So many couples, get engaged over the holidays each year, (including my husband and I.) That’s why many wedding vendors call it “engagement season.” It is an exciting time of year.
Most people inquiring about packages and availability are doing this for their first (and only) time ever, and are not quite sure where to begin or how to go about it. So I thought it might be helpful to share some tips with all of you freshly-engaged guys and gals about how this all works (or should work) and how to get the most out of this time of fierce planning and anticipation.
When do I hire a wedding photographer?
A wedding photographer is a big piece of the planning process that is your wedding — I’m not just saying that because it’s what I am (honest!) It’s really true. As such, it should be part of the first wave of arrangements you make for your big day.
You have to start with the venue, logically, because until you have it reserved, you can’t be 100% sure of your date. Then once you’ve got that nailed down, start your search. When you find a wedding photographer you love, book them before they can fill your date with someone else’s wedding.
Note: This is especially important for brides getting married in July and August. There are only nine weekends in that range, and tons and tons of people who want to get married then because of the usually-stellar Washington weather.

Also, In order to provide you with the very best experience, I only accept a limited number of weddings each year. So I recommend that you book early.

How do I choose a wedding photographer?

It can be daunting to start out fresh searching for a photographer. Instead of taking it to the gods of the Google search right away, talk to your friends who got married in the last several years and ask them what their experience was like. If they had a great one, they may recommend their photographer. If not, you’ll know who to steer clear of. If you have a wedding coordinator, they will also have some suggestions for you as well.

All that said, look around. 

Simply going with who your friend had, your wedding coordinator’s associate, or a name you recognize, limits your options. Take the time to do a little research. You want to find a photographer whose style you love, since that style will undoubtedly find its way into your photos. Once you’ve found one or two that you want to check out, let them know you’re interested and research or ask for pricing information, to make sure their vision is in line with your budget. 
What’s the process of hiring a wedding photographer?
This one differs just slightly from photographer to photographer, but let me give you the basic rundown, which I am taking from my own business, my fellow photographers’ businesses, and my experience trying to hire one of my own back when I was a bride.
This process usually starts with you reach out to the photographer, letting them know you’re interested, and asking for information about their packages.
Remember that when you contact a photographer to ask about availability, they’re going to give you the most up-to-date information, but it has a short shelf-life. In a month where there are thousands of people planning their weddings and asking vendors about their availability, there is a high chance that there will be others asking about your date (although many photographers, like myself, will call and give you the first right to the date in the event that someone else does want it).
Some people choose to book right away, but some people prefer to get to know their photographer (when possible) to get a feel for what they do and how easy they are to get along with. Then you’ll usually have a chance to sign a contract and put down a deposit to secure your date, which I’d recommend doing just as soon as you know you want to hire this person.
What if they’re already booked?
If you have your heart set on a photographer and someone beat you to the punch on your date, it can be a terrible feeling. But photographers often will be able to point you toward someone who has a similar style and pricing options. Ask the booked photographer if they can recommend someone they’d trust and you’ll most likely get a great recommendation.
Enjoy your time out there planning and have fun! I remember how fun it was to be planning my own wedding several years ago and I can’t wait to see what all you engaged couples come up with this year.
(Thank You Sara Gray)