Wedding Vendor Checklist

The vendors you choose can make or break your dream wedding. Want to know what to include on your wedding vendor checklist? This guide has you covered.

By Emily Forrest

Wedding Vendor Checklist
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Before hiring any vendors, it’s important to first outline your budget, location, and wedding-day needs with your spouse. Then, nail down and consult with your venue to identify any vendor restrictions.
  • You’ll likely want to hire a wedding planner, florist, caterer, musician, photographer, and hair and makeup artist. Hire vendors who not only cater to your wants, but who also expand and improve upon your wedding day ideas.
  • Be sure to acquire vendor insurance to protect you from any property damage that may occur during the ceremony or reception.
  • Don’t forget to tip your vendors. Speaking of tips, Zola offers a free vendor search tool to help you find vendors you’ll love in your area.

For the perfect wedding, you only need three things: true love (check), patience (a work in progress), and first class vendors.

Your wedding vendors play a significant role in the success of your wedding day. They’re almost as important as you and your soon-to-be spouse (keyword: almost).

To guarantee a wedding that your guests will talk about for years to come, you have to hire the best vendors. By following our wedding vendor checklist, you’ll learn everything you need to know about hiring the perfect wedding vendors. This guide will cover:

12 Months Prior: Big-Picture Planning

Before you even think about hiring vendors, you need to know where the wedding will take place and how much you intend to spend in total and on each vendor—that way you’ll choose vendors that work with your location and budget.

Be sure to iron out these wedding checklist details before proceeding any further.

#1 Location: Where to Say ‘I Do’

Deciding where and when your big day will take place (and actually locking down a venue) is the first step to planning the rest of your wedding.

A venue not only serves as the backdrop for all your wedding photos, but it’s also the place you and your significant other will start a new chapter of your lives together.

Run through this simple checklist to help narrow down your search:

  • Is there a location that holds special meaning, like a museum where you had your first date or the beach where the proposal happened?

  • Is there an idyllic location you’ve always wanted to visit?

  • Do you want to keep it traditional and have your wedding at your house of worship?

  • Is there a particular style you want to emulate? Choosing a wedding theme often guides the venue decision. For example:

    • Natural Scenery: Search for parks, gardens, and countryside estates.

    • Modern Bohemian: Converted barns, wineries or distilleries, and historic sites give off a unique boho vibe.

    • Traditional Luxury: Seek out hotel ballrooms, banquet sites, and opulent museums.

With nearly endless possibilities, it’s important to take the time to discuss your options and visit some wedding venues before you make your decision. Luckily, with Zola, you can search based on venue type, from barns to beaches and beyond, which can help you filter out what you definitely don’t want while you figure out what you do.

#2 Budget: Crunch the Numbers

Your venue will most likely account for the majority of your wedding budget. Once you’ve said yes to the perfect location, you can determine how much money you want to allocate to each wedding vendor.

While this part of the wedding planning may not be as much fun as touring romantic venues, your future self will thank you for it. Figuring out (and sticking to) your wedding budget ensures you don’t overspend unnecessarily and prevents any shocking bank statements down the line.

When budgeting for your wedding vendors, decide what’s most important to you and your significant other. Ask each other these checklist questions:

  • Would we be forever disappointed with rubbery chicken and sub-par salad? Then dedicate more of your budget to hiring a top-of-the-line catering company.

  • Do you envision your wedding reception as the party of the year with the best deejay or live band in town? Then you music lovers ought to allocate enough funds to cover an awesome band or performer.

  • Are you most interested in a wedding that looks absolutely stunning? Then consider upping your allowance for extravagant floral arrangements, decor, and a professional photographer to capture it all in high definition.

No matter what you’ve envisioned for your big day, you can make it happen with a carefully planned budget. And once you’ve put the numbers on paper, you can search Zola’s vendor lists by price, from budget-conscious to premium. With this filter option, you’re a lot less likely to “accidentally” fall in love with a caterer way out of your price range.

#3 Help: Hire a Wedding Planner

A wedding planner isn’t technically a vendor for your big day, but you may want to consider hiring one. And if you decide to, it should definitely happen during the pre-planning phase before you start making any big decisions about your vendors.

Wedding planners are exactly that—planners. They know how to coordinate a wedding, keep track of a budget, and stick to a schedule. They also act as a point of contact for your guests and vendors on the day of your actual wedding. That may not seem like a huge deal now, but when you’re prepping for the big moment, the last thing you want to do is field questions about where catering can park or if there are extra wedding ceremony chairs.

If hiring a full-service wedding planner isn’t within your budget, you can still receive professional planning assistance with a month-of or day-of wedding coordinator.

