Maybe you’ve been dreaming of your perfect wedding ever since you can remember. Maybe the thought never popped into your mind until a ring popped out of nowhere! Regardless, this is SUCH an exciting time, if a little hectic.

We’re with you! We aren’t born magically knowing how to plan a wedding, and we totally understand that it might be a daunting task. After all, there are lots of people working together to make your big day a huge success. But how do you get to that day? How do you get everyone together?

The biggest steps you will take during your wedding planning journey will be booking your vendors. And your vendors are important. Like…super important! Your wedding vendor team will work to bring your vision to life, so choosing someone who matches your style and who can help your ideas turn into reality is so, so important when curating a magical day celebrating something incredible—your love for each other. Here’s a guideline that will be helpful to keep in mind as you consider wedding vendors. Booking them ahead of time will guarantee that you get the pros who can make your day happen!

1. Wedding Planner

When: 12 months out

First and foremost, you will want to hire your wedding planner, extraordinaire! Not everyone chooses to go this route, but for those who do want some added assistance and someone to worry about the details for them, a wedding planner is a fantastic resource. They can give you vendor suggestions and sometimes even have connections that can score your referral rates! If you are looking for a wedding planner to help you through the whole process, you’ll want to book them at the very beginning of your wedding journey. If you’re just looking for someone to coordinate the day of, you can start looking 6-8 months before the “I do’s.”


2. Venue

When: 12 months out

Once you’ve gotten your wedding planner, you’ll want to start checking out venues. Typically, you’ll want to book your spot at least a year in advance, maybe more if it’s a very lucrative or popular venue. This will help you narrow down date options, which you will need in order to hire the rest of your fabulous crew!

3. Caterer

When: 10-12 months out

About 10 months away from the big day, you’ll want to start talking to caterers. If you can, set up a time to taste a few of their dishes! Make sure you look at reviews—you don’t want to book a caterer who is notorious for running behind. Hungry guests will sometimes leave before they get the chance to enjoy your reception.

4. Photographer

When: 10-12 months out

Like your caterer, you’ll want to book your photographer anywhere from 12-9 months out from your wedding. They will occasionally have a random day available, but if you want your choice date, the sooner you get in contact with a photographer, the better! Most photographers will also help you organize your day. The good ones will offer sample schedules. It’s a smart idea to consider these options! They will suggest timelines they have seen work over and over again. If you don’t have a photographer yet, just shoot us an e-mail! We’d love to chat about options or even capture your wedding for you.


5. Music/DJ

When: 9 months out

Nine months is a busy timeframe. There are quite a few things that can happen here. First, though, you’ll want to secure your DJ, band, or other form of music or entertainment (don’t forget about music during the ceremony!). If you have someone you love, the sooner you can book them, the better. Popular entertainment vendors and bands can easily fill a schedule up for the next nine months.

6. The Dress


When: 12-9 months

Okay, so the dress isn’t a wedding vendor, but the boutique at which you buy it, is! Even though they won’t be at your wedding (I mean, unless you become BFFs with your stylist), they are a huge part in the overall feel and theme of your wedding! Why? Well because the attire, of course. If you find your dress at a non-chain bridal shop, chances are that your dress actually needs to be special ordered and handmade. Yep, you heard me right. Handmade. This process can take a very long time, especially during busy season! So, if you want the most options possible, try looking for dresses a year to nine months before the big day. This will give you plenty of time for alterations, which brings me to number seven.

7. Seamstress

When: As soon as you order your dress

This little detail often gets overlooked, but your dress probably needs alterations. I can count on my hand the number of seamstresses I know who can tackle a wedding dress. There are a select few talented seamstresses and tailors—they book up quickly. AS SOON as you have your dress, as your bridal consultant for an estimated arrival date. Then, call your preferred seamstress and book an alterations appointment for two or three weeks after that date. While you’re on the phone, have them block out a chunk of time a month or two before your wedding for your bridesmaids to get in, too! They will thank you later.


8. Florist

When: 9 months out

I told you things would start to get a little busier during this 8-9 month window! The florist also falls into this category. Make sure you know what is included in your venue so you can anticipate how you’ll want to dress up the space.

9. Videographer

When: 9 months out

Similarly to photographers and entertainment providers, videographers can fill up those popular wedding dates quite early. Depending on your area, film might be more or less prevalent, so you should book your videographer somewhere in the 6-9 month window. Check with your photographer first, though! You’ll occasionally find a photographer that also offers videography (like us), which can wind up saving you some money when booked as a bundle.

