Why You Totally Need an Engagement Photo Session

If you’ve ever been invited to a wedding, at some point in the process you probably received a “Save the Date” card in the mail. That card is sent out before the invitations, roughly 6-8 months prior to the wedding date. Many couples choose to be informal and use one of their engagement photos for the background along with general wedding details. But that’s not the only reason why you totally need an engagement photo session prior to your wedding…

Wedding Planner Tip: It's super important to schedule an engagement session with your photographer before the wedding. Read our blog to hear why this needs to be on your to-do list and get inspiration for your own photos!

**Please note there are affiliate links within this blog post which means I may receive a small percentage of the price at no additional cost to you. No worries though, as I never endorse anything I don’t absolutely love**

As a wedding planner, I am always encouraging my couples to schedule an engagement session with their wedding photographer. Besides the fact that you’ll receive great photos of the two of you, there are multiple other benefits to consider. There are also things to consider as well as some misconceptions that I am going to share in this blog. If you are engaged and on the fence about setting up an engagement session, not sure about the details or just totally clueless, then read on!

How To Create Your Wedding Day Guest List

As a wedding planner, I have personally witnessed couples lose their minds so much that eloping sounded like the best idea ever. These meltdows didn’t happen while looking for a venue or the perfect wedding gown though. In fact, that hard stuff is really nothing compared to the endless hours it takes most couples to figure out how to create their wedding day guest list.

Determining a guest list for a wedding is one of the more annoying tasks in life. It’s right up there with filing your taxes and getting your passport renewed. You’d think it would be easy since it’s simply listing people you want to spend time with. But it’s so much more than that.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!
Timothy Glenn Photography

There are plenty of charts and guides to help you decide which people make the cut, but it’s not just about inviting someone because they invited you to their wedding. Regardless of your invite rules, there will always be exceptions to juggle.  Combine that with the people your parents would like to are making you invite, and pretty soon it’s a three ring circus.

But you can avoid flying through the air without a net by eliminating the guests with toxic behavioral traits. In my most recent YouTube vlog seen here, I talk about these guests, so make sure you check that out. Identifying people you know with these horrible traits (and not inviting them) is how to create your guest list for your wedding day. Sadly, sometimes that won’t be possible…

Below are the 10 types of people not to invite to your wedding, and what to do if they show up anyway (because sometimes that happens):

1. The Thunder Stealer

You probably already know the exact person in your life that would not think twice about making your wedding day about them. These are the guests that think nothing of proposing during your reception or taking a pregnancy test in the bathroom and asking your MC to announce the results. Maybe this doesn’t make your skin crawl, but I personally think it’s tacky and would’ve gone full on linebacker had this happened at my own wedding.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

While it might not be possible to keep this person off the invite list, you should make sure they aren’t in your wedding party. Nothing makes taking the spotlight away easier than standing next to the people who are in it all day. Assuming they are just a guest, make sure it’s known how you feel about those “bouquet and garter tosses turn wedding proposal” videos you’ve seen.

Then take it one step further and instruct whomever controls the microphone to not allow anyone to use it except for those you know about. In advance.

Oh you’re pregnant? Sorry, can’t hear you.

2. The Guest That Wants You To Fix Everything

This helpless soul makes you wonder how they survive getting through the day. Prior to the wedding, they might ask how they should get a hotel room when the block is full. Meanwhile, it’s full because they procrastinated and missed the cutoff date. During the wedding they could expect you to fix everything from an incorrect food order to your sister’s attitude problem.

There are several ways to prevent having to hold this person’s hand while simultaneously planning and/or enjoying (God Forbid) your wedding day. In the instance of a hotel block, make sure that your RSVP date coincides with the date that the hotel rooms will be released. You can read more about how to do that here in my wedding planning timeline blog.

From not securing their hotel room in the block you set up, to expecting you to handle their super specific vegan, gluten-free, no carbs entrée request, there is nothing they will not ask of you. This is why you make sure that they ask someone else. Discuss, in advance, whom is responsible for handling Aunt Sally’s complaints about everything under the sun.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

3. The Photographer

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how wedding guests lose all common sense when it comes to taking pictures at a wedding. I have seen wedding guests turn into Stretch Armstrong and reach across an aisle to take the picture of the couple’s first kiss. Meanwhile, they completely blocked the photographer and now he doesn’t have one of the shots you really wanted.

Thanks Aunt Sally.

It’s impossible to keep these people off your invite list (because it’s everybody), but you can take preventative measures. Consider having an “unplugged” wedding, where guests are asked to not take pictures. If that is too extreme, you should at least do this for your ceremony. You can guide your guests with signage, notes in the program and even announcements made by your officiant and MC.

[tweetshare tweet=”Most importantly, communicate to your guests that no pictures are to be posted onto social media until you and your spouse want them to be.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]This can mean no posting until the reception as long as they use your hashtag, to nothing posted until you get your professional photos back. Guests should respect your wishes here, but they need to know what those wishes are.

4. The Illiterate RSVPer

Somehow, sending back the RSVP card is basically the absolute hardest thing in the world for some people. When you create your guest list, this is a personality that will be tough to avoid. In fact, you probably can already guess which people will fail at RSVPing correctly. Now add 10 more people to that list to even come close to being accurate.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!
Justin Tinapay Photography

I have seen cards come back without names on them, with additional guests added (up to 5), questions handwritten to the couple and just missing information in general. Everytime I see a response card come back late and/or with missing and/or incorrect information, I am reminded why certain warning labels exist.

Be sure to develop a wedding website where guests can constantly access information and put the web address on your Save The Dates. The invitations should have all of the information needed but be designed in a way that is easy to read. If you’re having a black tie wedding without children, putting that in fine print buried under calligraphy is a great way to get people showing up in jeans with their little ones in tow.

Once you receive the responses, both the late ones and ones missing information, reach out to those people immediately. One week prior to your RSVP date, call every single person that you don’t have a response from yet. You’ll get the inevitable “but the RSVP date isn’t until….” nonsense, but you can’t wait until then to call so just ignore it.

5. The Passive Aggressive Guest

Maybe it’s just me, but nothing makes my head explode more than someone being passive aggressive. I’m a super direct person and it’s challenging to call these people out since their response is frequently “I didn’t mean it like that”.

When you know they did.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

A passive aggressive wedding guest will express themselves during your wedding planning by using words like “interesting” to describe your venue, your dress, your everthing. It’s not a negative comment but it’s also not positive and needs to exit stage left from your guest list.

When they aren’t commenting on how interesting everything is, they are side-stepping you by calling your mom to confide in her about how your lack of a “plus one” option has hurt their feelings. They always make sure to preface everything with “don’t tell” while full knowing that it will be told to you. Which, of course, wasn’t their intention…except it was.

If you can’t leave this person off the guest list, you have two options about how to deal with them. You can choose to appease them in their requests delivered third hand through your mom and just let it roll off your back. However, if you know this will start bothering you, anticipate the behavior and let mom (or whomever) know that you expect them to diffuse the situation and not take it you. It is very important that you have a support system while planning your wedding, so ask for one.

6. The Competitor

Know someone that just got married? Do they consider themselves a wedding expert? Are they always reminding you how fabulous their wedding was? Leave them off your wedding guest list.

