caterer serving hors d'oeuvres at a wedding

You Wedding Vendor List: Who Do You Need and What Do They Do?

Dec 11, 2023
By Wedding Spot

Planning a wedding can be an exhilarating yet daunting experience. One of the most crucial aspects of a successful wedding is assembling the perfect team of wedding vendors. These talented professionals play a pivotal role in bringing your dream wedding to life.

Keep reading for an in-depth look at the essential wedding vendors, their roles, and when to start looking for them.

Must-have professionals on every wedding vendor list

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1. Venue and Caterer

Selecting the wedding venue and caterer is the foundational step in your wedding planning journey. The wedding venue sets the mood and tone for your big day, while the caterer ensures your guests are delighted with a scrumptious meal. Start searching for the ideal venue and caterer at least nine to 12 months before the wedding to secure your preferred date and avoid disappointment.

Keep in mind that many venues have a caterer in house, but those that don’t often have a preferred vendors list. Your catering choices may be limited by the venue you choose. However, selecting a venue with an in-house caterer offers a level of convenience that an external caterer would not.

2. Wedding planner

A wedding planner can be a lifesaver throughout the planning process. They will assist you with everything from budget management and vendor selection to coordinating the wedding day timeline. Hiring a wedding planner can alleviate stress and help you focus on enjoying the momentous occasion. Engage a wedding planner as early as possible to benefit from their expertise from the beginning. Or, at the very least, consider hiring a wedding coordinator for the big day so that you can focus on what matters most and enjoy the day to the fullest.

3. Photographer and Videographer

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Weddings are fleeting moments, and capturing those precious memories is paramount. Professional wedding photographers and videographers immortalize your special day, allowing you to relive every heartfelt emotion for years to come. Begin searching for these vendors about nine to 12 months ahead of your wedding to secure the best talent in your area.

4. Florist

Flowers are an integral part of any wedding, adding beauty, elegance, and fun to the event. A skilled florist will create stunning bouquets, centerpieces, and floral arrangements that align with your wedding theme. Reach out to florists about six to nine months before your wedding to discuss your vision and ensure they can accommodate your date.

5. Wedding officiant

The wedding officiant is the person who will conduct your wedding ceremony. Whether you choose a religious figure, a civil officiant, or a family member, ensure they are legally authorized to officiate weddings in your area. It's best to confirm their availability about six to nine months before the wedding.

6. Entertainment (DJ/Band)

Your choice of entertainment sets the mood for the reception and keeps the party alive. Deciding between a professional DJ and a live band will depend on your preferences and budget. High-demand entertainment services often get booked quickly, so start your search about nine to 12 months in advance.

7. Wedding Attire

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Finding the perfect wedding dress, tuxedo, or suit takes time and several fittings. Allow yourself six to nine months to find the attire that makes you feel like royalty on your big day. Additionally, don't forget to consider bridesmaids' dresses, groomsmen attire, and outfits for the flower girl and ring bearer. If you think you’d like to order a custom dress or bespoke suit, bear in mind that the turnaround time will be longer. If you have a style in mind and don’t think your weight will fluctuate much before the wedding, it may be worth starting your hunt earlier than usual to allow for more time building a made-to-order look.

8. Hair and makeup artists

On your wedding day, you want to look and feel your best. Professional hair and makeup artists will ensure you achieve that picture-perfect look that complements your style and enhances your natural beauty. Book hair and makeup artists about three to six months before your wedding, especially if they are in high demand.

For all the grooms out there, it’s recommended to get a haircut no less than a week ahead of time for short hair, and about three weeks in advance for a longer style. Long hair settles in nicely after a few weeks, and short hair will still look sharp after a few days.

9. Cake designer

The wedding cake is not only a delicious treat but also a focal point of the reception. Collaborate with a talented cake designer about three to six months before your wedding to create a confection that reflects your personality and wedding theme.

10. Stationery designer

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The stationery designer will craft your wedding invitations, save-the-dates, place cards, and other paper goods. Reach out to a stationery designer about six to nine months before your wedding to give your guests a glimpse of the upcoming celebration. Or, if you’re handy with sites such as Canva, you may be able to use some of their paid features to design and print the perfect wedding stationery.

How much does it cost to hire wedding vendors

Now that you have your wedding vendor list ready to go, it’s time to get a better idea of how much cash you’ll need to spend. Budgeting for a wedding can vary significantly based on various factors like location, guest count, personal preferences, and the level of service you desire. Please keep in mind that these figures are general estimates and actual costs may vary.

