Did you get engaged on Boxing day or perhaps New Years day? Congratulations! This is the most exciting thing -EVER- and I am sure you are still buzzing on the proposal high and those butterflies have not really stopped fluttering in your belly yet, have they? (They won’t stop for some time actually)
You have spent a month just soaking up the excitement and admiring your ring and perhaps started to dream of venues, dresses and your invites. And possibly realized how insane that wedding planning to-do list really is?
This is why we are writing this post for you today – 5 planning blocks that will springboard you into planning mode, and they will quickly and easily tell you what to start thinking about now and why – without over complicating it. The rest will come to you as a natural progression, but here’s the most crucial of essentials that will help you get an overview and firm grip on your planning situation. Once you got this – the rest will make more sense and get easier!
Block 1: Wedding budget
First things first: money! Even if your dad owns an oil company and money happens to not be an issue, you should always set a budget – however big or small – before starting out, as there will be endless of decisions to make and one factor which will help to decide is the budget.
You will soon learn that there is no such thing as an upper limit of how much can be spent on a wedding – so it’s a good plan to set that limit yourself now. It will make decision making later so much easier, trust me.
First do some basic research on what things are expected to costs, then be sure to sit down together and as a couple decide what is a reasonable amount to spend on this day. It is a very special day, but it is also just one day… and there is a long happily ever after which will also require some big spending.
- Set up a spreadsheet with all the big and small wedding elements that you plan to include. Divide them into categories, such as Ceremony, Catering, Stationery, Attire etc. Remember it is not essential to “have it all” of what is ought to be included in a wedding – scrutinize and see what is important to you, and what is not! We made a whole post about this already – read it here
- Within each category, ask the vendor in charge for cost-effective ways of executing it. For example, your florist has the insight to suggest what flowers look similar to peonies but is seasonally and locally available, and fillers such as pampas grass make stunning arrangements even just with one feature flower. For ways to save on flowers check this post.
- Likewise, your caterer will be able to help you develop a menu which is tasty, gorgeous and more budget-friendly by using seasonal ingredients, using less meat, swapping sit down starters or plated main meals for grazing tables or a buffet. Serving easy preparation food such as tacos or waffles is going to be a huge success with everyone and your honeymoon account will be happy too.
- Budget-Guestlist-Venue are three factors that go hand in hand – what you can spend on one is determined of the other. Their individual budgets may need to be established more or less at the same time. Perhaps you have already a firm plan on venue, and would modify the guest list to fit with that budget. Or the other way around. More on how to manage that here.
- Open a bank account just for the wedding, transfer the budget and only spend on the wedding using the account. It can be used as a honeymoon or home decorating saving account in your married life – which will encourage you to be strict with the wedding budget and save for later!
- A way to keep score on your budget is to pay as much as possible as early as possible, especially the big expenses such as venue, catering and photographer. This saves stress later on and your bank account will show a more realistic figure, preventing from over spending in the last few months.
- In whichever situation where you need to spend from your budget, always check in beforehand: do we actually need this, or at least: how can we make it more wallet-friendly? It would not be a great feeling to start married life with a sense of financial remorse.
- Contrary to belief, a bigger budget or a bigger guest list doesn’t mean a better wedding. What makes the wedding great is the atmosphere, shared love and the meaningful gathering to celebrate your commitment. Not whether you had a designer dress or spent $2000 on letterpress invites. A garden wedding wearing your mothers wedding dress calls for another version of perfect success!
- Important to ask yourself… do you even want a conventional wedding? Perhaps a courthouse ceremony and restaurant with a selected near ones after will suit your personalities better. Or eloping?
- We made you a free Budget Planner – grab your copy here
Block 2: Find a venue
1. Start researching and visit venues first thing after setting your budget. Have a basic idea of number of guests, seasonal preferences and if you want it to be outdoor or indoors. See at least 4 different venues before you make your decision – unless everything seems to fall into place earlier.
2. Finalize your date according to the venues available date – doing it the other way around can lead to some headache. The venue you choose will determine a lot of other details, so a firm venue plan is the first essential step!