Look, it’s fine to look back on your wedding day and how perfect it was. However, recent brides (and even some grooms) can take it to Level 11 by giving you a steady stream of unsolicited advice and then backing it up with evidence from their own flawless wedding day. If you’re able to roll your eyes and laugh with your fiance about this, then just ignore it. If not, you can limit your interaction leading up to the wedding day as well as on the actual day of.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

On the flip side of that is the bride that offers advice to you based on the mistakes she made that she doesn’t want you to make. I’m a big believer in not giving advice unless it’s asked for, so if this scenario bothers you, speak up. You don’t have to be a mean girl about it either, and a simple “thanks, we’re good so far but will let you know if we need anything” will suffice.

When designing your seating chart (a whole separate type of hell), place this person with people she either knows and that can handle her, or with people she doesn’t know at all. If she is with people she doesn’t know, she might think twice about talking about how fabulous her own wedding was while attending yours.

7a. The Guest That Doesn’t Care Where She Sits (Except She Does)

If you haven’t reached the point in your planning where you are designing your seating chart, it’s not possible for you to imagine how tortorous it can be. Somewhat of a juggling act, you’ll have to contend with people that don’t like each other, people that don’t know each other and people that will be offended if they aren’t sitting near you. Those are just three of the hurdles.

A little different than the passive aggressive wedding guest, this person is only concerned about one thing and it’s where she is sitting. Some of my couples have told me stories of guests asking where they would be sitting before the invitations were even sent out. Presumptious much?

Passively, this guest will tell you that it doesn’t matter one bit what table she is located at, but just in case you were curious, here are 40 places she would prefer not to be. Unlike the next example, she will sit where she is told, but best believe you will know she isn’t happy about it. This is also another reason not to have a receiving line aka an assembly line of complaints passed off as concerns by your guests.

It’s always a good idea to leave whiny brats off your guest list in general. If you find yourself contending with one and stuck in a conversation of where an appropriate seat for her would be, how you react will set the tone going forward. If you can brush it off, just do that and go about your business of wedding planning. If you can’t, depending on your relationship, you can either be upfront with how this discussion is stressing you out or you can use sarcasm and suggest a seat on her couch for the evening.

7b. The Guest That Plays Musical Chairs

While the guest mentioned above has a full understanding of sitting where you’re supposed to sit, this guest is YOLO about the situation. On many occassions, I have been approached by guests that when they walk over to me look like they are going into combat. As I hold the seating chart in my hands during the cocktail hour, many want to know where they are sitting, especially if they can’t find their escort cards.

But then there are those guests that aren’t satisfied with the answer. Instead of looking at the escort board or cards on their own, they usually want to see the list I am holding which shows each table and the names of the guests at each one. Typically, I just ask this guest whom they are looking for, tell them the people at their own table and call it a day.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!
Justin Tinapay Photography

Whatever the approach, many guests have asked (rather, told) me to switch their seat. It never matters how hard the couple worked to create the seating chart or that it’s their wedding and their call. It also never seems to matter that this could affect the place settings, the food orders, or anything else. They just need to be moved and never tell me why.

Spoiler alert: I have never moved a guest. Ever.

Do not feel pressured to cave to this guest’s immature and unreasonable request. Should they approach you directly or through someone else, you say nothing more than “I will see what I can do.” Then do nothing. The bottom line is, this guest is an adult and they can find ways to avoid the table unless it’s time for dinner by visiting the dance floor or the bar.

Not your circus, not your monkeys.

8. The Really Bad Gift Giver

I’m probably going to catch a lot of flak for this, but let’s go there anyway.

When you are planning your wedding, part of the floor chart for your reception will include the placement of the gift table. This is typically a small table, anywhere from 30-48” (or if you’re a certain bride of mine, 6 feet and she’s lucky I adore her). On this table, you will place a card box/birdcage for guests to place their cards of well wishes.

Typically, this table is near the cake table and sweetheart table, and there is no room for large packages. However, some people think a card and a check is just unacceptable and that you would much prefer a hand cut, 450 pound, crystal Waterford vase that looks like something in your grandmother’s house that she got at her wedding. This box will also come wrapped in really tacky and usually reflective wrapping paper.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

Being that the gift table is only available during the reception (usually), there is no opportunity for guests to drop their cards until that time. This means they will carry it with them during the ceremony and the cocktail hour. Envelopes fit easily inside purses and suit pockets. Not so much in the case of the vase that you don’t need.

To avoid watching Aunt Betty (because let’s give Sally a break) walk around with a package that seems so heavy her hips might break, hide all of your wedding registries the day of your bridal shower.

Guests sometimes refer to these registries when they want to actually give you something and when they see they no longer exist one of two things will happen:

  1. They ask your mom (sorry moms) what happened and what to get you. Prepare mom to say something like “they’re all set really/honestly a check will be just fine.” Be prepared to say the exact same thing should you be asked directly. You might still get a gift, but at least you tried to avoid it and hopefully the receipt is included.

Or

  1. They shrug their shoulders and just go the check in card route.

Of course, there is also the option of having a registry for your honeymoon through sites like Honeyfund where guests can purchase excursions and such for you in advance. If you think your guest list is chock full of people that have to buy something because a check is so not personal (like my mother), consider setting up something like this so that everyone’s happy.

9. The Financial Analyst

Weddings are expensive and even though people never like to talk about money, that awkwardness about the subject seems to vaporize when people want to know what you spent on the big day. Whether it’s a direct question or beating around the bush, you will likely have a guest or two want to know what everything cost.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

Now, to be fair, many wedding guests want to know what you spent per plate so that they can cover that cost in their gift/check in card. However, with some venues starting at the $200 per person plus plus mark, it’s not likely that information will help as I know of few wedding guests cutting $400 and $500 checks.

For whatever reason, you will be seen as rude if you don’t answer “how much were these flowers?”. There isn’t one good reason to give an answer and you wouldn’t believe how offended some guests get when they found out what you spent. I mean, no one is questioning the amount of money Aunt Sally is spending on her sterling silver collection, so…

Dance around these questions with non-answers. If you’re still planning, then just say that the final bill hasn’t come out yet. Follow it up with a playful, “Why? Do you want to cover it?” That should shut it down moving forward.

When the questions come past the point of knowing what everything costs, say anything but a number. Phrases like “we got such a good deal”, “so much less than we thought” and “I can’t even remember anymore” are good pacifiers. But never ever give a number and remind yourself that it is inappropriate for anyone to ask in the first place.

10. The Drunk

It happens. It’s a wedding. Weddings have open bars (the good ones at least). You can’t keep this person off your guest list, but you can keep the wedding going without being kicked out. Assuming this drunk or the drunks are friendly and not bitter angry drunks that want to smash centerpieces, here are a few preventative measures to take:

  1. Give a head’s up about guests you’re worried about to your venue, the catering staff and anyone handling liquor such as the bartenders. Make sure you understand the shot policy and that they have the right to cut people off, and make sure they know you would like that strongly enforced.
  2. If there isn’t a “no shot” policy, make it one
  3. Don’t service any alcohol prior to your ceremony.
  4. Keep these people out of your wedding party if possible.
  5. Have a strict list of people that are allowed to use the microphone and give a copy to your MC, wedding planner and venue coordinator. No toasts unless you’re on the list.
  6. Ask a few people close to you to keep an eye on anyone you’re worried about and if they see things getting out of control to speak to the coordinators about how to handle the situation.

