You just got engaged! Congratulations!
Take some time to celebrate with your partner. Make sure you spend some time enjoying this new stage of life.
Tell your family, tell your close friends (and then share off that ring on social media).
*Speaking of your engagement ring, now would be a great time to get that new jewelry insured.
Once you’ve celebrated getting engaged, it’s time to start the wedding planning process.
So where should you start?
1. Get Organized From the Start
There is no way to sugarcoat it. Wedding planning can get messy, and it can happen really fast!
We will help you get organized from the start.
Pinterest and a detailed wedding planner are going to be your best friends throughout the process no matter if you are planning a micro wedding with 10-50 of your closest family and friends or a huge event with 250 guests flying in from all parts of the country.
Tips on Using Pinterest for Wedding Planning
We highly recommend starting a Pinterest board (or multiple boards) as early as possible (you can follow the PA Unveiled account here).
At the start of your wedding planning journey, you are most likely going to pin everything you see (shiny object syndrome). Everything is going to be AMAZING! You’re going to want it!
That’s perfectly fine.
Let Pinterest be your one location to keep the clutter (we promise it will only be temporary).
We recommend making a Pinterest board for multiple categories (reception decor, flowers, photos you love, hairstyles, cakes, etc.)
*We are putting together a detailed post on using Pinterest for wedding planning. You will find the link right here in a couple of weeks.
*We are putting together a really amazing wedding planner in the next couple of weeks. It will be the most helpful wedding planning guide available. You can find details and the link right here in mid February.
2. Choose A Wedding Date (How Do You Decide?)
There are few things to think about when choosing the wedding date that is best for you.
Consider the time of year and your favorite season when choosing a wedding date
One of the things that you will want to consider is the time of year when choosing the best wedding date for you and your partner.
Does your partner hate the wind and cold? If so, you should probably avoid wedding dates in the fall or winter.
Do you start sweating simply by hearing the word humidity? If so, it’s probably best to avoid June, July, and August on the east coast unless you loved Monica’s hair on Friends when the gang visited Barbados.
Weather should be considered when picking out potential wedding dates
Consider the weather when picking potential wedding dates.
Certain parts of the country like California Arizona or Nevada see very little rainfall in the spring and summer. Head to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York and you will see inches of rain per month during the spring and summer months.
You can get married anytime you like in any part of the country, but if you really dislike the rain, you should consider a time of year when there is little chance of precipitation or simply choose a venue that has a rain backup plan in case of wet weather.
Talk to your closest family and friends when picking a wedding date
When we say talk to close family members and friends, we really mean close.
Who are the few people that absolutely have to be there (the wedding can’t happen without them)?
Typically this will be parents, siblings, grandparents, and best friends (pick 1 or 2 at the most).
Gather your list of possible dates and check with those people above to make sure there are no conflicts.
- Maybe your sister is going to be the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding.
- Your grandpa planned a big trip to Ireland with his old school friends.
- Your parents are attending the 40th wedding anniversary party of some close friends
Now you have a few potential dates that work for you, and all of those who are closest to you!
Consider having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday
Having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday can be helpful in many ways.
- It can open up a lot more available dates since the majority of couples try to book wedding venues on a Saturday – Maybe your favorite wedding venue was booked solid for Saturdays for the next 18 months. Considering a Friday or Sunday will most likely open up many available dates in any given year.
- Your guests might have fewer conflicts – Maybe your brother is already committed to being in another wedding on a Saturday that you were considering. By having it on Friday or Sunday, he can now attend both weddings.
- You can save a lot of money by choosing a Friday or a Sunday – It is no secret. You can save a lot of money by having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday. Venues (and many other vendors) typically give some sort of discount for Friday and Sunday weddings. If they do not have it listed in their pricing, we recommend asking. It never hurts to ask.
3. Wedding Budget (How Do You Determine What You Can Afford?)
Before you start planning your guest list and choosing wedding vendors, you need to figure out a rough estimate for your wedding budget.
The first thing to figure out is who is contributing and what can they help with?
