When my husband and I got engaged, I remember reaching out to our wedding photographer basically ASAP, before we even had a date in mind. Speaking from experience, this is not what you want to do. We were deferred until we actually had a date and a location… and even then, it wasn’t possible to book as far in advance as I thought we were supposed to!
On the other hand, a quick search of some of the top wedding planning websites gives you some rather abrupt timelines:
The Knot: 6-8 months
Wedding Wire: 6 months
Brides.com: 6 months
A quick general google search of “how far in advance should I book my wedding photographer” turned up 16-18 months. How can we be getting two totally different answers?
If you’re shaking your head to the whole six-month thing, I know! I was too. Especially given this 2022 wedding boom. Couples who appreciate the art of photography will treat their photographer as a priority vendor and get them booked much sooner than that. IMO, a realistic timeline is 10-14 months. That being said, you can book before then, but anything after 18 months is hard to plan for. It IS common for photographers to open their books up 18 months in advance, largely because they end up filling their calendars 12-15 months in advance.
As soon as your date and location are nailed down, a photographer is one of the first vendors I’d recommend reaching out to. Why? Because all the in-demand photographers are just that: in demand, meaning they will (and do) book up fast. On top of that, photographers are often a one (wo)man show. The other vendors you’re hiring – floral design, catering, stationary, etc. – likely have a team of people who they work with, allowing them to take on more than one client a day. That’s just not possible with photography!
If you’re planning on getting married during peak wedding months between May and October, plan to book your photographer as soon as possible. For instance, say you got engaged this past Christmas, you lock in a date of June 2023, I would start contacting photographers in April of 2022 (or even March if you can).
If you’re planning a weekday or an off seasons wedding (November through April), you'll be graced with a little more flexibility. If this is your case, I would say 8-10 months is plenty.
Another option – do what I did! Photography was number one on our list, and I was hellbent on working with our wedding photographer. So, as previously mentioned, I reached out WAY in advance. Instead of booking our venue first, we actually asked for her availability so that we could plan around that. We booked our venue knowing our photographer had guaranteed availability on that date, which made our (my) hopes of hiring our dream photographer an easy reality.
Are you sitting there reading this thinking, “sh*t… I’m getting married in 8 months!”? Fear not. Just start reaching out to your preferred photographers ASAP. Chances are if they are already booked, they will provide you with a few personal recommendations. If they don’t, ask them who they might suggest that has a similar style… and maybe even price point. I personally have a list of backups for when I get inquiries on dates that I am already booked. Saying no is hard (like, really hard), but it’s a little easier knowing that I can at least point you in a good direction.