Designing your guest list can be a nightmare and should be one of the first items on your to-do list. If there are guests you are on the fence about, push them onto a B list or off the list completely. A great group of guests can make or break a wedding day and there are no do-overs. It’s perfectly fine to be cut-throat when making final guest list decisions.

How to decide whom to invite to your wedding and which guests should be left off the list. Click to read the tips and tricks and see the vlog where I discuss the 10 worst people to ever invite to your wedding!

But if you can’t remove everyone you want to, now at least you’ll be able to handle them.

What guests are you worried about attending your wedding? Is there a type that I missed and you want to warn other couples? Need more advice? Leave me a comment and share your stories below!

 

 

The Rest of the Real Wedding Planning Checklist

Welcome to the rest of the real wedding planning checklist. If you missed the first part, make sure you read this first!

In Part 1, I talked about some bigger items like selecting your wedding venue and hiring your photographer, band and of course, wedding planner. In this part of the blog, I will finish off the rest of the wedding planning checklist and tell you when to book everything from lighting to restroom trailers.

Lighting and Other Décor

What your lighting will look like will depend on what your venue offers. If you’re working with a venue with an in-house lighting designer, then their availability is less of a priority than if you were to bring an outside vendor in. That said, as a designer, I like to handle all of the aesthetic components at the same time since they all work together. This means lighting is done on the earlier side.

If you’re looking for basic lighting features like wall washes and monograms and you’ve booked a DJ, there’s a strong possibility that they can handle those features. However, if you’re looking for things like pin-spots and hung lights, then a lighting designer is essential.

How to create your wedding planning checklist whether you're getting married in 2 minutes, 2 months or 2 years! Pin now and read later!

Good lighting designers can be few and far between, so if you have the time, start your outreach 5-7 months prior to your wedding date. Pressed for time but lighting is a priority? Before selecting venues to tour, be sure to find out exactly what they offer and definitely what they allow. Give priority to venues with in house lighting designers in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone.

Other décor like furniture rentals, linens and signage can frequently be combined with your other vendors’ services. Check with your florist for their rental list and your stationery designer for signage. Bonus: the more you book with one vendor, the better that vendor can do on their price.

Officiant

I am always majorly surprised when a couple contacts me for full service and they haven’t considered something very important: the person performing the ceremony. If you’re not getting married in a religious house, you will need an officiant to make the marriage, you know, legal.

Depending on the state you’re in, a friend and/or family member might not be able to perform this service. Truth be told that’s not always a good idea anyway, but I digress…

Since it is impossible to be in two places at the same time, officiants, especially the good ones, book up a year or two (nope, not a typo) in advance. Along with wedding gown and venue, I always make securing a wedding officiant a major priority. If you’ve got the 12 months, then use them and if you’ve got more, use those too.

But if you’re working with much less, use whatever you have. To speed up the process, ask for recommendations from your married friends and family, get on google, talk to your venue about their vendors…basically do whatever you have to do and get this done.

This can be time consuming because yes, you will actually need to meet with these people. A skype or phone call won’t cut it here and officiants tend to be busy on weekends with…wait for it…weddings. If possible, block out a weekday and meet with a handful all on the same day. To narrow your choices down, look for or ask for videos of the officiants presiding over weddings so you can see them in action.

Wedding Wardrobe for Everyone Else

Bridesmaids and groomsmen all need stuff to wear and let’s not forget the groom and sometimes parents that are looking for assistance. Just like stationery, this timing will depend on what you’re looking for and just like a wedding gown, timing depends on designers.Not sure when to tell your girls to buy their bridesmaid dresses or when the groomsmen should get their tuxes? Read now and pin later this ultimate wedding planning checklist.

I personally believe and always suggest that my brides have at least an idea of what they want their bridesmaids to wear before I set up any appointments. To save time, look into stores that have similar styles to what you want and only make appointments with them. It should also come as no surprise that weekends book up first and if you can handle this on a weekday, you’re likely to get an appointment much quicker.

The bridesmaid wardrobe process should start much earlier than you think or have been told. Got 9-10 months before your wedding? That’s perfect as some designers take 9 months to get their dresses in. Most other designers will take at least 6 months and a select few will take less. But unlike your wedding gown, you can’t grab samples of these because you likely need more than one.

If you don’t have the time, treat this like your wedding gown shopping and talk to stores in advance about what they have and how long everything takes to come in. Be transparent about the time you’re working with and visit stores with the best and most options. To really cut down on time, go to the stores to select the gown or gowns yourself and then leave it to your bridesmaids to only deal with getting measured instead of giving opinions.

For the boys, your options are renting or owning (sucks to be a bridesmaid…for now…subscribe to my YouTube Channel to find out more) and less time isn’t always a bad thing. The more traditional you’re going, i.e. black tuxes all around, the easier and less time consuming this will be. A word of caution in regard to timing and tux rentals: prom season is going to get in your way and you’ll have to factor that 1-2 month period into your planning timeline.

Should you not be going down the black tuxedo route, there’s a chance that you’ll need custom suits. If you want anything from what you think is a gray tuxedo or a blue tuxedo, or any other color, then you actually are looking for a suit. For more about that, be sure to check out my YouTube video discussing the difference between tuxedos and suits.

Custom suits require a 4 month window of time, so if you have that, you’re golden. You don’t necessarily need more than that for rentals, but if your groomsmen are spread out geographically, the more time you can give, the better. Typically, this isn’t an area of concern even with shorter engagements, but a common mistake I see here is couples leaving it as one of the last things to do.

Transportation

When to book your limos, shuttles and all transportation for your wedding day!

Limos, shuttles, party buses and magic carpets should be booked 8 months prior to your wedding or earlier if possible. Just like tuxedo rentals, prom season severely affects the availability of transportation companies. You don’t want to use multiple companies (seriously, do not do this) so it’s important to get this done early on so that you have choices.

Less than 8 months to check this off your list? You’ll likely be doing multiple vendor bookings at the same time, so add this one to the list. Save yourself some time by figuring out exactly what you need, for how long and from where to where. Consider how you and your fiancé will be traveling, as well as your wedding party and any immediate family including parents and grandparents.

If you want to provide transportation for your guests, booking shuttles is the way to go. These vehicles vary from 14 passenger vans to 55 passenger buses and should be booked early with the rest of the vehicles. Before you commit to transportation for your guests from a separate company, you should talk to your hotel block about their options. Speaking of which…

Hotel Blocks

9 times out of 10, and I actually think it’s more like 10 times out of 10, I set up hotel blocks for my couples. This might seem like something that can be done quickly, but take my word that it can be fairly complicated.

Because I like to handle transportation 9-10 months prior to the wedding and some of the transportation will be affected by a hotel block, I do these at the same time. I give automatic priority to hotels that offer shuttle service in house and that don’t have a financial obligation.

Unfortunately, both of these things have become close to extinct which only means you will need more time to find these dinosaurs in the first place.

If you’re not looking to shuttle your guests on the wedding day and you have only a few months to plan, typically 4-5 months out will be good enough to set up a block. It’s important to note that most blocks expire a full month before your wedding though. If you’re getting married around the holidays or other “hotel worthy” dates like Valentine’s Day, President’s Day Weekend, etc. then set up your block as soon as possible.