  • Venue. The venue cost can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the location, type of venue, and season. On average, expect to allocate around 30-40% of your total budget to the venue.
  • Catering. Food and beverage costs can be a substantial part of your wedding budget. Depending on the menu and level of service, catering can account for 30-40% of the total budget.
  • Photography and videography. Professional photographers and videographers typically charge between 10-15% of the overall budget. Keep in mind that high-quality photography and videography are essential to capture your special day's memories.
  • Wedding attire. The bride's and groom's attire, including dresses, suits, accessories, and alterations, can take up around 5-10% of the budget.
  • Flowers and decorations. Floral arrangements, centerpieces, bouquets, and other decorations can range from 5-10% of the total budget, depending on your floral preferences and the scale of the event.
  • Entertainment. This includes costs for a DJ, live band, or any other entertainment for your reception. Allocate around 5-10% of your budget to entertainment.
  • Wedding planner/coordinator. If you choose to hire a wedding planner or coordinator, budget around 10-15% of the total cost for their services.
  • Cake and desserts. The wedding cake and any additional desserts or sweets may account for about 2-5% of the budget.
  • Invitations and stationery. Invitations, save-the-dates, and other stationary costs can range from 2-5% of the total budget.
  • Miscellaneous/Contingency. It's a good idea to set aside about 5-10% of the budget for unexpected expenses or last-minute additions. Bear in mind that this usually doesn’t cover taxes and fees, so be certain to include any taxes and service fees a vendor may charge in the total cost of that vendor.

Remember that these percentages are just general guidelines, and you can adjust them based on your priorities and preferences. Also keep in mind that a 15% gratuity is expected with many vendors. Whether you want to include that gratuity in your budgeted amount for each vendor or create another segment in your budget for gratuities. Make sure to research vendors in your area, get multiple quotes, and compare prices to create a realistic budget that aligns with your vision for the wedding.

You may also be wondering…

What kind of vendors do I need for my wedding?

For your wedding, you will need various vendors to ensure a successful event. The most essential vendors include:

  • A venue for the ceremony and reception
  • Catering services for food and beverages
  • A photographer/videographer to capture precious moments
  • A florist for beautiful floral arrangements
  • Entertainment such as a DJ or live band
  • A wedding planner/coordinator to manage the logistics
  • A baker for the wedding cake
  • Stationery designers for invitations and save-the-dates

You may also need additional vendors such as…

  • Hair and makeup artists
  • Transportation services
  • Rental companies for chairs, tables, and decor

The specific vendors you need may vary based on your preferences and the size and style of your wedding, but these are the major ones you should consider.

What should be included in a wedding vendor contract?

When creating or reviewing wedding vendor contracts, it's essential to understand each of the specific details.

Any standard wedding vendor contract will begin with basic information such as the vendor's name, contact information, and the couple's names. The contract will then go on to clearly outline the services being provided (including the date, time, and location of the event) as well as a detailed description of what the vendor will deliver.

The payment terms should be explicitly stated, pay special attention to the total cost, payment schedule, and any applicable deposit or cancellation fees. It's also crucial to specify what happens in case of unexpected circumstances or force majeure events.

Pro tip: Even if you’ve verbally agreed to certain payment terms, they must be included here to be valid later on.

The contract should also define any additional fees or charges, such as travel expenses or overtime fees, so there are no surprises later on. Highlight details about what is expected from you (such as providing a meal for certain vendors during the event) and add it to your wedding vendor list of tasks immediately along with any stated due dates.  

The rest of the contract should outline the vendor's responsibilities and performance expectations, including the timeframe for delivery of services or products. For example, the photographer might specify when you can expect to receive the final edited photos or the florist might outline the types of flowers and arrangements they'll provide.

A cancellation and refund policy should be included. It should detail the conditions under which either party can cancel the agreement and what happens to the deposit in such cases.

Lastly, make sure the contract includes a section on liability and indemnification, protecting both parties in the event of unforeseen incidents or damages.

Remember: Always carefully read and understand the terms of the contract before signing. And if you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to discuss them with the vendor or seek legal advice. Having comprehensive and transparent contracts helps establish trust and ensures a smoother and more enjoyable wedding planning process!

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Which wedding vendors do I tip and how much?

Tipping is a gesture of appreciation for exceptional service provided by wedding vendors. While it's not mandatory, it is customary to tip certain vendors including catering teams, hair and makeup artists, transportation and valet drivers, a hired officiant, and delivery or setup crews.

Prepare to tip between 10-20% of their services or a flat $50-$100 for larger fee vendors. Remember that these are general guidelines, and you should adjust the tips based on the quality of service and your budget.

Pro tip: Envelopes with cash tips are the most common way to show your gratitude discreetly on the wedding day.

Pick the perfect wedding vendors for your big day!

Assembling the perfect wedding vendor list is an essential part of planning your dream wedding. Each vendor plays a unique role in bringing your vision to life, ensuring that your special day is filled with love, joy, and beautiful memories. By starting your search for wedding vendors well in advance, you can secure the best professionals and make your wedding a truly unforgettable experience. Happy planning!

Up next, check out this complete guide about how much to tip wedding vendors!

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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.