If you are reading this and in the throws of wedding planning or you recently said YES to your forever, Congratulations!!! Welcome to the exciting world of planning one of the most fun, stressful and blissful times of your life! I am going to keep it real with you, Wedding planning is blissfuly stressful, that is the best way to put it. All the effort and attention to detail will pay off in such a beautiful way in the end, I promise. I’ve been a married since October 17, 2021 so I’ve learned a lot about the process and remember the highs and lows of planning so vividly.
I got engaged October 17,2020 while on vacation with my now husband, I remember the morning after thinking where do I start first with the planning process. I had to shake the feelings of being anxious, and already overwhelmed with all of the wedding unknown to enjoy that moment of dawning a new title Fiancé and enjoy the remainder of my vacation. Post vacation I decided I was going to plan my own wedding independent of a wedding planner. In order to stay level headed throughout the planning process was to stay organized with a list. The steps outlined below will guide you through the essential parts of planning the wedding. Many of these steps are a must do before saying, “I DO” or hiring a wedding planner to guide you.
1. Set the Wedding Date
Setting the date for your wedding is the most important part of your wedding plans because without a date you won’t be able to reserve any venues or vendors. Think about the most common question people ask when they find out about your engagement: “When is the wedding?” Your budget will also be affected by the time of year that you choose to get married. For example, if you’re on a low budget, consider planning your wedding in the Winter months because there are more wedding vendors to choose from since there aren’t as many weddings from December to February (except holidays) in cold-weather areas. Also, the day of the week will determine if save or shell out more money. When I got married the date 10/17 that was very significant to us fell on a Sunday, thus we avoided the most sought after Saturday and saved money all the way around.
2. Make a Budget
Making a budget is all about facing reality. So many brides to be have Pinterest boards filled with all of their must haves the only caveat to Pinterest there are no price tags attached to the beautiful images. Some couples like to pick a ballpark figure and if they don’t go over that amount, then they’re happy with the outcome. I truly believe that the budgeting process is a great exercise for couples to learn about each other’s spending habits and what’s important to them for the wedding. Maybe the groom really wants those designer socks for his groomsmen, or perhaps the bride doesn’t care about the latest fashion trend for her dress after all. In the end, you can learn a lot about your partner and you end up with a budget to which you can hold each other accountable.
3. Create a Guest List
Now that you’ve set the date and made a budget, it is time to figure out who you want to attend your wedding. The rule of thumb I stuck with was starting with family members on each side to get begin the list. These are the people who will most likely RSVP to your wedding. Decide if you’re allowing single guests to bring a +1 and factor that into your total guest count. The total guest count is an important figure to have when you start looking at venues. Don’t feel bad if you can’t invite everyone and their grandmother. Also, will you be allowing children to attend, they will also add to the guest count and budget. For my fiancé and I we choose to have an adult only wedding.
4. Choose a Wedding Party
A traditional wedding party consists of the Maid or Matron of Honor, Best Man, Bridesmaid, Groomsmen, Junior Bridesmaid, Flower Girl(s), and Ring Bearer(s). I’ve been to weddings where there was no one in the wedding party, and weddings where the party was over 30 people…yes 30! Generally speaking, these are the guests who are close to you, either relatives or friends, who will be by your side as you speak your vows to one another. It is not uncommon to purchase thank you gifts for each member of the wedding party, so be sure to factor that into your budget along with other expenses you might be expected to pay such as hair & makeup, attire, etc. Originally I did not want a bridal party, after much thought I choose 2 ladies to stand by me plus a brides man and my husband had 2 men stand by him. We kept our party small and intimate ( less personalities to manage that way)
5. Visit and Book the Venue(s)
This is the part of your wedding planning where the rubber meets the road. Ask yourself, what is the vibe you are going for; opulent ballroom, rustic chic, whimsical garden? Do some research for the types of venues that meet the vision for your special day. Once you have a short list, save yourself some time and give each place a call to make sure they’re available for your wedding date. You will be using your budget and guest list to determine the perfect location for your wedding. This is also the first time you’ll start to get a feel for what your wedding day will look like. Lastly, start to plan time to visit each location to see the facilities and get your questions answered on the spot by the wedding coordinator of the venue. Many establishments have special dates set aside when you can visit with sample wedding decor setup for you to review. But don’t show up unannounced because you might get turned away.
