your questions from today or anything else. I’ve loved the questions you all have submitted so far and I can’t wait to do more of them with you.

Also, please leave the podcast a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts, leave your Instagram handle, and what you’ve done so far and what you have left to do. If you have any questions, drop them in your review, and I’ll address them in a future episode and follow you back!