You’re finally engaged! Now welcome to a world that you probably have never been part of before – the world of wedding planning. If there’s anything I’ve learned from being a wedding vendor for the past 3 years, it’s that this world is confusing and constantly changing. As a soon-to-be bride or groom, you probably have one million questions about where to begin with planning. But don’t panic! I’m here to help and give you 10 first steps to take after saying “yes” to forever!
1. Set Your Budget
The first step in planning your wedding is to set a budget. If you are completely in the dark about where to start with this, costofwedding.com estimates that the average wedding is ~$25,000, with 50% of couples spending less than $15,000. This is where you are going to have to take a hard, honest look at you and your soon-to-be spouses finances and decide where you’re at. This is also the time to find out if mom or dad have any interest in helping you out! Don’t panic if your budget feels low, there are vendors at every price range and corners that can be cut without feeling like you’re really missing out. This also would be a good time to look at opening a joint bank account with your soon-to-be spouse and to open a credit card with great perks for spending!
2. Create a Guest List (Or at Least Get a Good Idea of Numbers)
While you don’t have to have your guest list completely nailed down in the beginning, you will want to have a rough estimate of how many guests you want to invite. This will determine your venue, and depending on your budget this is going to determine how much you will be able to spend on your vendors! Any couple you talk to will tell you this (next to the seating charts, but don’t worry, that doesn’t come until later!) is one of the most stressful parts. Don’t be afraid to not invite people who haven’t been in your life in recent years, and don’t feel obligated to give plus ones to everyone! The general rule is that those who are married or are in a serious relationship should get a plus one, while those who are casually dating or single do not need one. But ultimately, this is your wedding, so do what is best for you and your budget.
3. Pick a Date Range
You will want to pick a few dates that you and your soon-to-be-spouse are interested in getting married on. Unless you have a very specific date you are set on, such as 10-10-2020, or an anniversary date, being willing to be flexible with dates is going to give you more flexibility with choosing your venues, as well as potentially saving on vendors. Be aware that when choosing a popular date, including holidays, many vendors are going to charge a premium and/or be booked out years in advance! If you’re willing to be nontraditional, consider having a weekday wedding (Thursday weddings are going up in popularity every year!) and this could save you big on vendors, as well as give you a higher chance of being able to book the vendors you want!
4. Pick an Aesthetic
Now for the fun part. Chances are, your engagement didn’t come by total surprise and you’ve been dreaming and Pinterest planning for months about what you want your day to look like. Now is the time to put it all into action. Deciding on the vibe you want (rural, city, elegant, boho, beach…) is going to make picking a venue, dress, and decor a lot easier. Keep this aesthetic in mind when you’re shopping for venues. Some questions you may ask your venue coordinator is what color tablecloths and linens they offer for their tables, or if they’re able to add extra touches (such as a chandelier or antique glasses!) onto your package. These little details are going to determine the overall visual vibe of your wedding!
5. Choose a Venue
This is one of the most important steps in your wedding planning process. With your budget, approximate guest number, and date range, you will have all of the info you need to find your wedding venue. There are plenty of resources for this, such as The Knot and Wedding Wire, but be willing to check out more traditional avenues as well, such as Instagram hashtags. Try searching #(yourlocation)weddingvenue. You may be surprised by what gorgeous locations you find that never would have shown up on a Google search!
6. Get Your Engagement Photos Done!
In this age, photos of you and your soon-to-be spouse are going to be crucial when it comes to making your “Save the Dates” and even for your wedding website. Now is a great time to utilize Wedding Wire, The Knot, Instagram, and your recently married friends to find a photographer who will take your engagement photos, and potentially photograph your wedding! Many photographers offer deals when you book your wedding, and you may be able to score your engagement photos for free or for a discount! At the very least, you will enjoy the time before your wedding getting to know your photographer, as they will be with you for more time than your own spouse on your wedding day! When looking for a photographer, be sure to look at reviews from past clients as well as full wedding galleries. Make sure that they have liability insurance (many venues require this!) and that they have a full contract that will protect you in the event that they end up sick or injured for your wedding date.
7. Create a Registry
What used to be a tedious process of going store-to-store is now super simple thanks to the internet. You can create a wedding registry with just about any popular home goods store, but the most popular stores are Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, Best Buy, and Amazon! You have the ability to create a registry for you and your soon-to-be spouse that anyone can access by searching your name. Of course, if running around a store with a laser gun with your boo thing sounds like a hell of a date night to you, then don’t worry – that’s still an option! Just beware that shoppers tend to get more carried away with registering items when they’re caught in the magic of the Target boho chic section than when looking online. Especially if you have a more narrow guest list, be certain to only register for the items that you really need!
8. Create a Personalized Wedding Website!
With your guest list, date, venue, engagement photos, and registry all done, you now have all you need to start your wedding website! Post those gorgeous photos and pop up that registry link and get ready to start sharing your website with friends and family! Your website is going to be important for sharing venue and lodging information, as well as fun details about how you met and how your love asked you to be theirs forever. Long gone are the days of waiting for mailed RSVPs and paying for return stamps – your website is going to be invaluable when it comes to getting a good count on who’s coming. Be sure to put the link to your wedding website on your save the dates!
9. Send out Save the Dates!
Unless you’re the kind of person who lives for snail mail, you probably don’t have all of your friends and families addresses. Be prepared – this is going to be another tedious process to retrieve all of these. The best way to do this is to set aside 2-3 hours over the course of a few days to email, DM, call, and text all of those people who you want to invite. Try using Excell or Word to keep these addresses all in a safe place – you’re going to need them again for invitations and “thank yous” after the wedding!
10. Book Vendors
As I mentioned before with picking your photographer, tools such as Wedding Wire, The Knot, Instagram, and friend referrals are going to be incredibly helpful in picking your wedding vendors! The most important vendors you want to get nailed down are your photographer, videographer, a band/DJ, officiant, caterers, baker, florist, transportation, and if this all sounds like too much, a wedding planner! The sooner you can get these vendors booked, the less you are going to be stressing as your day draws near. Even if you decide to forego a wedding planner, a DOC (day of coordinator) is never a bad idea, and they often can even fit into small budgets. A DOC is going to ensure that on the day of your wedding, everything goes over smoothly!
I hope these tips above have brought you some peace of mind and given you clarity on where to begin. The sooner you get to planning, the sooner you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your engagement season. My number one tip for brides and grooms beginning the planning process is this – don’t get too caught up in the tiny details of the day. If you find yourself losing sleep over exactly which filler you want in your flowers, or what color the utensils are going to be, it may be smart to hire a wedding planner. Know yourself and be true to yourself – set your boundaries with planning and don’t be afraid to take breaks here and there if you feel like you’re going to go crazy! This whole planning thing really will feel like a part time job if you’re not careful!