So, you just got engaged. Congratulations! After the initial excitement of the proposal, sharing the good news with your family and 1,000 of your closest Instagram followers, it’s time to dig in and make some decisions. But how do you know where to start with planning a wedding?! The process can be really overwhelming, from choosing a date to finding the perfect venue, it’s easy to get distracted and feel overwhelmed.
We are going to break it down for you in actionable steps, doing the right things in the right order!
How to Start Planning a Wedding
- Set Your Budget
That’s right! This is the first thing you should do. Sit down as a couple and have a realistic conversation about your wedding budget. If you are lucky enough to have family helping you pay for your wedding, you’ll want to include them in this conversation.
While talking about money and finances can be stressful, you don’t want to skip this step. Money is one of the top reasons for disagreements in a relationship. Set the stage for a healthy, transparent marriage by creating a clear budget for your special day. A budget is a plan, not a contract. The key is transparency and setting realistic expectations. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Once you determine an appropriate budget, figure out how long it will take you to save for your wedding.
- Choose Your Wedding Date (Top 3 Choices)
Let’s say you’ve set your wedding budget at $15,000 and you have $5,000 already saved. Each month you can commit to saving $750 towards your wedding. Make sure to set your wedding date 14 months out, just to be sure you have enough money.
There are many other things to consider when choosing a wedding date. Once you have a couple options identified it is a good idea to check in with close family and friends to make sure the dates work for them. Another consideration is if there are any large events planned in the city you are getting married on that date. This will impact the availability of overnight accommodations for your out of town guests!
- Select Your Wedding Party
If you are planning to have a wedding party, it is a good idea to ask them pretty early in the planning process. This allows for plenty of time for people living far away to make travel arrangements. Wedding party includes a Best Man, Maid or Matron of Honor, Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, Flower Girl, Ring Bearer, or any other variation.
There are some really cute ways to make asking people to be part of your wedding special. We’ve put together a list of 10 Gorgeous Bridesmaid Proposal Boxes that are sure to give you inspiration.
- Pick a Venue
After you’ve settled on a realistic wedding budget and you have a few key dates identified, you should look into booking a venue. There is a lot to consider when booking a wedding venue. If you are planning to get married in a church but have the reception off-site you’ll need to coordinate availability for two venues.
Are you wanting to get married outdoors? If so, you probably want to make sure your wedding date is at least a year out. Or, be willing to have some flexibility around the date or the day of the week you get married. Outdoor venues are extremely popular and in most cities there are only a few months of consistently good weather. Some venues offer better deals if you get married on a Friday or Sunday.
Before you book a wedding venue, make sure to ask these ten questions.
- Create a Guest List
Creating your guest list can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Whether you are planning a big wedding or a more intimate event, you likely want to be surrounded by the people you love when you exchange vows.
Creating a wedding guest list seems like such an easy process: make a list of friends and family, get their addresses, mail invitations, and done! Wrong!
Your guest list is tied to your wedding budget. Think of every person as a dollar amount or a cost per. I know this sounds terrible, but stick with me. Most of the things you would typically rent or buy for a wedding are priced per item, right? Chairs, tables, napkins, wedding programs, even the size of the cake is determined by the number of guests. The biggest budget impact that your wedding guest list has is on catering.
The best thing to do is to each sit down and make a list of family that you want to invite and a second list of friends. Come together and discuss your choices and work through it together as a team just like you did when setting your budget. To help narrow down your guest list check out our article, How to Create Your Wedding Guest List.
- Choose Reception Food and Beverage
By now, I am sure you are starting to see why you start the wedding planning process with a budget. If you don’t, things can quickly get out of hand. Setting a budget first helps to narrow down the rest of the wedding planning process. At this point, you have a budget, a wedding date, a venue, and a guest list. The next step is to decide on the kind of food and beverage you want to serve at your reception.
If you have chosen a venue that requires you to use their catering this part is a little easier for your. All you need to do is choose the menu options that fit within your budget.
If your venue allows outside catering, your options are wide open. Whatever you choose, just be sure that it fits within your budget. Often times, couples forget to incorporate gratuity for catering into their budget. Make sure to read the contract carefully with your caterer and/or bartender. It will likely include a minimum percentage for gratuity.
- Book a Photographer
Picking the right photographer for your wedding is really important. You are going to look back at these photos for the rest of your life. You want them to turn out just how you envision.
There are so many styles of wedding photography, you want to make sure that your photographer’s style matches the look you are going for. Check out potential photographer’s online portfolio and ask trusted friends for referrals. Schedule time to talk with several photographers to explain what you are looking for and have inspiration photos to share.
Here are some things to ask potential wedding photographers:
How many hours are included in the price?
Will there be more than one photographer available to capture everything?
Are engagement photos included? Or, is this an extra expense?
How long will it take after the wedding to get the photos?
- Select Your Wedding Attire
Did you know it can take several months to get your wedding dress when you go to a bridal boutique? You should begin the search for a wedding dress eight months before your wedding day. Plan to select your dress at least six months in advance.
Depending on what the groom is wearing, you will want to order a suit and have it fitted several months in advance. This is the same for your wedding party. Allow several months for fitting and alterations.
- Decide on Flowers, Cake and Wedding Decor
Whether you are hiring a florist or DIYing your wedding flowers you are going to need a solid vision. What is your color theme? What is the style of your wedding? Country chic, Boho, modern? These are all questions you will want to have answered before choosing floral arrangements.
Remember your wedding budget when speaking with a florist. Consider ordering wholesale flowers and creating your own floral arrangements. This can really save you money and it isn’t as difficult as you would think.
Your cake should match the style of your venue and your wedding decor. Scroll through our Pinterest boards for some wedding decor inspiration.
- Book Your Reception Band or DJ
Whether you are booking a band or a DJ for your wedding reception, consider hiring one that specializes in weddings. When discussing the event come prepared with a list of music you’d like played, an itinerary of the reception events, and any other pertinent information.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
What time do they need to arrive to set up?
Will you need them to provide sound for the wedding ceremony?
How late can the music be played?
Can they accept song requests from guests or is there a set playlist you’d like them to stick to?
- Reserve Rental Items
There will probably be things you need to rent for your wedding. If your venue doesn’t include things like linens, tables, chairs, and utensils you will want to look into event rental companies. You can also rent wedding decor such as vases, props, wedding archways, and furniture.
- Invite Guests to the Wedding!
Now that you’ve taken care of a lot of the larger wedding planning items, it is time to share the great news. About six months before the wedding you can send Save the Date cards to guests. Then, eight to six weeks before the wedding, send out a formal invitation.
This list covers the bigger wedding planning items. There will be plenty of smaller things on your to-do list as your wedding date gets closer. Remember to keep your budget at the center of the conversation. The last thing you want to do is begin your life together with a heap of debt. This day is about demonstrating your love and commitment for each other!