It should come as no surprise to our readers that the secret to a great wedding is an even better team of talented professional wedding vendors. (We stand firmly in the belief that the quickest way to become the most stressed out bride on the planet is to attempt to pull off a wedding on your own!) So how do you get a beautiful, meaningful and smooth wedding day like you see in the magazines? Hire the pros who created those events in the first place! We’re giving you the scoop on who to hire (at the very least!), when to sign the contracts, and how much to expect paying. Of course, there are vendors not included on this roundup, but that doesn’t make them any less crucial to the flow and function of a wedding day. Can you imagine a reception without entertainment or a dual location day without transportation? Of course not. Here we give you the tools to find the team who can help you pull together the classic details, and help you find other vendors that will be a good fit for your wedding day team!
1. Hire Your Wedding Planner
Plan on hiring a full-service planner around 12 months (yes, a full year!) from your wedding day. You should choose your wedding planner first to reserve your date on their calendar and have their guidance during the entire wedding planning process. From the beginning to the end, your wedding planner with be your experienced counsel for every vendor interview, contract, and scheduling question. Don’t feel like you can’t do anything before hiring your wedding coordinator. While you’re interviewing and deciding, you can still start to do research on venues and take tours… but we don’t suggest booking anything until your wedding planner can review a contract with you.
Full service wedding planners range in price from $5,000-$7,000+, while month-of-coordinators will likely charge between $2,000-$3,000 depending on the scope of work.
Expert Tip from Terri Gilbreath, wedding planner and owner of G.G. Events Wedding Planning, a Jacksonville-based wedding planning and event design company:
“Planners have to know everything about anything to make sure an event is a great experience for everyone. This attention to detail allows us to create out of the box events, with bold design and unique guest experiences.”
2. Hire Your Venue and Caterer
Venue and catering should be booked around 12 months from your wedding day. Book early to reserve your preferred wedding date. If you live in a popular metro area, event venues will likely be booked for weddings more than a year in advance. Your budgeting will rely on whether or not catering is included in the pricing on your contract, so do you research. The style of your wedding venue will affect the overall style of your wedding. Whether you choose a glamorous ballroom or countryside barn – everything from your wedding dress and flowers to music selection will be affected.
Catering costs are dependent on the menu, venue and set up, but for a starting point can run between $35-$100+ per person not including any alcohol, linen or decor upgrades.
Expert Tip from Jennifer White, co-owner of The White Room’s Villa Blanca, a wedding venue in St. Augustine, Florida:
“While it’s most important to find a venue that fits your vision, a bride needs to think about the experience that venue is going to give her and her family. All of the preparation during the planning process and the day of the wedding needs to have the three E’s – an Easy, Enjoyable Experience. In-house venue teams are known for just that.”
3. Choose Your Wedding Dress
Plan on purchasing your wedding dress around 11 months from your wedding day. Once you decide on where you will get married and where the reception will be, it’s time to go dress shopping! Knowing your wedding location is just as important as knowing your dress size when it comes to shopping for a gown, so be sure to have a solid ida of your venue before making an appointment. Most bridal stores will need to place the order for your wedding with the dress designer at least 10 months in advance, while custom creations could take even longer. Pick you bridal party and groomsmen attire now too – you’re in the fashion mindset!
Wedding dress pricing is going to range enormously depending on designer, intricacy of details (like lace or beading), and how much of the gown is custom. An average dress, however, is going to hover anywhere from $2,000-$6,000.
Expert Tip from Olivia Masters, store manager of One Fine Day Bridal Boutique, a wedding dress shop in Jacksonville, Florida:
“Checking out a bridal salon’s website is best resource for learning exactly what designers they carry. If you have your heart set on trying on a specific style, call and ask if it’s in stock! There is a good chance that if we don’t already carry it, we can get in in on loan just for your appointment.”
4. Hire Your Photographer
Plan to book a photographer 11 months from your wedding date. Since photography businesses are most often run by a single person or small teams of creative professionals that work one wedding per day, it’s important to book early Be sure to take your venue into account when determining your preferred photography style. Digital photography thrives both indoors and out and has a timeless look, while light and airy film photographer should be reserved for those celebrating their day outside, since it needs as much natural light as possible.
Professional wedding photographers will charge between $3,000-$6,000+ depending on experience level, demand, medium, and packages.
“Do your research! Brides should be familiar with the photographer’s style and read their reviews before the first meeting. When we meet for the consultation I want to talk about what your vision is for your big day and how you and your fiancé met and skip past a lot of the stuff that can be gleaned from out portfolio, blog or social media.”
