Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Hellooooo newly engaged ladies!! Wow, that ring on your left hand sure makes you look engaged 🙂 Today on the blog we’re sharing a few tips that we share with friends and family alike when they get engaged and are wondering where to start with wedding planning, especially when it comes to hiring those first few vendors!
Whether or not you hire a professional wedding planner is a huge decision, and one that’ll have large ramifications on your wedding day. They’re truly a valuable addition to any wedding day, and if you have room in the budget, it’s a no-brainer. Hire one, and thank us later. It’ll not only relieve stress on the wedding day, but also in the months leading up to the day itself!
However, if your budget is tight (like it was for our wedding) and you’re super organized (like Hunter and I are), this might be an area that you can save some money in. If even reading this blog is already stressing you out, it would be a gift to you (and your family and guests) to just ask for some professional help.
The good news is that you can hire a wedding planner at almost any stage in the process. It can be your very first vendor you hire after getting engaged so they can even help with date and venue selection, or you can hire them after nailing down all your big vendors to coordinate schedules and timelines the month of. As we think back to our wedding, we know that even hiring someone for the day-of would’ve allowed us to enjoy the day more, and worry less about all the moving pieces.
If you do decide to take on planning yourself, it’s crucial that you stay organized. Whether it’s a paper planner or a digital spreadsheet, decide how your big day will stay organized and stick to that for the entire process. A wedding day won’t magically plan itself, and without staying organized, you’ll only make the job harder for yourself.
Moms, sisters, maids of honor, friends – even your soon-to-be hubby; there are so many people out there who could potentially offer to help you on the wedding day. Taking help is a good and healthy thing to do, but at the end of the day, it is your wedding, and you have to be responsible for making the decisions!
It’s typically better to ask for help on specific tasks (hey sis, can you put together a short list of local DJs in the $1,000 – $2,000 range?) than to ask for broad categories of help (hey sis can you handle our entertainment?). After all, what you and your sister think of as the perfect DJ might be totally different! Plus, the last thing you want is to overwhelm someone who just wanted to help and potentially create conflict during your season of engagement.
A small word of warning along that same vein: finding the right boundaries (especially with parents) can be difficult during this season of engagement. We’ve heard far more stories of “momzillas” than “bridezillas” during our time in the wedding industry, and how you interact with your parents during planning could inform how the wedding day goes. It’s a beautiful thing to have help from a close family member during planning, especially when they’re the ones paying for the entire affair, but make sure that at the end of the day everyone remembers who it is that’s actually getting married.
What is the right order you ask? Well, it all depends on your priorities! Of course, finding a venue almost always has to come first since that will determine your wedding date. But after that, or if your dream venue has multiple dates available, you should typically book in the order of importance.
For us, our photography was super important to us, so we searched and searched until we found someone we thought would be a good fit. After only 10 minutes of sitting down with her, we booked her right away because we knew she was the one. Even though her rate was a bit higher than we had budgeted, this helped (forced?) us to make decisions for the rest of our vendors.
Since entertainment was fairly low on our list, by the time we booked the officiant, the caterer and got florals nailed down, our budget was just about tapped. So we used a Spotify playlist and asked a friend to MC. However, if having the best party of the year is important to you, then maybe you’ll book a band first, then the photobooth, then the floras, then take a look at the rest of your vendors. It’s up to you!
Nothing brings us greater joy than to love on our couples and serve them as much as we can on their wedding day. Yes, we’re professional photographers and therefore wedding vendors, but our hope is that we’ll also be your friends by the end of the wedding photography process. Although it isn’t always possible to tell from a few emails or even from a brief chat over coffee, as you sit with vendors (especially planners and photographers, who you’ll have the most interaction with), ask yourself if you could see yourself being friends with them. Do they seem like someone who will serve you like a dear friend, or just show up to make a paycheck?
Well, we hope this advice was helpful! Although it’s just the first few things to think about when it comes to wedding planning, we know that even knowing where to start can demystify the entire experience! If you’re loving these wedding-planning tips, check out “5 Ways to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Wedding Photographers” and “Should You Ask Your Photographer For Raw Files?”
P.S. If you do decide to hire a wedding planner, reach out to us! We’d be happy to recommend some planners who we’ve worked with before and who we know love and serve our couples well!
Wedding Photography & Photography Education
Charlottesville, Virginia and Beyond