How do you start planning a wedding?
Congrats on your engagement! (Psst...for tips on keeping that ring super sparkly, click here.)
Newly engaged couples hardly have a moment to enjoy their engagement before the deluge of “when’s the wedding?” and "how goes planning?' questions pour in. You may not have the answers yet. Most people haven't planned an event this large or complex and are suddenly expected to be experts. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed! Where do you start? How do you begin to plan a wedding?
In this blog we’ll cover off on which vendors to focus your energy on first to help you get the wedding of your dreams and maximize your choice.
First Up: Pick Your Priorities
When you close your eyes and imagine your future wedding, what are some of the key elements that come to mind? Any must-haves or must-nots? What kind of experience do you want to have, and what experience do you want to give your guests?
This is an exercise you can do with your planner, too, but it’s good to have a sense up front of what you want to prioritize for your special day.
Next: Identify Your Budget
Before you go too far down the road of event vision or guest list, figure out how much you have to work with. Identify any potential contributions from your families and what strings, if any, may be attached.
Draft an Initial Guest List
Did you know that one of the biggest factors in the cost of your wedding is the number of people you invite? (More on that here.)
Drafting up an initial rough count can help guide you in terms of venue size and will inform future vendor conversations and estimates.
Pro tip: break your list into three categories - 1. your ride-or-die friends & family (must haves), 2. the nice-to-haves, and the 3. obligatory/other invites. This will help you figure out your baseline guest list, and depending on your budget, how any more you can add. For some quick tips on trimming your initial guest list, check out this blog.
Find a Planner
This special time is easily overshadowed by logistical dramas, choice paralysis, and budget anxiety, but it doesn’t have to be. The right planner can help you narrow down your choices, serve up a list of pre-vetted, quality vendors, and can help you figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. The sooner you book a planner, the less work you’ll have to do on your own.
How do you find the right planner for you?
We’ll dive into the qualities to look for in a wedding planner in a future blog, but in the meantime, here are some things to look for:
This is someone with whom you’ll be spending a lot of time, and a mutual understanding is critical to making sure your wedding goes to plan. Find someone you really click with – someone who “gets it,” who can help you focus the planning process into a manageable (and dare I say, fun?) experience. Choose someone who is empathetic and on your side, and will advocate for you and your interests throughout the process.
Find someone who isn’t afraid to push back, and who can present some outside-the-box options, and who has an eye for design.
Of course, this is your wedding, and it should be your way. So also watch out for steamrolling. There’s a difference between a planner who can guide you towards a better or more logistically elegant solution, and one who pushes you into an event that doesn’t feel like your own.
Next Up: Select Your Trifecta –Venue, Photographer, & Florist
This glorious trifecta are three of the most important (and often most expensive) vendors to book. Booking these three first gives you the most lead time and therefore the best availability (and choice).
Even (or especially) before you settle on a date, I recommend choosing your dream venue. After all, the venue's availability will inform timing. Of course, if there is a particularly meaningful date, and getting wed then is your top priority, you may have to compromise on venue and vendor availability. But again, this all comes down to that priority list, and which elements are most important to you. Selecting your venue will narrow down available dates, and you can check with your dream photographer or florist before committing to one.
If you’re choosing among dates for your venue, your photographer’s availability might inform which you pick, so these conversations can definitely be had in parallel. Your planner will help with all of this.
I include florists in the glorious trifecta since they tend to book up early. Note: if your venue does not include catering, then finding the right fit for your feast should take precedence over floral. Once that is secured, you can move on to flowers.
When you think about everything that goes into planning a wedding, and your social feeds get increasing saturated with aspirational wedding content, it's easy to feel daunted by the planning process. Researching hair and makeup, scrolling through endless dress options, deciding on decor and wedding trends, hunting for the perfect photographer, and obsessing over stationery, and trying to secure a venue all at once is a recipe for wedding-planning burn out.
Starting with this list can help you tackle the priorities in a sensible order, and can help streamline your planning process. With these early wins secured, you’ll have: critical vendors, a planner, a venue, and a date selected. This can eliminate a lot of that initial planning stress, and will free up your mental space. Only then should you begin focusing your energy on attire, event design, stationery, and selecting your music, hair/makeup artists, and any fun extras like photo booths, performers, and beyond.