What vendors to book first in your wedding planning

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San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, Wedding planning and what vendors to book first

If you’ve just started your wedding planning, you’re probably wondering, “Where the heck do I even begin?!” Not to worry – I gotchu! Here are the first 5 vendors (in order) you should hire for your upcoming wedding!

Once you step down from the cloud of being engaged, reality hits, and everyone starts pressuring you to begin with the wedding plans. But how do you even start? Unless you are a wedding expert, you probably have a million questions on your mind. I can tell you that weddings are all about professional vendors; without them, you are lost. 

The first step to organizing a successful wedding is always to find the right vendors, but there is a slight trick because you should book them in a certain order if you want to have stress-free planning. And you might be wondering how is that even possible? What could go wrong if I book my catering service first and my venue last? You might find the perfect wedding venue, but come to find out they might only allow their preferred vendors to work with their couples (not a bad thing, but can sometimes limit you if you want a more customized approach). That being said, It’s good to know what order to book vendors, and any potential requirements each might have so you can make an informed decision! 

If know you are stressing at all or just plain curious about figuring out what vendor to hire first, I’m excited to share my a few of my tips as a Northern California and destination wedding photographer so that your upcoming wedding planning runs smoothly and stress-free. 

San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, Wedding planning and what vendors to book first

#1 Wedding planner / wedding coordinator

This is not a must for every couple, but if you know time is an issue for you due to your lifestyle, then my advice is to find a wedding planner first. Why first? Well, because the duties of a wedding planner start on day one. Let me tell you – a wedding planner and coordinator will help manager literally everything for you and carry the burden so you don’t have to! Your wedding planner will take into account your vision, look and feel for your celebration, and will also take into consideration your budget, the size of your event, the guest list, and will start working on finding the next vendors to form your wedding dream team!

*If* a wedding planner is not on your budget, at the very least, I would highly recommend hiring a month-of or a day of wedding coordinator so you can leave someone to manage the vendors, guests, the event setup and decorations, and have them handle any potential inconveniences on the day of your wedding. Trust me on this one – even if you are super organized, handing off the reigns of your wedding to a coordinator is key so you can ultimately enjoy every moment of your wedding day to the fullest!


San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, Wedding planning and what vendors to book first

#2 Wedding venue 

Next up is your wedding venue, which is not only your main vendor but also the one that takes most of your budget. Depending on your faith, you might even celebrate your ceremony in the same venue as your reception. So, it is pretty much where every moment of your wedding will happen. Finding the right venue takes some time, and if you want to have many options, you need to start looking for it at least a year before your wedding day.  

Your wedding venue sets the tone for the type of wedding you will host, the size of your event, and even the list of vendors you must hire after. I advise you to have a defined season and style for your wedding before visiting wedding venues because you might fall in love with a venue that doesn’t work for your winter wonderland vision. Still, it looked gorgeous to you since you visited during the summer. 

Finding a wedding venue for your wedding that fulfills your needs is crucial. Consider the style, the capacity, the services, and the accessibility. If you have children or elderly guests, you need to make sure they will be safe and that there are accessible entrances and bathrooms. Check if the venue has enough parking or valet service and ask about what is included in the package they offer. They often offer limited services and require you to hire rentals to personalize the event. 

Don’t forget to ask about their cancelation policy, insurance requirements, and if they allow you to hire any other vendors for décor or if they have a preferred vendor list. Once you know what’s included, you can hire the remaining vendors. It is important to have the venue secured because all your other wedding vendors will ask about the location and size of your event to quote. 


San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, Wedding planning and what vendors to book first

#3 Photographer 

You probably have heard before that wedding goes by so fast; all those months of planning disappear in the blink of an eye, and you are left with many precious memories and, of course, your wedding photos. Finding the right wedding photographer for your vision could be hard, but trust me, if you start soon, you can take your time and make sure you book someone who understands you. 

When looking for a wedding photographer, you should look into their previous work and ask how comfortable they feel working within your location or wedding venue. If you are planning a destination wedding, you should start looking for your wedding photographer at least a year before the wedding. 

Three things you should consider when looking for the right wedding photographer:

Ask to see FULL wedding galleries of a wedding photographer’s work! The key here is – do you like what you see and what they have to offer from start to finish? You should be looking for how a photographer is able to navigate challenging lighting scenarios, and also their ability to capture emotions in the moment as they unfold!

In this post-COVID era, we’ve all learned how necessary it is to have a backup plan B, C, D, etc. Ask your potential vendor what their reschedule and cancellation policy is, and if they include this info in their contract. If your potential vendor has a solid contract with elements like this in place to protect both you and their business, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands!

This one is a bit more objective, but…ask yourself, “Do I ✨vibe✨ with this person?” Truth be told, your wedding photographer will most likely be the one vendor you spend the MAJORITY of your wedding day with! That being said, they should be someone that makes you feel comfortable and at ease, and helps you with any of those anxious camera jitters. They should also be someone who will give you tons of encouragement, guidance, and direction with various poses/promptings that illicit candid movement for that photojournalistic look so many couples are opting for these days.


San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, Wedding planning and what vendors to book first

#4 Caterer 

Once you have the wedding venue of your dreams and know exactly the type of wedding you are hosting, it is time to find the right caterer to match your expectations. Professional catering services book quickly; make sure you start looking for one when you secure your wedding venue. But why do you need the venue first, you might ask; the main reason is you need to know if the venue includes catering and if they allow you to choose any vendor or if you must stick to their preferred vendors. 


#5 Entertainment 

Finally, the fifth of your main wedding vendors is your entertainer. This could mean a wedding DJ, a live band, or any other vendor that will keep your guests busy and having fun during your wedding. Think about photo booths, lawn games, casino tables, and the list. Entertainment is key for a successful wedding because you don’t want your guests to be sitting all night; you organize your amazing San Francisco wedding to have the most memorable time with your loved ones, and music is a part of it. 

When you meet your potential entertainment vendors, you must talk about space, timing, and power requirements. When you hire a live band, they usually need plenty of space and time to set up, while a DJ might be easier to fit into any space. And if you hire an equipped wedding venue, they usually have capabilities to power their equipment. If you organize a wedding at home, you might need to rent a power supply. 

There you have them, your five main wedding vendors, and the right order to hire them so that your San Francisco wedding is a dream come true. If you just got engaged or are taking the first steps to organize your wedding, you now know how to do it right. And if you are still looking for your Northern California wedding photographer for your San Francisco wedding, I’m ready to start this adventure with you. I can also capture every special moment of your destination wedding, so stop thinking about it and let’s meet to plan the perfect photos for your upcoming wedding. 



Want to learn more about what a wedding experience is like with me? Check out my Weddings page to learn more!

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