Category Archives: wedding planning

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

6 BIG Questions that Kick Start Your Chicago Wedding Planning

Once you’ve uttered, “yes!” it’s time to start planning your Chicago wedding. But where do you start planning your special day? We’ve been involved in countless wedding days over the years, and we’re here to help you start planning an awesome wedding in the Windy City.

The first step wedding planning isn’t complicated, but is important! Start by sitting down with your fiancé and discussing the important details that guide every step of your planning your Chicago wedding.

When do we want to get married?

One of the most common questions you’ll hear as you plan is, “when is your wedding?” Almost every wedding vendor needs this information so they are can check their availability. (And that’s not even counting all the friends and family that are going to ask!) There are a few ways to choose your wedding date:

  • Select a special date (i.e. the day you met, your first date, parent’s anniversary, etc.)
  • Choose a month when you are more available based on your professional commitments
  • Set a date in your favorite season (i.e. spring, summer, fall, winter)
  • Choose a date when your favorite Chicago wedding venue or vendor is available (contact wedding vendors and ask them for dates)
  • Pick a favorite holiday (i.e. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, etc.)

Don’t get stressed out if you don’t have a set wedding date! Instead, choose a month and contact your “must have” Chicago wedding venue or vendors. Ask them if they have any dates available.

Where do we want to get married?

You’ve narrowed down the city, now it’s time to choose the perfect wedding venue. Fortunately, there is a long list of Chicago wedding venues that are perfect for wedding. Your wedding venue can be close to home, like your backyard or a family member’s home, or an incredible venue. If you have a favorite wedding venue you’ve always wanted, now is the time to speak up and add them to the list of possible Chicago wedding venues.

What is our style?

Your style as a couple is going to guide almost every detail you choose. Would you like to host an elegant day? A casual and fun picnic? An outdoor wedding with natural elements? Or is a traditional wedding more to your liking? Have you always dreamed of a rustic wedding?

What is our wedding budget?

This is an important wedding planning question that is very important to ask before you start planning your Chicago wedding. When setting a wedding budget, it’s also vital to remember to allocate most of your wedding budget to important details. The wedding venue, caterer, and entertainment are all important details that make the biggest impact on your guests, and should receive most of your wedding budget.

How big of a wedding do we want?

Do you want a big wedding? Or is a smaller wedding more your style? You don’t have to set a guest list right away, but you should discuss with your fiancé whether you want a big bash or smaller, more intimate affair.

Is there anything we really want on our big day?

Some couples dream of their wedding day for years, while others build a vision of their wedding day as they go. If you have any ideas you really want, now is the time to speak up before you start on your wedding planning journey. You may want a special venue, an awesome Chicago wedding DJ, or a sampling station with your favorite cocktail.

Once you’ve talked through these questions with your fiancé, it’s time to organize your wedding planning, get started checking off tasks on your wedding planning checklist, destress when you get overwhelmed, and enjoy planning your Chicago wedding.

wedding dance floor with DJ after planning a Chicago wedding

How to Start Planning an Awesome Chicago Wedding

Time to start planning a Chicago wedding that is completely you? Whether your ideal big day is a huge bash or a smaller, more intimate gathering, these first steps can get you started planning the day of your dreams.

Talk to your fiancé and set key details.

The first step in wedding planning is to sit down and have a conversation with your fiancé. This is your chance to discuss key details, such as style, budget, when you want to get married, and whether you want a big or small wedding. If you have any one thing you really want at the wedding, mention it now! Most importantly, discuss whether you and your fiancé have time for wedding planning or whether you want to hire a Chicago wedding planner.

Get organized.

Even if you decide to hire a wedding planner, it’s important to get organized. During this wedding planning step, you can set a timeline so you can stay on top of planning. Fortunately, there are a ton of great wedding planning apps and printables you can use to stay on track.

Pick a date and venue.

Remember the old saying, “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The date and venue are a similar question—and either wedding planning checklist item can be completed first. Some couples like to set a date first, and narrow their list of Chicago wedding venues down to the venues that are available on that date (and can accommodate their estimated guest count). Others set a season or month, and choose the date based on their favorite Chicago’s venue availability. If the venue is incredibly in demand, you can also call the venue and choose the date based on the few they have available. The last strategy for choosing a wedding date is to call a favorite wedding vendor that you absolutely have to have—a caterer, photographer, wedding DJ, or baker—and ask about available dates.

