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Building Your Dream Team of Wedding Vendors

Hi, I'm Kate McClellan. Today, we are wrapping up our series on the wedding planning foundation. So far, we've discussed four of the five main pillars that create your wedding foundation: pillar one, your wedding priorities. Pillar two, the wedding budget. Pillar three, your guest list. Pillar four, your checklists and timeframes. And now pillar five, your vendor team.

These foundational steps might seem pretty basic, but I promise you that if you spend just a bit of time on these five pillars you're going to be so much more confident as you move forward with your wedding plans.

Make sure that you grab the free worksheet that accompanies this foundational series. You can find it at The worksheets are included in the Four Things Every Couple Must Do After Getting Engaged Guide. All right, let's start building your vendor team!

First, we're going to talk about the vendors that you need to have on your team, followed by the secondary vendors that you might want to consider. Our list of vendors that most couples will need includes:

  • a venue

  • an officiant or somebody to perform the ceremony

  • catering (whether it's an outside source or from within your venue)

  • music for the ceremony and reception

  • a photographer

  • a florist

  • a baker

  • hair and makeup

  • a stationer or printer for invitations

In addition to those vendors, many couples will also have:

  • a wedding planner or coordinator

  • a videographer

  • transportation services

  • rental items

  • lighting

  • a photo booth or some type of reception entertainment

So now that we've listed who you would need, the next big question is...

In what order do you book your vendors?

Your venue or venues will come first because those will be what locks in your actual wedding date. Once you have your venue secured, you want to move on based on the vendors availability, or lack thereof really, to book multiple events.

Start with the vendors that can most likely only do one event a day and then move on from there. For example, a photographer can typically only do one event unless they're working for a company that books out multiple photographers. So they should be one of your first vendors you book. Other vendors on that priority list would be your DJ or band, your planner, and your videographer.

Next up, you're going to look into the vendors that can commonly do a couple of events per day or weekend. And that would be your caterer, officiant, rental companies, florists, and hair and makeup team. The final group of vendors to book would be your transportation company, photo booth or lighting, your stationer, and your baker.

And just to clarify again, I put these vendors in this booking order based on the typical order in which they tend to become unavailable. Vendors that can book multiple events per day will have more availability later on in the planning process than those with only one spot open. However, just like everything in wedding planning, we're going to go back to those priorities.

If you've been obsessing over a baker or stationer on Instagram, and you know that you must work with them, it can't hurt to get locked into their calendar sooner rather than later.

Where do you find your vendors?

I always recommend that you reach out to family and friends who have recently gotten married or hosted a big event and see who they liked or didn't like working with. This gives you reviews that you know you can trust and helps you get started with the list. You can also ask your venue or planner or even other vendors that you've already secured if they have a preferred vendor list. If they have someone that they like to work with, you can be pretty confident that they're going to be reliable and they'll most likely have a similar vibe to the vendor giving you the recommendation.

Outside of personal referrals, you can use TheKnot or WeddingWire to get started. Make sure to pay more attention to the client reviews over the placement on their page or awards that are listed. The best placements and awards go to the vendors that spend the most money with them in advertising, which isn't a bad thing, but the reviews are going to be what gives you the best indication of how their past clients feel about their services.

And finally, check out hashtags on Instagram or social media. An example of this would be #Michiganweddingplanner or #Houstonweddingband. Social media is the new "website" for a lot of vendors. So it's a great way to see what they've been up to and whether or not they would fit what you're looking for. Moving on to the next step, the inquiry process.

Once you found a couple of vendors that spark your interest, you'll need to reach out and see if they're available and within your budget. Some vendors will put this information on their website or promotional information, and others will prefer to have a conversation with you first before providing a quote. Now I know this can be really frustrating, but a lot of vendors have a wide variety of services and it can be really difficult to put a specific price range on their site until they have some more details about your event.

For example, I offer services from day of coordination, through full service planning and about a thousand different options in between those two. I can't realistically put every option on my site, but if I were only to list those two options, I'd run the risk of turning someone away that might be interested in something that I can provide, but they didn't see listed.

So while it may be frustrating, I promise that the majority of vendors are not doing this to trap you into getting a meeting set up. They just need to know some additional details about your plans before they can give you an estimate. Feel free to reach out via email and ask for a range of pricing. And if they give you more pushback that you're uncomfortable with, move on to the next vendor.

Once you've compiled the list of potentials in each category that fit your availability and general budget, you can start setting up appointments or even just a general call to get more information. In most markets, the list of vendors on the sites like TheKnot and WeddingWire can be endless and overwhelming. I suggest that you start narrowing them down to two or three choices per category.

First, get more info or chat with those first two or three. And if you're still unsure after talking to them, move on to the next two or three. From there, you don't need to talk to every single option that's out there. I know you might have that feeling like you're missing something if you don't connect with each potential option, but I promise you that you are going to get so burnt out trying to do this.

It'll take the fun out of planning and it'll make it feel too stressful. I can also guarantee that wherever you are located, there are multiple amazing photographers, DJs, planners, etc. that can all be a good fit for you. If you've put your time into creating your strong foundation, you can trust your gut and move on to the next decision.

One final thing that often trips couples up is waiting to connect with a vendor because you don't think you have all of the information for them ready yet. For example, I've had many clients think that they aren't ready to meet with florists yet because they haven't decided on their colors or what flowers they want. Florists are very familiar with working with couples that may not know exactly what they want. Part of their job is helping to guide you through what you may like, and they certainly don't expect everything you discussed at the initial meeting to stay the same throughout the planning.

You don't need to have all the details ready before setting up meetings with potential vendors. If you know you're interested in speaking with them further, make an appointment sooner rather than later. You can book a vendor prior to knowing all of those specific details, like how many centerpieces you'll need, or if you'll need to add in extra time for a photographer, or even what your exact menu options are going to be.

And that's it. You have finished the final pillar in creating your wedding planning foundation, but don't worry. I'm not leaving you alone with your planning. Join me over in the Wedding Planning Collective Facebook group to be the first to get access to the new and free planning resources that I have coming out. I know it's going to be so, so helpful for you and your wedding plans!

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