I can tell from my Facebook feed over the holidays that engagement season is finally upon us! If you are one of the lucky new brides or grooms-to-be, let me first say, "Congratulations on getting engaged!!" It is such an exciting & happy time and you just want to enjoy it all!! But once the ring goes on your finger, the questions start coming! When?? Where?? Am I invited? The beginning stages of planning your wedding can be overwhelming, but that's where I come in!
This post is all about the first 5 decisions you need to make when planning your wedding! I'm here to lay it all out for you so you can continue to bask in your post-engagement glow, while also beginning to get organized. Hopefully this will help you to figure out exactly what kind of wedding you want to have and give you some perspective on a few areas of the initial planning process!
First thing's first: Set your budget! The purse strings control most every decision that you will make regarding your wedding. Setting a firm budget now allows you to see the big picture and to control where you want to put your money. As soon as you know your total budget, enter that amount into a wedding budget calculator to give you an initial breakdown. Once you hire a planner, they can create a custom budget for your area (vendor prices vary upon where you live) and can put emphasis on the vendors that are most important to you.
How many guests will you invite? Maybe a big party is exactly what you want, or perhaps a small, intimate affair is more your style. I would start by thinking of how many guests feels good to you. 50? 100? 150? 200+? Then make a list in Excel and see where you land! You can cut back from there! And of course, remember to get a list from your parents as well.
My general rule is if you wouldn’t take that person out to a nice dinner and buy them appetizers, a meal, dessert, and drinks then you probably don’t need to invite them to your wedding.
The guest count affects what venues will work for you, as well as your variable costs. Whether you have a wedding for 50 or 250, your fixed costs such as a wedding gown, photographer, and a band will cost the same. But your variable costs will greatly affect the kind of wedding you can host with your budget. Variable costs to consider are catering (food, dessert, beverage & staffing), rentals (tables, chairs, linens & service ware), florals (centerpieces), transportation, and invitation costs.
The Notorious B.I.G. tells us it's "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," but when planning your wedding, it's actually more people, more money.
Where do you want to get married? Start with the big picture and work your way down! In the US or a destination wedding (I hear Mexico is lovely!)? Maybe you are from two different states, but met and live in Seattle, so you want to stay local. Consider your wedding vision, planning logistics, and your traveling guests when weighing your options.
Once you have settled on the location, it is time to choose your venue! A venue can help shape the style & design of the wedding, the layout of where each piece of your wedding will take place and the number of guests you can invite.
Often a venue will come with a required caterer and/or rentals. Your venue, food (including bar!), and rentals should be ~50% of your total budget so it is important to know the full scope of services a venue has and if it fits within your price range.
What time of year do you want to get married? Consider the following:
- Average weather and temperature – especially if you are wanting an outdoor event
- What time the sun sets - do you have a full day of light or will it get dark at 4PM?
- Holiday weekends – They may be dates to avoid because of airfare costs & other travel
- School schedules for guests that will be traveling with kids
If you have the flexibility to choose a season or a preferred month without having a specific date, your options open up when selecting a venue. Just make sure your immediate family & bridal party can attend the dates you are considering!
And make sure to note how long your engagement will be! Perhaps you want to get married in the summer, but July is only six months away from when you got engaged. Make sure you have enough time to plan your wedding and the venue you want is still available!
What style of wedding do you want to have? Casual? Semi-formal? Formal or black tie? Having a strong sense of formality will help you determine the menu, an appropriate venue, and overall guest experience.
This is important when looking at your budget and your guest count. You can host a lot more guests if you are having a casual event, serving sliders and mac & cheese at a community center versus a formal wedding in a hotel ballroom, serving filet & salmon.
Remember that the most important thing about planning a wedding is the experience you want to have and the people that surround you! Once you have the what, where, when, who, and how much answered, the rest of the decisions such as vendors, colors, menu, etc. will come much easier!!
I hope this helps you get your bearings on planning your wedding and saves you some initial engagement stress!! Happy planning!!