I mentioned that setting up a hotel block isn’t as easy as it seems and besides not being easy, it tends to be frustrating. Your time will be consumed with finding out the policy of each hotel and if you want to actually speak with someone there, good luck as they all hold typical 9-5, Monday through Friday hours.

A great way to save time and avoid a massive headache that will turn any normal bride into a zilla, is to use a service that does it for you. There are plenty available out there, but when I’m not handling the blocks myself, I like to use “Where Will The Stay?”. You can hear more about them and what they can do on my favorites segment here! Oh, and it’s free.

Hair and Make-Up

It probably feels like I am suggesting to do everything immediately if you’re getting married in less than a year. If it doesn’t feel that way yet, it’s about to.

When to hire your hair stylist and make up artist for your wedding day.

Hair and Make-Up services are something I try to book 6-8 months out if the couple has the time. Stylists book up quickly and are majorly affected by peak wedding season. Ideally, you’ll be hiring a company that will bring multiple hair and make-up stylists on the day of the wedding for the bride, bridesmaids and anyone else who needs it.

It’s important to leave time for a trial which you can have before booking or after…though I typically recommend before. Trials are another one of those “weekdays are better” things since stylists are busy with weddings and working in general on the weekends.

With limited time, consider hiring someone you have worked with before and see if they are able to put a team together. I would also recommend asking your photographer if they recommend anyone since it’s not a horrible idea to book these two vendors at the same time.

The Other Stuff You Didn’t Think Of (But I Did Because It’s My Job)

Everything I have discussed so far covers the basics that every wedding day needs. But what about those weddings that take place at venues with in-house nothing or just in-house a few things? What do you book when?

Outside Food and Beverage

If you’re dreaming of a “grow your own venue” deal where you get to bring in an outside caterer, then get ready to plan this 9-12+ months out. This falls in line with when you would book a venue since many venues include food as one of those essential things. Plus, when you bring in this outside service, you might need things to put the food on like plates and silverware and glassware is always nice to offer your guests.

More than 12 months to plan or at least 9 months and you’re in a good position to have choices available. Wrenches will get thrown into your planning timeline here around the holidays when caterers are super busy and wedding season can be a tough time to pin them down as well. You should consider that when deciding when to start the search.

When to book your wedding venue and everything else when wedding planning. Pin now and read later.

In general, I would recommend to couples with limited time to use a venue with as much stuff included as possible. But the heart wants what it wants right? Put this at the top of your list of things to do regardless and save time by asking for referrals from the venue you book as well as from friends and family.

Get on the same page with your fiancé in regard to type of food and style (sit down, buffet, etc.) that you want before making any phone calls. Liquor laws vary from state to state, so make sure you know if BYOB is an option or if your caterer will have to provide the liquor and only talk to caterers that can handle playing by the rules. To save even more time, work with caterers that will handle bringing in tables, chairs, linens and all of the basics so you don’t have to rent anything.

Restroom Trailers

Barns and farms are great (they are, don’t be a hater) but very few have indoor plumbing which means bringing in restroom trailers. These should be booked at least 5-6 months out, so a short engagement doesn’t usually pose a problem here. When searching for venues, find out whom they recommend (they should absolutely be able to tell you this) and what their electrical and water hook-ups are like. The trailer companies will need this information to give you pricing and let you know if they can even handle the venue’s property.

Cigar Rollers, Photobooths, and Other Fun Vendors

Novelty vendors such as these are a dime a dozen, though the best are frequently booked up in advance. Many of my couples don’t decide that they want vendors from the “fun” category until we’re within 6 months or so of their wedding. By that time, it comes down to having some extra money in the budget or suddenly realizing they always wanted something. I’ve never had an issue booking that close to the wedding date, so don’t panic if you’re tight on time.

Honeymoon

Saving the best for last, I always recommend a travel agency for my couples to work with for their honeymoon needs. Of course, I am able to make recommendations, but for truly personal attention and to save time, working with a travel agency is the best way to go.

I don’t handle this until about 6 or 7 months prior to the wedding date, but if I’m able to, I will get it done earlier. Travel agents frequently have conferences throughout the year and if they are away, they won’t be able to get back to you quickly. Put together a wish list of places if possible and find an agency that has specialists.

If you’re not working with a travel agent or if you’re going to honeymoon during a popular vacation time such as spring break or the holidays, start the process 7 months out. Not possible? Consider having flexible travel dates if you can and try to give yourself a minimum of 4 months before the wedding date.

Another option and one than many of my couples explore, is taking the honeymoon a few months past the wedding date. This gives them and can give you extra time to pull this all together either with an agency or on your own.

Wrapping Up

When to book everything when planning your wedding. The ultimate guide for engaged couples. Pin now and read later!

I know there are countless wedding planning timelines available to you and many come in a pretty printable template too. But wedding planning isn’t easy, which you may already be finding out. There are times of the year to always be aware of and in general, the more time you have, the better.

Unlike all of the timelines out there, I am completely aware that no two engagements are the same and 12 month timelines doesn’t always exist for everyone. You can’t book your venue 9-12 months out with less than 6 months to plan. I hope my wedding planner secrets gave you ideas on how to increase the time you do have instead of working with the time you don’t.

Are you planning a wedding with less than a year to get it all done? What advice do you have for other couples with short engagements? Share what you’ve done or what you wish you had done differently in the comments section below!

 

Those Wedding Planning Checklists and Why They Suck

Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!
Justin Tinapay Photography

If you’re engaged, or even if you’re not, you’ve probably visited a wedding website or 50 and come across their version of a wedding planning checklist. What you don’t know is why those wedding planning checklists totally suck.

You know the type of checklists I’m talking about: what to do first through what to do last and when to do it. They all start the same way telling you to get that gown and venue somewhere between 9 and 12 months before your actual wedding date.

But what happens when you have a 6 month long engagement?

How can you secure your wedding venue and your wedding gown 12 months before your wedding when your wedding is only 6 months away?

It’s basic wedding math.

Actually, no, it’s just basic math. Because 12 is bigger than 6 and that’s just 1 reason why those wedding planning checklists suck for 2 people getting married.

And I’m going to tell you all the other reasons these checklists suck in this blog. So get ready to delete those sites you’ve bookmarked and remove all of those planning checklist pins. This is what you really need. Straight up, no chaser.

To make this easy to apply to any wedding, I have listed some basic wedding planning “to-do” items and when to do what. I am also sharing my secrets that you might never have thought about. Because, yes, despite what those self-proclaimed number one wedding websites say, it actually does matter when you get married.

Disclaimer: I am already going to assume that everyone reading this knows that figuring out your budget is the first step to any wedding planning ever. Know your numbers before you do anything.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Those Standard 12 Month Out To-Do Items

The Wedding Gown

Picking out the dress is almost always done first when planning a wedding. Of course, this is primarily because it’s basically shopping. However, it’s shopping for the most important piece of wardrobe you will likely ever own. Getting the gown makes the engagement feel “real” for many brides.

Ideally you should purchase the gown a full year prior to your wedding date. Many designers will need upwards of 9 months to create and send the gown to the store. Then you have to account for any time needed for alterations. Personally, I like to add in extra time in the off chance that my bride either has buyer’s remorse or something goes wrong with the order.