Month-of wedding coordinators help ensure all the last-minute wedding details are taken care of. Their services can include:

  • Collecting RSVPs
  • Building your seating chart
  • Coordinating with your vendors
  • Organizing your rehearsal dinner
  • Finalizing vendor payments
  • Creating and managing your wedding planning timeline
  • Overseeing any day-of deliveries and issues

Day-of coordinators are the most affordable option for wedding coordination assistance. They can be responsible for:

  • Communicating with vendors
  • Managing your wedding day schedule
  • Receiving day-of deliveries
  • Handling any last-minute issues

6 to 9 Months Prior: Finding and Booking Your Vendors

Not every vendor will be a perfect match for your wedding needs. You want to find that special one. A vendor who listens to and understands what you want but takes your vision a step further with their own creative ideas.

If you can find a vendor to provide this type of service while staying within your budget, you’ve found your perfect match. And while you might not need every single vendor type imaginable (some couples love the challenge of a little DIY), this vendor checklist is the perfect place to start.

#1 Photographers and Videographers

Don’t tell the other vendors, but your wedding photographer and wedding videographer are probably the most important vendors you’re going to hire. They make it possible for you to relive your wedding day over and over again, from that newlywed kiss to your “Just Married” drive into the sunset.

If you and your significant other want quality photos and videos to look back on for years to come, you’ll want to make sure you dedicate enough of your budget to professional photography and videography services. Due to the high demand of these vendors, it’s important to book your photographer and videographer at least six months in advance.

To find the photographer and videographer that’s right for you, ask them these questions:

  • How Long Have You Been Photographing or Recording Weddings? You want to hire vendors who not only have an in-depth knowledge of photography and videography, but who also have experience with weddings in particular. That’s because weddings require capturing special moments in real time. The best candid snapshot can happen in a second. You want to find someone who’s not going to miss it.

  • What’s Your Style? Not every photographer and videographer is going to give you the same finished product. Some videographers specialize in documentary-style wedding videos, while others prefer to create videos that play like short, artistic films.

  • Can We Request Specific Shots? It’s important to determine how much say you’ll have over your wedding photos and video. If you have specific shots in mind, you want to find a photographer who’s flexible and willing to collaborate with you.

  • What’s Included in the Cost of Your Service? Some photographers and videographers work at an hourly rate, while others offer package deals. Make sure you know exactly how much you’re paying, and what’s included in the cost. Don’t be afraid to ask about additional services, such as color adjustment or photo retouching.

  • When Will Photos and Videos Be Ready? Editing can often take several weeks or months, especially for busy vendors. But with professional services, your wedding photos and video will be well worth the wait.

Before you settle on a photographer and videographer, be sure to take a look at their previous work. If their photos and videos of other peoples’ weddings can move you to tears, you know you’ve hit the jackpot.

#2 Caterers

While your photographer may be the most important wedding vendor to you and your spouse, your caterer is probably the top priority for your guests.

To find the wedding caterer that’s sure to impress, start by deciding what type of meal service you want to offer. The most common options are:

  • Sit-Down Service: For this type of service, your guests remain seated while your catering staff delivers pre-selected dinners. Typically, guests choose between chicken, beef, fish, and vegetarian dishes.

  • Buffet-Style Service: A buffet-style meal service offers a more casual, laid-back option. Although a buffet allows for a wider selection of food, it also means waiting in line to get it. This can lead to some guests eating far later than others. Plus, since your guests are responsible for serving themselves, more popular dishes may run out more quickly than others.

Once you’ve determined the meal service that best suits your wedding style, you can narrow down your catering options. As you finalize your favorite, follow this checklist of to-dos:

  • Choose Three or Four of Your Top Caterers and Schedule Food Tastings. Some caterers offer free food tastings, while others require a fee for the consultation and ingredients. Either way, tasting the food you’ll be serving your guests will guarantee you make the most delicious choice.

  • Make Sure You Understand What’s Included in Your Catering Package. While most caterers offer appetizers and bar service along with their dinner service, some don’t, so clarify what your caterer can provide for you.

  • Check If You’re Able to Rent Table Linens, Place Settings, Dishware, and Glassware From Your Caterer. This is a convenient add-on, but it can also limit your options. If you’re looking to complement a specific wedding style with unique linens and dishware, explore other rental companies.

#3 Cake Bakers

Finding the best wedding cake requires more than just cake tastings (but don’t worry, you get to do that, too). Wonderful wedding cakes are as beautiful as they are delicious, and many couples make their choice based on taste and presentation.

To start, look through a portfolio of their previous wedding cake work. On Zola, you can browse stunning images of top-notch bakers all in one place, making it easy to compare the different styles and options.

Then, get to know your baker better by asking the following checklist of questions:

  • What flavors and fillings do you offer?
  • Do you have any specialties?
  • Do you offer vegan or gluten-free options?
  • How soon before the wedding will you bake the cake?
  • What’s your pricing like?
  • Are there additional fees for cake stand or cake knife rentals?

#4 Musicians

No celebration is complete without a little music, whether you have soft accompaniment for your ceremony or a packed dance floor with a wedding band or deejay.

With a live band, you can transform your reception venue into your own personal concert. But it’s important to remember that your tracklist will be limited, especially if you hire a band that specializes in a specific genre of music.

