It’s important to get off to a great start with your wedding planning. Turn to the tried and true planning timeline to stay on track with selecting your vendors. Here are the key pros who are the core of your wedding day dream team. Read on to learn who you need to book first and why.

Taking the first steps

“Having a seasoned wedding planner on board from the beginning is like having an experienced guide who knows the lay of the land – including possible planning traps,“ says New Jersey event planner Lisa Ivler of Lisa Ivler Events who works with couples in Northern New Jersey, New York City, and Connecticut. “The best wedding planners offer creative direction, expertise in logistics, and comprehensive guidance. And you’ll find the vendor coordination by your planner saves you time and reduces stress. We want you to enjoy the planning process!”

While checking out wedding planners, take time to secure your date with a ceremony and reception location. “Along with budget and guest count, you’ll need a vision for your venue,” advises Vivian Buesking, Co-Owner of Circle of Seven Ranch, a Texas rustic wedding venue located southwest of Houston.“Take time to reflect on your desired ambiance and theme. You’re looking for the ideal backdrop for your special day as well as a place that elevates your guest experience.”

If your vision includes a wedding weekend, Kate Stevens, Co-Owner of The Lake House Inn, a luxury Bucks County PA wedding venue, reminds couples not to forget guest comfort. “Explore locations that offer on-site lodging for your wedding party and special guests. Your venue manager can also direct you to other nearby accommodations and guest transportation options. And look at locations that offer a variety of things to do, either on property or nearby, while your guests are not in wedding mode.” 

Continue the vision

“If your venue is a blank canvas, you may want to utilize an event services company, ” explains Yoni Yemini, Co-Founder of Chicago wedding designers – Ace Chicago Events. “While event planners primarily focus on logistics and planning, event services companies create a theme, design it and then execute the vision, either through in-house professionals or outsourced event design teams, like floral professionals.”

“Rentals play a significant role in shaping the overall aesthetic of your wedding,” advises Designer Michele Rogers of Indianapolis wedding rental company, Ace Party Rentals. “Linens, serviceware, the style of a tent, and specialty furniture all establish a framework for other design decisions. This is a great opportunity to play with color, texture, and pattern.”

What’s next?

“Searching for a wedding gown is like no other shopping experience,” explains Elicia Bonham, Owner of New Hampshire wedding dress boutique Country Bridals & Formal Wear in Jaffrey. “Not only do you want to explore your options, the manufacturing, shipping, fittings, and alterations of your gown take time. Shopping early allows for any shipping delays and necessary adjustments.” 

Another important vendor to book quickly is your wedding photographer. “Your engagement session allows you and your photographer to get comfortable with one another and even practice some posing,” says Portland Maine wedding photographer Isabelle Miner of Shado of a Rose. “Your engagement photo session helps set the tone for working together. And you’ll have beautiful images for your Save the Date.”

Nail down the entertainment

Rounding out the list of vendors you need to book early is a DJ. “Certain times of year fill up quickly,” notes Seth Michaels of Michaels Entertainment, a 5-star rated Detroit DJ company in Troy, MI. “Starting early gives you time to find more available talent based on your reception vision and the DJ personality you desire. Your wedding entertainment should reflect your unique style, while keeping your guests engaged, entertained, and energized.”

Matt Kays of Fort Collins Colorado highly regarded wedding DJ company Mountain Event Services, serving the “Front Range” of WY and CO, understands the importance of client communication. “We’re here to listen to you. Professional DJs communicate with their clients throughout the planning process, offering suggestions and solutions. Use our conversations to collaborate on ways to make your reception a personalized experience for you and your guests.”

“Wedding entertainment is more than just memory-making music,” offers Cory Leonardo, Owner of Party Zone Productions, whose company provides top-rated Louisville wedding DJs. “Creating a great guest experience is all about setting the tone and serving as the “voice” of the event. A skilled DJ is also a Master of Ceremonies, making announcements, introducing speakers or performers, guiding guests through the reception, and keeping everyone informed and entertained.”

DJs are also an important planning resource. Popular Maine wedding DJ Jason Strycharz, Owner of The Music Man DJ Service in Kennebunk explains, “Of course we’ll give guidance on appropriate songs for key moments and offer suggestions based on your musical tastes. But your DJ also creates that all-important reception timeline and communicates with your other vendors, like your day-of or venue coordinator and photographer, to keep things running smoothly.”

And DJ companies are a great place to find those entertainment extras. “Ask about photo booths, special effects, even videography, to package with your DJ,” says George Wainwright of Coastal DJ and Video, an Outer Banks NC wedding DJ company with offices in Kill Devil Hills, Beaufort, and Wilmington. “Booking multiple services through your DJ saves you time and money. It also ensures a more seamless planning experience and consistency in quality.”

And don’t forget …

Reminds Long Island, NY marriage celebrant and custom wedding vow writer Denise Drapkin of I Wed All, “Couples want personalized and meaningful ceremonies. Booking your officiant early gives you time to collaborate. And if you’re intent on writing your vows, you’ll want plenty of time to compose those thoughts and even work with an experienced vow writer.” 

Be sure to select vendors who get your vision, are excited to work with you, and fit within your budget. By making these professionals a top priority, you’ll take the first important steps in planning a memorable wedding. 

Brian Lawrence is a wedding business marketing expert who has helped thousands of clients like Alan Berg and Joe Bunn with consulting, marketing and web design. We’ve partnered with Brian Lawrence to bring this great advice from some of his amazing clients.