Wedding Rings In Ring Box

Dream Tips: When To Book Your Wedding Vendors

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now what? Planning one of the most memorable days of your life can be daunting, and it involves a lot of moving parts. We’ve put together a timeline of which vendors to book and when with a few tips we hope will help ease your stress. For example, did you know it’s best to book your planner after you choose a venue? It’s true! 

There are so many vendors and to-dos for your big day, more than we have listed below— but we hope this list of some of the most important vendors will help you get started in your planning process.

But first things first, celebrate your engagement! 

… and then get down to business planning your big day.


1. Budget & Guest List

The first thing you need to do is set a budget and decide who will be contributing financially to the wedding. Whether it’s just you and your partner or family members contributing, finding out who will be chipping in is the first step to setting your budget. How much is each party willing to spend? Are there particular aspects of the day certain contributors want to take care of? 

When discussing your budget, you’ll also want to set your top three priorities. These are your non-negotiables, what you aren’t willing to sacrifice if you need to make cuts to stay in budget.

Next up, compile your guest list. The size of your guest list is what ultimately determines the cost of your wedding. We recommend making three separate lists: 1) everyone you absolutely must have  with you to celebrate your wedding, 2) additional friends and extended family, and 3) those who you’d like to come if your budget allows. Click here to read more of our wedding guest list tips.

2. Wedding Venues & Planner

Once you have an idea of your guest count, it’s time to decide if you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same location and get your venue (or venues!) booked. While venue shopping, ask each place about requirements for a planner. Most venues will require at minimum a day-of planner, and some might even have in-house planning teams or exclusive partnerships you’re required to use. This is why we highly advise booking your venue first, otherwise your choice of planner could actually limit your venue options.

When it comes to choosing a planner, there are different levels of service depending on how much you’d like to do yourself. If you want to be predominately hands off, a full-service planner is the choice for you. Month-of planners are the best option if you want to handle most of the planning but need someone to tie up all the not-so-fun loose ends, like confirming vendors, making your wedding day timeline, etc. And if you’re a DIY bride, day-of planning is the best choice— you plan and handle everything, but pass things off the day-of to coordinate vendors and execute your timeline so you can enjoy your day.

Did you know we can help plan your dream day? Contact us today to learn what we can do for you!

Dream Team Wedding Planners

3. Wedding Party, Photographer, Officiant, Wedding Website

If you plan on having people stand by your side as you say “I do,” it’s best to ask them early on in the process so they have plenty of time to plan (and budget!) accordingly. Other things to consider at this time are if you want flower girls, ring bearers, ushers, or if you’d like other family members to be involved in the ceremony. 

This is also the time you should hire a photographer and/or videographer. Wedding photographers can get booked and busy 12-16 months in advance, so it’s best to lock them in. Whether you’re finding someone through recommendations or doing online research, don’t forget to browse their portfolios and choose one with a style that fits your vibe!

Next is deciding who you’d like to officiate your wedding, and make sure you’re aware of any state legal requirements. In Tennessee, an officiant must be a religious leader or certain type of government official. If you prefer someone more personal to officiate your wedding, we recommend getting legally married before your wedding day.

Now that you have some of your main details sorted out, it’s a good idea to start building your wedding website. It’s a great resource for your guests to reference and even host your RSVPs if you prefer they stay digital. And don’t worry, you don’t need any technical experience— there are so many free and beautiful options available that will walk you through the process, such as The Knot, Zola, Wedding Wire, and Minted.

4. Wedding Attire, Catering & Bar, Reception Entertainment, Save-the-Dates, Gift Registry

The next steps are some of the most fun: shopping for your dress or suit, booking your caterer, designing your save-the-dates, and building your registry!

There are so many options for wedding attire, especially in Nashville. From designer boutiques to off-the-rack discounts, finding something within your budget that aligns with your vision is definitely possible. It’s good to allow plenty of time for special orders or alterations.

When it comes to catering, decide what kind of food you’d like and start researching. Does your favorite restaurant offer catering? Would you prefer a traditional buffet or various food stations? Get a tasting in the books so you can move forward with hiring a vendor. If you aren’t sure where to begin, click here for some of our favorite tips to help you choose the best caterer for you. Here at Dream, we offer an array of different cuisines and will work with you to customize your menu.

Decide on your reception entertainment. Do you want a live band or a DJ playing for your favorite hits? Check your budget, research your options, and reach out for a few quotes to decide.

Next in your timeline should be your save-the-dates. With important details now ironed out, it’s time to let your guests know when your wedding is. You can order save-the-dates online, use a local stationery business, or even send digital ones if you’ve gathered everyone’s email addresses. There is no wrong way to go about it!

The last step at this time is building your gift registry. Think about everything you’d like or need for your home, ask guests to contribute to your honeymoon fund, or simply include gift cards to your favorite stores. If you do choose a traditional registry full of options, be sure to include gifts at various price points; some family and friends may want to splurge on you while others might be working with a budget. And if you and your partner don’t need or want gifts from your loved ones, consider asking them to donate to your favorite foundations as their gift.