6. Organize Catering for Reception
Once the venue is booked, the caterer should be next on the vendors list to book. While you are visiting your favorite venues, ask what them what your options are for catering. Some venues require that you utilize their staff and may provide a taste test of their menu options. If you’re allowed to hire your own catering company, then you’ll want to make this step the next priority since some venues also have rules about outside caterers. You want to be able to serve the food that you both like from a caterer that meets both your budget and expectations (and any rules imposed by the venue). Lastly, do not forget to ask about the beverage and liquor packages that come with the venue or caterers.
7. Shop for a Wedding Dress
For many brides, this step is more crucial than any other! Before I got engaged I had a shortlist of designers I had admired for years. Finding that perfect dress could mean making multiple trips to the bridal shop with your bridal crew so be prepared. For me I started local, with a bridal boutique that sold the designer I was interested in having make my dress. I started with my initial consult in the bridal boutique with the designer during her trunk show and from there made trips to Texas where her warehouse was located to finish my bespoke custom gown. It was an investment but and investment nonetheless that I was more than willing to make because my dress was one of the most important factors to me. My tip to you, have a general idea of the dress style you want that will fit your body shape, and the the theme of your wedding. If you do not know where to begin start with a list of what you do not want so that you can share that with your consultant prior to your appointment so that your bridal stylist can help you narrow down the selection. They know their inventory and you should rely on their expertise to help you choose your gown. They’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of brides in all kinds of their dresses, so if you don’t know why something isn’t working, chances are they’ll be able to address the concerns you didn’t even know you had.
8. Hire a Photographer
Unless you have a wedding planner- or day of coordinator like I did- some might say that the photographer is like the director on the wedding day (until the reception, where the DJ usually takes over), helping you stay on track by capturing the key moments as they unfold. The key to hiring a photographer is to look at their style of images and meet in person to gauge their overall personality I firmly believe that if you create a great relationship with your photographer leading up to the day of the wedding you and their team will be in sync. Be sure to review their website portfolio and/or social media— if they do not have one, run! Are they personable and attentive to your needs? You’re going to spend the entire wedding day with this person, and a good part of your wedding plans will revolve around what you want the photographer to capture, so if you can’t get along or don’t like their personality, then it’s going to be a long day.
One thing that helped me in this department, we booked an engagement session with our photographer to get a feel of their style, their team, professionalism and timeliness of project return.
10. Shop for the Cake
This is perhaps the best part of planning a wedding, unless you’re trying to maintain your figure for that spectacular wedding dress or tuxedo you picked out. Otherwise, you get to sample a lot of different wedding cakes, icings snd fillings. Look for bakers who have good reviews if you’re unsure where to start, then narrow them down by proximity to your venue or what they charge for a drop off fee. You want your cake to be fresh and more importantly, available to be delivered at the expected time. To save money, I opted for a faux cake that had a small cutout in the back for my husband and I to cut into for optics. Meanwhile in the kitchen was sheet cake that was cut, plated and presented so beautifully to our guest in an assortment of flavors from red velvet, blueberry lemon curd and strawberry.
11. Hire a Florist/ Decor Designer
When you meet with the florist or decor designer, they are going to want to know your style or theme of the wedding and the colors you’ve selected for your wedding party. Come prepared and ready with your Pinterest inspiration boards organized and ready to be viewed. Based on this knowledge, a good florist will work with you to design the floral scheme, what rental props maybe needed that best match your ideas for the wedding. Many have warehouses and look books where you can view things like specialty tables, cake stands and luxury chair options. Use their extensive knowledge to learn what is in season based on trends and the time of year you are getting married. Don’t be afraid to ask for a mock arrangement or to view any unique arrangements they’ve created for events they are designing in the coming days. Also, to save a little coin do not shy away from adding more greenery to your arrangements or silk flowers mixed into the real florals!
12. Book the Officiant
Oftentimes the officiant is overlooked during the initial wedding plans, but you can not get married unless you have someone licensed or ordained to perform and witness this legal ceremony. I had my great uncle and family Pastor marry my husband and I. He did a phenomenal job and made the ceremony special.
Too Much to Handle? Hire a Wedding Planner
If this all seems too daunting or you just don’t have the time, now would be a good time to hire a professional wedding planner to assist you with all the decisions and meetings that need to be had to make your day a success! A wedding planner will not only setup a detailed timeline of your wedding day, but also they will guide you in making decisions to design the wedding of your dreams. Most important, they will help you stay within your budget, and perhaps even save you money by leveraging their relationships with different vendors in the industry.
Next I will be sharing a full complete vendor list of everyone I personally used, more photos, and things I learned the hard way planning my own wedding. Stay tuned to Instagram and the blog for more to come.