Something frequently ignored by these wedding timelines is the very real time it takes to actually get things done. In this case, it’s important to consider the time it takes to actually find that gown. I mean, if it takes over 20 years to find the groom, then it’s not going to take 20 seconds to find the dress you want to wear when you marry him.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

There are so many moving parts to consider when figuring out how much time you will need to shop for your wedding gown. First and foremost, weekend appointments book up quickly, and it can take up to a month to secure a date. You also have to consider the schedules of anyone you want to have with you when you shop. Lastly, if you think you’ll need multiple shops to visit, you’ll also need multiple days for said appointments.

These are just some of the reasons why the wedding gown should be ordered one year in advance. Obviously, that isn’t always possible if your engagement is shorter than 12 months.

It’s not hopeless if you’re engaged in January and getting married in June though. You should make finding your gown one of your three first priorities (the second one is next), but you don’t necessarily need a full year. Here are a few wedding planner secrets:

Purchase a sample or “off the rack”

When you go to try on wedding gowns, every gown you try on is considered a sample or “off the rack”. Many times these gowns will be available for purchase at a reduced cost. The three things every bride should be aware of are:

  1. These gowns are sample size i.e. 10-12 dress which translates to 6-8 real size. It’s a lot easier to shorten a gown and make it smaller than it is to add length and let it out. It’s also less expensive.
  2. Sample sales are typically final, so if you aren’t in love with it, don’t buy it.
  3. Since these gowns have been tried on, there will be imperfections and not all of those imperfections will be fixable. Sometimes this will be as minor as a hem needing to be re-stitched and other times it’s major like missing beading.

Set up your appointments on a weekday if possible or a weeknight as a second option.

I’ve already mentioned this, but weekend appointments are hard to come by since people, you know…have jobs. If you’re in a rush to say “yes to the dress”, a weekday appointment will be available sooner and you’ll likely not be rushed through the appointment and able to try on even more gowns.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Bring only 1 other person with you

I am 110% against entourages when shopping for any wedding wardrobe, but especially when looking for a wedding gown. Your bridesmaids aren’t “like that”…until they are. Opinions always fly and all they do is take up time during the appointment and delay your ability to make a decision. You also have to work around their schedules and pray you can find time when you’re all available. If you really need your crew (which many bridal salons don’t allow FYI) then bring them to show them what you’ve already chosen.

Look for designers that can turn a dress around quicker than average

Not every designer needs 9 months to deliver a wedding gown. Before you crack out on Pinterest and need to have a dress by a certain designer, find out what designers are available at your local salon and when their gowns come in by. Hint: Pronovias frequently can turn around a dress in under 6 months and I’ve also had luck with Moonlight Bridal.

Speak to the wedding salons about rush orders

If you’re really in a bind or fall in love with a designer that takes longer than you have, speak with the salons about paying to rush your order. Sometimes this can buy you as much as a month, but coupled with buying from a designer that’s quicker than the rest, you might be good to go.

Go vintage

Just like buying a sample, you can go the vintage route and pick up a pre-worn gown. I do not, like really do not, advocate buying your wedding gown online. However, you can find some really beautiful vintage wedding gowns at reputable small stores. In fact, there are stores literally dedicated to selling vintage gowns. If you’re wedding is incorporating this hot-never-going-to-die trend, then look around for a shop like this.

Attend trunk shows

Trunk shows are great for two reasons. The first reason is that you can get anywhere from 10-20% off of the gown’s full price. The second reason is that you can see an entire collection from a designer as opposed to the 3-10 pieces the salon currently has. This is perfect for the bride that wants a specific designer’s wedding gown as it takes away the need to bounce from store to store looking at options.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Your Wedding Venue

The second major priority when planning a wedding is finding the venue.

Duh.

Sometimes, 12 months isn’t enough time to get this done though. With wedding season spanning the months between May-November and peaking in September and October, your dream venue might be booked up to two years in advance. I cannot tell you how many couples I have worked with that had to make the decision whether or not to extend the length of their engagement solely to get their venue of choice.

If that’s not an option for you, then it’s best to be flexible with your venue choices. Not just normal flexible either. More like Gumbi flexible.

The venue is also going to set your wedding date. I know, you thought you had control over that one didn’t you?

Believe me, most couples contact me with a wedding date picked out and don’t have a venue locked down yet. Then they have to decide if they want to see venues that aren’t available on their “date” or if they are open to that date solely representing the time of year they want to be married.

Because the venue essentially sets your date, you should always venue shop and venue book before going dress shopping.

When you make appointments to go try on wedding gowns, the first question they will ask you (besides budget) is your wedding date. Don’t make the mistake of giving them a date you’ve selected, only to purchase a wedding gown and then have to scramble when the venue you want isn’t available for that date. You might find yourself needing a second gown (like a sample) because the first one isn’t coming in on time if you end up booking a venue for an earlier date than your original date.

You know…the date that wasn’t real because you didn’t have a venue yet…

If you have over a year to plan, don’t sleep on getting the venue. Just like it takes time to shop for wedding gowns, you will need all the time you can get to find a venue. Odds are, you will need to coordinate schedules with your fiancé and possibly both sets of parents. Weekend appointments book up first and some venues won’t tour if a wedding is taking place on the same day.

All of that adds up to needing a ton of time to find the venue for your wedding day. Of course, if you can schedule tours on weekdays and look at venues that are in close proximity, you’ll need less time than normal.

Also helpful is to do as much research on these venues before committing to an appointment. It’s not always possible to get pricing from a venue without setting an appointment. In fact, one of the many reasons to hire a wedding planner is that we tend to have that information already or we can get it without much struggle.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Wedding Planner

Before you do anything past establishing your overall budget, if you’re going to hire a wedding planner, that is your Step 1 in the planning process. So, if you have 1 month or 1 year, do this before the rest of the tasks. A few reasons why:

Reputable and professional wedding planners book up to if not over a year in advance, especially for peak wedding season dates. Many planners, myself included, will not take on more than one wedding or event per weekend.

Hiring a planner for full service means they can do all of the work for you including finding the perfect venue and vendors. That’s right, you basically just have to tell them what you want and just like magic, options will appear.

A full time planner can speak with venues and vendors at the hours that you can’t. You know, like 2pm on a Tuesday. This means that more planning gets done in a shorter amount of time because planners have the same hours as venues and vendors. No back and forth voicemails and emails needed here.

If you’re only looking for someone to handle “Month Of” Coordination, many planners will not book that package until you’re under the 6 month mark. To be blunt, most planners would rather hold out for a last minute full service client than to lock up a weekend with a smaller package. The good part here is if you are a couple with a short engagement only looking for this type of help, you could easily have some solid options to choose from.

All that said, the number one way to get your checklist all checked off? A professional wedding planner…as soon as possible and before anything else.

The Big Ticket Vendors: Photo/Video, Music and Florals

Photo and Video

Always listed on wedding planning checklists around the 6-8 month mark are your photographer, videographer, music and florist. On average, most couples will have at least 6 months to plan. However, just because they have 6 months, doesn’t mean getting these vendors booked will always happen at that time. Remember how venue and gown come first?Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Many photographers and videographers will only be available for one wedding per day unless they work like an agency. It’s very important to meet these people before hiring them. I know, you totally do not have time to do this, right?

Make time.

Invent it if you need to.

Your photo and video team will be with you almost the entire day of your wedding. If you’re not comfortable with them, it will show in those photos and videos you get back. There are no do-overs and it’s not enough to just love the work or the product.

