The earlier, the better.

By Blythe Copeland
August 28, 2020
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Credit: Eric Kelley

Some couples spend months—or even years—interviewing florists, tasting cakes, and clicking through photographers portfolios, all in an effort to come up with a team of vendors whose style, personality, and wedding-day vision all match yours. But if you don't have the time (or inclination) to spend as much time planning your wedding as you did waiting for the Game of Thrones finale, you can still pull together a roster of genius professionals to create your ideal event.

Regardless of how long—or short—your engagement is, says wedding planner Diana Venditto of Eventi in Baltimore, Maryland, give yourself as much time as possible to book a venue. "Generally, finding a venue that meets all of your needs—location, guest count, vision, etc.—is one of the toughest things," she says. If you want to get married on a Saturday night in a prime month—May, June, September, October—expect to book 12 to 18 months in advance; if you prefer a quieter season, or would take a Friday or Sunday, plan to reserve eight to 12 months ahead. If your venue doesn't offer on-site catering, then Venditto suggests prioritizing your food service vendor at the same time, since the catering options can influence everything from your place setting rentals and floral design to your cake size and future spending. "It is such a large portion of the budget, there are so many options and things to consider, and it is usually not something that everyone has done before," she says. "It can be quite daunting!"

Venditto recommends securing other vendors—including the stationer and band—around the eight month mark, while most calendars still have plenty of open dates. "Some florists only accept one event per weekend and have a minimum on how much you must spend," she says. If that's the policy for your dream florist, plan to reserve the date eight to ten months before your wedding, and finalize your design closer to the event. "If you are looking for more of a standard florist, reserving them four to six months prior to your wedding day should be sufficient."

Photographers, who can only shoot one wedding each day, may book up more quickly than other pros, so Venditto recommends reserving your favorite as early as possible. "This is the one vendor who is able to capture all of the emotion, details, moments, and memories," says Venditto, who encourages her clients to choose their photographer as soon as possible. "Do not drag your feet on this important piece of the puzzle."

But planning a wedding in fewer than eight months doesn't mean you'll be stuck without a venue, caterer, photographer, or florist, says Aspen-based planner Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions. "The biggest tip for short engagements is to have realistic expectations that a dream vendor may not be available, but there are still many amazing options," she says. A planner can put you in touch with under-the-radar vendors in your city who may have more short-term availability, or help you find venues with last-minute openings for prime time slots (where you can sometime negotiate a lower rate).

Reaching out to vendors in other areas can also expand your options, says Venditto: "Wedding vendors often jump at the opportunity to work in a new space or city and might be more willing to make something work." And a quicker engagement, which leaves you less time for indecision and second-guessing, can end up being less stressful in the long run. "One large bonus of a short engagement is that a client doesn't have the time to belabor decision after decision," says Edelson. "We find that most of our clients with the shortest planning timelines are the happiest couples."

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