December 28, 2019
Congrats! You just got engaged. Now what? Eventually, your first step will be to pick your date. Over the last ten plus years in the wedding industry, and having been a bride myself once, I've gathered a few personal and pro tips on how to go about choosing your date.
WHY IT MAY NOT BE THE BEST IDEA TO CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING DATE FIRST
It seems like choosing your date first is the most practical decision. You can't plan anything until you know when it's going to be, right? Not necessarily. You can't book any vendors, but you can gather information so you can be the most informed on choosing what date works best for you.
Example- Let’s say you want 10.10.20 as your wedding date. You’ve told your friends and family, you’ve booked your florist, DJ, and officiant for that date, but then when choosing your venue, photographer or caterer for example, three of not only the most memorable and inflexible parts of your wedding, but also three of the most expensive parts of your wedding, your favorite venue and photographer don’t have the same date free. Now you are forced to choose between the two. Or, if you don’t choose between the two and change your already chosen date, but then you must now renegotiate contracts with your other vendors (and hope that family and friends are all still available!)
After going on nine years as a wedding photographer, and time spent working at a bridal salon and with greenhouses/florists, below are my personal and professional recommendations on factors to consider when choosing your wedding date.
1. VENDOR AVAILABILITY
As much as I would like to say that your photographer is your most important vendor at your wedding, let’s face it, we are not, your venue is the most likely to be considered your important wedding vendor.
Venue: Many couples choose their venue first and go from there, but end up missing out on some of their other favorite vendors because they are booked with the date they just set for their venue. My advice is don’t lock in your date based solely on your venue (or any other vendor for that matter). Come to the conversation with a few dates in mind so you can coordinate with your most important vendors together so you can hopefully book everyone you want.
Vendors: Contact all of all your most important vendors early on. Consider booking your venue and photographer at the same time so you can coordinate and get both instead of choosing a second choice option for either one. Ideally you will have months ahead of time to book all of your vendors so you can have your first choice for vendor availability but if you have any other must-have vendors like your favorite bakery or florist (vendors who may be limited on how many weddings they can service per day) or DJ, consider bringing them into the conversation before you lock down your date.
2. LENGTH OF ENGAGEMENT
When choosing your date,you are also deciding how long you want to be engaged and how long you want to spend in the wedding planning process. There are a couple things to take into consideration. Sometimes having a long engagement (one and a half years or more) can be stressful since it’s a long time to the finish line before all of the planning and anticipation is out of the way. However, having a shorter engagement can possibly intensify the stress by condensing it over a shorter time. The biggest stresser that comes with shorter engagements (10 months or less) is again, making sure you get most if not all of your preferred vendors for your wedding. Additionally, keep in mind for some parts of your wedding, it takes months to prepare. Wedding dresses as one example typically unless purchased off the rack, take about seven months to order and another several weeks to complete alterations.
3. WORK AND CLASS SCHEDULES
Due to work and class commitments, PTO, etc., sometimes you don’t have much choice in choosing your date. Students getting married usually will need to choose summer or winter break wedding dates. While working professionals may want to consider getting married once they have some PTO available. You will not only need your wedding day off, but minimally, time the day before for rehearsal and ideally time to set up the day before. You will need time for gift opening the next day (if you and your Fiance choose to do gift opening), and a day or two of R&R to recover from all of the hustle and bustle and relax a bit. You will need to schedule time to meet with all of your vendors to decide who your vendors will be, attend food tastings, tour venues, purchase everything for your wedding, and attend dress fittings. If you are taking your new spouses name you’ll need to arrange time after the wedding to go to the social security office to legally change your name and time to go to the DMV to update your driver's license. Not to mention all of the other trips, phone calls and emails to update your bank accounts, credit cards, insurance records with your new name. Many of your vendors will be willing and able to meet with you in the evening or on weekends but it’s wise to make sure you have some flexibility or PTO in your work or class schedule for these tasks.
Temperature and weather are obviously extremely important when planning your wedding. Here is a short list of things for each season in the Midwest to consider when picking your date.
Summer Pros: You won’t be cold outside. You have lots of pretty foliage to shoot with. You have the best chance for sun (if that’s your thing). The days are longest so you won’t have to worry about running out of daylight for your photos. Your ceremony and reception can easily be held outside comfortably. Your guests will not have to worry about driving in snow to attend your wedding.
Summer Cons: Summer dates fill up fast! Your vendors, friends, and family may not be available for your chosen date if not given enough notice. It may be too hot for you or some of your guests to attend and outdoor ceremony or reception (especially young children and elderly). It could rain during your ceremony (always have a backup location plan!)