In addition to meeting/interviewing these people, I always recommend an engagement session with your photographer because that’s basically practice for the real thing. The real thing being your wedding day.

As a planner, I like to book photo and video 9 months to one year in advance. I know, that’s totally not what the internet tells you to do, right? Silly them…

If you plan to do an engagement shoot (I mentioned you should and I meant it), odds are your photographer will have more availability on a weekday. Since weekdays are a problem for many couples, then you will need a weekend and guess what tends to be a problem for wedding photographers?

You guessed it: weekends.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

This means that you could be waiting months to take your engagement photos and if you want them outdoors, you’ll have to leave time for rescheduling in case it rains. You also won’t be able to shoot outdoor photos for a handful of months if you live in a state where winter exists. Pretty soon you’re taking your engagement photos 1 month prior to your wedding and that is no bueno.

If you have longer than one year, start this process at the 9 month to one year mark. This is especially important if you are getting married during peak season since you might get a lot of “sorry, already booked” responses. If you are pressed for time, then shop for both photo and video simultaneously (a general rule of thumb anyway) and line up appointments via Skype if that’s the only way you can schedule a weekday.

Music

It doesn’t matter if you have a band, DJ or both, sometimes 6-8 months isn’t enough time to book. Like the other vendors that you will need at your wedding, many bands and DJs book up peak season 9-12 months in advance. If you want something specific, such as an electric violinist or a DJ that can provide live musicians to accompany his music, then I recommend shopping 7-9 months prior to your wedding date.

While I know many people (and many planners) will probably disagree with me here, I am going to say that seeing these people in person is essential. If you want a live band, there is no better way to hear what they really sound like than to attend an in person showcase. Sometimes, there will only be showcases available once a month or every other month. If you’re not available on the one date they have, then you’ll be forced to wait until the next one.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

If you’re going with a DJ, an in person meeting or interview isn’t mandatory but I wouldn’t recommend booking without a least a Skype or phone call. Any DJ worth hiring will be passionate about music and even more passionate about selecting the right music for your wedding. It’s equally important to know how the DJ works and to make sure the way they work is in line with what you imagine for your wedding.

For the couples with shorter engagements, it’s a good idea to get a hold of videos of past performances of bands and DJs. Showcases might not always be possible and you might not have the time to sit down and interview DJs. However, even if it’s 11pm at night, you should make the time to watch and listen to any recordings the music vendors can provide to you. Also consider looking into any bands or DJs you heard at weddings you attended and fell in love with.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Florists

As a wedding planner, I insist that my clients meet florists that I recommend before signing a contract. While it doesn’t matter so much that you’re vibing on a personal level, it is important to know that they understand what you want. It’s just as important that you are confident in their ability to create it.

You will never get that from an email exchange. Period.

However, most florists will only be available to meet on weekdays, which can make setting anything up totally impossible. If you don’t have 7-9 months before your wedding date (which is when I recommend securing a florist), then doing your homework prior to a meeting or in place of one is essential.

Before you go sending your 597 pins of centerpiece inspiration out to every florist within a 50 mile radius of your venue, narrow those pictures down. Way down. It’s more important for a florist to know your colors and the feel of your wedding. It’s less important for them to know the exact height you picture for each centerpiece and how if you don’t have peonies you’ll throw yourself off a bridge.Planning a wedding and not sure when to book your vendors? Pin now and read later, this ultimate guide to creating your own wedding planning timeline!

Another way to save time is to look at websites of florists and see if their work is similar to what your style is. If you find yourself drooling over a website but don’t see your style displayed, you can reach out to the florist and ask them for additional examples.

For instance, if you have a vision of greenery suspended from a tent, but don’t see it on a florist’s website, there is no harm in asking if they have done that before and if they have, could they share pictures. If you’re tight on time and having trouble choosing between florists, consider paying for a sample centerpiece to help make your decision easier.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? There’s a lot to this wedding planning stuff and knowing when to do everything can be a lot to digest. In order to avoid throwing anyone into a meltdown and running off to elope, I’ll continue the rest of this timeline in the next blog.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook so you’ll know when to come back for the rest of the to-do list and when you want to get started on those items. In the meantime, share below if you’re on the fast track to the wedding day and what you’re doing to check stuff off your list!

Wedding Contracts Shouldn’t Be Complicated

On the blog, Part 2 of why you should read wedding contracts and the details you might be missing. Pin me now and read later for tips you won't get anywhere else!
Justin Tinapay Photography

I recently wrote a blog about wedding contracts and the importance of reading every last word. If you didn’t catch the details, make sure you read all of them before continuing here. This blog will cover the vendors I didn’t talk about yet and how their wedding contracts can affect your wedding plans.

Side note: This isn’t meant to freak anyone out or send brides and grooms on a scavenger hunt looking for the “traps” in wedding contracts. We’re all friends here and as a friend (and a wedding planner), I want to make sure you know what you’re signing before you sign it.

Moving down the list of vendors you’ll typically encounter when planning your wedding…

The Stationery Contracts

On the blog, Part 2 of why you should read wedding contracts and the details you might be missing. Pin me now and read later for tips you won't get anywhere else!
Alicia King Photography

Doesn’t matter if you are the type to get custom invitations or order simple stuff on the web. You sign a contract either way, whether it’s handed to you by a person, or you simply check off that you agree to all of the terms. And if you didn’t read those terms, then it will catch up with you down the road. What could I possibly be talking about?

  1. Invitations, menus, programs and all other paper products have one thing in common: wording. You will have to get the correct wording to the person (or computer application) designing all of this stuff. This basically means getting slightly important details like your wedding date, time and location, all 100% correct. There will also be a deadline as to when this information is needed by. If you delay on doing your work, then the stationery designer will have to delay on doing theirs. Signing a contract here implies that you understand what happens when you don’t get the information sent in on time.
  2. Another agreement you make when you sign this wedding contract is getting what you pay for. Revisions can be made but there’s always a limit unless you’re willing to open your checkbook. Don’t ignore the lines in the contract that tell you how many revisions you are entitled to. Otherwise, you’re bound to get pretty angry when you’re asked for additional funds because you can’t make a decision.

The Hair and Make Up Stylist Contracts

Quite often, brides will hire a professional team of hair and make up stylists for the big day. The stylists usually take care of the bridesmaids and mom figures as well. I book stylists for my clients at least 7 months prior to their wedding. This means they have to know how many people are getting hair and make up done way far in advance. I’ve seen brides ignore this contract entirely. Not good and here are two reasons why:

On the blog, Part 2 of why you should read wedding contracts and the details you might be missing. Pin me now and read later for tips you won't get anywhere else!
Timothy Glenn Photography
  1. Every contract is different, but the information the stylist asks for, helps them create the quote and proposal as well as prepare for the day. Odds are, you will have to commit to the amount of people being booked and what services you will need. Right down to airbrush versus traditional and false eyelashes versus mascara, decisions need to be made in advance. Is there flexibility for a changed mind on the wedding day? Potentially. But it’s not owed to you since you signed off months earlier.
  2. Prep details are included in the wedding contracts and these helpful hints often end up in the trash. Believe it or not, there is a reason that stylists want you and your ladies to read what they wrote. Included in these guidelines are mentions of how hair cannot be wet, that flatirons should not be used prior to hair services, and that anything more than moisturizer on a face is no bueno. [tweetshare tweet=”You’d think that much of this would be common sense, but I’ve seen things, let me tell you… ” username=”RothweilerEvent”] I’ve also seen a bridesmaid lose her mind when she was charged a fee for showing up without blow drying her hair. Yup.

