Where to Start?
Every wedding has four parts: the couple, the guests, the venue… and the vendors. These are the wedding professionals hired to make your day awesome, so I’m going to breakdown what vendors you need, and how to round up the best ones like a pro.
Remember: This is your day. These services and products are all optional, so mix and match them to suit your preferences.
The officiant performs the wedding ceremony, essentially making them the only required vendor. Traditionally, people picture a minister filling this roll, but a quick online search reveals a range of officiants who offer wedding services of all styles.
An option for small weddings is to have a friend or family member officiate the ceremony.
If you are located in Colorado you don't even need an Officiant! In the state of Colorado you can self-solemnize! Check out my post on Eloping in Colorado !
Let’s be honest, if you’re having a wedding, you’ll want some photos.
I know it’s tempting to have “that one cousin” who dabbles in photography do the job, but recruiting your family members can create a couple issues.
- They may not be able to enjoy the celebration. During your wedding, your family member will likely be so concerned about getting good photos that they won’t truly get to celebrate your special day with you.
- Wedding photography isn’t the same as Instagram selfies. Unless they’re an experienced wedding photographer, it’s hard to style, orchestrate, and edit good wedding photos. (And since it all happens in the moment, there are no redos.)
How much photography you need is up for debate. If you want photos during the ceremony, group/family shots, and a couple’s portrait session, you shouldn’t need more than 1-2 hours of the photographer’s time.
Not having your photographer be present for the “getting ready” and reception photos is a great way to save money. (If there are any photos that your iPhone-wielding friends can handle, it’s the maid of honor doing her makeup and the best man pounding Jagger-bombs.)
Florists are the obvious (and usually the best) choice. Find a few with good reviews in your area, then send out some quote-request emails with a few photos of bouquets you like. Oh, and don’t forget the “boutonniere” (the flower worn by the groom).
Hair & Makeup
Search for stylists in your area. By checking out their social media accounts, you’ll be able to find someone with a style you like. Let them know what you’re looking for and make sure you confirm:
- That the stylist is experienced with the style you’re looking for (send photos)
- If you need a trial session done prior to the ceremony.
- How many people you need services for (bride, bride’s maids, mother of the bride, etc.)
- If the stylist is able to travel to your area.
If you stumble around online looking for photos of wedding cakes, you’re bound to find some you like. Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, reach out to local bakeries. When you send them an email, include the flavor, color specifications, and a few attached example photos. A great way to save money, and add a touch of personalization, is to get the cake without décor, and add your own topper and/or flowers. There are a lot of beautifully unique cake toppers on Etsy, and your florist will be able to provide some matching flowers to decorate with.
Keep in mind: you don’t have to have a traditional cake. Cupcakes, donuts walls, and macaroons are all great options as well!
Many small wedding groups will head to their a backyard or rental home for the “reception” and prepare their own food. If that doesn’t appeal to you—or if you are at a venue that requires the food be made in a commercial kitchen—traditional catering options may work. But be wary that many venues and caterers have minimum guest counts.
A preferable option may be ordering takeout or catering from a local restaurant, hiring a food truck, or dining in a private room at a local restaurant.
If your wedding is going to be a casual celebration with 30 of your closest friends and family, you likely won’t need a DJ. Still, that doesn’t mean your special day needs to be devoid of music.
Hiring a live guitarist for the ceremony or having a friend man a Bluetooth speaker for the processional/recessional are both ideal for intimate settings.
Walking down the aisle in silence is not recommended, so you’ll want to plan for some sort of music during the ceremony.
Even with a small wedding, you may want to find a DJ if there will be a formal reception with a seated dinner and dance floor. These guys don’t just control the music––they orchestrate the evening and keep things running smooth.
Your drink plans will rely heavily on your reception venue. Many small event spaces require alcohol to be served by a licensed bartender, which is something to take into account as you budget. For receptions held at a restaurant, they will likely provide drink options for you to choose from. While backyards are almost always BYOB friendly, many public parks limit or restrict alcohol consumption, so it’s important to do your research beforehand.
If your wedding consists of a dozen friends and family, a ceremony on a mountain top, and a reception at a local brewery, you probably don’t need a planner. But if your guest count starts to creep into the 30s, and you want your time to be as stress-free as possible, you can always hire someone to help you put your day together.
In this case, I recommend reaching out to a local wedding coordinator. Be sure to explain the size of your day to them. Many offer a simplified “Day of Coordinator” package that just helps organize the primary logistics.
ROUNDING UP VENDORS LIKE A PRO
Once you narrow down your list of vendors, it’s time to start sending out some emails. Doing this efficiently will save you a lot of wasted time and headaches.
Initial Inquiry Email
Find vendors that fit your style and budget, then send out some emails. When doing this, always include the following information:
(Pro tip: Type this message out one time, and save it so you can copy and paste the information into each email)
- Date of your wedding
- Start time of your ceremony
- Location of your ceremony
- Your guest count
- The specific package/service you’re interested in
- Example photos, if applicable (cakes, hair, makeup, flowers, etc.)
- Your preferred contact method
Things to Consider
- Explain Yourself
Just because a vendor only lists packages for big weddings, doesn’t mean they won’t play ball with small ones. Just explain to them what your wedding is going to look like, and what sort of package you’re looking for.
- Good Communication
A vendor with good communication will make your day infinitely less stressful. If someone isn’t responding within 48 business hours, I’d recommend considering other options.
- Read Reviews… the bad ones!
Constructive criticism from a past customer will tell you a lot more than a hype-piece written by a family friend.
- Ask for a Phone Call
I know this may seem labor-intensive, but a quick phone call is a great way to see if that vendor is a good fit for you.
- Deposits & Cancellation Policies
Vendors all work a bit differently, so make sure you read the contract’s fine print before paying anything.
- Do Some Digging
The first people to show up on Google are probably awesome, but they also tend to be the most expensive, so don’t be afraid to do some digging. And if you’re really interested in saving money…