After 14 years and over 300 weddings, I can quite honestly say with confidence that there are several things I am very sure of. Today I am going to share with you the 10 steps to get your wedding plans set in motion.
1. Figure out possible dates. If you are dead set on one particular date, you need to get moving on number 2. If you are flexible with the dates, you’ll be able to be a bit more selective with your other choices. Sometimes couples have one particular “month” they want to get married in. A date special to them. Or, a general season. Whatever it is, start here then move to number 2.
2. Figure out how many guests you want to invite. This is something that some couples do on their own, but often times you will likely be working with your parents on this. The number of guests is important because you need to keep this in mind when selecting a venue. You want to select a venue that can accommodate your friends and family. (And still be able to move around)
3. Come up with some type of budget. This is sometimes difficult to do in the beginning because most people don’t plan weddings everyday they don’t really know how much things cost. Obviously, everyone has a budget, the key is to figure out what you can/are willing to spend on different things. Sometimes this process is mixed in with collecting information on number 4 and 5 below.
4. Venues. After you have made a list of possible dates prepare a list of ceremony venues you are interested in, reception venues, if you want indoor, outdoor, in-state, out of state, destination, etc. Some couples have ideas about what they want, some don’t. If you aren’t sure, consider places you like to go, things you are interested in, etc. For example, if you are into wine, winery’s make a very beautiful venue. Consider how important it is for family and friends to attend. If you have a wedding that will require travel, this may restrict the number of guests that can attend. After you figure this out, start contacting the venues and checking either the date you want, or the available dates that they have that you would be happy with. Coordinating a date with the venue (both ceremony and reception) is the first order of business that needs done. You can’t secure any other vendors until this step is done.
5. Wedding Vendors. There is going to be an entire blog post dedicated to this topic. Since I am a wedding vendor, you can imagine the experiences that I have had that can really help you out here. Seriously, read that post. Make a list of services you need. Common services for a wedding include: Photographer, DJ/Band, Florist, Wedding Planner, Musician/Musicians for Ceremony and or cocktail hour, Videographer, Photo Booth, Cake Baker, Caterer if not included with venue, Rental Companies for tents, reception décor, table lines, special chairs, furniture, invitations, Bridal Boutique for wedding gown, bridesmaid’s dresses, and tuxedos. Depending on your wish list for your wedding, you may have more but these are the most common.
6. Booking Vendors. Once you have a list of vendors you are interested in, start reaching out to get available dates and pricing information. If the vendor isn’t available for the date or dates you are considering, there is no point in keeping them on the list. This is where being flexible with a few dates will work in your favor. Once you have determined availability, proceed with the booking process. Expect to sign a contract (you should, for your sake as well, sign a contract) and make some type of retainer payment to secure the date. Any vendors that can only cover one event per date, such as photographer, dj, videographer should be secured first.
7. Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. This part is sometimes done before all the above because couples usually ask their close friends or family members. Being a bridesmaid or groomsmen is a big commitment on their part and on your part. This requires a dress purchase, special shoes, tuxedo rental, shower, bachelorlette, and bachelor party just to name a few. On your part, consider how many people you’ll want to manage and keep track of. This is a lot of work and you already have a lot to do. Large wedding parties often seem like a great idea at the beginning, but smaller bridal parties generally are much less stressful. Even things like transportation between venues can be tricky if you have a very large bridal party.
8. Engagement Photos/Save the Date. Most wedding photographers include an engagement session with your package. This is a great time to get photos together as a couple that aren’t selfie style and that you can use to make a save the date if you are going to send those out. Save the Dates are especially important if you are getting married on a holiday weekend, have a lot of out of town guests, or are choosing a wedding that requires travel. The general rule of thumb for save the dates is 4-6 months prior. Too much sooner than that and they may get lost or forgot about. Invitations go out 6 weeks prior to the wedding.
9. Bridal/Couple Shower. Once the above is all complete, which is usually all done at the beginning of your engagement, you’ll have a “slow” period where you can be working on your shower which is usually hosted by your wedding attendants or parents. Prior to the shower you can register for gifts to make it easy for your guests to purchase something they know you want.
10. Enjoy the slow time. This is the calm before the storm. Once you start working on the invitations, things get very busy again. Enjoy the process of planning your wedding!