Planning a wedding is an incredibly exciting time in a couple’s life. However, it is also overwhelming. It only takes one Google search to realize that you have a lot of choices you have to make. There are a lot of steps between right now and I do. But you’re here, so that tells me that you know that you may not be able to tackle them all on your own. Even the most organized couple that can do it, may not want to do it. You’re absolutely in love and want to enjoy the experience, which is why offloading the stressful parts of the process is a smart move!
Here are my tips for what to do in these early stages of the planning process. While this is just the start of the climb, taking care of these will help keep the hike moving forward, instead of getting stuck before you really get the chance to reach the first trail marker.
Set a Budget:
The very first thing to do when you start planning your wedding may also feel like one of the most uncomfortable steps – set your budget! Plan to meet with family members and even friends who will be contributing financially toward your day. During your meeting, encourage everyone to be honest about their financial comfort levels. Now is not the time to agree to commit more money than is truly possible. Once you’re all on the same page, set a budget for the total amount you wish to spend. Then stick to it! You can have a beautiful wedding day on any budget, as long as you remain flexible and open to alternatives.
Determine Your Guest List:
From where you get married and what you serve on your wedding menu to how many centerpieces your florist will need to create for your tables, your guest list will drive many of the decisions you make while planning your wedding. You do not need to account for every possible person who you may opt to invite to your wedding, but having a rough total in mind is helpful. Also, keep in mind that typically about 25% of the guests you invite may not be able to attend your day. The number is even higher if you are hosting a destination wedding.
Also, in “Covid times,” it is smart to break your list into groups - consider your non-negotiable, ‘must attend’ guests, your ‘would love to have’ guests and your ‘in a perfect scenario’ complete guest list.
Set a Date:
Unless you have your heart set on a specific venue or wedding professional, the next step to take is to review possible seasons, months, and dates when you may want to host your wedding. Venues (and vendors!) will ask when you’re planning to get married almost immediately, so having an answer in mind to this question will help to move the conversation toward answers even more quickly.
If you want to get married at a specific venue or ensure an admired wedding professional is available to work with you, another thought is to contact either or both first to ask for their available dates. Then choose your date based on their availability!
Wedding dates in 2021 are tougher to come by due to the covid-related postponements from 2020, so you may need to be open to “off peak” days such as Thursday, Friday and Sunday to assemble the “dream team.”
Ideally, booking your wedding planner comes before this next step, but it can also come immediately after.
Deciding on the places that will serve as the backdrops for your ceremony and reception is key! Because venues can book quickly, especially during peak seasons like late spring, early summer, and fall, think about researching venues early on in your planning process. Consider things like indoor and outdoor locations (having an inclimate weather plan is key!), whether or not there is a space where you can get ready onsite (if that’s important to you), and the specific vendors you will need to hire to allow your day to come alive (not every venue has a catering team, for example). Plan to tour spaces with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Having a wedding planner to assist you during these tours is extremely helpful so that is why in an ideal scenario you’d have one already hired.
Once you have completed the first four steps, you will start to feel as though your plans are officially in motion! Your next step, particularly once you have chosen your venue, is to start researching other wedding professionals who you would like to join your wedding day team.
If you haven’t booked a planner at this point, getting them on board after booking the venue is ideal because they can help you with this step of the process (and save you a ton of time). They can also guide you towards vendors that are within your budget.
I recommend researching professionals who can only work one wedding on a specific day first because their availability starts to fill early. So, consider looking into photographers, videographers, officiants, florists, wedding planners, and bands or DJs first. If your venue doesn’t have a caterer, they should be top of mind too!
As you research (or perhaps before you dive in), it’s also worthwhile to create a priority list of wedding professionals. Think about where you would like to spend more versus where you’re comfortable opting to save. Knowing how you would like to allocate your budget will also guide the professionals you choose to contact to learn more about their services, packages, and availability.
Once you’re done with this first stage of the planning process, you’ll feel relief and added excitement. Wedding planning is an exciting stage in your relationship and I hope that I can be here to help you make it the best experience possible!