Planning a wedding - especially as a vendor myself - has been incredibly interesting, and has had plenty of challenges despite being a (mostly) fun process. For the not-as-much-of-a-planner-at-heart folks, I can only imagine the challenging moments are probably even more so. I want to take some time to combine my industry experience with my newfound behind-the-scenes knowledge and compile some of what I would've tackled sooner, done differently, or did successfully and want to share that success to hopefully help my couples, and readers alike. And don't forget - every wedding, couple, and budget is different; some of what I express may be subjective to your own needs and plans, however, I hope this collection turns on a lightbulb or two!

Licensing, Insurance, & Permits

  • Banquet permits are required to serve alcohol at venues. This does not apply to backyard weddings. Permits are only $10 a day, and do not take long to get. You can purchase online, and do it within days of the wedding.
  • Marriage licenses must be in-hand before your wedding day! They have a 3-day waiting period, and then are good for 60 days. Be sure to double-triple check that they get the names and birthdates and any other information provided correct. If you don't notice, and wait - eventually you have to then submit for a record change with the state, and it is cumbersome and long. You do not have to apply for a license in the same county your wedding will be in, just the state. Search for "marriage license <your county>" to find where to apply.
  • Event insurance is often required for wedding venues. You can inquire with your own insurance company (for example, I used State Farm), or go with a dedicated day-of insurance company like WedSafe.

What to Book Early:


Venue (12 MONTHS+)

Photographer (12 MONTHS+)



Food/CATERING (6-12 Months)


Planning an average wedding usually begins about a year out. Why these vendors first? For starters, most of these vendors cannot take more than one wedding a day - or, they know early if they can take more than one based on the size. They often are the first to be booked and farther out! Personally, my photography calendar *nearly* fills the prior year, and then I get a couple bookings with shorter leads for dates in between the popular ones. This all depends of course on your individual needs, but to many couples' surprise, what feels like a lot of time, may be just the right amount of time to start getting quotes and booking your vendors in the wedding industry. Make a list of what you want to have priority and go from there.


BARTENDER (6+ Months)


Floral (6+ MONTHS)

Cake & Desserts (3+ months)


Bartenders will be necessary if you want to serve mixed drinks, and some venues will require it. Get a feel for what you may want to serve, and then start researching vendors. The top ones will get booked out early, especially those that offer fun extra services or mobile bars, so reach out to those even earlier. I feel it's worth exploring floral options before locking yourself in; consider if you want have real flowers and the distance of the florist, whether you want/need the venue set up the night prior, and what other items may need priority first. I personally went with real touch faux flowers and thrifted vases, a small business for custom faux boutonnières, hairpins and corsages, and a florist for real bouquets. Rental companies may book with you much earlier and settle final counts when you get your RSVPS - but they still need to know what events are on their books and what you most likely need, so my recommendation is still to reach out to options after you have your venue. Bakeries generally don't plan wildly early like certain vendors do. In my experience, most bakeries wanted me to reach out in the months leading up. Still reach out to your ideal bakery/baker and ask how much time THEY prefer; you may also need time to do cake or dessert tastings.

Who should I be meeting in person? The vendors most important for you to JIVE with and may be best to meet in person, are your photographer, DJ, and coordinator. Your photographer will be with you a majority of your day, in close contact. Your DJ will be running your party, and your coordinator will be in charge of all the day's activities, and directly interfacing with your guests. You want to feel the most comfortable, relaxed, and yourself around these vendors. Nailing down what you want for your wedding day meal is also very important. You want time to get in tastings, budget, and shop around for this part. Personally, I knew straight away I didn't have a huge budget, but also have a quirky love of food trucks - so I got to shopping for food truck quotes. Keep in mind that venues, photographers, caterers, coordinators/planners and DJs will often be booking a year or more out.

Don't: settle your heart and mind on a theme until you've booked a venue.

Your venue can dictate what sort of theme will work, how much or how little decorating is necessary, what rentals you may need or not need, the amount of space you'll have, whether it's indoor, outdoor or a mix - and so on. Don't add unnecessary stress by locking décor plans before this point!

Don't: invite people until you have your venue booked.

Most venues have a maximum headcount, or a fee for certain ranges of guest counts. Until you know this number, don't put yourself in the position to have to awkwardly backtrack on talks of an invitation. Surely we all have a number of folks there's no question on, but it's a good rule of thumb to wait until your plans are settled to discuss this.

DO: KEEP a spreadsheet to track your planning.

Using a spreadsheet makes it easy to track quotes, vendor choices, contact info, deposits, packages, final payments, and more. And guess what - I'm offering the Excel spreadsheet I made & used myself for FREE! Email me at for your copy, with "Wedding Planner" in the headline, or fill out my contact form.

DO: Have backup plans In Mind.

It's never a bad idea to have other vendors in mind if something happens. People get sick, businesses close, and accidents happen. You will save yourself some stress if this happens by keeping a list of potential contacts. Included in necessary backup plans is RAIN. If your ceremony will be outside or you don't have substantial cover, keep a list of potential tent rental companies, especially Spring-Winter.

A September wedding at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, WA.

The ceremony space at Cedar Springs in Port Orchard, WA.

My favorite bartender to recommend, the Bustender by Kitsap Bartending Services! This VW bus bar is mobile, a crowd pleaser and a fun photo op.

