Wedding Planning – How To Choose A Wedding Date

You’re engaged! Yay!  You’ve told your family, shown the ring off to all your friends, and have begun thinking about your plans.

What should you tackle first on that long wedding “to do” list? I recommend you start with your venue, or if you have some flexibility in the date you get married, choose a planner who can help you through your venue search.  Setting an immovable wedding date first is problematic because many couples fall in love with a venue only to learn their chosen date has already been booked.  Working around your preferred venue and choosing the wedding date based on its availability means you don’t have to tell your family to rearrange their original travel dates. It also saves you from weeping over that planner who you love, but is already booked.  My wedding vendor colleagues and I have seen this happen many times; enough to know how much headache this kind of planning causes when it falls through, and enough to want to prevent it from happening to you!

That’s why my advice to newly engaged couples is to choose the venue first.

Photo of the Moon Palace Resort, a great wedding venue in Cancun, Mexico.

Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico

Alternatively, if the wedding venue is not your priority, and something like the photography is, please reach out to me, or that priority wedding vendor, to book as soon as possible.  Book your wedding priorities in order of importance to you, but only if you don’t mind possibly having to move to your second or third venue choice when a date conflict arises.  Wedding vendors cannot typically change your date after you’ve booked them, because they’ll likely be booked on your new date, and they’ve already started turning down other work for the date you occupy.  I recently met a couple who not only changed their date, but also their venue in order to book me as their photographer.  I am so flattered by the gesture, and I can’t wait to photograph them, but prepare to have that kind of flexibility if you’re reaching out to vendors without first having a venue contract in place.

Photograph of the Nestldown wedding and event venue, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California

Nestldown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California

When you’ve found a venue you love, and their coordinator opens their calendar book, how do you choose your wedding date?  The biggest word of caution I can offer is to avoid dates with conspicuous patterns.  For instance, a wedding date of 07/07/2007 seems clever until you realize you’re battling other like-minded couples for wedding vendors.  The great vendors book themselves quickly, and finding quality talent becomes a challenge.  Moreover, the number patterns don’t even have to be perfect.  As I write this, it is March of 2015.  I have already booked multiple weekends in June of 2016, simply because the dates will feature 06/2016.  That’s particularly notable because normally June is only the third or fourth busiest month here in my home region.  May of this year will be busy for me for the same reason.  I’ve had to turn down so many couples simply because everyone is rushing to wed during 05/2015.  Other examples of impacted dates are 08/08/2015, and 10/10/2015.

Photograph of San Francisco's historic Julia Morgan Ballroom

The elegant Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown San Francisco

One particularity of Northern California is that June is not necessarily the biggest wedding month of the year.  Typically, late September through late October is the busy wedding season.  It’s not surprising, since couples who wish to get married outdoors near the coast want the most reliable, clear, comfortable weather possible.  Offering some respite from our year-round coastal fog, October is a beautiful time for our area.  If you want to take advantage of the gorgeous autumn weather, I recommend you book your wedding talent early, since you will be competing with many other couples with the same idea.

A photo from a wedding at the Viansa Winery in Napa/Sonoma Valley, California

Viansa Winery in California’s Napa/Sonoma Valley

Instead of holding your wedding on one of these high-volume dates, how about on a day that is meaningful and personal to you?  The anniversary of your first date, the first time you said, “I love you,” or your own parents’ wedding?  An off-season date will increase your chances of getting the vendors and venue you love, without having to have everything nailed down a year in advance.  In California, off-season tends to be December through March.

Couples who choose to get married during a high-competition date should book all their highest priority vendors at least twelve months in advance, and even then, booking is already tight.  Eighteen months is the minimum “safe distance” for dates like these. If you really love a vendor, contact them early!

Congratulations on your engagement!