- Is this entire wedding being paid for by the two of you?
- Are one set or both sets of parents willing to contribute?
- Maybe your father has said he wants to pay for the food.
We know that money conversations are never fun, but this is a really important step in the wedding planning process.
How long do you have to save for the wedding?
Having a longer engagement might be something to consider if there are a few things that you absolutely want but simply can’t afford right now.
Maybe you had your heart set on a specific venue but it was $4000 over your budget. – By postponing the wedding date by 10 months, you can now set aside $400 per month for 10 months and book your dream venue.
We recommend getting the rough number that you have to work with before doing anything else.
It doesn’t matter if your final number is $2,500 or $100,000, at least you now have a place to start.
If you end up having a budget of $5,000, you know that you are not going to be paying for 200 people to eat a catered dinner at a luxury wedding venue. A smaller micro wedding might work better for you.
Something to keep in mind – No matter what your budget is, your wedding day can be absolutely amazing!
To show you two completely different examples – we once covered a $500,000 wedding with over 350 guests and we once covered a wedding with 4 guests that only cost a few hundred dollars. Both weddings were absolutely beautiful.
The very first thing we recommend doing is talking with your partner and figuring out what is most important to you at the wedding.
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to this.
The goal is to simply determine what matters most to each of you (those things might be different, and that is okay).
Amazing food and spectacular wedding photos might be at the top of your list.
Maybe your partner loves the idea of a live band
Please don’t go into debt over a wedding
We can’t tell you what to do but we can give our recommendations.
We recommend staying out of debt when planning your wedding.
- Look at what you already have saved for the wedding.
- Figure out what you can save each month between now and the wedding day.
- Find out if family members want to contribute to your wedding (if they do, find out the dollar amount)
The total of those 3 things is your wedding budget. Don’t spend more than that total.
Start your marriage debt-free. It is a wonderful feeling.
4. Wedding Size – Rough Guest List
Now that you have figured out an estimated wedding budget, you can start putting together a rough guest list
*Tip – Just because your budget will allow you to invite up to 200 guests does not mean you have to invite 200 guests. That’s just your maximum number allowed under your specific budget. If you only want 40 people at your wedding, invite 40 people and spend the extra money on something else or put it in the bank.
Who are the VIPs?
The first thing to do is make a list of your VIPs. These are the people that have to be at your wedding. You can’t imagine getting married without them there.
This is typically parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and closest friends (friends you have talked to or texted in the past 2-3 months).
That might be your entire list right there. This might be your happy place.
If so, don’t feel obligated to keep adding people to the list just for the sake of having “the typical guest count”
If adding more guests, move on to the next tier.
This will usually include 2nd and 3rd cousins who you actually talk to, additional friends who you would love to see, coworkers who you love, etc.
Another thing to consider when putting this list together is kids and +1’s.
Adding a plus-one to single guests and kids of anyone invited can cause your guest list to grow quickly.
Consider coming up with a few blanket rules. A few examples:
- Anyone who is married, engaged, or living together automatically gets a plus 1.
- Wedding party members get a plus one.
- Anyone who has been in a relationship for more than 6 months (or a year) gets a plus-one.
It’s your wedding. You get to do what makes you happy.
Another thing to consider when deciding on a plus 1 for a guest is: Will they know other people at the wedding? Are they a co-worker who only knows you and your partner? Maybe it would be nice if they could bring a date.
5. Wedding Vision
When you envision your wedding day, what do you see?
Do you see all of your guests dressed in gowns and tuxedos? Or maybe you see yourself and your bridal party walking barefoot in boho-style dresses with flower crowns.
Try to picture what you want your wedding day to look like. Then go wedding venue shopping.
If you’re having a hard time deciding what you want, hop on Pinterest and start gathering some ideas.
6. Choosing Your Wedding Venue
Okay, congratulations, you are on your way!
You now have the following:
- A list of wedding dates that work for you and your closest family members.
