You’re engaged! You’ve been asked that “oh so special” question, you’ve said “yes” and you’re ready to start planning… but you have NO idea where to begin. Well, you’re in luck! I’m going to let you in on the 5 most important things you need to be considering when beginning to plan your wedding.
Planning a wedding is so much more than just throwing a big party to celebrate your marriage. Seriously. A wedding consists of several moving parts, all of which “should” be delicately organized and choreographed in a way that leaves NO room for error. Here’s how you get the ball rolling…
STEP 1: Determine WHAT your wedding budget is, and WHO is paying for WHAT
It’s true, folks. Money don’t grow on trees, and it takes a pretty penny to pay for a wedding. That said, let’s first determine what we are working with, dollar wise. Here are some things to consider:
- Who is paying for what? – Maybe your parents are covering the entire wedding. Maybe your parents and your fiance’s parents are sharing the costs. Maybe you and your fiance are paying for the entire wedding yourselves. Once we determine who is paying for what, we can determine what amounts we have to work with.
- What’s the overall budget? – You’ve decided you and your fiance are paying for most of the wedding, but Grandma is buying the dress, your parents are paying for the food, and his parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner. That gives you “X” amount of dollars to work with, and “X” needed (by you) to cover the remaining payments/fees. You may not have a FINAL dollar amount locked in, but creating a preliminary budget for your wedding will give you a pretty realistic idea of what you can afford, and what is out of reach.
- Determine WHAT you want to spend your money on – Once you’ve gotten your preliminary budget figured out, it’s helpful to list the things you WANT for/at your wedding. Maybe you really want delicious food but you’re not a big fan of cake. Maybe you want a small, intimate wedding but plan on travelling overseas for your honeymoon. Or maybe you’ve decided you’d rather have photos of you dancing all night long instead of video footage. This just helps you decide WHERE it is you want to spend the majority of those wedding dollars.
Once you’ve figured out what money you have to spend and where you want to spend it, you can begin looking for the perfect venue.
STEP 2: Decide WHERE you want to get married
Location, Location, Location! Choosing your wedding location is one of the MOST important decisions you’ll make during the planning process. It should be talked about fairly early on, as it will determine a lot of things along the way:
- Wedding date/availability – You’ve been planning your dream wedding for YEARS and have had a specific venue in mind, but the first available weekend date is 2 years from now. (True story! This actually happened to one of my very first clients, and she and her fiance waited 2 years until they could have their wedding. Needless to say, they had plenty of time to plan and prep.) Knowing where you want to get married, and what dates are available to you, will determines how long you will have to plan and pay for your perfect wedding!
- Guest count – Most venues can only hold a certain number of people. Once you’ve found your venue, you’ll be able to determine HOW MANY people you can actually invite.
- Season – If you’ve dreamed of having a gorgeous outdoor wedding at a venue in the mountains, you’re probably not going to want to book it in the winter/snowy months. By the same token, you might want to decide against an outdoor wedding during a hot, summer month. Does the venue offer contingency plans for bad weather – rain, wind, snow, etc? Do they have indoor/outdoor options? These are all important factors when choosing the date (and season) you’ll be getting married.
- Hotel accommodations – If you’re planning a wedding out of town, or even out of state, WHERE will you stay? You’ll probably want to stay in a nice hotel or an AirBnB near the venue.
- Inclusions/Accommodations – Does your venue offer “in-house” catering? Bar services? Table and chair rentals? Do they have a preferred vendor list? Will you need to outsource everything? Do they have handicap accessibility? Restrooms? Sometimes (especially when you’re hoping to do most of the planning yourselves) it’s easier to work with a venue that offers “in-house” services. This eliminates multiple points of contact, as well as the search for vendors to provide said services. If you prefer to bring in your own fabulous team of vendors, make sure your venue is OK with it! I’ve known venues to charge big bucks for bringing in “outside” vendors. Each venue has it’s own way of doing things, so be sure to ask ALL of the questions during your walk through.
These are some key elements to consider when touring venues. And PLEASE… Schedule a tour! You’re going to want to be able to meet the staff (it’s important that you jive well with the venue that will be hosting your BIG day!) and see the space in real life. Photos don’t always do a venue justice!