3. Before you commit: make sure you know exactly what the fee entails. Ask for a list of all services included and what isn’t. For example: Set-up and Clean-up? Cake-cutting? Beverages? Hidden extras? Plan B in case of bad weather?
4. Find out about guest capacity, what other services they offer, if you are restricted to use only their vendors, about accommodation, noise regulations, shut-down time and if they have any decor item they can provide.
5. Ask for photos and recommendations from previous married couples. It will give a good indication of the service standard and atmosphere of the place when set up.
6. Not everyone wants a conventional venue. Be open to other options such as an Airbnb, an empty warehouse or a campsite – but do bear in mind that there will be a lot of extras that needs to be brought in and paid for.
Finally, check out this post for a detailed list of everything you should find out from your venue before booking.
Block 3: The dress
- First of all, research your heart what you would like to feel and look like on your wedding day BEFORE researching what everybody else looked like! Develop some key words such as Understated, Romantic, Regal etc – in the end of the day, it should either be a look which is true to your own personality – or your wildest bridal dreams.
- If it was decided already, your intended wedding style style will indicate what fabric, silhouette and details of the dress could work.
- Go to your favorite wedding blog (maybe you are on it?) and social media, buy a few bridal mags for a month or so in order to research what style of dresses are appealing to you. Create a mood board, using pinning or the old school way of cutting out pictures from an actual magazine. See if there is a repeating pattern in necklines, sleeve, dress silhouette and other qualities – thats probably the kind of dress your should try first. (Note: it is not necessarily the dress you will buy!)
- Research your local bridal salons and book at least 3 appointments. If you find that they don’t stock what you have in mind, consider having a custom made dress or customizing an existing style to you liking. It is a wonderful feeling to create something unique from scratch, but bear in mind that this in most cases comes in at a much larger price tag – and a downside is that you wont know if it is actually the right dress for you until is is probably too late to find another. Dreams and reality are not often the same thing, especially not with wedding dresses as it is a garment with such huge expectations. Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
- At your bridal appointments, give as much detail you can about your vision, wedding style and fashion preferences. But don’t be 100% fixed! If you are stuck on something (that may not even exist) you might overlook a dress which could actually have been the one. So is it crucial to have a flexible attitude and trust the consultant. The process of finding a dress is not a straight road so be open-minded to try new unexpected styles, too.
- Buying a ready-to-wear dress can make life a lot easier than custom making. You have the advantage of knowing exactly how it looks, fits and works with the other elements of your outfit and the wedding.
- Remember to bring the right height shoes to the fitting so that the hemline can be determined.
- Don’t over think it! It may sound impossible, but the truth is that the more you try the harder it is to buy. Research your salons well, and select the ones that seem to have a cohesive fit with your personality and budget. After 3 or 4 places, stop thinking that there will be another dress in another shop thats better – going from place to place and trying dress after dress will just confuse and unsettle you, and dilute the joy of it all.
- Always have a budget when shopping for your gown – and remember to include accessories and shoes in it, too.
- We have made some very comprehensive guides if you want to get more advice on how and how not to buy a wedding gown – this section is for you!
Block 4: Finding vendors
- Your choice of vendors will create the look, feel, taste and atmosphere of your wedding, so finding good ones is a necessity. As with your dress and venue, spend at least a month to think about what you would like your wedding to be all about, to then research the vendors that are likely to enable that vision. Everyone has their own style, so pick according to the vibe you want for yourself.
- These people are people that you will communicate a lot with for the next year, and help you on the most important day of your life so far. As with all relationships, make sure you bond and relate – even at a personal level. This will not only make understanding each other easier, it will also make the process a lot more enjoyable.
- Always ask for references, look at previous work and check their websites and social media accounts. Ask about what is included, hidden extras, when to pay deposits and give them the guidelines which will help them to help you get married the way you want.
