What To Know Before You Book

It seems so straight forward: "Is Saturday, September 19 free?" But there's more you need to ask.

by Tia Albright

What’s one of the first things you’ll think about once you’re engaged (besides that sparkling rock on your ring finger)? Your suppliers, of course! Hiring a dream team of wedding pros is the top priority for many brides, but hiring suppliers has dangers too. Don’t let your excitement overshadow your intuition when it comes to hashing out the minute details. We’ve asked some of the wedding industry’s top suppliers, from photographers and cake bakers, to musicians and event planners, to share their top secret tips for ensuring that you get the service you deserve.


When to book: ASAP!

Look for: A space that’s done weddings before, can comfortably fit your guest list and has plenty of outlets for the band to plug into

Ask this: How many weddings do you host a year? Can we bring in outside suppliers for catering, cake baking and decor? What’s the time limit for renting the space?

Warning signs: If they try to convince you to move your wedding to another day

What goes in the contract: Payment plan, rental hours, cancellation policies and a backup plan in case there’s bad weather

Common mistake: Make sure that your name is spelled correctly on the contract, especially if the venue is making signs or menu cards

Event Planner

Image: Sooti Event Styling and Design

When to book: As soon as you get engaged!

Look for: A planner who’s experienced in designing. Knowledgeable about the industry and connected to well known local suppliers

Ask this: May I speak with three of your recent brides and see samples of your work?

Warning signs: The planner’s more interested in their vision than finding out yours

What goes in the contract: Charges, services as well as a cancellation clause

Common mistake: Choosing a relative or friend over a professional. Loved ones have your best interest at heart but lack experience and relationships with other suppliers


When to book: One year before

Look for: An extensive portfolio on their website and a blog with recent weddings. A professional whose style matches yours is key

Ask this: How many weddings do you shoot a year? Do you provide a second shooter? How long does it take to receive proofs, the CD of the originals and albums?

Warning signs: If their personality doesn’t mesh with yours, if they’re hard to get in touch with or if they won’t compromise

What goes in the contract: Detailed package information, who has the photo rights and how long they’ll be there on the wedding day

Common mistake: Overlooking artistic ability for pricing. If you find a photographer you like, see if they can work within your budget

Image: Christina Carroll Photography

DJ or Band

When to book: 12 to 15 months before

Look for: Someone with a solid reputation

Ask this: Can I see a recent wedding playlist? How many power outlets do you need?

Warning signs: An inflexible band leader or DJ who isn’t willing to work with the music you want to hear (if they’re trying to change your first dance song, watch out!)

What goes in the contract: Times, dates, equipment, scheduled breaks and meals

Common mistake: A strict playlist. The pros know how to read the crowd, so hire someone you trust and go with the flow

Image: Stacy Reeves Photography

Cake Baker

When to book: Four to six months before

Look for: A baker with years of delivery service who specialises in weddings and has quality references from other brides

Ask this: Are the cakes made from scratch? Can I see an illustration of what you’re planning?

Warning signs: They take forever to set up a tasting or won’t offer references

What goes in the contract: Number of tiers and slices, type of frosting, fillings and flavours, delivery times, charges and décor details

Common mistake: Being so taken by the design, you forget to think about the taste


Camrose Hill Flower FarmPhotography: Camrose Hill Flower Farm

When to book: Five to six months before

Look for: High-quality products

Ask this: May I speak with some of your past brides? Do you have samples of your work?

Warning signs: Not being able to show you examples of past work that fit your style—even if you’re going custom, you need to see that they’re capable of making what you want

What goes in the contract: Pricing, payment dates and who will proofread final products

Common mistake: Not clearly explaining your ideas. It’s important that your stationer completely understands your style

Makeup Artist

MakeupPhotography: Canale Photographica

When to book: Three to six months

Look for: A great portfolio, references and a creative artist who can give you the glowing wedding day look that you want

Ask this: Do you provide on site touch ups? Will you leave samples for me to do touch ups if you can’t be there? Do you offer a trial run?

Warning signs: Your trial makeup doesn’t look natural or they can’t hide blemishes

What goes in the contract: The number of people getting made up (bride, bridesmaids, mums), the pricing per person as well as the cancellation policy. If you’re booking at a local salon, it’s okay to skip the contract

Common mistake: Not being clear on what you want. If you don’t like the trial, then speak up immediately. This is why it’s called a trial. A chance for you to test out your wedding day look!


Photography: Allison Davis Photography

When to book: Six to eight months before

Look for: Exquisite presentation, food that’s the right temperature and friendly staff

Ask this: When can I do a tasting? Do you provide full service catering with waitstaff?

Warning signs: A poorly executed tasting and an uninterested chef who ignores your wants

What goes in the contract: Pricing and your reception menu selections

Common mistake: Not tasting the food. People might rave about the fish, but if you’re doing chicken or steak, you may be disappointed


FlowersImage: LGW – Design, Events and Styling

When to book: 8 to 10 months before

Look for: A diverse portfolio, someone who’s willing to do a mock-up for you to see and who’ll be sure to stick to your budget

Ask this: Do you offer packages? Are there labour charges for drop off and pick up? How many meetings will we have during planning?

Warning signs: If they can’t suggest specific flowers that fit your wedding style

What goes in the contract: Delivery and set up times, cancellation policies, alternate flowers if yours aren’t available and whether the vases are yours to keep

Common mistake: Not doing your research. Speak with other brides who’ve used them


Image: Evoke Photography

When to book: Three to six months before

Look for: Extensive experience with wedding styles and placing veils, photographs of recent brides and a great hair trial

Ask this: Do you book more than one bridal client a day? Do you have a backup stylist?

Warning signs: Tardiness, poor listening skills and an unwillingness to make style changes

What goes in the contract: Include the backup stylist’s information and the name of the person doing your hair. If you’re going to a salon, it’s okay to skip the contract

Common mistake: Thinking that the hairdo on the day will be better than the trial. If the first run is bad, find a new stylist, quick!


Gruber PhotographersPhotography: Gruber Photographers

When to book: Six months before

Look for: Charisma, a clear speaking voice and someone who can hold your interest

Ask this: Do you offer premarital counselling? Can we write our own vows?

Warning signs: A celebrant who doesn’t listen to what you want. You want your vows to be meaningful, not generic

What goes in the contract: All logistics, dates of payments and backup celebrant info

Common mistake: Choosing the first celebrant you meet. You’re better off taking the time to talk with at least three potential celebrants so you can make sure you’re choosing the best

SEE MORE: 10 Ways To Save On Your Wedding 
SEE MORE: OMG! Priest Stops To Yell At A Photographer


When to book: Four months before

Look for: Suppliers with wedding experience

Ask this:
How many weddings do you service in a year? Do your drivers have good records?

Warning signs: The company asks for payment in full instead of a deposit

What goes in the contract: Drop off and pickup times and a payment schedule

Common mistake: Not looking at vehicles in person–—always see what you’re paying for.

Tell us Knotties, have you booked anything yet? What are you leaving until last?

by Tia Albright


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