We'll walk you through what you need to ask, know, and look for.
Planning a wedding is far from a piece of cake (although neglect the cake you should not!). Before diving too deep into the specifics, it's important to get the basics straight, including who you'll be enlisting to make the process a whole lot easier. Below, a list of the must-have wedding vendors—including why you need them, how to choose them, and field guides to help you make the most of your search.
Photographer: Tec Petaja
Why you need one: You know what they say: Location, location, location. All events require a place—whether a chapel or estate, a beach or sprawling greens. While some wedding venue options may require more in-depth research than others, even the most impromptu of weddings needs a location.
A good venue vendor will guide you through the basics (like choosing your décor and planning setup and cleanup) while also answering any questions you may have.
What to consider: Budget, season, and the size of your guest list are just a few of the many factors at play. The venue sets a wedding's tone, so talk through your vision—from size to décor.
When it comes to venues, the logistics are key. How much are you willing to spend? Do certain needs—like wheelchair accessibility or special seating—play a role? Will the ceremony and reception be held in separate locations? Where does transportation come in?
To further weigh your options, download and print our comprehensive checklist, with questions and considerations to help you narrow down your search:
Photographer: Brittany Wood
Why you need one: From cocktail hour to the reception dinner, you'll need someone to supervise food flow and satisfy grumbling tummies. But caterers do a lot more than prep and distribute food—they offer expert advice, menu suggestions, and aid with food setup and cleanup throughout the day.
What to consider: The basics include party size, theme, and budget, while logistics depend on venue (Where will the food be stored and served? Is there a kitchen on site?), special needs (Are there food allergies to consider? Are a variety of options being offered?), and how hands-on or -off you want to be (Will the caterer supply the necessary linens, silverware, and china? Can they cover dinner and dessert?)
To organize your options and consult a more detailed list of what to look and ask for, download and print our catering vendor checklist:
Photographer: Rylee Hitchner
Why you need one: Boutonnieres, bouquets, and flower girl petals: even if you don't want big arrangements, blooms and weddings go hand in hand. Florists can take your vision and suggest flowers you've never heard of—plus, they'll know market prices on different blossoms and can help you budget accordingly. Basically, a florist is a living, breathing flora field guide. They'll know what to pair with what, will help you decide between colors and shapes, and will tell you what matches (or clashes with) your venue.
If plants make you sneeze, or if you prefer candles to chrysanthemums, know that many modern florists offer more than corsages and centerpieces. Certain vendors provide décor beyond the basic blossom—from greenery or lighting installations to linens, landscaping, and design.
Where to start: Our Flowers & Bouquets collection is a great launching point, whether you need a refresh on flower meanings or wish to seek inspo from other brides. Then, check out our list of the best florists.
What to consider: Quantity (Can the florist provide enough to fill your venue space and all your bridesmaids' hands?), quality (Where do they source their supply? Will their petals start to wilt mid-ceremony?), and cost (Do they offer flowers in your price range?) should be considered.
Beyond the basics, know your desired aesthetic, and know how to determine whether a florist can deliver. What does their portfolio look like? Have they designed for a wedding similar to yours? Is their work versatile, or very unilateral?
Use our planning worksheet, linked below, to make sure you don't miss anything:
Photographer: Belathee Photography
Why you need one: Memories!
Yes, dad's off-center snapshots from his point-and-shoot will be cherished, and yes, the iPhone selfies you and your 'maids take will be savored. But when it comes to your wedding, you and your family deserve to experience the day from somewhere other than behind a lens.
Besides, anyone who loves a good Instagram filter knows: a little enhancement goes a long way. That's where an expert eye and a professional camera come in. Photographers know what poses, lighting, and arrangements work best—all while capturing the moments attendees might miss. They may even have pointers on other aspects of your wedding (think: venue, décor, and makeup) because they'll know what looks best in photos.
What to consider: Style is a huge component—you want the final product to portray your special day exactly how you envisioned it, or better. That's why it's important to check out a photographer's previous work. Is their vision on par with your own? Do they capture the moments that you consider important?
Remember budget when making your rounds, and consult our planning worksheet for the full run-down on what to ask the vendors you visit:
Photographer: Michael Falco/Christian Oth Studio
The Wedding Planner
Why you need one: Feeling overwhelmed just by reading this list? A wedding planner may be your new best friend. No matter how hard you work to keep everything straight, planning isn't easy, and forgetting something is. Whether you just need a little guidance or want to be completely hands-off, there's a wedding planner out there who can meet your needs, while simultaneously making the planning process a whole lot easier to swallow.
Do you need a budget, but don't know where to start? Does your demanding job make planning difficult? Do you have little interest in swimming through the depths of Pinterest for inspo? Are you worried you'll need an extra hand to keep things running smooth and on schedule day-of? No matter what, a planner will have you covered, all while making suggestions, referrals, and appointments for your big day.
Where to start: Our list of the top wedding planners is a great go-to, as are married friends and family who've been there, done that.
What to consider: Budget, level of involvement, and availability are all important to consider. The more current clients a planner has, the less time they may have for you, and personality plays a huge role in how well you'll work together.
With a decision this big, you shouldn't have to go it alone. Consult our wedding planner checklist for help along the way, so that you can guarantee you've made the right decision: