outdoor wedding ceremony set up

The Only Wedding Vendor Checklist You'll Ever Need

Dec 20, 2023
By Wedding Spot

Who knew there were so many different wedding vendors out there? With all this selection it’s easy to get overwhelmed which is why we’ve created this wedding vendor checklist.

Wedding vendors can make or break your wedding dreams—and budget! These experts can help you perfect everything from sourcing locally grown wedding flowers from the very best farms to selecting perfectly sized edible pearls for cake decor.

In this guide, we’ll break down what you need from wedding vendors, what wedding vendors need from you, and how to put together the best team possible without overspending. And yes, we even include a handy checklist for you to reference!

Your wedding vendor checklist when choosing a vendor

Pin, Insta URL

Choosing wedding vendors is a crucial step in planning your special day. Here's our fool-proof guide that includes some points you may not have thought to consider.

1. Establish your budget

Having a clear budget will guide your vendor selection process and prevent overspending. Begin by figuring out how much you're willing to spend on your wedding overall. Once you have your big picture budget in mind, allocate specific amounts (as a whole dollar amount or a percentage) to different vendor categories such as catering, photography, and entertainment.

And don’t forget to include a small buffer in your budget. Ten percent should be enough to cover unexpected fees or help you splurge a little on a wedding vendor you simply have to work with!

After, you should both come up with a list of your top one to three priorities for wedding vendors.

If those align, great! If not, all good. Just keep in mind you may have to compromise a bit to make sure you’re both getting as many of your most important priorities as possible out of the day. Once you’ve aligned on priorities, be prepared to flex some of your spending to cover higher priority vendors and save money on less important things.

For example, if capturing these special memories through a special style of photography is important to you both, then set aside a bigger chunk of your budget than usual for a talented wedding photographer who aligns with your style and vision.

If you're worried about making it work, check out our wedding budget tips!

2. Create a vision

Before diving into vendor selection, sit down as a couple and discuss your wedding vendor vision. Talk about themes, color palettes, and the overall atmosphere you want to create. For example, wedding bands and DJs create different vibes so it’s good to know what you want up front.

Psst, not sure how to choose? Check out our guide to the pros and cons when choosing wedding bands or DJs.

It can be helpful to compile your ideas into a mood board or Pinterest board, which can serve as a visual reference when discussing your vision with potential vendors. This will ensure that your chosen vendors align with your creative vision for the wedding. It’ll also be super helpful to bring with you when you start interviewing potential vendors!

Just don’t go crazy pinning everything you see. If you end up with 50 images that all have a different vibe, you’ll make your search much more complicated. Instead, narrow it down to the big ideas you see as the throughline throughout what you do have saved then trim the fat.

3. Start early

Commencing your search for wedding vendors well in advance is crucial, especially if you're planning a wedding during peak wedding season or at a popular destination. How early should you start? We recommend at least 12-18 months before your wedding date. It definitely can be done with less time but having wiggle room allows you to secure your first choices.

Getting hitched in a hurry? Check out our suggested six-month wedding planning timeline.

4. Research and find recommendations

Tap into your network and ask friends, family, or trusted sources for recommendations. If you still need more options, use online resources like Wedding Spot, wedding forums, and local wedding planners on TikTok to gather information and insights on potential vendors. Take the time to read through reviews and ratings to gain a deeper understanding of each vendor's reputation. Your goal should be to find one or two options per vendor that are in your budget and feature examples in their portfolio that match your vision.

5. Interview multiple vendors

Meeting with multiple vendors within each category is a crucial step in finding the right fit. Arrange interviews or consultations to discuss your needs and preferences. During these meetings, you should…

  • Ask about their experience and what they love doing most for clients
  • View their portfolios side by side with your wedding mood board
  • Inquire about any specialized skills or awards they may have
  • Ask what services they can provide within your budget range
Pin, Insta URL

6. Verify references

Before finalizing your decision, request references from potential vendors and follow up on them. Seriously, do not skip this step. We’ve heard horror stories about friends that were offered wedding vendor services from other friends, only to later find out that the vendor friend was a disaster to work with professionally!

Start by going straight to the people most likely to give an honest review: recent past clients. Speaking with past clients can provide valuable insights into the vendor's reliability, professionalism, and overall performance. It's a practical step in ensuring that your chosen vendors have a track record of delivering as promised.

If you are offered vendor services from a friend, asking for their references might be a bit awkward or even offensive depending on where they are in their career. Should you find yourself in this unique situation, we recommend that you contact former clients referenced in their portfolio and dig through their online reviews a little deeper than normal. Just keep it on the down low if you’re worried about ruffling a friend’s feathers.