As you choose the wedding venue, remember that this is one wedding detail that is incredibly important. The wedding venue is the backdrop for your wedding and creates an amazing first impression. Make sure you choose a Chicago wedding venue that is reputable (luckily Chicagoland is full of amazing wedding venues!) Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you ask each wedding venue these questions:

  • What dates is the venue available? OR Is the venue available on my date?
  • What is the maximum capacity of the wedding venue?
  • Does the venue hold multiple weddings or events on the same date?
  • What is the cost of the venue? What does the cost cover? When is the first deposit due?
  • Does the venue provide rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, etc.)? What is the cost of the rentals?
  • Is alcohol allowed at the venue? Does the venue provide the alcohol?
  • Does the venue provide staffing? Is a staff member going to be on-site during our wedding?
  • Does the venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is there nearby parking? Are there hotels or accommodations nearby for guests?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • What dates are available for a tour?

Start checking items off your planning checklist.

There is one note of caution with this step: always do your research before hiring a vendor. Unfortunately, there are quite a few couples who have been burned by sub-par wedding vendors. When researching vendors, always ask for references and check sites like the Knot or Wedding Wire for online reviews. Never hire a wedding vendor without doing your research and interviewing the wedding vendor.

When hiring your wedding vendors, ask each vendor questions about their cancellation policies, how they prefer to communicate, and other important questions. (Ask your Chicago wedding DJ these important DJ questions.) The goal of every interview is to determine whether the wedding vendor is the “one” and reputable, and to create an ensemble of details that coordinate into a wedding atmosphere that is completely you.

wedding bride and groom surprising guests with balloons

7 Solid Tips for Organizing Your Wedding Planning

We’re not going to lie to you: planning a Chicago wedding reception comes with a long wedding planning checklist. If you want to stay on top of it, you have to get organized. These tips can help you organize all your vendors and deadlines—and even help you enjoy the process.

Talk with your fiancé before diving into wedding planning.

Knowing what you both want can make wedding planning smoother and a bit more effortless. This doesn’t mean you have to lock in every wedding detail before you start, but it does mean knowing what each of you want on your big day.

Before you start wedding planning, sit down together and ask where you want to get married, if you want a big or small wedding, what your style is, and what you both want on your big day. This is also an ideal time to set a wedding budget and discuss your finances.

Make a system.

If you want to keep track of deadlines and your checklist tasks, come up with a foolproof system at the beginning of planning your Chicago wedding reception. Your system can be a paper binder or one of these great wedding planning apps. Either way, setting a system now makes it easier to keep track of deadlines, like when you need to contact your DJ with your must play list.

Use a wedding planning checklist.

A wedding planning checklist, either on paper or in an app, is one of the most important guides—if not the most important—during wedding planning. It’s a great way to set deadlines for hiring vendors and getting do-it-yourself projects done.

Set a budget (but be realistic).

In terms of importance, the wedding budget worksheet ranks right behind the wedding planning checklist. This is your chance to set a budget for vendors and allocate money for the most important items, such as the wedding venue, food, and entertainment.

When setting a budget, be careful about setting the bar too low. Unfortunately, the saying, “you get what you pay for” often applies. Be cautious about settling for amateurs that come with a small price tag and deliver less-than-stellar service.

Ask your vendors about deadlines.

As you prepare for the fun journey of wedding planning, be incredibly careful about sticking to vendor deadlines. You can track these with a wedding app or by setting alarms in your phone. If you have friends that are managing projects, don’t forget to give them deadlines as well. Unfortunately, missed deadlines are the source of many last-minute panic attacks and headaches.

Don’t be afraid to lean on the pros you hired.

When hiring vendors, always do your research and interview every vendor (like with these Chicago wedding DJ interview questions) to ensure that they are a good fit and have the experience you need. Once you are comfortable with your decision, don’t hesitate to ask the pros you hired for assistance and guidance.

Keep at it.