One of my favorite tents for receptions year-round is the clear tent; Pricier to rent but SO beautiful!

Things to Prepare For your Wedding Vendors!

Accessories, attire & anything else you want for detail photos for the photographer:

  • Dress/Attire
  • Rings
  • Shoes
  • Earrings, necklace or other jewelry
  • Misc. details like perfume, vow books, hair pieces, etc.
  • Invitation/Save the Dates

The Paperwork for your Officiant:

  • Marriage license
  • Your decorative certificate for photos (if desired)
  • A black pen!

Items for your Coordinator:

  • Décor and guidance on your setup wishes (You may want to just make a simple word doc with the different areas detailed, ie; ceremony site, dinner tables, welcome table - or even a diagram)
  • Tips in envelopes for vendors you are tipping
  • Copies of your day-of timeline for them to pass out to vendors, if they didn't already print them or need more
  • Any other information that needs to be passed out to vendors, like guests' meal choices for the caterer


Making a wedding day go smoothly requires a lot of coordination. If you have a lot of pickups, you will need to divvy up the responsibilities. Wedding party members, family members or friends may be great people to reach out to for these. Here are some jobs that you may not realize need to be assigned until closer to the day.

  • Pickups for desserts & food items, alcohol/kegs, etc. that are unable to be delivered to your venue or set for pickup.
  • Pack decor to and from your venue.
  • Assist with setup, if needed; chairs, tables, and maybe even decor; but PLEASE, if you have a lot of setup, a coordinator is priceless to allow your wedding party & family to relax and enjoy the day they've been anticipating with you. I've found if the party or family is tied up in setup, they don't have as much time to get ready or be in photos on time.
  • Water and snacks for the party and early arriving guests! Getting ready takes a long time and often times ties everyone in the party up. Don't let everyone go without a proper meal; plan for some sort of lunch to be available and snacks, and water (and if it's your thing, surely the mimosas!) It's also an often skipped over thought to have water bottles or a water station (you can jazz it up with infusions too!) available for your guests before the ceremony, especially if your bartending service does not start until after the ceremony is finished. Small snacks for guests aren't a bad idea either!
  • Pack out trash. (Some venues do not have a dumpster and require you to pack out your trash, be sure to ask.)
  • Cutting the cake & serving the guests. Funny enough, I have actually found a handful of times that a couple simply did not plan for who was cutting and serving the cake, and you can imagine how awkward it would be to realize in the moment. Sometimes caterers will do this, or if you have a day-of coordinator, they would likely do this role. If neither applies, be sure to designate someone to do this, even if it's a couple friends or family members.
  • Lighting or turning on candles/lighted centerpieces. I hear and see this one a ton - the night gets closer and everyone is having so much fun that no one realizes or thinks to light or turn on or light all the candles the couple has purchased. While certainly NOT the end of the world, it's just another one of those little details that are often forgotten. Assign a wedding party member or family member to do this if you don't have a day-of coordinator.
  • Let guests know about things to sign or do such as guest books, photobooths, audio or video message booths and so on, so that you can hopefully have record of as many people that attended as possible.
  • Setting up the exit. Have someone that is aware of where everything is for your exit, and when you want it to happen, that can help get the guests alerted and gathered, or at the minimum be the person to alert someone else who announces, such as the DJ/MC. A lot of times your coordinator (once again, if you have one) & the photographer usually are most involved in this and can also help alert and corrall the guests.
  • Witnesses for the certificate signing! At least 2 - over the age of 12. If we are doing a private elopement, I am happy to be a witness.

A lot of little details go into your planning - trust me, I KNOW! The day gets fuzzy, especially when you're having so much fun. Having more brains on the things you wanted to see happen helps you, and everyone else, relax.

Mimosa cheers with the ladies in the morning!

Delicious vanilla and berry cake from Blackbird Bakery in Bainbridge Island, WA.

Beautiful candle centerpieces lit in the evening at Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, WA.

A glowstick exit at Red Cedar Farm in Poulsbo, WA.

How do I keep my guests entertained?

Sometimes closer to the date couples realize that dinner and drinks might not be enough to keep guests engaged. Yard games, board games and photobooths are a few classic options for a little memorable fun. There's even rentable bouncehouses!

A board game table at a wedding.

Photobooths are a lot of fun! There's options for mobile photobooth trailers, photobooth photographers, rentable self standing photobooths like this one, and also countless apps for your own printer setup. Instax cameras are also a popular option.

Lawn games have become super popular! There's tons of options for custom games on Etsy, and affordable options tend to be available around Summer at places like Homegoods. Some ideas are cornhole, giant jenga, ring toss, bocce ball, or ladder toss.

How about for the Kids?

If you're going to have kids present at your wedding, a kids table with activity bags is a great idea. Fill them with coloring sheets, games, and toys!

How about for the Kids?

If you're going to have kids present at your wedding, a kids table with activity bags is a great idea. Fill them with coloring sheets, games, and toys!

Free Planning Spreadsheet

I'm offering the Excel spreadsheet I made & used myself for FREE! Email me at for your copy, with "Wedding Planner" in the headline, or fill out my contact form.

There is no obligation to book or purchase anything to receive the spreadsheet!

Interested in having me be your photographer?