You’re engaged. Congratulations! You have a wedding to plan! Now, where to start?

Planning a wedding can be a large undertaking. There are a lot of moving parts that combine flawlessly (we hope!) to pull off the perfect wedding day. If you’re lucky, one contact will combine a few of the necessary puzzle pieces (does your reception venue do the catering), but to help make sure you don’t miss anything, I have compiled this checklist of wedding vendors!

  • The Wedding Planner

I realize not everyone hires a wedding planner (I love a good DIY bride!), but I put this first for a very good reason- your planner, if you get one, can help you with recommendations and contacts for everything else on this list! If you know you want help planning your wedding, get yourself a wedding planner right away!

  • The Venue(s)

    Port Farms, Waterford, PA

If you’re getting married, you need a venue! Whether it’s your backyard, a rustic barn, or the local country club, you’ll want to make sure that the venue is available for rent on your date!   Why the (s) on venue? Well, you’ll need to decide if you’re getting married in the same venue as your reception. If not, you’ll need to book both the ceremony and the reception venue.

  • The Officiant

Some venues will provide you with a priest, rabbi, or paster to perform your wedding. If yours does not, you’ll need to find an officiant. Ask your family, friends, and venue for recommendations. If you want to write your own vows, be sure to talk to your officiant about it before booking, as some are less accepting of this custom than others. Additionally, beware of websites that “ordain” an officiant in a matter of hours- there are stories of couples finding out that their marriages aren’t valid because their officiant wasn’t legally able to marry them!

  • The Caterer/Bartender

Again, depending on the venue you choose, catering may or may not be included or offered. Often if a venue has a kitchen, they will require you to purchase food from them. Make sure you discuss food options and have a tasting before you pay a deposit. Also find out if the venue has a bar and provides bartending. If not, you can hire a bartender separately.

  • The Bakery

The cake is one of the classic and most talked-about parts of a wedding, next to the dress. One of the most fun (and tastiest!) tasks during wedding planning is choosing your baker and deciding on your dessert options. You and your fiancé should visit several bakers for tastings and decide which one is right for you. If traditional isn’t your thing, choose a bakery that can provide cupcakes, pies, or (my favorite) doughnuts instead!

  • The Photographer

Warren, PA

I may have a slight bias, but I feel this is one of the most important vendors that you should book early! There are, of course, many photographers to choose from. Make sure the photographer’s work matches the style of pictures that you envision for your own wedding photos. Be mindful of all of the hard work that you will put in to planning each and every detail of your wedding, and remember that the photographer is the person who will artfully capture each of those details so you can remember them forever. A skilled professional is worth the investment and you’ll want to book early.

  • The Videographer

Wedding videos are becoming a more popular trend. Some videographers will put video clips of your day to songs, while others will give you videos with audio recording from your wedding, and others will do a combination of the two. Make sure you see sample videos and decide which style is right for you before you book.

  • The DJ/Band

You’ll need to decide if you want a live band or a DJ at your wedding, depending on your personal style. The music provided is going to play a big role in getting people out on the dance floor and having a good time. Typically, the band leader or the DJ will act as an emcee, introducing you and your bridal party and keeping the pace of the reception. A great emcee can really get the party going.

  • The Dress (alterations)

Now, I realize that NO ONE is going to forget about the dress. One of the very first things a newly engaged bride-to-be is going to do is go try on dresses. Who wouldn’t, right? One thing to keep in mind, though, is that most wedding dresses will need to be custom tailored to fit you perfectly. I’m a small town girl, so I chose to have my dress tailored by a local seamstress instead of the boutique where I bought it hours away. Consider your options and decide what will work best for you!

  • The Tux

We can’t forget about the men here! The days of the standard black tuxedo are in the past! There are options upon options out there for the guys now! Make an appointment to check out the options and be fitted. If you have groomsmen from out of town and want them to match, make sure they can be fitted where they live.

  • The Salon/Makeup Artist

Do you want to go to a salon for hair and makeup, or do you want someone to come to you? Do you want your entire bridal party to have hair and makeup together? Some salons will offer hair and makeup services in their salons. Alternatively, you can find freelance hair and makeup artists that will come to you at your home or hotel. Make sure you look at portfolios and schedule a trial for hair and makeup so you can be confident that you will look your best on your big day!

  • The Florist

Flowers are an important piece of the wedding puzzle! Many brides are starting to DIY their flowers with silks (hello, you can keep them forever!), but if you prefer the real thing, you’ll want to check out several florists’ portfolios and discuss the types of flowers and bouquets/centerpieces you want. Make sure they can get what you need and are willing to work with you to get the perfect design!

  • The Hotel

Most couples don’t catch a red-eye flight or take off for a roadtrip as soon as the DJ quits. You’ll want to think about where you’re spending your first night as husband and wife, and book that hotel suite early if that’s what you decide on! Additionally, if you have several out of town guests, it’s a great idea to contact a nice local hotel early and block off some rooms for those traveling for your day.

  • The Transportation

Transportation for a wedding can mean several things. Do you plan on having a limo for your bridal party to get from the ceremony to pictures and then the reception? Do you want to provide a shuttle for your guests from your reception to a hotel (or even to their homes)? Maybe you want to rent a trolley for nostalgic fun? Did someone say horse and carriage?   Think about your transportation needs, even if it is just a few friends with mini vans!

Planning your wedding is your own personal journey, and each of these things may not apply to you.   Whether small & quaint, or large & extravagant, the best part of your wedding day is marrying your best friend. Best of luck to you in your planning, and don’t forget to embrace the process and have fun!