Wedding organization is a marathon not a sprint. As you plan, remember to keep organizing! If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and head out for an impromptu date with your fiancé. When you’re done, you can return to your organized wedding planning and enjoy the idea of a fantastic Chicago wedding reception.

newlyweds celebrating and getting the perfect wedding memory

6 Ways to Make Your Chicago Wedding Reception Unforgettable

An awesome Chicago wedding reception is the goal, and these wedding planning hacks can get you there! We’ve been part of some fantastic Windy City wedding receptions, and every one was memorable in its own way; here’s how to use

Select the perfect Chicago wedding venue.

A breath-taking Chicago wedding venue or your own backyard—whatever wedding venue you choose, make sure it is (or can be) the perfect backdrop for a wedding reception that is completely you. Think of it as your chance to make a breath-taking first impression.

If you don’t have a favorite Chicago wedding venue, start the process by setting a budget and thinking about your style as a couple. Are you drawn to an elegant wedding venue? Would you prefer a venue with history and a story? Could you picture yourselves in a more natural outdoor setting? Or is a rustic venue more your style? Would you prefer a more casual setting that your guests can relax and enjoy? Whatever your style, Chicago is full of beautiful wedding venues perfect for your special day.

Plan a surprise—and keep it a secret!

A wedding reception surprise is a fun way to jazz up the reception—and another way to add a custom touch to your special day. This is your chance to add a special moment to all your other special moments. Plus, there are so many options: a surprise visit by a mascot or special family member of friend, an unexpected wedding first dance, a balloon or confetti drop, fireworks…the list of wedding surprise ideas are endless. Don’t forget to bring your wedding DJ, venue staff, or band in on the surprise so you can seamlessly build it into the reception order of events.

Have fun with the details.

There are no small details in a wedding reception (though there are low-priority items that shouldn’t require the majority of your budget.) Have fun with your wedding décor. This is your chance to coordinate all the details into a beautiful wedding atmosphere, with awesome signs and tons of opportunities for entertainment.

In addition to dancing, look for ways to entertain guests of all ages. Kids love bubbles, magicians, face painters and these other children wedding entertainment ideas. Your more experienced guests can enjoy tasting stations, local brews and wine samplers, photo booths, table games, and other ways to have fun off the dance floor.

Customize the wedding reception playlist.

One of the ways to make a wedding reception feel personal is to customize the play list. This can only be done with a band or wedding DJ that personalizes the play list, so make sure that question is on your list of questions to ask prospective Chicago wedding DJs.

In addition to a customized wedding play list, look for a wedding entertainment pro with experience that makes the night enjoyable for everyone. The best Chicago wedding DJs and bands have quality equipment, both primary and back-up, that ensures a smooth performance regardless of breakdowns.

Set a smooth wedding reception schedule (with minimal down time).

While we can’t promise that your wedding day goes off without any issues, the best Chicago DJs and bands make the wedding reception a smooth experience with minimal interruptions. This is especially true for wedding receptions where the ceremony and reception are in the same area. When planning the wedding day, try to make sure the transitions are smooth and seamless—without any interruptions in entertainment.

Find cool ways to capture the memories.

Every newlywed couple can attest to the fact that the wedding day goes by way too fast. As you plan, try to find ways to capture the memories. You can do this with social media hash tags, photo booths, and by hiring the best videographer and photographer (this guide to hiring wedding vendors can help). Be creative with your ideas, and prepare to enjoy the results!

guests at wedding reception enjoying dances during wedding reception order of events

What is the wedding reception order of events?

Planning your wedding is almost impossible without a wedding reception order of events. After all, the 4-6 hours of the wedding reception should be packed with fun! This list does come with a disclaimer; every wedding is a personal event with an order of events, songs (more on how to set a custom wedding playlist here), and games that fit with your unique style. So let the planning begin with this general wedding reception order of events!

Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour is the short time after the ceremony and before the dinner. This is a time all about the guests because the wedding party is typically getting photos taken and socializing. Typically, cocktail hour comprises of muted music from a live entertainer or wedding DJ. (Ask the wedding DJ if cocktail hour and dinner music is included in the package.)

Wedding Party Entrance

Your wedding party entrance is your chance to make a big splash! A wedding party entrance can be as different as you are (check out this list of wedding party entrance ideas)—and the start of a fantastic celebration. If you’ve hired an experienced DJ (this list of wedding DJ hiring tips can help), ask them for ways to coordinate your unique wedding party entrance.