Pin, Insta URL

What wedding vendors need from couples

  • Clear vision and preferences. Vendors need a detailed vision to tailor their services to your unique style. Share your inspiration, such as Pinterest boards or magazine clippings, and describe the atmosphere you want to create. If you envision a rustic-themed wedding, share images of barn venues and earthy color palettes to help your vendors understand your vision.
  • Budget information. Transparent budgeting allows vendors to suggest appropriate options. If you have flexibility within your budget, communicate this so vendors can offer creative solutions without breaking the bank. Or, if there is no flexibility, don’t be shy about communicating this either!
  • Communication. Create a shared document or online tool for efficient communication with your vendors. This will minimize the risk of missed messages. Also, establish whether you’ll use email, Zoom, or text to coordinate throughout the process. Project management apps like Trello or Asana can keep all vendor communications and to-do lists in one place.
  • Venue details. Vendors need to know the venue's layout, rules, and any logistical challenges. Share information on parking, load-in areas, and any noise restrictions. Consider creating a floor plan using Social Tables that includes a 3D model with your venue’s exact measurements to visualize where vendors will be stationed. Not to mention, your guests need to know where they can book rooms, especially if your wedding will be held at a property with lodging attached. You can use Wedding Spot to find Passkey-enabled hotels, making your room blocks much (much) more manageable.
  • Guest count. A rough guest count early in the planning process helps caterers determine portion sizes and allows for proper seating arrangements. If your guest list has dietary restrictions, share this information with your caterer to accommodate diverse needs. This will also be important for the aforementioned room blocks—pay attention to how many out-of-towners you’re expecting, and how many will likely be bunking together. This can be tricky, since you’ll want to get your room blocks set up before you send out your invitations. But don’t worry, we have a guide to wedding room blocks to walk you through it.
  • Timeline. Share your day-of timeline with vendors so they can plan their schedules. Discuss buffer times to account for potential delays. And don’t forget to include time for vendor meals in your schedule to ensure they have the energy to provide top-notch service throughout the day.
  • Contact information. Designate a point person for vendors to contact on the wedding day. This person should have a comprehensive vendor list and be available for questions or concerns. If you have a wedding planner, provide vendors with their contact information as the main point of contact. Check out our guide to decide whether or not you need a wedding planner.
  • Vendor agreements and contracts. Read wedding vendor contracts carefully and consider having a lawyer review them if necessary. Ensure all your expectations are explicitly stated. Include a clause about weather contingencies for outdoor events to prevent misunderstandings if you need to move indoors.
Pin, Insta URL

What couples should expect from wedding vendors

  • Professionalism. Expect vendors to dress appropriately and behave professionally. They should be proactive in addressing any issues and maintaining a calm demeanor. A vendor who can manage unexpected situations gracefully can add significant value to your day.
  • Clear contracts. Contracts should be thorough and clear. Look for specifics about the number of hours of service, setup and breakdown times, and any overtime fees. For example, a photography contract should specify the number of edited photos you'll receive and how long it takes to receive them after the wedding.
  • Portfolio and references. Evaluate a vendor's work through their portfolio and reach out to past clients for references to gauge their reliability and satisfaction. Ask vendors if you can see full albums or galleries of their work to get a comprehensive view of their capabilities.
  • Detailed proposals. Vendors should provide itemized proposals that outline everything included in their services, from equipment to personnel. This transparency helps you understand what you're paying for. A catering proposal, for example, should detail the menu, service staff, and any additional fees for rentals or upgrades.
  • Timely responses. Responsive vendors build trust. While they may be busy, they should acknowledge your messages promptly and provide realistic timelines for deliverables. Send a brief thank-you note or small token of appreciation to vendors who consistently exceed your expectations during the planning process.
  • Flexibility and adaptability. While vendors should adhere to their contracts, they should also be willing to accommodate reasonable changes or unexpected situations.  If your outdoor ceremony faces unexpected rain, your planner or coordinator should be prepared with a quick and effective backup plan. 
  • Quality service and products. Vendors should deliver the level of service and quality products outlined in your contract, from beautifully arranged floral centerpieces to a seamless DJ performance. Request a tasting session with your caterer to ensure you're happy with the flavor and presentation of your chosen menu items.
  • Respect for your vision. Vendors should enhance your vision, not impose their preferences. They should listen to your ideas while offering professional guidance. For example, if you want a specific song played during your first dance, your DJ should honor your request while ensuring it flows seamlessly with the rest of the playlist. Just remember: you want to have a good relationship with your vendors, so try to be reasonable and accommodating about your requests.
  • Timely setup and cleanup. Vendors should arrive on time for setup and promptly clean up their equipment or materials after the event. The cleanup should be thorough to leave your venue in good condition. Discuss the cleanup process with your rental company to ensure they remove all rented items promptly, avoiding any additional venue fees.
Pin, Insta URL

Avoiding common mistakes when choosing wedding vendors

When selecting wedding vendors, there are several common pitfalls to steer clear of to ensure a smooth and successful wedding planning process. We’ve already touched on why research is important, how to manage your budget, and the importance of actually understanding vendor contracts. Here are some other important things to consider.

Do not make vendor selections based on price alone. Opting for the cheapest vendor without considering their experience, quality of service, or reliability can prove costly in the long run. While budget is a significant factor, prioritize value and quality over the lowest price. A higher-priced vendor may ultimately provide better service, saving you from potential issues.

And don't underestimate the importance of considering personality fit. A vendor's skills and experience are undeniably important, but their personality and communication style also matter. A vendor who doesn't align with your wedding vision or whose communication style clashes with yours can lead to undue stress. Trust your instincts and opt for vendors that you genuinely click with!

Choose wedding vendors that check all the boxes

When planning your wedding, picking the right vendors is super important. This checklist helps you avoid mistakes and make good choices. Do your homework, talk to vendors, and read contracts carefully. It's all about making sure your big day turns out just the way you want it. Remember, your vendors help create the magic of your day, so choose them wisely. With this checklist, you'll be on your way to a fantastic and smooth wedding day!

Up next, find out how much a wedding planner actually costs

Featured Blog

Follow Us


Wedding Spot

Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.