Which Wedding Vendors Should You Hire First?

For newly engaged couples, the thought of planning a wedding can be super overwhelming.  There are so many things to consider: budget, guest count, wedding theme / colors, location, etc.  Below are the vendors and tasks that you should prioritize FIRST.

Guest Count & Budget:

When I was planning my wedding I thought it was odd that some wedding planning sites advised you to pick a wedding date, then the venue, and THEN work on the guest count. In my opinion, you should make a first draft of your guest count first. Why? The number of guests will greatly influence which venues will be a good fit for your wedding. If you are planning a small wedding, you could save money with a smaller more intimate venue whereas if you are planning a wedding with 200 guests, you need to find a venue that can handle that many people. It is also something that will affect your budget, which is something that you also need to consider in the beginning stages of planning.

Wedding Planner or Coordinator:

If you can afford a full service planner (they are typically about $4000 in the Raleigh, NC market) you will want to hire them before you go venue hunting. They can also help you with your budget and can recommend some great vendors. If you won’t be hiring a full service planner, you should definitely hire a wedding coordinator. If your venue provides one, great. Just make sure that they will run your ceremony and coordinate with your vendors in the weeks leading up to your wedding. Wedding coordinators can be hired later on in planning since they help you with the month of the wedding details. Not sure if you really need a coordinator?  Read my blog post on why you should hire a coordinator!


Once you know what size venue will work for your needs, you can think about the look and feel of the wedding. Do you want an urban / modern vibe or perhaps a rustic setting outside? Consider the logistics as well.  Is there a bridal and groom’s suite? That will make your life easier since you will have a place to hide from one another until it is time for the first look or ceremony. You can also get great photos of getting ready in these spaces. (especially if there is good window light) Is there good parking? If you will have your ceremony at the venue, is there a separate space for the ceremony or do they need to flip the room over for the reception? (This can complicate life!)

Concerned about how your potential venue will look in pictures? Check out my blog post on choosing photogenic venues: https://www.lindsayaikmanphoto.com/index.php/2016/06/03/the-wedding-venue-search-how-will-it-look-in-pictures/ 

You should choose your venue at least 12 months prior to your wedding date.  Some venues will book up more than a year in advance, especially if you are getting married in the peak wedding seasons in North Carolina: the fall and spring.


Some venues make it easy and do the catering for you. If you have a choice of caterer, it can be helpful to ask the venue for recommendations. If the venue doesn’t have a kitchen, the caterer needs to be able to do most of the cooking offsite. Some caterers prefer to cook on-site and will not take jobs at such venues. So, the venue’s vendor list is a great place to start.

Photographer, Videographer, DJ, Florist:

Many websites recommend booking these vendors about 8 months prior to the wedding. But, you may find that your favorite photographer is already booked. Established photographers can book up in the peak season more than a year in advance. So, if you are particular about photography, (and why wouldn’t you be?!) consider booking a year in advance. Videographers tend to book later since most people prioritize photography over video. However, I am seeing more and more videographers at weddings. So, this is changing. DJs or bands are usually safe to book 6-8 months in advance, but again, if it is a popular vendor and a popular date, try to book earlier. Florists can do multiple weddings in one day, so it is not as critical to book super early.

Need a complete list of wedding tasks? These wedding planning checklists from The Knot and Real Simple are super helpful.