Dinner & Toasts

The wedding dinner is a muted occasion (at least, when it comes to music volume), but it’s also a part of the wedding reception that requires coordination. To make sure the dinner goes smoothly, you need to make sure there is a sound system for toasts (which may be provided by the wedding venue or DJ) and an emcee to announce the toasts and order of dinner (especially important if the dinner is a buffet). Some wedding DJs provide this service; couples should always ask if this service is included in the wedding DJ services.

Cake Cutting

This sweet part of the wedding reception may not always involve cake (non-cake desserts are a delicious wedding trend), but it should involve a big announcement from the emcee and a coordination with your videographer or photographer (an experienced DJ can make this happen).

Wedding Dance

The wedding dance is one of the most custom part of the reception; this is your chance to make your big night especially you! The good new is that a good Chicago wedding DJ or band can customize the evening’s events (if they don’t ask about your preferences, be worried) to include your favorite songs and games (plus a few wedding reception surprises!) A traditional wedding dance usually includes:

  • Wedding Party Announcement
  • First Dance (ideas for a fantastic first dance here)
  • Mother-Son Dance
  • Father-Daughter Dance

One of the biggest wedding reception trends that guests appreciate is a late night course. This is a couple’s chance to keep their guests fueled for the dance floor—and provides a chance to get creative with your menu! A late-night wedding course does require an announcement, so make sure to mention this part of the wedding reception order of events to your band or wedding DJ.

Last Dance & Exit

If you don’t want the wedding reception to fizzle out, talk to your band or wedding DJ about ending with a bang. An experienced wedding DJ or band leader may have ideas, or you can come up with your own idea for the end of your wedding reception.

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

9 Amazing Wedding Themes You’ll Love

Planning a wedding reception requires a good wedding planning guide and, in some cases, a wedding theme list. The latter is incredibly helpful if you’re a couple who wants to use a theme to start creating an atmosphere with details that are completely and entirely you.


We’d be remiss as Chicago wedding professionals if we didn’t include this nod to Chicago’s heritage on our wedding theme list. A jazz wedding theme can be as modern or as vintage as wanted. A more modern take may include record accents, unique lighting, and a jazzy playlist. For a more vintage wedding, consider reproducing the atmosphere of an old jazz club—even going as far as to recreate a speakeasy with card and poker tables.


A nautical or lakefront wedding theme is the perfect opportunity to enjoy all the perks of being on the lakefront. Picture a wedding at a popular lakefront venue, marina, or yacht club filled with an atmosphere in line with a day on the water. A nautical wedding theme is an opportunity plan the ultimate menu filled with your favorite local tastes and seafood dishes.


A retro or vintage wedding theme is a throwback event, complete with touches and a playlist reminiscent of a different era or time. This is a theme that can be as unique as the era you choose—especially when choosing your favorite touches from that period. Best yet, this wedding theme lends itself to a wedding dance filled with your favorite songs from that era. (Hire a wedding DJ or band that can make that happen.)


This is the perfect wedding theme for a Valentine’s Day wedding or for an intimate wedding reception. A romantic wedding theme can be as unique as the couple planning it: a neutral affair with upscale floral bouquets or late-night reception filled with roses and candles.

Fairy Tale

A fairy tale wedding brings the wonder of your fairy tale to life. This is your chance to make guests feel like they stepped into a vintage story book or a more modern version. In addition to wonderful décor, this is also a chance to incorporate the theme into the wedding dance with a royal wedding entrance and a fairy tale first wedding dance. (Your wedding DJ may have ideas as well, just ask.)


A rustic wedding can be as modern or as country, and as formal or casual, as you prefer. This wedding theme is filled with natural elements that exemplify the rustic atmosphere: wood, greenery, floral accents, and atmospheric lighting.


An urban wedding deserves a modern wedding venue with a completely urban feel. The planning should continue with every detail that lends to a feel of the wonder of the urban landscape.


A winter wedding includes the wonders of the season—what those wonders are is different for every couple. This is your chance to select your favorite parts of the season and incorporate it into a beautiful wedding atmosphere. The result can be a neutral affair that exudes a winter wonderland or a cozy setting with tones of the season.


A spring or summer wedding is an atmosphere with fresh details: floral, greenery, seasonal menu dishes, and all the beauty of the season. This is an occasion where fresh blooms and ingredients are expected and celebrated.

