Just Engaged Wedding Planning To Do List Which Vendors You Should Hire First

Just Engaged: Wedding Planning To Do List – Which Vendors You Should Hire First

Wedding Planning To Do List – Which Vendors You Should Hire First

I am truly baffled by the horrible advice couples are receiving online.  They might even be inadvertently lying to you.  I read several different wedding planning to-do lists and which vendors you should hire first articles and blogs, and not one of them even mentioned hiring an officiant!  I turn away lots of couples because they waited until the last minute to find an officiant, so I thought writing this list might help couples avoid that future headache.

If you just got engaged, keep reading.

Most couples forget that if it wasn’t for their wedding ceremony, they wouldn’t need to hire anyone else!Just Engaged Wedding Planning To Do List Which Vendors You Should Hire FirstHere’s my opinion, based on eleven years of officiating weddings in the Phoenix area.  This list will not include finding accommodations for guests or shopping for a wedding dress.  This list is solely for wedding vendors.

Shopping for these professionals is usually done simultaneously, but this list should hopefully give you a better idea of who to contact first.

You must remember the basic economic laws of supply and demand.  I can only officiate one wedding at a time and fortunately, lots of couples want to hire me so my calendar books up months in advance.  The same can be said for other great pros and great venues, so here’s a checklist I would use, personally.

1) Wedding planner.  If your budget allows, hiring a wedding planner will save you tons of stress.  Most planners I’ve met prefer to be involved in the whole process, from beginning to end, but also offer “day-of” coordinating services for those who are on a tighter budget.  Your planner will know many of the best vendors in town and take care of this list for you!  To find great wedding planners in the Phoenix area, check out my referrals page.

2) Pick your venue.  Why is hiring a wedding planner a higher priority than finding a venue?  Because when two couples want to book a venue at the same time, the venue might give it to the couple who hired a planner.  I’m not saying venues are run by unethical people.  I’m saying that they’re run by business people.  The planner will bring future business to the venue, so it’s in their best interest to go with the planner’s couple.

The coolest spots book up the farthest in advance.  For example, Spring Saturdays at the Phoenix Botanical Garden book out well over a year in advance.  The garden is large and able to accommodate multiple weddings simultaneously, but many venues can only help one couple at a time.  For a list of great venues in the Phoenix area, check our my referrals page.

3) Officiant!  We are truly blessed here in the Phoenix area because our weather is great and folks come here from all over the country, and Canada to get married.  Scottsdale is a destination for cold-weather residents so vendors with great reputations stay busy.

Photos and music are certainly important, but find an officiant first.  This is the most common mistake I see.

Couples scramble to find an officiant because they’ve forgotten that if it wasn’t for their ceremony, they wouldn’t need to hire anyone else!  I’m the last wedding professional hired 99% of the time and I am truly baffled by it because there aren’t many great officiants to choose from here in town.  I only hear five or six other officiant’s names regularly and there are over 4 million people in this town and far more than six weddings happening each weekend.

I often find that couples exhaust their budgets before finding an officiant and then aren’t prepared for the cost.  You can find someone to officiate for $200-$300, but like anything in life, you get what you pay for.  I hear lots of horror stories from wedding coordinators, where the officiant had his zipper down during the ceremony or called the bride the wrong name, or tripped on his/her words a bunch of times, or never looked up from the book he/she was reading from.

I am biased, but I turn so many disappointed couples away, I’d be remiss if I didn’t hammer this point home.

Plus, couples should be reminded that they’re hiring someone to perform a legal service.  Hire someone you trust and sometimes that means you gotta invest more money in the process.

Plus, professional officiants know how to run wedding rehearsals and often charge a separate fee for coordinating a rehearsal.  If you see a $300 officiant who includes rehearsal in that fee, run for dze hills!  Full-time officiants usually charge at least $75 to coordinate a wedding rehearsal.  Remember, when hiring an officiant you’re paying for a specialized service that not many people know how to do.

4) Photographer.  There are roughly 2000 photographers in the Phoenix area.  It’s very competitive and despite having so many to choose from, the best book up quickly and often require a large investment.  I know several who charge between $8000-$10,000 to shoot a wedding and they stay busy.  I see those photographers regularly, but you’re not only paying for photos.  You’re buying an experience.

FYI, the AVERAGE wedding photography package is around $3000 in the Phoenix area and many of those folks are new at it and are overcharging.  Do your homework and check my referrals page for suggestions.

5) Makeup artist and hairdresser.  I thought this item could be lower on the list, but my wedding planner friend, Regina Young from Meant2BeEvents said that there aren’t many great makeup artists to choose from, so she always makes hiring them a high priority for her clients.  Plus, brides can do a trial run with these pros during their engagement photo shoot.  The only makeup artist I know is Adrianna Fontes, and she has a great reputation.

Please remember that you’ll likely be shopping for these professionals simultaneously, but this is how I’d prioritize.

