Start Your Wedding Planning with These Pros

Couples typically spend 12 to 18 months planning a wedding. And while you can definitely put together a stellar team in a much shorter time frame, there is definitely a certain order for selecting your vendors that just makes sense. Here are the pros you need to book first, along with helpful advice.

Taking the first steps

“How often do you plan an amazing event for 150?” asks New Jersey wedding planner Lisa Ivler of Lisa Ivler Events, who works with couples in Northern NJ, New York City, and Connecticut. “A full service wedding planner guides you through the entire process – from working on your budget to your last dance. And your planner’s vendor coordination certainly saves you time and reduces stress.”

While weighing your event planner options, this is also the time to secure your wedding date with a venue. This then allows you to hire the next round of important wedding vendors. Arm yourself with your budget and guest count and keep this advice in mind. 

Offers Vivian Buesking, Co-Owner of Circle of Seven Ranch, a unique Texas wedding venue located southwest of Houston, “Take time to reflect on your desired ambiance and theme. You’re looking for the ideal backdrop for your special day as well as a place that elevates your guest experience. And don’t forget to include factors like location, amenities, and flexibility in accommodating your specific needs and preferences.”

If your vision includes a wedding weekend or a large number of out of towners, Kate Stevens, Co-Owner of The Lake House Inn, a top-rated PA wedding venue in Bucks County, reminds couples not to forget guest comfort and entertainment. “Explore locations that offer on-site lodging for your wedding party and special guests. Your venue manager can also direct you to other nearby accommodations and guest transportation options. And look for a wedding weekend location that offers a variety of attractions and activities nearby.” 

Continue the vision

“If your venue is a blank canvas, this is the time to work with an event services company,” explains Yoni Yemini, Co-Founder of Illinois event decor company Ace Chicago Events. “An event services company creates a theme, designs it and then executes the vision. This often includes staging, lighting, draping, and decor installations. These services are provided in-house while other vision aspects are coordinated through experienced event design teams.”

“Rentals play a significant role in shaping the overall aesthetic of your wedding,” advises Designer Michele Rogers of Ace Party Rentals, an Indiana event rental company. “Linens, serviceware, the style of a tent, specialty furniture all establish a framework for other design decisions. Now is the time to check out colors, patterns, and textures that work with your theme and venue.”

What’s next?

“Your venue and theme can definitely influence your selection of a wedding gown. And designers release new collections on a seasonal basis, with trends and styles evolving,” says Elicia Bonham, Owner of NH bridal salon Country Bridals & Formal Wear in Jaffrey. “By shopping early, you can check out your options. And manufacturing, shipping, fittings, and alterations take time. By shopping early, you allow for any shipping delays and necessary adjustments.” 

This is also the right time to book your photographer and schedule an engagement photo session. “Your engagement session allows you and your photographer to get comfortable with one another and even practice some posing,” says Portland ME wedding photographer Isabelle Miner of husband/wife duo of Shado of a Rose. “Your engagement photo session helps set the tone for working together. And you’ll have memorable photos for your Save the Date.”

Nail down the entertainment

To round out the vendors you should select first is a great DJ. “Certain dates and times of year fill up quickly,” notes Seth Michaels of Troy, MI Michaels Entertainment, who provides 5-star rated wedding DJs in metro Detroit. “Shopping early gives you more talent availability, allowing you to find a DJ who fits your vision and whose personality suits your occasion. Your wedding entertainment should reflect your unique style, while keeping your guests engaged, entertained, and energized.”

Matt Kays, Owner of Fort Collins, CO entertainment company Mountain Event Services and a top “Front Range” Colorado/Wyoming wedding DJ, emphasizes the importance of client communication. “We’re here to listen to you. Professional DJs communicate with their clients throughout the planning process, offering suggestions and solutions. Use our conversations to collaborate on ways to make your reception a personalized experience for you and your guests.”

Says crowd pleasing DJ Cory Leonardo, Owner of Party Zone Productions, a Louisville wedding DJ company, “Wedding entertainment is more than just memory-making music. Creating a great guest experience is all about setting the tone for the reception and serving as the “voice” of the event. A skilled DJ is also a Master of Ceremonies, making announcements, introducing speakers, guiding guests through the reception – keeping everyone informed and entertained.”

This entertainment professional is also a great planning resource. Jason Strycharz of The Music Man DJ Service, a well known Maine wedding DJ company based in Kennebunk, says “Your DJ also creates that key wedding reception timeline outlining the sequence of events. And then your DJ works with your other vendors, like your day-of or venue coordinator and photographer, to keep things running smoothly.”

And DJ companies are a terrific source for other entertainment options.  “DJ companies often have services like photo booths, videography, and special effects,” says George Wainwright, Owner of Coastal DJ and Video, whose company provides Outer Banks wedding DJs through offices in Kill Devil Hills, Beaufort, and Wilmington. “Booking them through your DJ saves you time and money. It also provides a more seamless planning experience and consistent quality.”

And don’t forget

While you’re planning that reception, don’t forget the most important part – getting married! “Couples want a ceremony that’s personalized and meaningful,” reminds Densie Drapkin of I Wed All, a  Long Island, NY marriage celebrant and wedding vow writer. “Booking your officiant early gives you time to collaborate. And if you want to write your own vows, it’s important to allow time and even enlist the services of a professional vow writer.”

By securing vendors in these categories, you’re taking the essential first steps to crafting your dream wedding. Make sure to choose vendors who understand and share your vision, are enthusiastic about working with you as well as working together, and are financially feasible.

Brian Lawrence is a wedding business marketing expert who has helped thousands of clients like Alan Berg and Joe Bunn with consulting, marketing and web design. We’ve partnered with Brian Lawrence to bring this great advice from some of his amazing clients.