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I don’t know about you, but my Facebook page is starting to blow up with engagement announcements! I absolutely love newly engaged couples because there is SO much love and excitement around getting engaged! But then soon after that excitement wears off, you’re hit with the reality of the fact that you have to plan a wedding- something that you most likely have no clue about, right?! Sure, you’ve been in a wedding or two, or maybe one of your close friends recently got married, but things are different when it’s YOUR wedding! And if you’re anything like me, you have NO idea where to start. Well, don’t fret, because I am here to help you out! I have compiled the 10 things you need to do first to get started with your wedding planning. (This is essentially a combination of two of my posts from last year, but I thought I would make things a little easier this time around.) And no, this is not a list that tells you to get your nails done and buy the first wedding magazine you see. Those are just a given, right?
So before we get started… FULL DISCLOSURE:
1) I was a wedding planner before being a full time blogger. I was certified and I planned several weddings from start to finish. I’m not just pulling this stuff out of thin air
2) I was NOT a wedding planner when I planned my wedding. In fact, my mom pretty much planned it.
3) Everyone’s weddings are different, and you may not do things exactly as I recommend. This is meant to be a general guideline for you.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let’s get started! I’ve created a little checklist that you can download for quick reference, and then descriptions are all below!
1. Set a budget
You shouldn’t be doing anything before deciding on your budget. Don’t even look at anything! I know, I know- it’s a tough conversation, but it needs to be discussed and decided on before anything else. Sit down with your parents, family members, or just the two of you, figure out who is contributing, how much they can contribute, and what your total budget will be. Then you can move on to #2!
2. Choose 2-3 possible dates
To be safe, choose 2-3 possible dates to have your wedding. Think of the time of year you prefer, the weather, work schedules/vacation time, holidays, and yes, even football season (or whatever sport your fiance/family is crazy about). Then choose your #1 preferred date, and have a #2 and #3 available in case your preferred date isn’t available. Because venues book up fast- some even book up to a year and half in advance!
3. Start your guest list
This is another tough one because yes, of course you want to invite everyone you know to your wedding. Well consider this your warning: the more people you have, the more you have to spend. (This is why you do your budget first.)
Example: You want to have 200 guests. Your budget is $20,000. This means that you will have $100 per guest. Well, that really ritzy hotel you love? Yeah they’re not even going to be close to $100 per person for food and beverage. And that doesn’t include flowers, decor, and all your other vendors!
So as you see, starting your guest list and knowing your estimated maximum guest count early is crucial. And keep in mind that guest counts usually go down by the time your wedding day comes around- and believe me… after a while, it’ll get really easy to cut the people you haven’t talked to in forever from the guest list. ;)
4. Decide on your wedding’s style
Yep, you heard me- wedding style. If you’re new here, you’ll soon discover out that I’m HUGE on knowing what style of wedding you want. Vintage, modern, classic, eclectic, handmade, rustic… there are SO many styles out there! The beauty of “wedding styles” is that they also coincide with decor and details, and so knowing from the beginning will help you later on. No need to design your whole wedding right now though- just know the general look and feel of how you want your wedding to be. Once you know that, it’ll be easier to move on to #5…
5. Decide on your venue
So all of the first 4 steps can essentially be done all in one sitting. Pretty cool, right? Well once you have all of those decisions made, you can start researching and touring venues. When you’re researching and you find a venue that you like, I recommend contacting them and asking if they have any of your possible dates available. If they do, then go ahead and schedule a time to tour the venue. Give yourself a few (1 to 3 max) weeks to tour all of your possibilities (depending on how long you have before your wedding date of course), crunch numbers, envision your wedding there (or not), and then book your venue! Once you have your venue booked (meaning deposit made and contract signed), your date is secured- and you my friend, are well on your way to getting MARRIED!
[This one is twofold. So many of the things involved in planning a wedding happen all at once. Get ready ;)] First and foremost, if you didn’t already hire a wedding planner during the first 5 steps, I strongly suggest you consider one. They will be able to give you excellent recommendations and will save you lots of time and frustration.