Winter Pros: Vendors may have off season discounts for winter weddings. Fewer weddings take place in the winter, so you will likely have your pick of vendors to choose from. Lighting is great if there is snow. If there’s not snow, neutral colors outside can do wonders to the color in your photos and can help make visually couples pop in the photo. Falling snow can be really fun and pretty to shoot in. If you're looking to make your wedding more unique, winter is one of the best ways to achieve that since its typically a less popular time to get married. It gets dark early so you can get those gold hour photos at 3:30 in the afternoon instead of at 8:00 at night.
Winter Cons: If there is a snow or ice storm, it could be difficult for guests to make it to your wedding or stay the entire time. It’s cold out. You or your wedding party may not want to take as much time outside for photos since it’s cold. There's less foliage to play with so your photographer will have to get creative with your photos to make them unique from one another.
Spring Pros: Vendors may have off season discounts for spring weddings, especially in March and April. You probably wont have to compete for available vendors in the early Spring or with peoples schedules.
Spring Cons: It could be sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, snowy, dry, muddy... basically even in April you have no idea if there will be snow on the ground or not or what the sky will do. It could be 40 degrees in may or 80 degrees in May. Temperatures vary a lot from year to year in the spring months. Be prepared for the unexpected in temperature. Flooding. Yes, that is a huge thing now. Locations that normally do not flood have flooded in the recent years and stayed flooded. You may need to plan logistics a this around flooded or damp areas or minimally, photo locations around this.
Bottom line about season, I always recommend that once you choose your season, to consult with the latest version of the The Farms Almanac.
Fall Pros: Fall colors! Temperatures are cooler more comfortable. You might like the fall aesthetic better (did someone say plaid and pumpkins?!)
Fall Cons: Like summer, fall dates, especially October fill up extremely fast. You take a risk with outdoor ceremonies and especially outdoor receptions with temperatures that get quite cold at night. You *could* have some snow.
5. HOLIDAYS AND OTHER EVENTS
Holidays can be a super fun way time to get married! One pro is people probably already have off work and school and will be ready to party! But one con to this is they could already have commitments and be unable to spend that holiday at your wedding. So do not forget to check with your family and friends about their commitments first before you talk to vendors about Holiday dates. You may have your choice of vendors since holiday weddings aren’t always as popular (4th of July, Christmas, Valentines Day) or you may have a lot of difficulty getting your vendors if you choose a holiday like Memorial day at the end of May. Unfortunately though, vendors are not only unlikely to have discounts for holidays, but some may even charge extra for holiday dates. And don't forget hotel rates and the price of gas often go up around holidays as well.
Events. What’s going on in your city that weekend? If you’re getting married in La Crosse, double check your date isn’t graduation weekend or Oktoberfest. Not only will traffic be horrendous for you and your guests but it may limit your ability of where we can take photos depending on if your location is close to these events. Event weekends will also greatly affect hotel availability and affect other services like delivery services and Uber availability that weekend.
Cost is probably the most influential deciding factor for most people when it comes to their wedding. If you’re like we were, and like most of our couples, you’ll want to cut costs where you can with your wedding. A full list of cost saving tips is best for another blog post, but early in the planning process you can potentially save cost by when you choose your date. Some vendors including venues and photographers have discounts for week day and “off season” weddings. Each vendor may define off season differently but when talking to your vendors, before deciding your date, you may want to consider asking if they offer discounts for weekdays (including Fridays and Sundays) and off season. Weekday weddings are becoming increasingly popular for couples, especially for couples with smaller weddings or elopements. So don’t be afraid to consider a Friday (or even Thursday!) wedding in a less popular time of year.
7. FAMILY AND FRIENDS
I recommend thinking about who your must-have key people are for your wedding and considering some of the following questions when choosing your date. How far will it be for guests to travel, especially those with young children or elderly? Can your guests afford a hotel room for one or two nights if traveling? Can they afford plane tickets? Is your wedding on a holiday weekend when some of your key guests may be unable to get off work or school? Is it anyone’s birthday or graduation the weekend of your wedding? Have your guests have already committed to attending someone else's wedding or graduation that weekend? Is anyone in your wedding party already committed to being in another wedding that weekend? Has anyone already booked vacation for your date?
Not everyone will be able to attend your wedding, but it’s important to talk with your key family and friends before you pick your date to make sure they all able to come.
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