- Your photographer is the one who will capture all the moments of this incredibly significant day. So take your time with finding the right one who takes the kind of photos that you will want to look back on for the rest of your lives. As with all artists, there are multiple styles and especially with todays technology, post processing techniques are a big factor to the outcome. Look at their previous weddings and make sure that you love the edit, angles, light and ambiance in the photos you see, as you will not be able to ask them to change their photography style just for your wedding.
- Do an engagement shoot with the intended photographer – this makes great practice for how it is to be photographed professionally, as well as getting a sense of the final outcome before the wedding.
- Do consider a wedding videographer, and why not a drone?
- Find a free worksheet with questions you need to ask your photographer here.
- Your officiant, caterer, florist, cake baker, musicians and even the serving staff and ushers will all have a huge impact on your day, so make sure to always be on the same page, maintain professional and regular communication and be clear on your expectations early – and then trust them and let them do their magic. No vendor likes to be micro-managed – it will drive both you and them crazy.
- Don’t underestimate the immense relief a wedding planner will bring. Not only will she or he be the driving force in the huge task of planning this extraordinary event, she or he will also be able to find good deals on tried-and-trusted vendors and bring it all together in one big operation whilst you sip champagne at the bridal salon with your bridesmaids. A planner is of course not cheap, but you might find that it is worth spending a bit to have a more relaxed engagement, and a stress-free wedding day where you can just focus on getting married and having fun as opposed to why the hors d’oeuvres are served late.
Block 5: Develop your style
- Don’t be afraid to express your personality a lot when planning your wedding. For your guests, it makes the wedding even more spectacular. And for you, you’ll have this as a magnificent opportunity to show your loved ones what you are all about as a couple, and spend the day in your very own version of a dream wedding. A personalized setting makes amazing photos and even more special memories.
- This goes for your looks too. How about a custom lining in your Grooms suit, a wedding dress in a color other than white or a studded pair of wedding shoes? If you are just not in to a heavy makeup look or a curled up-do, just don’t do it “just because” you’re the bride. Discuss with your stylist to create a look which is an enhancement of your natural style.
- Don’t gorge in too much existing wedding inspiration. After you have formed your own ideas of how your wedding should look and feel like, it is the right time to stop pinning.
- Think about ways to weave threads into your wedding decor and ambiance using elements that says a lot about you. This can be done using colors, music, decor items and new spins on traditions that you make. Perhaps you will do a rap-duo together instead of a first dance, if this is what you are into? Nothing says that wedding traditions has to look the same in every wedding.
- Write your own vows. Make them as personal and profound as you like (but hold back on too many jokes)
- Your story can be told with photos or art on display, a decor style from the country you had your first holiday in, by naming the tables by characters from your favorite book, lovingly handmade touches, a light installation, favorite tunes on a playlist and so on – the options are as plentiful as your imagination!
- Find more about how to create a meaningful wedding here.
- Just as with the budget: more doesn’t necessarily mean better. A small and well executed wedding with simple elegant details can be just as meaningful as a 200 guest event with elaborate decor and the it-artist of the time performing live. Always prioritize what suits your personalities, paces, and circumstances the best. The rest won’t matter.
Lastly…. Weddings are days filled with anticipation, expectation and fuss that can be exhausting and overwhelming to fulfill. There are thousands of how-tos out there – even a hundred on this blog – but the only thing that really matters now is that you plan the wedding of your dreams according to your own parameters. This is entirely YOUR day! There are no actual rules how to get married or even how to plan the wedding.
No wedding is like any other, nor should it be – and it goes for the planning process too.
Do what you can to avoid placing too high expectations on yourself and the day. Cross out all the irrelevant items on that to-do list you just downloaded and rip out the pages in your Bridal Diary that just doesn’t ring true to who you are. De-dramatize as much as possible when planning (it will save your sanity later); the greatest importance is that you have fun with your Groom, family and bridesmaids whilst preparing for it.
If planning get too much – simplify, delegate and try to not control everything. Remember not to get tooo serious about all the smaller details that will shortly after the wedding not matter a great deal anyway.
I know you wan’t everything to be perfect, but that you are getting married is the biggest treasure of all, and it is going to be awesome, whichever way it turns out!