10. Hotels

When: 8 months out

If you have lots of guests traveling to your wedding who will need a place to stay, check in with local hotels or b&b’s about group rates! This is information you will want to know before you hire your stationery designer (or design your invitations on your own) so you can include this in your invites.

11. Officiant

When: 8 months out

You have a little bit more freedom when it comes to booking an officiant, especially if they are someone who will naturally be coming to your wedding anyway. However, if you are looking for an officiant, you’ll want to start checking them out around eight months away from the big day.

12. Stationery Designer/Calligraphist

When: 7 months out

Your stationery designer and/or calligraphist should be booked no later than 7 months out. This isn’t necessarily because they will be booked already, but because you will need to have your stationery ready to send fairly soon after this point. This might be even sooner if you want this designer to also create your save-the-dates. Lastly, if you are having a destination wedding, you’ll want to send your invites a little earlier than normal (5-6 months out) to give people enough time to request vacation and plan a trip.

13. Hair & Make Up Artists

When: 6 months out

Don’t forget about H&MU! It’s important to book your H&MU artist about six months out. This gives you time for multiple trials so that you can choose a bridal look you are confident with. Booking one of these talented folks too late might mean that you just have to trust their creative judgement on your big day.


14. Cake Designer

When: 6 months out

If you have a fabulous cake baker that you are excited about, by all means (like all of these vendors) book them as soon as you can. If you don’t have a preferred vendor, you wait until around six months away from the vows to book your cake baker. Be sure to schedule a time to taste some samples before going with a flavor option!

15. Wedding Party Attire

When: 5 months out

Remember that lovely bridal shop where you found “the one?” (Not your soon-to-be-spouse, but the other equally important component to walking down the aisle—your dress.) Well, you’ll probably want to schedule a time to take all your gals in and select a bridesmaids dress. Your consultant can make the best suggestions, but like your wedding dress, the best bridesmaids gowns will be handmade and can take quite a bit of time to come in. Once they do come in, your lovely ladies will need to have them altered to fit perfectly. This can take another 4-6 weeks, so shopping for your bridesmaids dresses 5-6 months early is a smart move.

16. Transportation

When: 5 months out

Trolly? Limo? Horse-drawn carriage? Vintage caddy? Whatever you decide to use for transportation to your wedding, you’ll want to book it about five months from your wedding date.

17. Travel Consultant

When: 5 months out

If you fell in love with having a wedding planner take care of all the nitty-gritty wedding details, you’ll probably want to talk to a travel consultant for the same reason. They will be able to coordinate your honeymoon without the headache you might get from doing it alone. Plus, referral rates are always an amazing bonus! AND travel consultants should be able to give you the low-down on the best places and the best times so your honeymoon feels like a dream.


18. Jeweler

When: 4 months out

Wedding bands! A tiny, yet huge detail. You’ll want to talk to a jeweler or artist about your rings about 4 months or so from your big day. You have a little more flexibility if you decide to get your wedding bands from a store, but the process of selecting a wedding band can take a little time. After all, you are choosing a piece of jewelry you will wear for the rest of your life. If you start searching about 4 months out, you’ll have time to chose the perfect set AND get it sized so it’s good to go when you walk down the aisle.

If you follow these date guidelines, you’ll be in great shape and be able to secure some amazing vendors who can transform your vision into the BEST. DAY. EVER. Cheers to wedding planning and good luck on this crazy, amazing journey. As always, let us know if we can help!




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Sunstone villa flanked by olive trees--a wedding venue in Santa Ynez, Calfornia built with old-world, European charm

In the world of California venues, there are many that take your breath and offer a luxurious space to enjoy your day. Sunstone is one of the most iconic. Noted for it’s old-world charm and homey interior, this space feels less like you’re getting married at an estate and more like you’re getting married at home. Your very, very beautiful, Tuscan-inspired home.

Black and white editorial wedding photograph of bride and groom. Groom is wearing a black tuxedo and standing int he shadow. Bride is wearing a white wedding dress and standing in the sun. Yin and Yang wedding photos.

Nestled just to the east of the Napa River, this beautiful resort is home to a variety of modern farmhouse-inspired suites and bungalows, intermixed through the grape vines. Guests enjoy the privacy of their own lodgings with the ease of a weekend together, making this spot an ideal home base for a weekend of festivities. Accessible from three airports, Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento, Stanly Ranch is ideal for relaxed destination weddings.

As a wedding photographer, I am asked over and over how much film I shot at weddings, etc. Short answer? I wasn’t. But now I think this is a small joy I’ll continue granting myself.

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