It finally happened. He got down on one knee and asked me the question I had been waiting my whole life to hear–“Will you marry me?” As silent fist-pumping crowds of angels cheered and invisible confetti fell from the heavens, I said “yes!” Finally, it was my turn! After the celebrations had come and gone, and the shock of it all began to wear off, I found myself feeling increasingly overwhelmed with the planning process. I was over the moon excited, yet also at a loss for where to even begin. I think most brides-to-be start here, and it’s completely normal. Thinking back to that not-so-long-ago time in my life, I thought it might be helpful to chat with some seasoned wedding experts and pick their brains on the best place to start the wedding planning process so it’s not so intimidating. As a photographer, I have my own set of recommendations for new brides, but I also really appreciate the viewpoint of other wedding professionals as well.
Begin with your guest list. It sounds like an odd place to start, but you’ll need to know the headcount in order to determine almost every aspect of your wedding. Sit down with your partner and make your dream guest list – anyone and everyone you’d like to invite as well as everyone on your families’ wish lists. Often times you’ll end up with quite a few more people than you anticipated. From there, look at average costs of weddings in your area in the general style you’d prefer. Is that amount something you’re comfortable with? If so – charge forward! If its a struggle, go back through your guest count and consider cutting folks. By starting here, you can begin to narrow down venues based on their maximum capacity.
Identify your priorities. Have a conversation with your partner, and the investing family members (a.k.a. the ones paying for the event) early on in the process. You’ll have to be choosy and really think about the top 3 things you feel are most important for the wedding day. Is it the location? The food and drinks? The photographer? Time with family and friends? Identifying these things will help you keep things in perspective when you’re in the midst of the planning process and every thing seems like it’s the most important.
Identify your preferred time of the year. Unless you both have your heart SET on a particular date, identify your preferred time of year instead of specific dates. This will aid you in being flexible in attaining your desired venue and or possibly other major vendors like coordinators and photographers.
Start making appointments with your “Dream Team”. Begin making appointments and walk-thru’s with your dream locations (first, of course, check on availability during your preferred time of year). Once you have a location and date secured, you can move on to the other vendors of your dream team– photographer, coordination (if you haven’t already secured one), catering, and florist. These key vendors typically book anywhere from 6-12 months ahead, which is why we recommend checking these off your list first.
Hire a wedding planner! It seems like a silly use of budget, especially if you “have a friend with a camera/organized family member/co-worker”, but TRUST me. A seasoned professional will be one of the biggest, if not THE biggest asset to you on your wedding day. If your budget doesn’t allow for a full planner, then consider hiring one for the month of your wedding. There’s nothing less relaxing for a couple than not knowing what to expect on their wedding day. Having to worry about answering questions all day about where things go, leading the event transitions, and being onsite for set up and staying through tear down…. that will definitely ruin the magic.
Ultimately though, remember this process is supposed to be more fun than stress. So be sure to enjoy the process. Get excited about the details and colors and Pinterest boards, the tastings and walk-throughs, the engagement photos, and dress fittings. The engagement season of life goes by too quickly, so take little moments throughout to stop and take it all in. You’re engaged! That’s something to celebrate!