Congratulations on your engagement! At this point you may be feeling equal parts excitement and anxiety over all the planning to come. I know it can seem overwhelming at first, so I have written out 10 first steps to get you on track to planning your dream wedding. Even if you intend to hire a planner, there are still some incredibly important details and decisions that a planner is unable to decide for you, such as your guest list, wedding date, budget, and so on! By the time you are through this guide, you should have some tangible steps to take to get you started on the right path and ease some of that anxiety!
1. Set Your Budget
The first step in planning your wedding is to set a budget. If you have absolutely no idea what a wedding costs, the average is around $35,000, with a huge range on both sides of that number. It’s up to you and your soon-to-be-spouse to take an honest look at your finances and decide where you’re at! This is also the ideal time to find out if any family members intend to help. Now might be a good time for you and your fiancé to open a joint bank account and maybe even look at getting some credit cards 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 a final guest list at this point, you will want a rough estimate of the number of guests you, your spouse, and potentially your parents plan to invite! Your guest number is going to be a huge factor in picking your venue, and depending on your budget, your guest list may impact your budget for vendors. Many couples find this to be one of the most stressful parts as they try not to offend distant cousins or friends they haven’t kept up with. Don’t be afraid to not invite people and don’t feel obligated to give plus ones to everyone! The general rule is that those who are married or in a serious or long-term relationship should get a plus one, while those who are casually dating or single do not need one. If you’re planning a destination or out of state wedding, you may want to consider offering plus ones for those who would otherwise be traveling alone. Ultimately, this is your wedding. Think about who you want surrounding you on your wedding day! If you want a large crowd of people, that’s great! But if you’d prefer it only be those closest to you, don’t let anyone guilt you.
3. Pick a Date Range
It will be helpful for you and your fiancé to pick a few dates that you’re 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 will give you more freedom with choosing your venues and vendors! Keep in mind that if you’re picking a holiday weekend or popular date such as the date I mentioned above, you will need to start booking vendors extra far out. You may also find that some venues and vendors charge premiums on these dates, so if budget is an issue then picking an out of season or weekday date may be a great option for you! In South Florida, season is generally November-April due to weather, and Thursday weddings are increasingly growing in popularity!
4. Pick an Aesthetic
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. Deciding on the look you want (ballroom, 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.
5. Choose a Venue
Picking your venue is one of the most important and exciting steps in the wedding planning process! With your budget, approximate guest number, date range, and general aesthetic in mind, you will feel more prepared to find a venue that fits perfectly with your vision for your wedding day! There are plenty of resources for finding a venue, such as The Knot and Wedding Wire, but be willing to check out other 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. Take Engagement Photos
Engagement photos have a few purposes, with the most common being that you need an image for your “Save the Dates” and wedding website. When you’re searching for an engagement photographer you will ideally find the same photographer for your engagement photos and your wedding! Many photographers, myself included, offer discounts when engagement sessions and weddings are booked together. By having the same photographer for both, you’ll find consistency between your engagement and wedding photos, as well as have a chance to get to know your photographer before the wedding! My couples always feel more comfortable on their wedding day when we have already had a session together and gotten to know each other a bit. When it comes to picking a photographer, you can use resources like I mentioned above such as Wedding Wire, The Knot, and Instagram! Another great way to find a photographer is to ask friends and family who they like to use. When you find a photographer who seems like a good fit, be sure to look at reviews from their past clients as well as full wedding galleries. Make sure that they have liability insurance (many venues require this!) and a full contract that will protect you in the event that something crazy like a national pandemic happens, or if they just get injured or sick on 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 fiancé sounds like an amazing date night to you, that’s still an option! Just beware that shoppers tend to get more carried away with registering items when they are caught in the magic of the Magnolia Homes section of Target than when looking online. Especially if you have a narrower guest list, you may want to only register for more important items!
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! Your website will be the place to go for family and friends who want to know more about your wedding and access your registry! Some wedding websites include things to do around your venue, places to stay, information about room blocks, and it’s another place to post your engagement photos! You may also opt out of mail in RSVPs and have your guests RSVP through your website.
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 Excel or Word to keep these addresses all in a safe place – you are going to need them againyou’re your invitations and thank you letters 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 confirm first 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 day of coordinator is never a bad idea, and some venues even offer them.
I hope these tips above have brought you some peace of mind and given you clarity on where to begin your wedding planning journey. The sooner you get to planning, the sooner you will 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. As always, if you have any questions or are looking for vendor recommendations, I would be happy to send you my full South Florida preferred vendors list. Just send me an email or mention that you would like to see it in your contact form. Happy wedding planning!