The Hotel Block Contracts

If you’re setting up rooms at a hotel local to your wedding venue, you will enter into a contract that is duller than a book on tax law. Doesn’t matter because why? You need to read it anyway. Not only does this wedding contract affect you, but it also affects your guests. And this just in: guests tend to complain about wedding issues. Don’t give them ammo by ignoring this contract and especially these points:

  1. It will be very clear in the contract when the rooms are no longer available. This doesn’t mean that your guests can’t still get a reservation, it just means that there are no guarantees anymore. So if a hotel releases the block of rooms to the public and Uncle Sal calls after the release date (that you agreed to), he might be out of luck. Trust and believe that you will hear about this and then expected to fix the situation. That will also happen less than a month before your wedding and ZOMG do you really want that kind of stress? Memorize that date and share it in your invitations so that you can ask Uncle Sal why he didn’t read everything, instead of him asking you.
  2. Believe it or not, a majority of hotels will put in their wedding contract that outside alcohol is prohibited. That means no poppin’ bottles post reception in your penthouse suite. Nope. Not allowed. Can you get around this? Of course. Don’t make a bunch of noise on the balcony and party like it’s 1999 and things will probably be cool. The reason things go left is because the couple didn’t read that fine print and guests are calling the front desk to report the noise. Read the fine print to know what rules you’re about to break.

    Gabelli Studios

The Photobooth Contracts

Most times when working with a DJ, there will be a photobooth add-on option. There are also companies that exclusively handle your photobooth needs. Between the two, you really can have anything you want in terms of set up and photos delivered. Photobooths seem simple though so what could possibly be in a contract that even matters?

  1. Remember in the last blog when I said that the wedding contracts affect each other? Here is a classic example: the photobooth. Just as you might think this contract is no big deal, this vendor is viewed as lower on the totem pole by industry people. Probably because everyone and their mom has one now and it’s not considered an essential wedding item like you know, food. That doesn’t make the contract any less legally binding, so read it and pay attention to anything regarding a power source and table. Odds are, you will be asked to make sure there is a certain amount of electricity and that it’s only 20 feet away from their set up location. Photobooth vendors always ask for a small table as well, and it’s your responsibility (because you agreed to do it when you signed their contract) to make sure it’s there.
  2. Photos from a photobooth can be delivered hundreds of ways. You will have the option to decide on the size of the photos, how many copies are printed, and if you want them all on a flash drive at the end of the night delivered via giraffe…Kidding, I just put that in there to see if you were still reading.. Before you even decide which company to book, you need to know what your options are. Once you agree and sign, there is no “Oh I thought everyone got a copy” on the day of the wedding when you and your 20 bridesmaids pile into the booth. Wording can be tricky here so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification until you’re all on the same page.

Those are the vendors involved in most weddings and some highlights of their wedding contracts. Depending on the details of your wedding you might hire others including an officiant if you’re outside a religious house for your wedding. The contract with an officiant is generally simple, but just as important as the rest. [tweetshare tweet=”Because if the officiant doesn’t show up because you moved your ceremony time and didn’t tell him, then ain’t no one getting married that day.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]

Jessica Janae Photography

For anyone getting married at a location that doesn’t provide catering, those couples will enter into a wedding contract with a catering company to handle food and beverage. Yes, this does also mean alcohol, so read that contract twice. Common things brides and grooms have said “but I didn’t know that” about on their actual wedding day? Oh, just little details like how they were supposed to provide ice, or that they were responsible for getting the food orders from their guests before the wedding day.

No matter the vendor or how long and boring the wedding contract is, read it and read it again before signing on the dotted line. Nothing is worse than arguing with a vendor and having them quote the contract that you didn’t read. It’s a pain in the ass and watching paint dry is more entertaining, but if the booze is warm, the DJ doesn’t have enough electricity to play music and the venue refuses to let a vendor in because they have no insurance, you will remember your wedding day for all the wrong reasons.

And since we really are all friends here, be sure to share that time you signed a contract without reading it? What about those of you that did read the contract but were surprised by what you read? Share in the comments below and let’s see even more reasons why reading a wedding contract is mandatory.

 

Why You Should Read Wedding Contracts

Why You Should Read Every Last Word of the Contracts You Sign While Wedding Planning. Check Out Things You Might Miss That Could Destroy Your Wedding and Your Budget!
Justin Tinapay Photography

Be honest. You have signed a contract before that you didn’t read. Or maybe you read most of it, but then figured it was just standard legal stuff to ignore. Too often contracts are treated like those annoying “terms of service” boxes where you just scroll down, click OK and get on with your life. But the simple reason behind why you want to not only read, but understand the contracts you sign while wedding planning, is because they all affect one another

I cannot tell you how many times I have been hired in the middle of the wedding planning process. A couple has picked the date and the venue and perhaps a handful of vendors. Maybe they were getting overwhelmed or just tired of planning, but quite often I have been asked to put on my planner hat halfway down the aisle.

The first thing I ask for when working with partial planning couples is to see a copy of every contract they have entered into. I can’t change what has already been agreed to, but I need to have a foundation for the house I’m trying to build. Too often, I have said to couples, “Did you read this?”

And I already knew their answer.

So if you’re getting ready to plan the details of your wedding day, then this is mandatory reading material. No, you won’t have to sign anything and there won’t be a quiz at the end. But you can bet your sweet little white dress that once you realize why reading is important, you’ll be more likely to actually do just that. I’ve broken this up into two parts, so make sure you read both in order to be fully prepared to do battle…or…um….plan your wedding.

Here we go!

The Venue Contract

The venue will have the longest contract and is almost always the first item checked off the list when planning a wedding. After all, you can’t really give anyone a date if you aren’t even sure what is available. [tweetshare tweet=”As easy as it would be to assume it’s allowed if it’s not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]I’ve worked at and researched thousands of venues both locally and internationally, and regardless of location, many contracts are similar. Here are a few major details to look for in a venue contract and the reasons why you need to know them:

  1. How many other events might take place before, during and/or after your wedding? Most brides don’t want another wedding going on while they are having their own, but they almost never think to ask about what happens before that. If a venue can host an event prior to your own, they are likely to do so unless you purchase a “buy-out” of the entire space. If an event doesn’t get booked for the earlier the same day, there is still a chance that your venue will not be open until the 2 hour mark before your wedding begins. This means that not one vendor, including your florist, will be able to set up until that time. So if you’re going crazy and pinning elaborate floral displays, slow your roll since there might not be enough time to get that done. If a buy-out isn’t in the budget, keep reading. Regardless, make sure you know how much time you really have. As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.
  2. Speaking of vendors, the rules that a venue has always come first. Sometimes that grand entrance complete with dry ice isn’t going to be allowed. If you have your heart set on anything that will take place at the venue, look and see what the contract says. As easy as it would be to assume it’s allowed if it’s not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first. It’s also worth mentioning that the answer from the venue is the final answer. Even if you hear from someone that got married there or a vendor that has worked there in the past, and they say that what you want can be done…if the venue said “no”, then take them at their word. A few things that are “pin-worthy” but not always venue friendly: dry-ice/smoke, hanging anything from the ceiling, candles that aren’t covered, and wish lanterns.
  3. Another issue that tends to come up when I get brought on mid-planning is the set up for the day. Your florist is responsible for their stuff, but for items like pictures you want to display or any signage, it’s important to discuss if the venue will handle that or not. If the venue will take care of things like placing 250 chair covers, double and triple check if a labor fee will be added on with your final bill.
  4. While it varies in terms of amount needed and which vendors need to provide what, the venue will always ask that insurance is provided. At a minimum, your florist, photographer, cinematographer, all music and your photobooth will have to provide what is called a “Certificate of Insurance”. If you’re bringing in outside food and beverage, they are in the same boat and lately, many venues are asking that all outside vendors provide this document. It sounds scarier than it is as every professional vendor already carries this. Just make sure you know what the venue’s requirements are and ask for this document as soon as you book your vendors.

