Booking The Big 5
By Dedreanna Drost
From The Premiere Issue Of Weddings New Brunswick
Congratulations! You’ve secured the ring and you’re ready to start planning the big day! Your “just engaged” selfie has been posted, your Pinterest board is full, and you may be wondering where to begin this exciting wedding planning journey. Fear not, gorgeous one- we’ve got your back!
Before you book anything, your budget needs to be determined, your guest count decided, and you should have an idea of when you want the wedding to happen. You probably won’t have an exact guest list created so soon into your planning, but having a general idea of how many will attend is important. I recommend choosing a few possible dates in your season of choice. Having your heart set on only one day means a chance that some of your preferred vendors may not be available.
Once your budget, a general guest count, and date range is set, the fun really begins- booking the vendors!
There are 5 main things that you want to book ASAP to ensure they will all be available for your big day.
Your choice in venue will set the tone for your entire wedding, which makes this one of the most important things to book first. Many venues take bookings 1-2 years in advance, so your hunt for the perfect location should begin as soon as your budget and guest count is set. What vibe do you want your dream wedding to have? Are you thinking of a formal black tie affair, a breezy beach ceremony, a rustic barn dance, or a casual party? You should know what style wedding you want, and what your venue will be before you start buying attire, décor and florals.
When contacting venues, it’s important to let them know your budget and general guest count immediately, so they can provide the best options for your event. Many locations have several different wedding packages to choose from, and may even be able to make customizations tailored to your needs. If possible, taking a tour of the location before booking it is really important, as photos don’t always showcase everything you’ll want to see. Prepare a list of questions to ask beforehand so you don’t forget anything.
I would recommend asking what exactly their wedding packages include (decor, food, linens, gratuity etc,) and what kind of deposit is required. It’s also important to ask what their cancellation policy is and what the last date is to make any changes to the contract. Even though the wedding is going to be centred on you and your significant other, don’t forget any special requests or needs your guests may have. If needed, make sure the venue is accessible, and if food is included, ask if there are options catered to special diets like vegan, gluten free, or allergies. If your wedding is being held outside, ask if they have a tent, or an indoor room to use in case of rain. If your wedding is indoors it’s also important to ask what kind of heating or air conditioning the room will have depending on the season.
While you’re touring venues, see if you can meet with the actual event coordinator or any staff that will be present on the big day. It’s important to make sure they understand your vision and that you are comfortable doing business with them. Reading reviews beforehand or talking to other couples who’ve tied the knot there is a good way to see if they’re a great venue to work with. Tour a few different locations, but don’t wait too long to book one or you might miss out on your perfect date.
Around the same time that you’re looking at venues, you should also be looking for a photographer. The main thing to remember when hiring a photographer is that you’re going to have to look at these photos for the rest of your life. No pressure, right? In all seriousness, hiring a professional photographer that fits your style and vision is SO important. Do you prefer fun candid photos, or polished and posed? Maybe a combination of both? If you don’t already have a photographer in mind, take time to look at some websites and social media pages to get an idea of what you like. All photographers have their own shooting and editing style, so viewing photos of weddings they’ve already done is important. Like venues, good photographers also tend to book at least a year in advance, so this isn’t something you want to put off until last minute.
Once you’ve found a few that you like, contact them for availability, packages and pricing. Find out how many hours of coverage is included, and if they have a second shooter. Also make sure you’re clear on whether or not the price includes prints or digital copies, and how many. Before booking, try to meet with them in person, or at the very least talk to them on the phone. You’re going to be spending your entire day with your photographer, so feeling comfortable with them is important. I highly recommend starting a Pinterest board, or folder on your computer of “must have” wedding photos, so you aren’t forgetting any on the big day. Chances are, your wedding party is going to be better at selfies than posing for wedding photos, so see if your photographer minds directing and posing people.
Once the photographer and venue is booked, it’s (mostly) smooth sailing going forward! Now you can focus on the details- florals, décor, catering and cake.
For my wedding, I was a total DIY bride and decided to make my own centrepieces. I ordered a ton of baby’s breathe from Costco with the intent on making the boutonnieres and table centrepieces the night before the wedding. At our rehearsal dinner, the stress and panic set in, and I ended up crying in the kitchen over a box of pizza until my bridesmaids and the mothers swooped in to save the night. They sat with me in our suite and worked their magic until everything was perfect. Long story short, unless you’re significantly more organized than I was, I suggest hiring a florist.
Before booking a florist, have an idea of how much you want to spend. Do you just need flowers for the wedding party, or do you want the full shebang with centrepieces, throwing petals, pew markers, guest book table flowers and an archway? Take some time to find photos of arrangements that you like, and see if your florist can recreate something similar within your budget. Visiting wedding shows is a great way to check out local florists and see examples of their work. Most florists can only do one wedding per weekend, so it’s important to book them as soon as possible to make sure they’re available on your date. Along with florals, ask if they offer décor for rent, like pillars, vases, candle holders, etc. Also, make sure to find out if they deliver and set up, or if someone is expected to pick everything up that weekend.
I mentioned above that I was a DIY bride and that included décor. The months leading up to the wedding had nights full of hot glue accidents and multiple trips to craft stores and party supply shops. In the end, we spent probably the same amount on DIY supplies as we would have spent hiring a professional. The night before our rehearsal dinner, we loaded our truck FULL of totes containing linens and décor, and headed off to our wedding weekend. We ended up hiring a day-of coordinator who picked up the decor the morning of the wedding, set everything up and took it down after. She was amazing! I loved that I didn’t have to bother my family and friends with decorating, and they were able to relax and enjoy the weekend with us. My only regret is not hiring full event planning and décor services.
The reason this is one of the main 5 things to book first, is because like the other services mentioned, good event planners book up quickly, and can probably only do one event per weekend. These are the people that will help bring your vision to life, so you don’t want to wait too long to book them. They will most likely have several packages to choose from, which may include anything from basic day-of setting up, to full rental and decorating services. If you aren’t sure what your vision is, they can help you define it.
Catering and Cake
One of the best pre-wedding activities to check off your list is food tasting! Getting to try delicious food will distract you from the fact that this is probably going to be one of the most expensive vendors you book. If food is not included in house at your venue, you’ll need to find a caterer that fits your theme and budget. Do you need catering for just the reception meal, or do you also want hors d’oeuvres for cocktail hour and a midnight snack? If you’re having a formal wedding, you may want to choose a more traditional plated meal. If your wedding is quirky and relaxed, perhaps a fun food truck is the way to go. If there’s one thing guests remember about a wedding reception, it’s if they enjoyed the food or not, so you want to make sure you book early enough to get something great.
As I mentioned earlier, you need to find out if your guests have any special dietary needs or allergies, and make sure your caterer is able to accommodate. The last thing you want is for your uncle Jim to go into anaphylactic shock during the first dance because he accidentally ate shellfish- so finding out about allergies is crucial.
Your caterer may have bakers that they work with for wedding cakes, or you may need to search for one on your own. I would recommend saving photos of cakes you like and finding a baker that can meet your vision. Cake tasting is both fun, and super important because there will be a lot of different flavours and fillings to choose from. If cake isn’t your thing, think outside the box and try something different. I’ve seen wedding cakes replaced with cupcakes, donuts, pie, cake balls, etc, and they were all equally delicious. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re hiring a professional. This is not the time to enlist your baby cousin who thinks they’re the Cake Boss to bake your cake if they have no experience.
Throughout the wedding planning process, remember to have fun, and relax (easier said than done, I know). After these 5 things are booked, everything will fall into place, and you’ll be on your way to the wedding of your dreams.