Congratulations on your engagement! Take some time to enjoy the moment. But once the sparkling (that ring!) engagement clouds start to lift, you’ll have to take the first steps toward planning your wedding. Just thinking about choosing a venue, finding a dress, and deciding on types of flowers and decor can be overwhelming for any bride-to-be. But with strategy and organization, you’ll stay on course to making your wedding dreams a reality. Here’s how to get started.
Make A Checklist
The average engagement lasts 16 months. You won’t have an exact date set in stone until you confirm a venue, but it’s smart to have an idea of which month/season in which you want to get married. From there, you can work out a checklist with a timetable to make sure important things like making a guest list, choosing your bridal party, and securing vendors are taken care of. A quick Google search will uncover a bevy of wedding checklists – we like this detailed one from Perfect Wedding Guide.
Visualize Your Dream Wedding
How would your wedding look and feel if money wasn’t an issue? Do you want a grand, lavish celebration at a luxury hotel or intimate affair in a lovely garden? Start collecting images for inspiration on Pinterest and check out wedding blogs and magazines to help decide on details like venue, dress, flowers, stationery, cake, etc. As your wedding style becomes clearer, you’ll see where personal touches can be added to make your nuptials truly unique.
Make a Budget
Now that you have visualized the perfect wedding, it’s time to get real and make a budget. The tradition of the bride’s family footing the bill is not too common these days. Have the conversation with both of your families to get an understanding of how much everyone can contribute. This figure will guide every decision you make moving forward.
Buy A Wedding Planning Notebook
This book will become your best friend in the months leading up to the big day. Use it to track your budget (if you’re not using Excel or another budget program), ideas, important dates, and contact information for vendors. We love the Some Kind of Wonderful Wedding Planner from BHLDN, which has monthly to-do lists, budgeting details, and space to record vendor highlights.
Draft Your Guest List
With your partner, work on getting a ballpark idea of how many people you wish to invite. Remember to refer to your budget as a big wedding guest list means a larger venue, which will ultimately cost more money.
Find A Venue
You’ve dreamed up the perfect wedding and have set a budget and preliminary guest list, now you’re ready to pick a venue. Aside from cost and size, some important things to consider are location (do you want to stay local? Or choose a venue in your hometown? Your partner’s hometown? Or between the two areas?), whether you want an indoor or outdoor wedding, and if the ceremony and reception are going to be in the same place, or held on separate sites (remember, you will have to provide guests with details, possibly transportation, for getting from point A to B).
Make a Registry
About 7 to 9 months before your wedding date is a good time to make a registry. With showers, an engagement party, and all the well wishing going on, guests will appreciate a little guidance in choosing wedding gifts. Rather than including registry information on formal invitations (it’s tacky), steer guests to your wedding website through social media and word of mouth.
Photographers, videographers, florists, caterers, musicians, and DJs book weddings months in advance. Research local vendors and their portfolios, and read reviews of their work. Make the following vendors top priority:
Photographer and Videographer: Get recommendations from friends, look for photographers and videographers who shoot in they style you want (formal portraits, journalistic, candid), set up a meeting, and ask to see a few examples of their wedding albums. Nothing is more heartbreaking than spending a year planning for the most special day of your life and ending up with disappointing photos.
Florist: Florists provide examples of their wedding work on their website. And these days, most established florists showcase their best designs on Instagram. Once you find a florist you like, set up a consultation even if you have no idea going in. A good wedding florist will draft up a proposal that best complements your venue, wedding style, and personality.
Caterer and Cake: Some venues include caterers, while others require that you hire an outside company. Choosing your wedding fare can be a lot of fun, but stressful because there are so many options! Oh, and that whole “stay on budget” thing. So start by considering the food and drinks that you and your partner love and work from there. Ask the caterer to propose menus that are flexible to diet (have one vegetarian option) and price. If you can’t do a tasting, insist on seeing photos of how the food will look when served. And the best part? Sampling the cake options! Scout out local bakeries and cake designers to see who makes wedding desserts to fit your style and budget.
Musicians and DJ: Having good music at your wedding is key to ensuring your guests have a fun and memorable time. If you want a live band at your reception, arrange to see them perform beforehand. DJs are usually less expensive, but those with “it” reputations come with a higher price tag.
Choose Your Bridesmaids
These are the ladies who will be at your side on the big day. It’s important to be upfront with them about the money and time that will go in to being a bridesmaid. And let them know it is ok to decline. Be understanding. Now is not the time to end a cherished friendship because someone is not financially able to commit or going through a rough patch. Your bridesmaids will be working hard to make sure your wedding is as beautiful and perfect as possible. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate all their love and support. Bestow your closest friend or relative with the maid of honor position. As a kind gesture, include a female relative from your partner’s family in your bridal party.
Find Your Dress
At this point, you’ve probably pinned a collection of dresses you would love to wear down the aisle. Narrow down your favorites, and book an appointment with a few local bridal salons. You don’t have to become a fashion expert, but it won’t hurt knowing some bridal attire terminology regarding designers, silhouette, neckline, and fabric going in. Or perhaps you’re a thrill-of-the-hunt-kind-of-shopper who prefers going into a boutique, sample sale, or vintage shop and finding a frock on your own. Just be sure to research their bridal selection before you make a visit to avoid wasting time and energy.
Hire A Wedding Planner
If you have a demanding job, a wedding planner is going to significantly lighten your work load. Not everyone has the budget to pay someone to take care of the nitty gritty details though. There is also the option of hiring a consultant to implement a framework to follow. And we see a lot of brides have a day-of-coordinator on hand to make sure there are no glitches during the ceremony and reception.
“I have plenty of time, my wedding is over a year away” is the mindset to absolutely avoid after saying “yes.” Ask anyone who has gotten married and they will tell you that time flies, and good planning and organization is crucial to avoiding stress overload. Keep these 11 important things in mind when you start, and you’ll have the solid foundation needed to execute the wedding you always wanted.