When deciding whether a live band is the right choice for you, run through the following checklist of talking points:

  • What type of music do you usually perform?
  • What’s your typical wedding playlist?
  • What do you wear when you’re performing?
  • How many breaks will you take during the reception? What will play during a break?
  • What’s included in your cost?
  • Are you able to perform requested songs?
  • Will someone act as an emcee?

On the other hand, you can choose to hire a deejay and groove to an endless catalog of song options. Plus, since deejays require less equipment, they’re usually the more affordable choice.

As for the ceremony, there are a handful of decisions to be made as well. While many couples opt to walk down the aisle to a pre-recorded track, hiring a string quartet, an acoustic guitar player, or a jazz ensemble to perform during your ceremony can create a more intimate moment.

#5 Florists

Regardless of your wedding style, florals can be used to adorn your aisle, embellish your reception tables, and ornament your wedding arch. You can even hang lavish floral chandeliers to create an enchanting, fairytale-like reception.

The best wedding florist will understand how to incorporate your unique wedding style into bouquets and arrangements to transform your venue into something out of a dream. They’ll also be able to do all that while staying within your budget.

#6 Hair and Makeup Artists

To truly feel like royalty on your wedding day (and save yourself the stress of gluing your own eyelashes), hire a wedding hair and makeup artist to help you achieve your perfect nuptial look. To find a hair and makeup artist that’s right for you, check each step off this list:

  • Find Your Ideal Look: Between Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, there’s plenty of inspiration to draw from. If you have a clear picture of your wedding day look in mind, you can find someone to make it a reality.

  • Search Vendors By Signature Style: Whether you want to go glam with dramatic eye makeup and an intricately styled updo or prefer a natural glow with elegantly tousled hair, you can use Zola to search for the beautician’s specialties.

  • Schedule a Trial Session: While there’s such a thing as a good surprise, getting your hair and makeup done for the first time on your wedding day is usually not one of them. A trial session gives you a chance to make changes to your style choices (or, if necessary, changes to your hair and makeup artists).

#7 Transportation Services

Depending on the parking situation at your venue, you may need to look into hiring transportation services. This could be a valet if your venue has limited parking on-site or a shuttle service if you’ve booked a hotel for your guests.

Regardless of what you choose, keep your guests up to date by adding transportation information to your wedding website and invitations.

When it comes to your own transportation, you and your significant other aren’t only limited to the traditional limousine. Check out other unique ways you can arrive and, perhaps more importantly, depart in style, including:

  • Renting an antique car
  • Hiring a horse and buggy
  • Hopping on a Vespa
  • Keeping it casual with a golf cart

2 to 4 Months Prior: Details, Details, Details

Once you’ve reserved your vendors and discussed what you’ll need from them, you’ll still want to follow up periodically to hammer out details, review their mockups and drafts, and readjust any less-than-perfect features.

Follow this checklist as you approach your big day:

  • Vendor Insurance: Check that your vendors have the proper insurance, especially if the venue requires it. Vendor insurance not only protects the venue if a vendor damages the property in any way, but it also protects you and your guests.

  • Cake Tasting: For custom cakes and flavors, you may need to schedule a secondary cake tasting for the exact recipe your baker will be using. This is often in addition to preliminary testings that are more geared towards choosing a vendor.

  • Floral Mockups: After a lengthy ideation phase, it’s time to see what your top-notch florist came up with. Before finalizing your floral order, you should ask to see mockups of the bouquets, centerpieces, and boutonnieres—in-person arrangements are always better than drawings or photos.

  • Playlist Creation: If you’ve hired a deejay, you’ll need a whole separate checklist just to create the perfect playlist. After sharing your general vibe and must-have songs, ask for an updated playlist that you can give feedback on.

  • Hair and Makeup Trial: A trial run is as important for you as it is for your stylists—you get to see and alter the final product, and they get to practice the look and collect any extra supplies if needed.

The Big Day: Tipping Your Vendors

To show your appreciation for exceptional service and a job well done, it’s customary to tip your vendors. However, some vendors include a tip in their contract, so review the terms carefully before signing.

If your vendor doesn’t include a tip in their contract, set aside cash tips ahead of time in clearly labeled envelopes. That way, you don’t have to pause your celebration to try to calculate percentages. You can even delegate the distribution of tips to your wedding planner or someone in your wedding party.

Vendors who typically receive tips include:

  • Bartenders
  • Drivers and valets
  • Restroom and coat room attendants
  • Cake bakers
  • Musicians
  • Catering staff
  • Any delivery people

Zola: Your Wedding Vendor Resource

By hiring vendors you adore, you can guarantee a wedding day filled with spirited dancing, sensational food, enchanting florals, and of course, love.

For help finding vendors in your area, use Zola’s free vendor search tool. With Zola, you can narrow down vendors based on your wedding location, style, budget, schedule, and needs. Plus, all Zola vendors say Yes to our Vendor Vows so you know you’re in good hands.

For the best wedding vendors, expert advice, and all your wedding day needs, choose Zola.

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