Selection of Plated Hors d'Oeuvres

5. Invitation Research, Rehearsal Dinner, Honeymoon

Deciding what to do for your invitations should be the next task in your timeline. Depending on your budget, you may research local custom stationery businesses or you may find a website that helps you create your own. Either way, now is the time to make that choice, think through the design, and make sure you’re ready when the time comes to order them.

This should also be the time you establish a rehearsal dinner guest list and confirm the location. If another family member or future in-law is hosting this event, work with them to nail down these details so your planning stays on track. We have a list of the biggest questions most people have for planning a rehearsal dinner; click here to check it out.

While more couples are foregoing an immediate honeymoon after their wedding, it’s still very common to do so! If that is your plan, this is a great time in your planning process to research where you want to go, for how long, and how you’d like to spend your trip. Reserve any accommodations you need so those are locked down as well!

6. Design, Decor, Florist

And now another really fun part: choosing all of the design and decor details! Research rental vendors for linens, flatware, China, furniture, tables, and chairs— and make sure you know what your venue includes in your rental, if anything. Set appointments with vendors for lighting, draping, or anything you want for your design. You can place an order and reserve your date at this time, too, but it’s likely the order won’t be confirmed until you have a final guest count.

Schedule meetings with florists and bring your inspo pics so they have an idea of what you’re looking for. If you have your eye on someone specific already, keep in mind what time of year you’re getting married. For example, if your wedding is in September or October, you’ll want to book your florist sooner rather than later, and then confirm the details closer to the date. We recommend doing this about 6 to 9 months out from the wedding.

If you’ve hired a planner, they can help sort out all these details, plan the meetings, guide you through this busy but fun process, and most importantly: keep you on budget. Don’t hesitate to lean on them for creative guidance as well; after planning dozens of events, they’ll have a plethora of ideas to help make your vision a reality.

Flower Centerpiece on Tablescape

7. Hair & Makeup, Wedding Party Attire, Cake

The next step in the wedding planning timeline is to book a test run for your wedding day hair and makeup. Choose a hairdresser and makeup artist, decide on the look you’re going for, gather a few inspo pics, and see how you like it! Don’t hesitate to give feedback during this trial run because this is the time you’ll want to note any changes for the big day.

If you have a wedding party, now is the time to give them the information they need to get their attire—from bridesmaids to groomsmen, flower girls and ring bearers. Will they be wearing the same thing? Are you giving them guidelines but letting them choose themselves? 

And now for the most delicious step. Decide what you’d like to serve for dessert. Whether it’s a traditional wedding cake or dessert table, donut wall or cupcake tower, it’s time to schedule your tastings, decide on a design, and book your vendor.

8. Invitations, Wedding Bands, Insurance, Other Details

At this point, your wedding should be about 5 to 6 months out, and you’ll start getting some details wrapped up. The first thing to do 5 months before your wedding is to order your invitations. This will give you plenty of time to assemble them and address your envelopes before sending them out—which should be done at least 2 months out. It might be a good idea to order some extra, too, either for keepsake purposes or to make up for any mistakes in the assembly or addressing of envelopes.

Order your wedding bands around 4 months before your big day. It’s good to give yourself some leniency in case something is being custom-made or what you want is out of stock, or even if you need final adjustments for any reason. 

This is also the time you should think about the end of your wedding night. If you plan on having a special getaway car or hiring someone to drive you away, make sure you book your date so it’s locked in. And while you’re at it, reserve your wedding night accommodations, if you plan on having any! Getting these things reserved a couple months out will ensure a smooth night after exiting your reception.

Now is also when you should consider event insurance. While there are different policies to choose from, adding insurance for your event helps protect the investment you’ve put into it. It can help cover some costs, like if you unexpectedly need to cancel or are found responsible for any damage or an injury during your wedding. Do some research and find a policy that works best for you!

Wedding Invitation Suite

9. Final Details

There are so many little details to finalize before your wedding day. It might seem a lot, but now is the time to lean on your planner or others for help to finish ticking these boxes.

First and foremost, collect your RSVPs and finalize your guest count. Once you do that, you can confirm your quantities for China, flatware, glassware, and other rentals—as well as confirm your final menu and how much food you need. 

Your guest count will also help you finalize your seating chart so you can then order your remaining paper goods, such as table numbers, escort cards, and any other signage. Don’t forget to order your guestbook and a few new pens, too!

Finalize your ceremony program and make sure they’re ordered. Designate ushers to walk guests to their seats. Confirm who, if anyone, will be reading a passage during your ceremony, as well as anyone else who might be involved.

And last, but most definitely not least, get your marriage license! Every state has different requirements, so be sure to read up on yours. Click here to read how to get a license in Nashville.


Photos by Jen Creed and John Myers Photography.