If you’ve been dreaming about your wedding for years, you probably can’t wait to go dress shopping or look at venues. Planning a wedding is a huge task and there are a few things you should consider before you dive into the fun stuff. It is normal to feel intimidated and not know where to begin. Here are the first 5 things you should do when you begin planning your wedding.
1. Discuss what type of wedding you both want.
While you’re picturing your perfect wedding, here are some key questions to consider: Is it a candlelit evening in the forest or a barefoot ceremony on a beach? Big (everyone you know) or small (just close friends and family)? Outdoors or in? Home (one of your hometowns or your current city) or away (a destination wedding)? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam? Fancy, casual or somewhere in between? Do you want a ceremony in your childhood church, or to have a close friend officiate?
2. Figure out your budget and priorities.
Creating a budget will determine which venues you look at, how many people you can invite, which vendors you’ll hire. Try not to look at any venues or vendors until the budget is made. I know the excitement is high, but the last thing you want is to fall in love with something you can’t afford! On the other hand if there is a venue or vendor that is a must have, creating a budget will help you choose expenses to cut so that you can guarantee you have the budget to book them. If you just can’t imagine getting married without a certain local band playing at the reception or a photographer whose work you love, act fast. Many top wedding photographers and other in-demand wedding vendors are hired more than a year in advance, and once they’re booked, they’re gone. So figure out what your highest wedding priorities are, whether it’s world-class catering or exquisite flowers, and snap up the vendors whose work you love.
3. Draw up your guest list (including an A List and a B List).
It’s hard to come up with a guest count until you start writing down names — you’ll quickly realize there are people you want or need to invite who didn’t immediately come to mind. On the A List, put people who will absolutely be invited. On the B List, put guests you would love to have, but who might not make the cut depending on budget and venue size. If you have a particular ceremony or reception site in mind, you may be limited by how many people it can accommodate. If your parents are helping with the bill, make sure to ask for their A and B lists as well. If you need to cut your budget the best way is to cut your guest list. It will affect everything from the catering and liquor costs to chair and linen rentals. Having guests divided into an A and B list will make it easier to know where to draw the line. As you get closer to the wedding, if there’s space for additional guests because some can’t attend or you have extra cash, you can send out a few extra invitations. Be sure to make two RSVP cards — one for the A list, with an earlier RSVP date, and one for the B list, with a later date closer to the wedding.
4. Pick a venue, then a date — in that order!
Venues tend to book about a 18-12 months in advance. The more flexibility you have with choosing your date the better your chances of landing your favorite venue! Start by choosing your preferred season and then select a range of 4-8 weeks, like June and July or October and November. Avoid any major holidays or conflicting with family events. Once you have your date and venue, research and book your photographer. Don’t wait, photographers tend to book up a year in advance too!
5. Choose Your Bridal Party.
Now it’s your turn to propose to your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can enlist their help. And keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their money and donate their time, so be considerate and kind by informing everyone about all your plans (including costs for attire, bachelor and bachelorette parties , etc).
Remember to relax and enjoy being engaged. Wedding planning can be very stressful, don’t forget why you’re doing this. Try to set aside time for date nights, that are free of any planning.