6) Caterer and bartender, if one doesn’t come with the package at your venue.  You want your guests to enjoy their meal and while many catering companies can serve multiple weddings simultaneously, some cannot and those who take the most pride in their food will book up the quickest.

When shopping for liquid caterers, Kinsey and Neal from A Couple of Bartenders are my best suggestion.

7) DJ and entertainment.  There are roughly 2000 DJs in the Phoenix area too.  Like photographers, it’s quite competitive, but most DJs are quite similar so hiring one doesn’t have to be the first thing on your to-do list.

However, there are great DJs who specialize in electronic music and the nightclub feel, like Desert House Productions, and DJs who offer lots of extras, like live musicians at Got You Covered Music.  They’ll surely book up quicker than the average DJ.

Additionally, the best musicians and bands will likely be tougher to book. So if you’re planning to have live entertainment, research and get them booked before it’s too late.

If you’re hoping to have strings play during your ceremony, check out The Encore Quartet.

8) Videographer.  Not every couple hires a videographer, probably only 1/4 of the weddings I officiate. Lots of couples decide to hire a videographer as an extra, only after budgeting for everyone else so they’re available for longer and don’t generally need to be the first vendor on your shopping list. Wedding videos generally range from $1500-$3500.  Lots of people shoot film, but not everybody is a pro at shooting weddings.  My three favorite videographer teams can be found on my referrals page here.

9) Florist.  Forget a nationwide .com florist.  Hire someone local, who specializes in weddings and events.  Kristen at Blume Events is my favorite.

10) Save-the-dates and invitations.  I have invitations as a lower priority on my list because many brides are do-it-yourselfers and make their invitations on Minted.com or use digital invitations from a place like, Greenvelope so they don’t have to race to find the best person in town.  However, time is required to make custom invitations and you want to be sure to get your save-the-dates out many months in advance of your wedding, so people can put it on their calendars.

Diamonds and dresses aren’t the only way to make a statement.  Your invitations make an impression too.  My mom has made custom wedding and event invitations for most of my life, and even offers discount custom invitations.  Check out her company Invitation Express.

11) Rental company for tables and chairs, assuming your venue doesn’t provide this.  If you’re having a backyard wedding, remember this crucial step!

12) Cake.  We run in different circles so I don’t know any bakers.  They are gone by the time I get to any ceremony.  I encourage you to reach out to one of the wedding planners on my referrals page for suggestions.  Lots of couples are doing dessert trays instead of big wedding cakes.

13) Transportation for your guests from their hotel to your venue, if necessary.

Shopping for these professionals is usually done simultaneously, but this list should hopefully give you a better idea of who to contact first.

Book a venue, hire a planner and then immediately start shopping for your officiant.  Most officiants are older, conservative people and if that’s not your style, your options are limited. Remember, I only hear five or six other officiant’s names on a regular basis and there are many weddings happening each weekend, so the most easy-going book up the quickest.

The Phoenix area has many talented wedding professionals to choose from, IF you start shopping early.  The best book up quickly, so don’t delay!

Just Engaged: Wedding Planning To Do List – Which Vendors You Should Hire First.

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  1. Financial Planning Tips To Get Your Dream Wedding - 1st Officiant left a comment on February 7, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    […] a budget entails doing your research on the specific costs of a wedding. With our very own ‘Just Engaged: Wedding Planning to Do List’, you can use it as a jump-off point for establishing a realistic budget. Look at the rates of […]

  2. Taylor Hansen left a comment on February 2, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    My sister just got engaged last night and now they are in the planning stages for their wedding in the spring. It makes sense to find a venue with your wedding planner to land the best options.

  3. Thomas Clarence left a comment on May 5, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    It’s great that you mentioned that it is a good idea to hire a florist that works locally in your area. My sister is getting married in a couple of weeks, and she needs to find a florist that can make a bouquet for the lead table at the reception. It might be a good idea for my sister to find a florist that is located close to the venue the wedding is going to be at.

  4. Wedding coordinator Paris left a comment on September 10, 2021 at 7:19 am

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing and informative blog. I think for planning wedding events hiring a professional is the best choice because they take the headache of the person and make their best to make their client event successful.

  5. Jeff Carbine left a comment on November 30, 2021 at 1:42 am

    I’m glad that you talk about hiring a wedding planner will save you tons of stress. My aunt talks about a wedding. I’ll share this post with her about event hire.

  6. Anna Collins left a comment on June 11, 2022 at 3:17 am

    It certainly helped when you said that it’s quite competitive to hire musicians for your event, just like photographers, so it would be best to leave them up on your to-do list. My sister is getting married this summer, and she asked me to take care of the live music during the party. I’ll have to look for a singer for events I can hire for the party as soon as possible.

    • mattyn73 left a comment on June 12, 2022 at 6:37 pm

      Great suggestion. I’ve updated the post.

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