Researching potential vendors is HUGE. There are so many amazing wedding professionals out there now, and you want time to be able to choose the right ones for you. You definitely don’t want to be rushed, but at the same time, time is of the essence. (If you don’t have a wedding planner, go to this post for tips on finding, researching, and inquiring with vendors.) When you’re researching, I recommend that you check out the vendor’s portfolio, bio, pricing info (if they have it available) and their blog. Feel free to do research on every single type of vendor you need, but the ones that are crucial and book up quickly are the photographer,videographer, and caterer (if applicable). Moving on, the next steps are going to pertain to these 3 things. [After you've completed the following steps for the previously mentioned vendors, then you'll move on to your entertainment, florals/event decor, rentals, invitations, and cake. And then you'll go on to hair and makeup, transportation, tux rentals, favors, and any extras.]
Part 2 of Research is…
Yes, it’s in caps because it’s *that* exciting! Isn’t it pretty much the very first thing you wanted to do- look at wedding dresses?! I mean, come on, who doesn’t like wedding dresses? But in all seriousness, you want to be sure that you research the types of dresses you like and the stores that carry them. And read this post. [Personal experience in a nutshell: I traveled 5 hours to go to a store that had the designer I liked- and I ended up taking my dress home that very day (after months of dress craziness- read here).]
7. Inquire With and Interview Vendors
So by now you’ve done your research and you know what vendors you like. Now it’s time to contact the vendor, find out if they’re available for your date, check on their pricing (if you want to), and schedule a consultation. (I think this is what I myself felt awkward about. When you’ve never done it before, it’s just weird, you know?) It’s NOT weird though- in fact, it’s pretty darn fun! The vendors will get to know you, you’ll get to know them, you’ll get down to business, and then you let them know in a few days if you want to hire them or not! I recommend meeting with up to three of each type of vendor- one if you already absolutely love them and they sell you right away, two if you’re pretty set but want to know other options, and three if you’re not sure. It just really depends on you, your decision making skills, and your taste.
8. Hire Your Vendors
Of course the next step is to pull the trigger and hire one of those vendors that you’ve met and fallen in love with. After your consultations, try to let vendors know your decision a week or two from when they provide you with an estimate/proposal. And then hooray! You’re one step closer to your wedding day! Important note: Once you’ve hired someone, please let the other vendors that you met with know that you won’t be going with them. I know it sucks to do it and yes, you might feel awkward, but it has to be done- they have to know! A nice, simple email will suffice.
9: WEDDING DRESS!
Alright, so you have some of your vendors booked… now it’s time to take a break and go wedding dress shopping! I don’t think this needs much explanation.
10: Design & Detail Inspiration
Remember back in the first 5 steps when I had you decide on your wedding style? Well with the second round of vendors you will meet with next (florals, decor, invitations, rentals, cake) you’ll need to have a good idea of what you want your wedding to be like, so it’s time to focus on design and details! Know that when I say “design and details”, it really just means what your wedding will look like. Design is more of a general term, and details is more of the specifics (and where your personality can really shine through too!). This too is something that requires lots of research… which in the wedding world we like to call INSPIRATION! I’m sure many of you have probably already started saving photos of things that you like and are Pinning away for your dream wedding. After all, this big, beautiful wedding world here on the internet does almost solely revolve around design and details! But you want to make sure that you have enough inspiration to be able to accurately convey to your potential vendors what it is you want for your wedding. And then in the same breath, you don’t want to have too much inspiration either! As luck would have it, I have a few different posts devoted to design and details that should cover everything…
“Finding Wedding Inspiration and Making It Your Own”
“Inspiration, Not Replication”
“Why Every Wedding Needs Details”
“What Exactly Are Details?”
“Wedding Details Inspired By YOU!“
Oh and don’t forget to bring your inspiration with you to your consultations! You can probably even just pull up your Pinterest boards in your meetings- which I think is absolutely amazing.
Once you get to the last step for your first set of vendors, then move on to the next set! Wedding planning is like a roller coaster- you’ll go really fast at full-speed, then you’ll slow down, and then you’ll speed up again. Yes it’s normal, and it’s okay to have a lull in planning. Basically that roller coaster ride just keeps going until you get married.
Wow so that was LONG and absolutely FULL of information! I hope all of this will help some of you out and get you going on the right path as you start planning your wedding! There are of course other things that have to be done as you get closer to your wedding, but all of this will definitely get you started and prepare you for what is to come. And if you have any questions, please know that I’m here to answer them – leave them in the comments!
And remember, sometimes things are done differently depending on your own situation, so it’s totally fine if you don’t follow these steps exactly! In my experience as a wedding planner, this order has shown to be the best way to go. And most of all, don’t forget WHY you’re planning a wedding! HAPPY PLANNING!!!