What's Next? Hiring Pro Wedding Vendors
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
After you have booked a venue and your photographer and coordinator, you must begin booking additional vendors. This article covers different vendor categories and what you need to approach each potential vendor in a professional, efficient manner plus contracts, final updates and open lines of communication. Knowing your budget before reaching out to vendors is so important. If you're still working on wedding budgeting, revisit our post on Three Big Wedding Questions: Budget, Guest Count & Date from the beginning of this wedding planning blog series. Having a timeline in mind is also important because you will be hiring most vendors for a set number of hours and they will need an idea of when events throughout your wedding day will occur and how many hours of service you need. Don't have a timeline yet? Last week's post on Tried & True Wedding Day Timelines has been one of our most popular posts yet and has everything you need to plan the perfect timeline for your special day.
Different Types of Wedding Vendors
Every wedding is different, but most weddings are pulled together by the same core group of vendors. Again, if you are not sure what you should be spending on each category, revisit our blog post Three Big Wedding Questions: Budget, Guest Count & Date for a simple budget breakdown. We have divided the vendors up into three groups based on when their products/services will come into play.
Certain vendors' services will be complete well before your wedding day as you will have to have the product in hand well before the main event. These vendors include:
Bridal Gown / Accessories / Alterations
Stationery Designer & Favors
In an effort to have magazine-worthy photographs of your wedding and a "WOW" space in place before guests arrive, certain vendors will be arriving early to get started. They will need to know the earliest time your venue allows vendors on the property and what time your photographer will be arriving to make this work. In addition, because these vendors finish prior to the beginning of events, they may have multiple weddings scheduled for any given Saturday. It is best to give them a time slot early on to have first dibs on their available arrival and install times. Below are the vendors that typically must arrive 6-8 hours before guests begin to arrive to have their services complete and everything installed prior to your photographer arriving for photographs:
Decor & Rentals
Hair & Makeup
Some vendors will work closely alongside your photographer and coordinator and provide goods and services during the event when guests are on site. Many times, these vendors are the party. Because they will typically need to arrive a couple hours before guests arrive, they will need to know when your ceremony begins and how early guests will arrive because although their services won't start until the party starts, they need to be unloaded and in place before showtime. They include:
Bartending Company / Alcohol
Band / DJ / Ceremony Musicians
In addition many couples hire additional entertainment such as photo booths at their weddings which fall into the same group.
Tips for a Smooth Vendor Timeline
Knowing how long it takes vendors to set up different parts of your wedding is difficult because it changes with guest count and the level of installation required. TRUST THE PROS. Ask each vendor how long it will take for them to set up and what needs to be in place for them to be able to begin setting up upon arrival. For venues that offer 10 hours or less on wedding days including install and strike (another word for clean up/packing), you may either have to add additional hours to the venue rental or require your vendors to set up in a shorter timeframe than usual. If time at your venue is limited, let the vendors know well in advance as they will likely have to hire extra staff (which you will be charged for) in order for everything to be in place in time for the wedding. The earlier everything is set up the better if your venue rental time allows.
When creating the portion of your timeline listing vendor arrival times, consider how each vendor affects others. I am totally borrowing this example from last week, but if your florist is set to arrive with centerpieces at noon, the coordinator or caterer should have table linens placed before the florist arrives. For this to work, the venue or rental company will have to have tables and chairs delivered and set up before the linens can be placed. Photographers and videographers should arrive four hours prior to the ceremony start time and should be flexible in what they plan to shoot first just in case something/someone isn't ready right at the scheduled time, but to avoid anyone waiting around, it is best to attempt to have everything in place decor, detail and floral-wise before the photo crew comes on site.
What goes up must come down. Vendors realize that the amount of time allowed on site at the close of the event is limited to one or two hours. Be sure all vendors are aware of what is expected of them at the end of the night and that they will have enough staff on site to accomplish the task within the time allotted for strike to avoid additional venue fees. Because some venues do not allow for rental/floral pick up on Mondays whether it be because they are strict on rental times or because they have additional events the following day, be aware that late night pick up fees are often added to cover additional staff required for picking up at the close of the event.
When to Book Your Vendors & How to Contact Vendors
Unless you are booking high-demand, high-profile wedding vendors, you do not want to book more than 18 months in advance although many vendors prefer that couples book between one year and six months from the big day.