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

How do I start planning an awesome wedding reception?

The wedding reception is the kingpin of a beautiful wedding day, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, this step-by-step guide breaks it down into easy-to-plan tasks that create an incredibly fun wedding reception that everyone looks forward to and talks about for ages to come.

Decide on a budget and future planning.

If you haven’t already, make a few key decisions before you start wedding planning. You’ll find wedding planning really comes down to a series of wedding questions. Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves:

  • Where do we want to get married?
  • What is our style?
  • Do we want a big or a small wedding? How big is our guest list?
  • What is our budget? Who is paying for each wedding item?
  • Do we have time to plan the wedding? Or would we prefer to hire a wedding planner?
  • What is one thing we really want at our wedding venue?

Find the right reception venue.

This is one of the most important details of planning a wedding reception—after all, this is the backdrop of your big night! Choose a venue that fits with your wedding atmosphere and checks off all the practical boxes off the checklist.

If you want to host the ultimate dance party, make sure you ask about any limitations on volume and curfew times. Some venues need to shut down the party early because of local municipal and community regulations. Even outdoor venues need to abide by these restrictions. In addition, ask these questions:

  • Is the venue available on my wedding date?
  • How many guests does your venue accommodate?
  • Are other weddings or events held at the venue at the same time?
  • What is the cost of the venue? Are there any overtime fees or other costs?
  • Is alcohol allowed on site? Do I need to get the alcohol or is it provided by the venue?
  • What staffing is provided by the venue?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible? Is there parking nearby?
  • Are there local hotels my guests can stay at?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you offer equipment rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, tablecloths, décor)?
  • When can I tour the venue? (Tip: never book a venue without seeing it in person.)

Once you have the venue booked, it’s time to start thinking about equipment rentals and décor (and venue policies). Most venues only allow free-standing décor that won’t damage the walls and structure. If the venue offers equipment rentals, discuss the specifics of your event needs. For venues that don’t offer equipment rentals, ask for recommendations for the best event rental companies and décor services. Start brainstorming ideas for wedding favors that fit with the décor and atmosphere.

In addition to finalizing event rentals, work with the venue to set a tentative wedding reception layout and schedule. Don’t leave any meeting with venue staff without setting deadlines for finalizing details and understanding the next step.

Hire a caterer.

The meal is a big part of the wedding reception, which is why booking the caterer is the first steps of planning a wedding reception. Sometimes, the caterer is part of the wedding venue package; for others, the process involves online research and asking friends and family for recommendations. When selecting a caterer, interview each caterer and ask a few questions:

  • Is your company available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have a guest minimum?
  • What is the cost per guest? Are there any additional fees or costs?
  • Do you offer different dinner services (i.e. buffet, family style, sit-down)?
  • Is bartending and drinks offered as part of your services?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • Can I schedule a tasting? Is there a fee for the tasting?

If you want to keep your wedding reception dance party going well into the night, ask the caterer about a late-night course that fuels your guests. Another idea is to hire a food truck for a creative twist (with permission from your venue, of course).

Hire the best wedding reception entertainer.

You’ve got the place and the meal set, now it’s time for the fun: planning the wedding reception entertainment! Decide whether you want a band or wedding DJ (use this list of wedding entertainment pros and cons).

Wedding entertainment is one of three details that make the biggest impact on guests. The others are the venue and food. When setting the budget, allocate enough funds for a quality vendor that keeps guests on the dance floor.

There a lot of different ways to find the best wedding DJs in Chicago, including asking your friends and family or doing online research. Be careful about relying entirely on a “Chicago DJs near me” search, however; take your research a step further and check social media and popular websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire for other couples’ opinions of the DJ.

When you do narrow your options down, ask each DJ these questions:

  • Is there a wedding DJ available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have any experience with weddings?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is the total cost of the DJ service? Are there any package deals that you offer?
  • Do you overtime fees? Is there a travel charge?
  • What “extras” do you offer (i.e. lighting, photobooth, etc.)?
  • Does your service offer back-up DJs and equipment in case of an emergency?
  • Is dinner music service part of your services?
  • Do you customize your play list to our tastes? When do we need to get our ‘must play’ and ‘do not play’ lists to you?
  • Does your service carry insurance?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • When can we meet?

