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How Do You Plan a Wedding If You're Not Sure What You Want?

Some people seem to dream about every detail of their wedding day from childhood. Not you? Don't worry. It's perfectly okay to not have every – or even any! – details set in stone as you enter the planning process. The options are endless, and that can be daunting. Choice paralysis is real.

As vendors look to you to take their cues, how can you figure out what you want so you can move the planning process along? When the sky's the limit, how do you narrow down your choices?

The good news? You've already done the hardest part: you've found your partner and decided to make a lifetime commitment to one another. I promise, the rest is the easy stuff.

If you cringe every time you read "your big day" or "your special day," read on. We'll start off with some tips for making your wedding authentic to you and your partner.

Discovering Your Wedding Vision

It's okay and is, in some ways, even an advantage, to come to the planning process with a blank slate. It allows more flexibility, and even a better place from which to negotiate. (For example, you'll pay extra for out-of-season florals, so if your heart hasn't been set on ranunculus, you can take advantage of local, seasonal blooms.)

If you don't have a "dream day" in mind, we can start from scratch, going right back to the basics. This thought process can help you figure out what your event could look like.

As a planner, I help couples think through:

  • What kind of ceremony do you want to have?

  • Who do you want to be there?

  • What is most important to you when it comes to celebrating your union? / Picking your priorities.

  • What vibe are you going for?

  • How do you gather inspiration?

What Kind of Ceremony Do You Want?

There are three kinds of wedding ceremonies, each with their own options, choices, and timing. Pick a category that resonates best with you and your partner:

  • Religious - These ceremonies are not about being married by law, but rather being married in the eyes of God. For certain religions and in certain countries, these ceremonies are only recognized as valid in a house of worship (so, no outdoor ceremonies); other countries are more lenient and can accommodate outdoor religious celebrations.

  • Civil - Civil Ceremonies are officiated by a government official/registrar. A courthouse ceremony is a great option for couples who want to keep their ceremony private, and celebrate after with a larger group.

  • Symbolic - For destination weddings especially, this ceremony is all the elements of a marriage ceremony (from the entrances to readings to vows to exchanging rings, and of course, the kiss!) without the paperwork. This is not a legal ceremony, so you will need to obtain your marriage certificate separately.

Pro-Tip: For destination weddings, you may also choose to have a local civil ceremony in your hometown (with or without guests) as a legal wedding before having a symbolic ceremony in front of your wedding guests at the destination of your choice. This can save on paperwork, expense, and logistics of getting your marriage recognized by your home country when you get back. Of course, many destination venues do offer legal civil ceremonies, or you can choose to work with the local municipalities.

Once you have narrowed down which ceremony (or ceremonies!) you want to include in your celebration, it can be helpful to decide if you want an indoor or outdoor wedding, and a rough guest count.

Who Do You Want to Be There?

You may not know what kind of wedding you want to have, or what your centerpieces will look like. You may not care about a color scheme or what people will be wearing. But it's important to take some time to figure out who you want to be there with you, to celebrate in your union. At this point, before you've sorted out your budget and your key event priorities, keep this simple. Do you want:

  • An elopement - Just the two of you

  • A Micro-Wedding, for fewer than 20 of your immediate family and/or closest friends

  • An Intimate Wedding, with 20 - 50 of your nearest and dearest

  • A Small-Medium Wedding, with 50-100 guests

  • Larger affairs, with 100-150 guests

  • An all-out bash - 150+ guests

What's Most Important to You, on a Macro-Level?

In other words, what are your key priorities for your wedding?

Is it having amazing wedding food? Having a luxe experience with a handful of your closest people, or celebrating with everyone you know? Is it to throw an amazing dance party, or to have an epic cocktail hour? Is it to look magazine worthy, or to host an adventure?

Consider: location, guest count, food, setting/decor, and party. What pieces are most enticing to you?

I can help you think through the different options and elements so we can craft a day (or even week) that best reflects your values.

How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

Understanding your budget is critically important for managing your expectations, and for figuring out how much you can allocate to different elements of your event or even how long your event can be (from multi-day affairs to an evening of celebration).

What Vibe Are You Going For?

Even if you don't know the details, getting a sense of what kind of feeling you want you and your guests to have can help narrow it down a bit.

Do you want a beachy/relaxing tropical experience, a mountain adventure, a colorful, sea-side view? A glamorous party? A leisurely, luxury multi-day vacation? Do you want guests to feel pampered? Well-fed? Entertained?

How do you want to feel on your wedding morning? What themes resonate with you and your partner?

What Elements of the Wedding Are Most Important to You? What Do You Want to Skip?

Your wedding doesn't have to look like every wedding you've ever been to. If there are elements that make you feel uncomfortable, cut them.

It's okay to not want dancing at your wedding, for example. Or to want to skip a sit-down meal, or to add in different types of entertainment. Whether you want to work in circus performers and face painting or photo booths and lawn games, your wedding should reflect who you and your partner are as people and as a couple; you shouldn't feel obligated to copy-paste traditional wedding elements if they don't resonate with you both.

Gathering Inspiration

Think back to some of the weddings you have attended. What made them special? What were your favorite parts? What do you want to make sure to exclude from your own celebration?

Figuring out what has resonated in the past (whether it is as small as "I loved the champagne tower!" to something larger, like the way they structured their ceremony, or their wedding venue) can be helpful building blocks.

Scroll through some wedding blogs or instagram. What trends speak to you? Which feel overplayed?

If nothing is jumping out at you, don't worry. Sometimes it takes finding a venue to help make the whole event more tangible. With the setting sorted, it can be easier to imagine what your wedding could look like against your chosen backdrop.

A great wedding planner can help you sort out priorities, pick a venue and vendors that align with your priorities, and can design different visual options to choose among.

Planning the Wedding of Your Dreams, or Dreaming Up a Wedding from Scratch

Whether you want help bringing your vision to life or figuring out what kind of wedding you want to have, I'm here to help. Let's talk!


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