Why not book earlier? Times changes, trends change and prices change. What you like two years in advance will likely not be in style when it comes time for you to say "I do." Keeping up with trends and local vendors you love in the meantime is a must. Below are some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow. Instagram offers the most up-to-date inspiration you find on the Internet and it is possible to save ideas (similar to Pinterest, but better because only the most recent items are popping up in your feed).
What about booking later? If you are pushing this planning process down to the wire and only have a few months before your big day, start with your venue, photographer and then immediately order stationery. Wedding invitations should go out two months prior to your wedding date with RSVP dates 30 days prior to your wedding date. This is to have time to turn your final count into vendors before final payments are due. We will have a post on invites in the very near future. Once stationery is ordered, proceed to book all of your other vendors. This can be accomplished in one day even if you plan to meet with all of your vendors when booking. So many vendors (including us) offer easy online proposals, contracts and payments which is the way to go especially if time is of the essence.
Contacting vendors is typically super easy. Compile a list of 3-5 vendors in each category. Use your wedding email account to email all of the vendors on your list and check availability, request pricing and packages and a list of rules or a contract. Some vendors may be hesitant to send you this information via email without meeting, but there is no sense in spending time and gas meeting a vendor in person if you do not first know if you can afford them or if they even offer what you seek. For best results, email. Emailing is the preferred and professional method of communication within the wedding industry. By strictly communicating through emails, you will have written documentation of everything discussed. Calling is fine, but emailing is better. Avoid messaging vendors through sites such as The Knot with the automated messages asking for pricing information. You need more information than just pricing and no one takes automated emails seriously. Visit individual websites and either email through their site or email them directly. You will find that some websites are awesome and have all of the information you are seeking listed which saves you time.
Read your contracts. I cannot tell you how many times over the years a couple thought they were buying something and it ended up not being exactly what they wanted or they were charged exorbitant fees right before the wedding to cover additional staff, hours or equipment. Contracts should also include a payment schedule, the specifics of what exactly your are getting, how many hours are included, the number of staff members you should expect, company policies and a cancellation policy. Most wedding vendors require couples to put down 25%-50% to book their date with the remaining balance usually due 15-30 days prior to the wedding. BEWARE if a vendor does not require a deposit and NEVER book a vendor who doesn't have you sign a contract. Keep all of your contracts organized in a binder or computer file for easy access when sharing them with your coordinator. It never hurts to re-read all contracts 30 days prior to your wedding to be sure all of the bases are covered.
Vendor Communication & Finalizing Details
Keeping an open line of communication with vendors is crucial during the planning process. At 30 days most vendors with the exception of your caterer and rental company will require you to turn in any changes and the final guest count, so that they may send your final invoice and plan for the big day. Hopefully your RSVPs are in on time and you can just CC all of your vendors on one email to update the count. If you have changes in style or design, it is best to let your vendors know as early as possible, so that they may get your contract updated and sent over before the balance is due. Changes typically take one week, but allow for two weeks during wedding season (varies based on location).
While your coordinator should send out your timeline to vendors, it is your responsibility to be sure all of your balances are paid on time. We send out timelines for confirmation 30 days prior to the event asking for vendors to send through any concerns and to let us know if clients have final balances due, but we can only be responsible for relaying that information to the couple. One week prior to the wedding, we send out timelines again and re-confirm final numbers just because I like to be sure everything will run as smoothly as possible. If at all possible, compile a list of vendors you have booked and their contact phone numbers, preferably cell phone numbers, to be sure you can contact them should an emergency arise on your wedding day.
Thanks so much for reading along today for the seventh post in our wedding planning series! If you need some inspiration, check out our Instagram at @_giselle_smith. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to receive monthly email updates and if you want to learn more, you can find other blog posts here. Stay tuned next Tuesday, March 26 for our next blog post titled Everyone Forgets Cake Plates covering all of the items couples typically forget on their wedding day!
Praying you find the perfect vendors! Happy Planning! XOXO
Gorgeous photos from a previous Style Me Pretty feature photographed by Dani Cowan Photography and planned by yours truly at Flint Creek Country Estate in Waco, Texas, with vendors including Georgio's Bridal, Southern Belles Beauty, Studio W Designs, Creative Innovations Florist, Confetti Rentals, Pignetti's Italian Restaurant and Lily's Cakes Bakery.