Your Wedding Planning Checklist —
Insider Tips from a Seasoned Pro

Written by Michelle Durpetti, originally published on PartySlate, January 31,2019

“To begin with, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to your event team. The order in which vendors get hired varies from person to person and event to event. For example, when planning a wedding, it’s rare that the bride and groom (and their families) begin planning with an empty slate — they might have anything from a vague idea about the tone of the experience they’d like to create, up to having already chosen the venue. It’s important couples who are beginning the wedding process start with a planner who can help bring together the right professionals and creatives who will them achieve what will be the most memorable day of their lives.

Photo by: Peter Gubernat

Event Planner

A good planner is your knowledgeable guide through the planning process. They will help you navigate everything from recommendations and negotiations to budgets, logistics and timing. From there, the next set of choices are less fixed. If you’re a lover of culinary arts, you might choose your venue or caterer first. If you’re focused on keeping your guests on the dance floor all night, you’ll lock in a band or the best DJ in town. Regardless of the order, your planner will be your guide, resource, and confidante through it all. He or she will lay the blueprint that becomes the structure of the event. Your planner will offer you multiple choices for each category and will pay attention to your personalities, likes and dislikes — your dislikes are equally as informative!

As planners, our job is to take your desires and surround you with the right team. A good planner can direct visuals, food, and beverage, etc., but will also allow those creative professionals room to do their best work. Everyone plays an instrument that’s part of the song and you don’t want anyone playing their own song — this is not a solo performance but instead a well-crafted masterpiece to be remembered for ages to come. Think of your planner as the conductor who leads the orchestra in perfect harmony.

Photo by: David Turner Photo

Decor, Design & Floral

A good planner plans and a good designer designs. There are a few that can do both, but it’s important to have that conversation up front. The design and floral firm will curate the aesthetics of an event — flowers, lighting, furniture, flatware, china — everything that creates the overall ambiance and environment that your guests will experience. A good designer can take those pieces and expertly mix them so that they are no longer separate ingredients but a cohesive vision. Your guests may not remember every little detail, but they will absolutely remember how they felt in the space so it’s important that your designers create an experience for your guests that will tantalize all of the senses!

Photo by: Olivia Leigh Photographie

Generally, these next four get pretty much hired simultaneously:

Photographer & Videographer

A photographer can be affiliated with a videographer or those may be totally separate services, depending on who you choose. There are several companies that do both which can be both practical and make the outcome of your photos and cinematography stylistically cohesive. Filmmakers capture the very life of an event while photographers tell a story in moments. You don’t need to choose one or the other, it’s more a matter of comfort in front of either/both cameras. All that really matters is the style in which you want your memories captured.

I like to support artisan vendors — it’s a specific craft. When choosing a photographer or videographer, consider if they have continued their education to evolve and learn new techniques. Are they fearlessly involved in their craft? Remember, they will be capturing the meaningful interactions and every gorgeous detail of your celebration. You will want to see true emotion, not filters; they need to be able to capture organic moments from the day as these are the ones you will cherish the most after the day has passed.

I recommend hiring these professionals relatively early, as their availability can be impacted by the time of year that your wedding will take place.

Photo by: Edmonson Photography

Entertainment

Entertainers also tend to book up quickly. There are talent collectives — like the Gold Coast All Stars, Élan Artists, and BeatMix — that you can go to for booking multiple performances, like ceremony and reception music or DJ and specialty band. Gone are the days where there was only a choice between a 10 or 12 piece traditional band, couples are also now opting for less traditional entertainment like gospel choirs or tribute bands covering an entire era, like the ‘90s, or specific bands, like The Beatles.

Photo by: Olivia Leigh Photographie

Venue

Having a planner before you book your venue comes in handy as they are likely already familiar with specific spots that will fulfill your vision — as well as your budget. Together, you and your planner can narrow down your list for venue visits based on what’s most important to you. Yearning for an outdoor wedding? Your planner will help you decide between rooftops, gardens, and courtyards. Keeping it all indoors? Your planner will show you the most regal ballrooms, modern spaces, or industrial gems.

Photo by: Edmonson Photography

Once you have reserved dates with your venue and preferred photographer, videographer, and design team, it’s time to consider these other elements.

Caterer

Your catering choices will depend, in large part, on your venue choice. If your celebration is at a hotel or restaurant, you’ll work with their team to develop your perfect menu. For venues without food service on site, they often have a list of preferred vendors to help guide your choices. Again, you’ll work with your planner to determine the type of fare you’d like to serve, much of which will depend on the formality, season, and time of day of your wedding. From formal plated dinners to late night food trucks, (or both at the same event!), the possibilities are endless and you’ll want your planner to help you stay on budget in this category.

Photo by: Edmonson Photography

Stationery and Invitations

Don’t stress about your “Save the Date” notice — it doesn’t need to be a trumpet, it’s just a message to your guests to reserve the spot on their calendar. Your invitation is what will really set the advance tone for your event and provide your guests with a glimpse of what’s to come. Your paperie choice will impact many steps of the process: save the date, invitations, ceremony program, escort cards, welcome letter, menu, and more. You want all elements created by the same designer using the same mood and palette to tie your event together seamlessly.

Photo by: Gerber & Scarpelli Photography

Final notes…

Consider your event a one-night-only performance. The return on your investment is the experience you’re creating for your guests and the lasting memories of the day. Instead of assigning expectations or Pinterest pins to your wedding, instead, break down the feel and ambiance you want to inspire and do your version rather than trying to make something you see fit into your reality (budgetary, locale, and otherwise). Choose four words that describe the wedding you’d like to create — timeless, modern, romantic, colorful. In the beginning, words may be more valuable than visuals to share with your chosen planner so that the creative process can begin. Authenticity is key, you want your celebration to be a beautiful, memorable expression of your personalities and an immersive experience for everyone there supporting you.

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