Holy exciting, Batman! You’re about to plan a wedding, but where to begin? Check out some tips on getting started below!
A wedding is a big production and can be a lot of work, no matter the size of your guest list and where you choose to host your celebration. There are a variety of ways to go about planning, but I recommend starting by considering the following questions:
What is my overall budget?
Your budget is the most important thing to establish before anything else. The last thing you want to do is commit to expenses too soon and end up in serious debt or have to skimp on areas of planning because you overspent elsewhere.
When developing your budget, consider how much money you have saved or will save up that you are willing to contribute and have an open conversation with your fiancé about their contribution commitments. It may also be helpful to talk about the possibility of taking out a new credit card to put all of your expenses on for easier tracking. If you do go that route, be sure to determine a hard line that you won’t spend above and discuss your exact plans for paying that card off. I personally do not recommend going into debt to pay for your wedding as it can contribute to financial strain later on and stress on you new marriage. You may also be tempted to spend more than you agreed on if that extra line of credit is available, so if you have any doubts, just skip it.
In addition, many parents/families will contribute money to wedding funds, which you can add into your total budget. Be sure to have that conversation with your parents/families directly to confirm if they are willing (and able) to contribute and exactly how much. Do not assume they’re in!
Add all of those contributions together and boom! There’s your wedding budget. Once you have your budget total and know where your limits lie, you can start prioritizing your spending.
What is my list of must-haves, flexibilities, and absolutely-nots for my wedding?
If you’re like most people, you have been thinking about what you want your wedding to look like for quite some time. With your fiancé, write down a list of priorities you feel you must include in your celebration (such as including all of your family and friends for a big guest list, a plated/served meal style, a specific venue, or hiring your favorite band) so you can keep in mind the potential for higher spending on those things.
I also recommend a list of things you’re both open to being flexible about, such as dessert type (big fancy cake or alternative sweets), wedding party size (or none), giving out favors or not, type of venue and service level, DIY vs buying décor, etc.
And finally, it can be helpful to note what you each absolutely do not want at your wedding or are perfectly happy leaving out. This helps you streamline your planning by not having to think about those things, opens your budget allocations for other must-haves, and helps your vendors understand where your priorities vs. your boundaries lie.
How much of my budget will I allocate to various items?
Looking at your priorities and other things you’ll spend your wedding budget on (don’t forget to include your marriage license fee, vendor tips, dress alterations, etc.!) and break out what monetary limit you’ll aim to spend or stay under for each line item. There are a bunch of great online resources for wedding budget help. The go-to budget tools I usually see are provided by The Knot and WeddingWire. They’re both free, create suggestions for line-item spending, and adjust automatically when you remove an item or enter in purchases/deposits.
Costs can very easily get out of hand if you don’t keep track of spending as you go, so I highly recommend using a budgeting tool. There are tons of other options out there, so just search around and find one you like!
Can I start planning already??
Now the fun part! There are two things that will determine a lot of your other options and choices: 1. your guest list, and from there, 2. your venue. List out your must-have attendees for your guest list, then add your preferred attendees, then your “would be nice if they were there” folks, and finally the “could take ’em or leave ’em” people. This graduated list and the total numbers for each level’s addition will allow you to think flexibly and consider your priorities when searching for venues and food providers. If you want everyone possible at your wedding, plan with that highest number of guests – by invitation sent, not who you think will actually show up. You do not want to get caught only planning for 80% attendance, but have 98% of your guests RSVPing “yes” when invites go out.
With your budget allocations and guest list total(s) in mind, start researching venues, food options, photographers, floral, music, etc. I recommend booking your venue first as that is going to determine your wedding date, vendor timing, and most other details. Consider if your venue requires specific vendor(s) and if they’re also within your price range for your number of guests.
Don’t rush into signing any contract without first getting all of the information you need and comparing it to your wedding’s budget restrictions, any additional costs this venue may require (Will you need to rent a tent? Provide your own table settings? Do they require that you hire a planner/coordinator or other specific vendor(s)? What are the fees and taxes in addition to the basic rental cost?), and if they can accommodate your other must-haves. Some venues don’t allow alcohol, some have early clean-up times, some don’t allow food trucks or only allow licensed caterers to serve out of their kitchen. Many have preferred vendor lists you must choose from and those might not be your style or in your budget. Be sure to consider these types of details before committing to a venue or vendor.
- Develop your budget.
- Determine priorities.
- Allocate budget funds.
- Start planning!
When a couple books my services, I become available for any and all questions you have regarding planning and everything that goes with it. I want to be a resource and ease your stress as you go through the whole process. Planning should not something you feel stuck doing, it should be fun and exciting!