Make sure to ask about any special requests, such as a bilingual MC, before signing the contract. You’ll be glad you did when you’re celebrating on your special day.

7 Tips for Less-Stress Wedding Planning

busy woman reading through wedding paperwork‘Stress’ and ‘wedding planning’ should not go hand in hand—and yet somehow it always seems to go that way. With a million details to coordinate and a budget to balance, wedding planning can start to feel like work—stressful work! Your wedding day—and the time leading up to it—should be an enjoyable experience. It can be IF you take these tips for less stressful wedding planning.

Be organized.

Organizing and using a wedding planning checklist is more than an option; it’s a necessity for low-stress wedding planning. Create a binder (or electronic file) where you can easily find the names of your wedding vendors, such as your DJ, caterer, baker, and venue. Use a wedding planning checklist to track your progress. Work ahead on your wedding checklist as much as possible so you can feel on top of things and ready for the next step.

Screen your vendors carefully.

Quality vendors equates to quality execution. Choose your wedding vendors carefully; don’t hire a DJ who raises red flags—even if they are the friend of a friend of a friend. Ask your vendors questions to weed out the sub-par and read over the contract fine print carefully to ensure you get quality service on your big day.

Lean on the experts.

Hopefully, you’ve hired a team of pros because they know their stuff. Lean on their expertise and use it. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know. What do you recommend?” Contact them for ideas and to coordinate all the details; remember that the lines of communication need to flow both ways. Make sure you leave every meeting or contact with a clear list of deadlines and expectations.

Take a break.

Step away from wedding planning every once in a while—and not just half-heartedly, but step away physically and mentally. Go on a road trip. Head to the spa with friends. Go hiking. Attend a concert with friends.

Make it a team effort.

Just like you lean on your vendors for recommendation, lean on trusted friends and family members for assistance. Ask your fiancé and trusted friends and family to help with certain wedding planning tasks. If your wedding planning task needs to be done by a certain deadline, be clear about when you need it completed.

Don’t take on more DIY than you can handle.

Too many “I can do that” can add up to an incredibly stressful experience—even when you’re incredibly capable! (We won’t even mention DIY fails.) Be realistic about the amount of time you have available for do-it-yourself projects, especially when you have to make many of them. Putting together a DIY play list for the reception seems easy UNTIL you’re up night after night after night trying to get the perfect play list ready. Decorating cupcakes may appear to be easy and simple until the frosting isn’t coming out right or you’re pressed for time. Be smart with your time and stress level; even if it seems easy, you only have so much time to get it done before your big day.

Take a break.

Did we mention taking a break from all the crazy of wedding planning? It’s okay to step away every now and then. Head up north to the cabin. Take a jog. Go swimming. Head to the gym. Take in a movie. A short break can make you feel refreshed, less stressed, and ready to take on the next step of wedding planning.

Don’t procrastinate! 4 Wedding Vendors You Shouldn’t Wait to Book

wedding bride and groom surprising guests with balloonsWe’ve all procrastinated a time or two (or three or a hundred times), but here are 4 wedding vendors you shouldn’t wait to book if you want a fantastic wedding reception.


Why you shouldn’t wait: Your wedding venue is THE biggest detail of your wedding day.  You can’t hold a great party if you don’t have a venue to hold it in.  Plus, you have a lot of other details that you can’t set in stone without having a venue.

How to find a good one: Once you’ve decided on the location of your big day (i.e. destination wedding, hometown, city where you met, etc.), narrow down your options by deciding on your style, budget, and the size of your guest list.  Choose a venue that checks off all three boxes and any other unique wants and needs you want, such as a venue that allows you to bring in your own caterer or has no sound limitations for a fantastic late-night party.

When to book: Book your wedding venue about 12-16 months before your wedding date.


Why you shouldn’t wait: You don’t want to leave your wedding guests with a bad taste in their mouths.  If you wait too long, all the good caterers are going to be booked and you’re going to have to settle for ho-hum cuisine.

How to find a good one:  Ask your friends and family for their recommendations or ask your venue for suggestions for a quality caterer.  Back your research up by checking out local reviews on social media or review sites.  Once you have a short list of caterers that are perfect for your big day, ask them for a quote and any other specific details you want for your big day.  Make sure you set up a tasting with your preferred caterer to sample the actual dishes you want on your wedding day; don’t book a caterer until you’ve made sure they live up to your standards.