Step 3: Decide WHEN you want to get married
You’ve got a few available dates given to you from the venue of your choice and you’re trying to decide which one is the best for you. Here are some things to consider:
- What day of the week will your wedding take place? – Some venues offer discounted rates to those who choose to get married on a weekday. Others will even offer a cheaper rate for a Friday or a Sunday wedding. Saturdays are the MOST popular, and tend to get booked the quickest, so they’re usually the most expensive.
- Will you be able to get time off for your wedding and honeymoon? – You may want to choose a wedding date based on the vacation time you’re able to get through your job.
- Will your friends and family be able to attend with the date you’ve chosen? – Now, we can’t always accommodate EVERYONE’S needs, but we want to make sure that the important people, the people we want to for sure be there, can make it! Also, if certain guests are travelling a far distance to celebrate you, consider giving them enough time between announcing the engagement and the actual wedding day to make plans necessary to be there. Flights, hotels and rental cars are NOT cheap! (Neither is planning a wedding, but if you’re needing to give yourself time to gather the funds, you should give your guests some time too!)
You may need to complete step 4 before completing step 3, to make choosing the best wedding date easier.
STEP 4: Decide WHO you’re inviting to your wedding
You’ve locked in your wedding date and you’ve chosen a venue that can accommodate “so many” guests. Who are you going to invite?? Here are some things to consider when creating your guest list:
- Create 3 preliminary guest lists – Sit down together and create a list of ALL of the people you’d like to be at our wedding. Then ask your parents and your fiance’s parents to create a list of all the people they think should attend your wedding. (They’ll usually think of random, important family members that you may not have thought about.) Don’t forget to let them know that you’re only asking for their suggestions, and not everyone they list will be able to be invited! This will avoid frustration and hurt feelings later on.
- Create your MASTER list – You may have written down some of the same people your parents listed. You will then need to go through all three lists together to determine which “so many” people will make it onto the master list. Don’t be afraid of the total number! This is only a “tentative” list! Slowly pluck people off of that list, and think about creating a “B” list for the close calls.
- Create a “B” list – It is understood that about 30% of the people you invite won’t be able to make it. This allows you room to invites those who didn’t make it onto the master list, but were a REALLY close call, in a second wave of invites. Nobody needs to know which list they made it on, so keep that to yourselves!
- Organize these lists by household – Here’s the secret wedding planner zinger! Just because you have 150 guests attending the wedding, DOESN’T mean you need 150 save the dates/invitations! As you are composing these lists, organize your guests by household. This will help you gather a more accurate number when ordering your stationary, calculating RSVP’s, and selecting menu options. (These details will all come later, once we start talking about each specific vendor and what they need!)
Ok, so you’ve got your wedding budget, you’ve pinned down a venue and the wedding date, and you have your guest lists – both “A” and “B.” What’s next?
STEP 5: Hire a wedding coordinator!!
If after all is said and done, and your budget allows for it (trust me, you’re going to want your budget to allow for it) make some calls and “interview” wedding coordinators. I have heard so many horror stories, as well as complaints of “I wish I would have had a wedding coordinator” from married couples.
If you need help creating your wedding vision, selecting amazing wedding professionals for your vendor team, or remembering important dates, meetings, payments, etc… hire a wedding coordinator. Maybe you’ve got the best maid of honor in all the lands, but you’ve realized that she can’t be getting hair and makeup done, taking photos AND setting up your reception space at the same time… hire a wedding coordinator. Maybe your mother in law is GREAT at making things beautiful, but you understand how important it is for her to be present on her child’s wedding day instead of pulling her hair out trying to get things set up before the guests start arriving… hire a stinking wedding coordinator.
As a wedding coordinator, I am not trying to suggest you hire me for my own benefit. It is my job, and my JOY as a wedding coordinator, to give you all of the tools you need to plan a successfully beautiful wedding. As a bride or groom, it is your job to truly enjoy your wedding day – from start to finish. This is a day you’ll never get back. A day that will fly by in a whirlwind of love, fun and possibly a little too much booze. A day that you’re going to want to remember for the rest of your lives. So choose to be present, choose to be organized, and choose to trust a wedding coordinator to make all of your wedding day dreams come true! You won’t regret it!
Stay tuned for MORE insider secrets on what the planning process looks like.
Photo Credit – Laarne.co