Working With Wedding Professionals

Timing, troubleshooting and other advice you'll need to hire wedding professionals like a pro.

Who to Hire When

The best wedding professionals, from the caterer to the band, often have full calendars. For this reason, it's never too early to start planning your wedding. Here's the ideal order to follow in lining up your locations and team of pros:

The first order of business is to draw up a wedding guest list, or at least the rough number of guests you'll invite. It's especially important to have this information handy when booking the location for the ceremony and reception. Some catering halls require a guaranteed number of people, while others have a cap on how many can be accommodated.

Next, figure out where the wedding ceremony will take place and lock in a date. Churches and synagogues book up quickly: After becoming engaged in December 1997, I called my church to schedule a date for October 1998. The receptionist who answered the phone chuckled at my request—there were no Saturdays available until the following June. If you're not getting married in a house of worship, make sure you arrange for someone to officiate the ceremony.

Third, the ceremony secured, immediately start looking for a wedding reception site and/or caterer. But don't stop there: At the same time, you should be looking for a band or DJ. Wedding consultants frequently make it a practice to book the reception spot and the entertainment within days of each other. "While other pros can serve several clients per day, once a good band or DJ is booked, they're booked," points out McCoy.

Next step: Find a wedding photographer and videographer. These professionals also book up fast, especially photographers known for their distinct style or artistic flair. Polly Flint, a Florida-based wedding planner, recommends hiring photographers and videographers within a few weeks of choosing your location.

Your last stop should be booking your florist and wedding transportation. Depending on the length of your engagement, these pros can be booked anywhere from six months to six weeks prior to your wedding. Planners say that it's fine to start interviewing different florists once you've hired your other professionals. But you shouldn't choose floral arrangements until other details, like the color of the bridesmaid dresses, have been finalized.

Roll With It

Even if you've put your hired professionals through a rigorous query session and down every detail of their contract, last-minute, beyond-your-control dilemmas are bound to rear their disruptive heads. Kathleen Kennedy says the best way to avoid panicking over a last-minute dilemma is to appoint a trustworthy person—anyone from a hired planner to your maid of honor—to deal with the professionals on your wedding day. It also doesn't hurt to have a back-up plan. "If you've hired a band, check out a DJ as sort of a backup," says Polly Flint, a Florida-based wedding consultant. While you obviously can't have a DJ on standby without paying full price, you might call around a week or so before the wedding to see if anyone is available on short notice.

And if something does go wrong that can't be fixed, Flint says, "Roll with it. You still have the love of your life. That's what it's all supposed to be about, anyway."