I've seen posts all over social media asking where to start with wedding planning, and I wanted to share my tips and suggestions! I did recently get married in August of 2017, so wedding planning is very fresh in my mind. When I planned my wedding, I did everything like a normal couple would, I didn't pull the "photographer" card at all, I wanted the true experience to give the best tips to couples possible!
Now, you don't have to do everything below in order that it is written, it's more or less a suggestion of an order to do. Take your time figuring out your vendors, I personally wanted vendors that I connected with that really wanted to invest time with me with quick emails and custom quotes. I would definitely check out The Knot, A Practical Wedding and Wedding Lovely for vendors as well as more tips!
Get ready, this is a TON of information being thrown at you. Wedding planning does not happen over night, take your time and don't be afraid to sleep on something for a few days before making a decision!
Pick out a few dates. Why would you pick out a few dates? Depending on how close you're planning on getting married, many venues are already booked. Having a few dates to choose from opens up the opportunity to book the venue that you want vs trying to find something for a specific date.
When I got engaged, I knew I wanted my wedding in August and on a Friday, so I had a pretty open mind with that. It did work out that our wedding date was right between both of my grandparents wedding dates, so that was super cool!
Set a budget. Setting a budget is not easy by any means. It all really depends on if you are paying for your wedding yourself, or if someone is going to be helping you out. I know with some couples someone gifts them a certain amount for a vendor, or something along those lines. Being real, weddings are expensive and add up quick, be careful to not spend too much of your budget on your venue or a specific vendor (unless your overall budget allows). The last thing you want to deal with is having to cut back on other vendors due to overspending.
I personally set a $10k budget for my wedding since I was paying for it myself (we also bought a house in the middle of our engagement, so my fiance's money was going towards that) it wasn't super easy, but I did make it under budget. If you want to check out a detailed list of what I spent and my budget tips, check out the blog post here.
Write a rough guest list. Sit down with your fiance, and get an idea of how many guests you want to invite. This really sets where you go with your wedding, if you're going to have a large wedding, a small wedding or something in between. Talk about who you want to invite, are you inviting all your family or just the people that mean the most to you. This will definitely help when you start looking for a venue, you don't want to exceed the limit of where you book.
With my wedding we wanted to keep it small, we originally sat down and had a list around 115 people, we took that number and used it to find our venue space. We did end up trimming down the guest list, we really just wanted to invite people that meant the most to us.
Venue. Here is where the research and real planning starts. Picking out a venue is definitely the big first step, your venue sets the tone of your wedding. There are so many options for venues, it's hard to know where to start. The best place to start is location, where do you want to get married and what works best for the amount of guests you are going to be having. Once you pin a location down, you can start researching venues in that area. Check out this awesome article from A Practical Wedding that is amazing for organizing possible venues and some really great tips to think about!
I actually found my reception venue on The Knot. I was looking for something small and different that I had never photographed before, I wanted a special place for me and my husband.
Wedding Planner: full service or day of coordinator? Hiring a wedding planner can be the first thing you do, it really depends on how much help you need. Planners and coordinators are AMAZING, I would hands down say that investing in one is key to a successful wedding day. Most planners offer two different options: full service and day of. Full service is the full package, they help you plan your whole wedding, talk to vendors for you, create your timeline and coordinate the day of. The other option is day of coordinator, in which they create a timeline and are there at your wedding to make sure the day goes smoothly. All planning is on you, they just make sure everything goes right. Here's an awesome article from The Knot about figuring out what type of planner is best for you.
Photographer/videographer. I know I am a wedding photographer, but seriously, wedding photography is the most important thing you can invest in for your wedding day. At the end of the day, all you have left is your wedding pictures and video. There are a ton of photographers out there, so I totally understand that it can be overwhelming to try and figure out who is best for you. Being real, if it seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you ask for full galleries from getting ready to the reception. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the full galleries, just to get a feel of what went on during the day, and how the photographer handled it. If your venue is on the darker side, make sure they have images that reflect being able to handle that (using flashes, and not having ALL of the reception pictures in black and white). There are a ton more tips I've written myself on booking a wedding photographer, you can check that blog post here.
Booking a videographer can be equally as important, depending on what you are looking for. With my own couples, only 40% of them book a videographer, and that is totally okay! There are videographers that only give a highlight reel, and some give more than that. When talking to couples that didn't book a videographer, they just had a hard time justifying the price with something that would sit on a shelf. They would rather invest in their photographer and buy more product to hang around their house. Couples that did book one loved it, it is really a unique experience to be able to watch your own wedding from a different perspective.
I spent a lot of money on my photographer, I did book a friend of mine, but again I am a photographer so it's a bit different than booking a friend as a normal bride. My photographer is from Florida and I worked with him previously at a wedding so I knew how he worked. I have a ton of portraits of me and my husband and that's what I wanted. I love the unique angles and all the detail photos as well.
Caterer (if not included with venue) Some venues don't include a caterer, but have a list of approved caterers you can choose from. There are a few different options for food: plated meals, buffet, strolling dinner, and family style. Each option has it's own pros and cons, figuring out what is going to work best with your venue space as well as the size of your wedding is really key. I really liked this article by Brides, it's super helpful and even goes into asking if linens and tableware is included!
My venue has a kitchen and full menu, so I got to choose off of their catering menu which worked out perfectly for our small wedding. We did a buffet style, and there was plenty of food for seconds!
Save the dates/invitations. Stationary is small but super important, and there are so many options out there. First off, are you planning on sending out save the dates? (and are you going to have engagement pictures, for your save the dates?) Some companies offer magnets instead of the traditional paper save the date. Then it comes to invitations, there are so many parts to it, depending on how detailed you are going to be. Do you need directions to the venue, is there accommodations, a food choice for plated meals, all of these things add up for extra parts and cost. I actually read this article from The Knot when trying to figure out my own invitations.
I have been super obsessed with Rifle Paper Co. for some time now, so when I found out they made invitations I was all over it. I went through what they offered and picked out what matched our colors the best. I did two different versions for my invitations, one for guests that were invited to both the ceremony and reception and the other for guests just invited to the reception.
Florist. Fake, real, a mix of the two, what do you do? I'm all for real flowers, but these days there are so many options out there. You can purchase flowers from a retailer and create your own pieces, or the more traditional route and go with a florist or even skip that and go the fake route with so many real looking options and even eco friendly wood options as well. It's really all about what your budget will let you do; if you are going full out with the whole ceremony, reception and personal pieces or just doing some it's ultimately up to you! Some florists have a minimum that you have to spend so be aware of that, I ran into that myself when looking for a florist. A Practical Wedding has an article going through how to hire a florist, it's a great break down of what to look for.
I booked an amazing florist, she took my ideas and ran with them and everything turned out perfectly! I only had her make bouquets and boutonnieres, so my overall budget was under most florists minimums and I didn't want to make them myself. I knew with the photographer I booked that my bouquet would be in a ton of images so I wanted it to be perfect. I did make my own centerpieces for the reception so I didn't have that extra expense.
The next steps would be looking to a DJ/band, finding attire for the both of you as well as your wedding party, booking an officiant if you're not getting married in a church, picking out cake/desserts for your guests (which is also a very delicious time!) and also hair and Makeup. There are many other factors to a wedding, but these are the main ones to get you started. I wish you the best in your wedding planning, don't get stressed out, enjoy it! If you do get stressed, take a few days away and just relax and remember why you're getting married in the first place. As a past bride and wedding vendor myself, I am always here to help couples with any questions, giving my personal experiences as well as professional. If you'd like to check out more of my wedding advice/tips, check out my blog!
All photos are from my own wedding, by The Portos.