When you just get engaged, you are super excited about the prospect of getting married. You just proposed, or got proposed to, and it feels like you can take on the world together! So you start looking for information to quickly arrange things and just get married already. However, the more you start looking to simplify things, the more overwhelmed you get by all the different options and the crazy (there simply is no better word for it) amount of little steps you need to do before you can have the wedding you have envisioned.
You can find so much information in magazines, on blogs, on Pinterest and other social media that you get completely lost and you don't know how to actually start planning your wedding. Well, I'm here to rescue you! Below, you can find the 5 first steps you need to do first when planning your wedding.
1. GET CLEAR ON YOUR WEDDING STYLE
You don't need to have a detailed idea of how your wedding should look, but you do need to know in general what kind of wedding you would like to have. This will influence all other steps that will follow.
Do you want a princess wedding in a castle with champagne flowing freely, a live band on the patio, a 5-course dinner for all of your guests and fireworks at midnight? Or do you want an informal wedding in a more industrial location with local ecological dishes and a walking diner? Or maybe even a bohemian wedding in a forest setting with a luxurious barbecue and dancing underneath the starlight?
This general idea will influence your date, budget, guest list and planning. If you envision an elopement at a beach with only a limited amount of people, you might want to stay clear of a winter wedding, you will have more budget to spend on your photographer and your honeymoon, and you can downsize your guest list like crazy. If you envision yourself having a winter wedding in a snowy valley in a hunting mansions surrounded by lots of family members and friends, all these details will be different though. So make sure you have a general idea of what your wedding should be like.
2. Pick a date
One of the first steps you need to take, is to pick a date you would like to get married on. Do you have a date that has special meaning to you both? If so, that might be a good date to consider. Make sure to take other things into account though, like holidays or huge sports events, that might intervene with some of your guests' planning.
If you don't have a special date, or if it's not really an option for you, you can look at some other possible dates.
Start with your preferred season and then work your way down to a specific date. Every season has its ups and downs. Summertime is the busiest time of the year for weddings so take into account that you will need to book the location, catering, photographer, etc. well in advance to make sure they are available. More and more people decide to get married in another season though, so if you don't really want to get married in summer, and you value the availability of your vendors over the slim chance of having a warm summer wedding, you can consider other seasons as well.
And if you really want a warm sunny wedding day, but you don't necessarily want to get married in summer, you could always opt for a tropical destination wedding. Or, if you are like me and you love the idea of snow on your wedding day, you could plan a wintry destination wedding.
Based on the season you chose, you can now start getting more specific. Decide if you want to get married during the week or over the weekend, Google big sports events or other events that might influence your guests' planning, and set a few possible dates. Based on the availability of your venue, you can then decide which date will best suit you.
3. Work out your budget
As soon as you have your wedding date figured out (or if you have some options in mind), sit down and check your financials! Go over your savings, any projects coming up that will need some investments, and see if you have any money coming in over the next few months. If your parents want to help, try to get a scope of what they will pay. If you have all of this information figured out, you have an idea of your possible budget.
Now take out 10% to use as a buffer for unexpected costs. These are bound to come up, so you'd best be prepared. The budget that you have left after taking off the 10%, is the budget you can invest in your wedding. Take into account that both the first and the last few weeks will be the most expensive. When you book your vendors, you will have to pay a deposit, and the last two weeks before your wedding, most vendors will require the final payments. Make sure you have enough money saved before you have to fulfill these final payments so you don't encounter any surprises.
4. Start on your guest list
When you have your budget figured out, or at least an estimate, you will also need to see how many guests you can invite with the budget you have set. Try to calculate about €100 per guest for the people you want to have with you during the entire day, and about €50 per evening guest if you serve a few snacks. Don't underestimate food and drinks, these costs can go up very quickly.
When the time comes to select your catering and bar services, make sure you have a clear understanding with your vendors on how much they will serve, how much they will stock on the day itself, during which times they will serve food and/or drinks, what they will do if a certain drink is repleted, and what will happen if you go over the estimated drink count. Make sure these are also mentioned in your contract and don't forget to read the fine print.
Depending on your catering and venue this might go up or down but at least it will give you an indication of how many people you can invite. You can also start setting some ground rules for creating the guest list later on: are you inviting distant relatives? Co-workers? Childhood friends? As a general guideline, I would say not to invite someone if neither of you have seen or heard from them in 1 year and you are not sure you want to invite them.
5. GET ORGANIZED
When all these details are defined, you will need to make a "Wedding Planning Checklist". This is a document that you can use that will tell you exactly what to do when and in which order. You can find ones for 12 months, 6 months, and maybe even 3 months if you look in the right places.
You can find lots of checklists through Pinterest, just make sure you don't get distracted by all the other pretty wedding pictures, and in most wedding magazines. Or you can just download mine right here.
Download your wedding planning checklist
How to customize a 12-month wedding planning checklist
There are two different types of to do's on a wedding planning checklist. On one side, you have to do's with a fixed date, and on the other side you have to do's which are more flexible. An example of a to do with a fixed date, is sending your wedding invitations. To make sure people will have enough time to respond, you need to send the invitations 3 months in advance.
Flexible to do's can be things like booking your photographer or graphic designer. You know you will need to book them as soon as possible, and you know you need to have a graphic designer before you need to print your invitations, but you can still play a bit with the exact timing. You can book your photographer a year in advance because you know you also want to do an Engagement Shoot, but you could also wait to book a photographer until 6 months in advance.
Just take into account that the sooner you enquire with your wedding vendors, the more certain you are that they will still be available on your date.
When shortening your wedding planning checklist to 4 or 7 or 9 months before your engagement, you will treat fixed and flexible to do's differently. You can move all flexible items a bit closer to each other, but the fixed ones need to stay put at said timing. Of course, if your engagement is shorter than the timing for the fixed to do, you can move it to the soonest possible date.
An example would be the following: you only have a 4-month engagement and you want to have an intimite and personal wedding. You have a venue and some vendors already, but you did not get everything yet. You would move things like purchasing your wedding dress and booking your getaway car as soon as possible, preferably to the first week. Anything else that is more flexible can be pushed closer to each other. For example, you will buy your dress now, so your second dress fitting can just be removed from your planning because you will have a final dress fitting 2 weeks before your wedding anyway, while buying your accessories can be moved a bit closer to the final date so you don't overload the first few weeks. Sending your wedding invitiations though, will remain set at 3 months.