The booking phase is one of my favorite parts of wedding prep because after all your initial dreaming, you finally get to assemble a team to bring your vision and all your plans to life.
If you’re following the phase approach to wedding planning suggested in this series, you’ve already solidified many budget-related matters. As you move forward into booking, bear in mind that “affordable” is not a number. I see lots of requests online for brides seeking an “affordable” florist/coordinator/photographer, and frankly, affordable means something different to each couple.
Know how much you are willing to spend for each vendor, and be honest and up front when asking for recommendations. It’s much easier for a friend or coordinator to give you a recommendation when you ask “Do you of any local wedding photographers who cost less than $3,000?” than “Do you know of any affordable local photographers?”
Here are three tips to guide you as you research, interview, and hire vendors:
Certain categories of vendors tend to book a year or more in advance. This is generally limited to vendors who can only handle one event per day, or to those who are extremely popular in their area. Examples might include reception venues with only one event space or independent wedding photographers who are not part of a larger company. Prioritizing a particular order helps you focus, so you can assemble your dream team one vendor at a time.
Rentals (chairs, tables, linens, lounge furniture)
Ceremony and Reception Musicians
Seamstress for Alterations
Rehearsal Dinner/Morning After Brunch Venue
Keep in mind an exception to this list: if there is a vendor in any category that you really want to work with, prioritize them in your budget and book them as early as possible.
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Limit yourself to interviewing 1-3 vendors per category. By all means, research as many individuals as you’d like, but only take the time to meet with those who are within your budget and whose product or service you truly like. It can quickly become overwhelming to interview 12 different photographers and try to remember each of them and the communication you’ve had. For some, the constant need to research and meet with vendors can become addicting, so strive to be aware of the possibility, know yourself, and slow down if you find yourself obsessing over anything. Click here for Elise's suggested interview questions for major vendors.
You aren’t booked until you sign a contract.
Even if a vendor has sent you a proposal, to which you’ve sent an enthusiastic response, you have not officially booked them until you’ve signed a contract and put down a deposit. Vendors often have many couples seeking their services for the same date. Depending on their policies, some might offer a few days to make your decision; others work with whatever couple submits their contract and deposit first. When in doubt, ask what a company’s booking policy is!
As our gift to you, we’ve created a free printable checklist for the booking phase to keep all your vendor details in one location. I highly suggest keeping a two inch binder with these sheets, along with a hard copy of each of your contracts.