5. Hire Your Videographer
Plan on hiring a videographer around 11 months from your wedding date. More often than not, a videography business is run by a single person or a duo of creative professionals who work one wedding per day. Much of why you’ll hire then is based off of loving their editing style, ability to capture details most important to you (like a first dance, or the ceremony itself) and loving their pricing even more. Once you find your match – make it official by signing the contract. With a film, you’ll be able to relive your day with your future family and remember even the smallest details you and your vendor team worked so hard to create.
Professional wedding videographers will charge between $2,800-$5,000+ depending on the experience level, demand and packages.
Expert Tip from Jon Noeth, videographer and owner of Jon Noeth Videography, a wedding videographer in St. Augustine, FL:
“When choosing a videographer make sure you love their work. Ask your photographer for recommendations. Think about your final product. Short highlight video? Raw footage? Make sure your personalities match because they will be there with you your whole day!”
6. Hire A Floral Designer
Plan on choosing your floral designer around eight months from your wedding day. With such a length of time from your day, you have a good amount of time to get on the schedule for the best wedding florist in your area and brainstorm with them on what the vision of your wedding is. With the help of your planner, you and your floral designer can select a color palette, make note of blooms you love (or hate!) and layout a proper budget for the arrangements you’ll need created. Knowing what styles you like before going into a consultation means more time talking helpful specifics for you and your florist.
Flower pricing is dependent on the amount of decor at your wedding. You’ll want to budget starting at $1,500 for the basics like bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages and know the sky is truly the limit for the rest.
Expert Tip from Nulita Loder, floral designer and owner of Jade Violet Wedding & Event Floral Boutique, a wedding florist in St. Augustine, FL:
“Pinterest is a helpful tool for finding inspiration and sharing it with your florist. It can, however, be a creative block if a bride has her heart set on a replication. My favorite client is the one that has an idea and somewhat of a vision for her day, but gives me the creative freedom to roll with it.”
7. Hire Your Hair & Makeup Team
Plan on hiring your hair and makeup artist team around six to eight months from your wedding date. Chances are you are thick as thieves with your hair dresser and have your cut and color pre-booked every time you leave the salon – and for good reason! But does your stylist do bridal updos? Many don’t. That’s where on-site teams come in. Your beauty vendors will likely only be able to serve one full bridal party per Saturday. So book them sooner rather than later.
On-site bridal hair will usually cost around $100 while full makeup application will average around $85. Bridesmaids and moms average around $85 for hair styling and $75 for makeup application. Trials and consultation for both typically run about $75.
Expert Tip from Britnye Shore, lead stylist and owner of The Bardot Beauty Bar, an on-site hair and makeup team in St. Augustine, FL: “Hair and makeup is such an important part of a bride’s big day! Feeling glamorous, yet yourself, is key. Never skimp on this service and always go with a company that has great reviews and prides themselves on communication and customer service. Be sure to book trial services as well. They are so crucial to eliminating any day of stress!”
8. Hire Your Stationer
Look into hiring your stationer six to eight months in advance of your wedding date. If you would like to send out save the dates, you’ll want to choose your stationery designer eight months in advance. For invitations only, you should start to look at her options six months out. Traditional etiquette states invitations should be mailed out at least eight weeks prior to the wedding day. Custom stationery processes will likely take around two to three months, since multiple consultations, proofing and printing time needs to be taken into account.
Depending on the complexity of the invitation suites, you can expect to pay between $4-8+ per invite. Further customizations will increase your per piece price.
Expert Tip from Jenny Bookhout, lead designer and owner of Lemonlark Paperie, a custom stationer in St. Augustine, FL: “Wedding stationery sets the tone for you wedding and is the first impression for your guests. I adore keepsakes, and I think custom wedding stationery is the perfect keepsake to cherish for years to come! Before you meet with your stationer, begin by creating a mood board for you wedding on Pinterest – colors, textures, wedding ideas, rooms you like, fonts you like, etc.”
9. Hire Your Cake Designer
Plan on hiring a bakery six to eight months in advance. While a cake baker can serve multiple weddings in a weekend, chances are they can’t serve an endless amount. So we say get on the schedule in advance by signing the wedding cake contract. Again, it’s likely you’ll have your tasting a bit later in the process, but reserving your spot in their weekend schedule ahead of time will make sure you get the cake baker you like best. Before your tasting, be sure to research what types of frostings and finishes do best in your style venue.
Your wedding cake will cost approximately $4-$8+ per slice depending on the complexity of the design, baker’s skill level and availability.
Expert Tip from Alison Hjelm, cake designer and co-owner of Alleycakes Dessert Company, a custom stationer in Neptune Beach, FL: “Before your cake consultation sit down with your future spouse and decide on some basics like the flavor and finish of your dream cake (i.e. buttercream vs. fondant), whether you’ll want a dessert bar in addition to cake, and set your budget. Then review bakeries online before setting up a meeting to ensure they fit your style. Come prepared with the research you did together and always be sure to ask if there is a minimum order for a particular date.”