- A rough budget (but not too rough)
- An idea of how many people you are inviting
- The vision for how you want your wedding day to look (you don’t have to have details nailed down but you probably have an idea on the style of your wedding at this point: Classic/ballroom, rustic/boho, micro/backyard, etc.)
It’s time to pick your wedding venue!
The first thing to do is to make a list of wedding venues in your area that might be a good fit.
We have some great tips on finding venues (that are better than The Knot or Wedding Wire)
Do a separate Google search for the following terms:
- “Wedding venues near (the biggest city near you)”
- “Best wedding venues near (a city near you)”
- “Unique wedding venues near (a city near you)”
- “Outdoor wedding venues near (a city near you)”
We recommend clicking on a few different Google results from the first 1-5 pages that are not The Knot or Wedding Wire (those will typically be listed first along with some other venue guides).
Try and click on the results that were put together by local photographers (there will many quite a few if you do those searches above).
***The listings on page 1 of Google from The Knot showed all the typical venue information. It’s good to have, but it’s just sales copy. By clicking on the photographer’s venue page article (found on page 3 of the Google search results), we were able to see detailed information like the best places to take wedding photos at each venue.
The reason why we love this hack is that photographers are typically going to include information in those posts that big wedding sites will not.
These photographers will tell you things that they love about the venue. They will include great photo spots. They will show many different wedding photos from the venue.
These venue round-up posts by photographers can be a gold mine when it comes to finding the perfect wedding venue for you (and it’s a great way to find photographers to add to your list for the next step)
*Definitely go through the listings on The Knot and Wedding Wire too (just don’t limit yourself to those sites). Keep in mind that those venues listed on the front page of The Knot and Wedding Wire are simply the venues that paid the most money to be there.
Once you have a list of potential wedding venues, contact each one and find out the following:
- How many guests can they accommodate?
- What are the prices?
Now you have a list of venues that:
- Look great online (you have seen a ton of photos from multiple photographers if you did our search recommendation).
- Fit your budget
- Can accommodate the number of guests you are inviting.
It’s time to schedule appointments to see them in person.
We are putting together an awesome article on how to choose your wedding venue and questions you should ask. you will be able to find that article right here in 2 weeks.
7. Choosing Your Wedding Photographer, Videographer, and Wedding Planner
Once you have picked a date, worked out a budget, and secured your wedding venue, it’s time to book the wedding professionals who are at the top of your priority list.
We put wedding photographers, videographers, and planners in the title because those seem to be the big 3 after a venue, but that does not mean they have to be your top priority.
Maybe you have been going to live shows of the most popular cover band on the east coast for 4 years. You know they have to play at your wedding.
When should you book them? Now!
One question we hear a lot from couples during wedding planning is, “When should we book our (insert vendor here)?”
If it’s important to you, book them as soon as you have a date and a venue.
Photographers, videographers, planners, and bands book up fast (2 years in advance for popular dates)
Once you find a vendor who fits your budget and style, hire them. We have seen couples miss out on favorite bands and photographers so many times because they took too long to make a decision.
By no means should you rush. Don’t book a vendor until you know it’s a great fit. But don’t wait 6 months simply because some wedding planning site told you to hire that specific vendor “6-8 months before the wedding”.
Take those timelines with a grain of salt. We have a wedding planning timeline too. It’s just a guide. Don’t treat it as a don’t-break-this-rule book.
How do we know who the important vendors are?
The answer to that question will be different for each couple. Use the exercise we mentioned in the budget section above.
When making your budget, find out the top 3 priorities for you and your partner (these can be different).
Your top 3 might be:
- I have been following this photographer for a year on Instagram. She has to photograph my wedding!
- It has always been a dream of mine to get married on the family farm.
- We want to treat our guests to the best meal they have ever had at a wedding.
Now you know who you need to hire right away. The other things can be filled in after you get these things booked.
We hope that these tips helped you get started with your wedding planning journey.
We will be putting out a few more articles on what to do next (you can find those on our blog each week in February)
*If there is something that you would like us to cover, please leave a comment below or DM us on Instagram. We love to keep our readers happy and will answer anything you want to know.