The Photographer/Cinematographer Contract

Selecting someone to capture the details of your wedding isn’t always easy. There are countless photographers available at the click of a google search, and separating the professionals from the wanna-bes can leave you too tired to read the details of a contract. Even though you now know better than to skim and sign, here are things to look for first:

 As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.
Jessica Janae Photography
  1. The amount of hours that a photographer and/or cinematographer is on-site can be anywhere from 6 to 14. While it’s not always possible to decide the exact amount of time you will need until you’re closer to the wedding date, you want to factor in for possible overtime costs. 8-10 hours usually is just fine, but if you can land a package of 10 hours, I’d suggest doing just that. Always confirm if travel time is included and what the actual per hour (or half hour) overtime fee is.
  2. While your BFF may say to not sign with any photographer that won’t hand over all raw images and the rights to your photos, that is something you won’t always get. In fact, many photographers refuse to deliver raw images to their clients as they don’t want any modifications made including 500 different Instagram filters. Don’t even ask about owning the rights. Listen very carefully to what is included and then read about it twice.
  3. Pay close attention to how your photographer is your only photographer for the day. There are variations with this clause, but the main point is that there will be no one else taking photos or shooting video. Couples generally glaze over this because they cannot imagine how this would be an issue. Let me tell you where the issue is/why photographers put this into their contract: DJs. You’ve been to the weddings where photographs from earlier in the day are shown on big ass flat screens, right? Well, sometimes the DJ brings a “photographer” for those images. This is a whole different subject to delve into, but just know that this is why the issue exists. Respect it and handle it before you sign a contract with your DJ.
  4. Like any other vendor present during your reception (wedding planner, music vendor and photobooth usually), the photo and video crew will get hungry. These people are human (except for a few I’ve dealt with) and the human body requires food and water. Most contracts will state that a vendor meal must be provided and even if it’s not written it still has to happen. Because common decency. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but it’s for food not a brand new Prada shirt, and plenty of vendors will bounce from your reception to pick up pizza if you don’t feed them…and it will say so in their contract.

The Florist Contract

Picking a florist is usually a fun task for my couples and usually they go with one that has similar floral designs on their website as the ones they want for their wedding.  As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.However, there is more to think about than if someone is good with peonies or not. While a contract will not be the first piece of paper you receive from a florist, it will be second only to the proposal. That proposal will be put together after a consultation where you will discuss what you want and the rough quantity needed. [tweetshare tweet=”It’s important to know from the florist if they can accomplish your vision and if they will need extra staff (AKA: more money) to do it.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]A common misconception is that the first appointment will include a sample centerpiece, so don’t go into that meeting expecting to see one. Here is what you can expect to see in their contracts though:

  1. The payments you will make will be broken up, but that last payment could end up being a full 2-3 weeks prior to your wedding date. Flowers get ordered at different times, and many florists need 14 days to make sure the order comes in correctly. Some florists will let the final payment go until the wedding day, whereas others will want the money before they make the order. Either practice is fine, but make sure you know when your payments are due.
  2. Going back to the venue dilemma and having limited set up time, make sure you clear with your florists during the consultation exactly what they are working with. If the venue has a set of rules for florists, make sure to provide that along with any timing restrictions. It’s important to know from the florist if they can accomplish your vision and if they will need extra staff (AKA: more money) to do it.

The DJ, Band or Both Contract(s)

No matter if you have a DJ to handle all of the music, or a band to handle the reception with a bunch of violins for the aisle walk, these contracts are just as important to review before signing. Just like the vendors mentioned above, all of these people will have to provide insurance documents, guaranteed. There are differences between their contracts, but here are two similarities to look for and talk about:

  1. A major reason that insurance is required from your music vendors is that they could potentially use a ton of electricity. Once you are under contract and in the music planning stages, there will be a discussion of where the band/DJ is placed and where the closest power source is.  As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.Even if you are in a standard banquet hall, it’s really important to look over the contract in regard to how close your music vendor needs to be and what happens if they are too far away. Bands and DJs do not bring extension cords or generators with them, and adding stuff on like that last minute is going to cost you.
  2. Pay careful attention to what is actually included and what will cost you more. As a planner, I know what will be needed and what the right questions are. Brides, however, do not. A question to ask here (should it not be outlined in the contract) is: what microphones do you include? It’s a thought that doesn’t cross a mind until no one can hear the vows or any of the toasts, but by then, it’s too late. Don’t wonder or assume anything about microphones. Check the fine print because it might be addressed while you weren’t looking.

The Transportation Contract

If you need shuttles for guests or a bunch of limos and party buses, you will probably work with one transportation company. A big “however” here though, is if you are setting up a hotel block (addressed in the next blog) and they provide a shuttle service. There probably won’t be a contract here, but an invoice and some fine print is typically what you would receive. Whatever you book, read what you are given and look out for this:

 As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.
Justin Tinapay Photography
  1. Overtime hours and costs associated with any transportation provided outside of the standard 3-3.5 hours should be considered. You might not think that this will be an issue, but when you’re running late or sitting in traffic or take more time with photos than expected or….or…or….. No one likes paying bills after a wedding because that’s like dealing with student loans. The party is over, the bills should go away, right? Make that happen by putting together a package for the time that you need and be realistic about it.[tweetshare tweet=”Ask about this before you book as it won’t come up (probably) and then it will be buried deep in the invoice…so deep that you won’t see it. ” username=”RothweilerEvent”]
  2. You won’t ask because everyone assumes, but 9 times out of 10 you cant eat or drink in the limos you book. That’s right, no champagne on that party bus is a total possibility. The thing with this is that no one realizes the reality of this situation until the bride is jumping into the limo with her bridesmaids and a bottle of bubbly and the limo driver says “no drinks allowed”. Ask about this before you book as it won’t come up (probably) and then it will be buried deep in the invoice…so deep that you won’t see it.

The contracts I spoke about above are ones that pretty much go with every wedding, no matter the guest count, location or style. In “Part 2” you’ll see the other things to look out for including a deadline in stationery contracts that most couples never read. Until then, please share your thoughts in the comments section! Did you ever sign a contract without reading it and, if so, what happened? What language in your venue and vendor contracts are you glad you saw before you signed? Tell your story and come back for more in the next blog!

 As easy as it would be to assume it's allowed if it's not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.
Justin Tinapay Photography