When to book:  Sign the contract with your caterer 12 months before your wedding date.


Why you shouldn’t wait:  Don’t book a great venue and confirm a wonderful caterer only to leave your guests bored after dinner.

How to find a good one:  Decide whether you want a band or DJ (tips on how to choose the perfect wedding entertainment option here).  Once you’ve decided which option is your first choice (for you and your budget), ask your friends or family for recommendations and check the local review and social media sites for other couples’ opinions.  Make sure you ask these questions and look for entertainers that coordinate special moments with other vendors (i.e. photographer, videographer, venue, etc.) for wonderful memories that you can look at for years to come.  If you want to offer more fun for all ages, book a photo booth or bring out yard and table games for an entertaining wedding reception.

When to book:  Book your entertainers 14-18 months before your wedding date.

Videographer & Photographer

Why you shouldn’t wait: A bad videographer or photographer is going to leave you with less than stellar memories of the most important day of your life.

How to find a good one:  Ask your friends and family for recommendations, visit local wedding fairs, and let your keyboard do the searching.  Back your research up with review sites and reviews on social media sites to make sure you are booking the best.  Ask your prospective videographers and photographers for samples of their work before you sign on the bottom line.

When to book:  Book your videographer and photographer 12+ months before your wedding date. 

When should I hire a DJ for my wedding?

disco balls from a wedding danceThis is a question we’ve been hearing from a lot of couples in the throws of wedding planning.  If you’ve heard the saying “October is the new June,” you understand why: there are now many months of the year popular for weddings.

The answer to the question, “when should I hire a DJ for my wedding?” is 14-18 months. In reality, the sooner you contact and hire a quality wedding DJ the better.  The best DJ’s calendars book up early, and you don’t want to end up with a bad DJ (here’s how to tell the difference between quality and wedding DJ horror story).

What questions do I ask a potential DJ?

We’ve already given you tips on how to find a good DJ (i.e. ask friends, check their social media pages, etc.).  The next step is to ask the important questions that help you select the best DJ for your big day.

  • “Are you available on my wedding day?”
  • “What kind of experience do you have as a wedding DJ?”
  • “Can you give me references that I can contact?”
  • “Do you offer any other perks other than deejaying?” (i.e. lighting, photo booth rental, etc.)
  • “Can you do….(Insert special request here)?”
  • “How long can you DJ? What is cost of that time?”
  • “Do you charge overtime fees if our wedding reception runs late?”
  • “How much of a deposit is required and when will the balance be due?”
  • “Do you charge a travel fee?”
  • “What is your policy in case of an emergency or cancellation?”
  • “Can you provide me proof of your insurance?”
  • “How many meetings do you typically set up with clients? When are the meetings?”
  • “Can we do meetings over the phone or internet instead of in-person meetings?”
  • “Do you have back up DJs and equipment available for just in case?”
  • “How early do you arrive at the wedding reception?”
  • “What kind of electrical needs does your equipment require?” (for an outdoor wedding)
  • “What is included in your wedding package?”
  • “Do you provide dinner music as part of our package?”
  • “When do you need information from me?”
  • “When should I give you a list of my favorite songs and songs I do not want played at my reception?”
  • “Will your DJ be in formal attire?”
  • “Will the DJ act as Master of Ceremonies (MC) at our wedding reception?”
  • “How many years of wedding experience does my DJ have?”
  • “How do we contact you as we plan our wedding?”

How much does a wedding DJ cost?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer online because the cost of your wedding DJ depends on so many factors, including what you need and want (i.e. lighting, photo booth rental, etc.)  What we can answer here is a solid tip: don’t underestimate the cost of a quality DJ.  Yes, you need to save money and stick to your wedding budget.  However, hiring the cheapest or that “DJ friend of a friend” that can give you a killer deal has it’s downsides: sub-par equipment, no back-up in case of emergencies, no extras, crappy DJ horror stories…the list could go on and on.  When vetting potential DJ’s, be selective and hire a quality DJ (we’ve listed what to look for in a quality wedding DJ here) so you don’t end up regretting your choice on your big day.