Congratulations on your engagement!
It is time to get started planning what most people call the best day of your life.
Whether you’ve enjoyed a long engagement or the question was popped today, getting started on the planning can be daunting.
Usually one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning is the budget.
It can challenge you and your soon-to-be spouse from the start. But this comprehensive list should help you prepare before you start.
So where to start? Which checklist should you choose?
This article is meant to focus your thoughts, remind you of all the big aspects of a wedding, all the little details, and some of the pieces you may have never thought about.
This list will help you prioritize what is important to you and your spouse, formulate a budget and kick-start your planning.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your soon-to-be spouse:
Who will pay for your wedding? If so, is there a set dollar amount you can’t go over?
What are the most important facets of the wedding for you and your soon-to-be spouse?
(Note: You may have some of the answers now, or the list will help you decide the answers that are best for you and your wedding).
Give yourself some time to think about what is important. Is it the vows? Is it the food or booze at the reception?
Rank your top 3 and then share with each other. Then, make compromises and a new list.
So how much does an average wedding cost?
The average so far can be found in the infographic below:
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Instead of a list of what to do by month, I’ve broken the list down by different parts of your wedding: planning, wedding day attire, stationery, ceremony, reception, wedding party and guests / hospitality.
Note that this list exhausts all the possibilities you should think about; not all things on this list are for you.
Follow your gut.
Each major section is divided into smaller sections.
There is a lot that can be considered in the planning category. The most important thing is to find a tool (or person) to help you plan in the fashion that fits your personality.
Find some way to organize your thoughts and contacts.
If a fancy binder from Barnes and Noble or an Etsy shop is your style, order one that you will have fun marking up and organizing your thoughts. If you prefer electronic organization find a spreadsheet or interactive planning guide.
Many are free, some for a modest price, and some which are customizable but a bit pricey. Keep your thoughts and money organized. It will reduce stress.
Decide if you want to hire a wedding planner.
Do your research. Find local wedding planners. Usually, word of mouth with get you the best suggestions about local wedding planners. Be cautious of using friends or family members as your planner.
Set a budget. Figure out where the money is coming from.
One of the most stressful parts of wedding planning is the budget. Make sure you discuss where the money will come from.
2. Wedding Day Attire & Accessories
Dress, undergarments, shoes, purse, hair, pedicure and manicure, alterations.
Shop around. There is the right store and the right dress for you and your budget.
Tux, suit, or outfit of choice, shoes, haircut.
Look for package deals: five tux rentals can often get the groom’s for free. Buying shoes could be a smart investment.
Rings, Wedding bands and possible engraving.
Newspaper and/or postcards to send to friends and family.
Save the dates:
You want to be able to let people know when your wedding will be so they can make the appropriate plans.
You want a clear message to your guests, and you want to include things that are important to you. Some people are laid back and send evites or Facebook messages. Some want the classic invitation set. Some even hire a calligrapher.
Thank you cards:
There will be plenty of people to thank after your wedding.
Often, postage can cost more than the save the dates, invitations, and thank you cards themselves. Plan accordingly.
Pick the spot! On the inexpensive end, small local colleges and public parks are cheap or free. They are beautiful, to begin with, and don’t need much in the terms of décor. There are churches, local mansions, venues build just for weddings and other events, a beautiful farm or someone’s backyard.
Questions to ask:
- What hours are included?
- Do they have rules on who performs the wedding?
- What time do they allow for the rehearsal, and is it included in the price?
Then, depending on venue, think about this:
Depending on your venue and their contract, you may need to rent chairs, linens, arches, columns, etc. Research your local rental companies and compare prices.
Followed by the smaller, yet important details:
The options can vary depending on your venue. A church will have a piano and/or an organ. Some weddings use sound recordings and live music. Some use quartets.
Be aware that at some facilities, like churches, require you to pick from a list of approved musicians. You might have to check the sound systems in some locations.
Photography (and often videography) could fall under many categories, but I filed under the ceremony because these pictures capture the moment that you exchange vows. This moment is the reason behind all the other moments.
Look for up-and-coming photographers, ones who aren’t charging much but that come highly recommended. College graduates are good – they are eager to please and have fresh training.
Look for package deals: a bridal portrait session, engagement session, the ceremony, the reception, bridal party and family portraits, and rights to the prints.
In addition, some photographers are paying by the hour – want them there just for the ceremony and special events at the reception? Send them home and save some money.
If you are really lucky, your venue may not need any additional decorations. The colors of your bridal party can brighten up a dull alter. Your bridal party’s bouquets could serve as centerpieces in the reception.
You can get silk flowers that look refreshingly real and are not as expensive as real flowers. The bottom line is that the guests will be focused on you.
Again, check with the venue to see if they have any restrictions, like a particular ordination. Make sure they are approved and that you know their fee. Ask if they require pre-marital counseling. It’s a great idea.
IT’S OFFICIAL! Licenses vary by location. The local court will help you, but don’t wait too long before you apply for it. You can research the process online or call a magistrate.
Will you eat and dance at the same place you said I Do? Or will you travel to an impressive hall?
Be prepared with some questions:
- How much is the fee and what does it include? (Request a detailed breakdown).
- Are there hidden fees: cake-cutting fee? Corking fee? Server wages? Liquor license? Required tips?
- Will the venue cater the event, or do they have a specific list of caterers you can choose from, or do they give you total freedom?
- When can you set up? And what are your time limits?
The time of the wedding, depends on what you should serve. Ten a.m. ceremony: Lunch? Two p.m.: Light hors-d’oeuvres? Four or five in the evening: A full course meal? A buffet?
Deciding what to serve based on the time of day can bump the price up or pull it down. Remember to pick something you think is delicious, as well as something the majority of your guests will like. And, let’s be honest, tasting is fun!
Again, check with your venue. They might already have a liquor license. They usually have packages of alcohol.
Planning a long photo session between the ceremony and reception:
A cocktail hour can be a good idea if you plan on having your reception at a different location than the ceremony, or if you plan on posing for endless photos.
Also, decide on a full bar or a beer and wine bar. Will you have an open bar (whoever pays for the reception will pay for it and the guests get to drink for free), or will you have beer and wine for free, but liquor at cost.
If you have no idea how much to buy per guest, look for a graph or chart online.
Band, DJ, or iPad? An iPod is cheaper than a DJ who is cheaper than a band – for the most part.
An iPad can be stressful because you have to make the list and have someone be in charge for special parts of the reception, e.g., cake cutting, bouquet toss.
More and more weddings are going without favors. However, websites like ETSY and Pinterest have shared many new ideas for favors, practical ideas, DIY treats.
Depending on where you decide to have your reception, keep in mind you might need/want to rent the following things: tables and chairs, dance floor, sound system, linens and dinnerware, tent, and delivery fees.
6. Wedding Party
A growing percentage of brides and grooms are putting together thoughtful gifts to propose to their friends and family to be an attendant in the wedding.
What will you give your attendants? Etched wine and beer glasses? Jewelry to wear at the wedding?
You want to make sure all of your attendants are accounted for. Will they carpool? Arrive in a limousine? A party bus? If you require them to provide their own transportation, make that clear early on.
Some of your guests may travel far to share in this magical moment with you. Drop off some bags at their hotel that will make them feel welcome.
Look for free goodies and give them things to help them settle in.
You might want to include these items:
- Any important information they may not know: parking, directions, event start times, etc.
- Map(s) of the location.
- Lists of local attractions and restaurants.
- A small snack: crackers or cookies.
- A water bottle for each person staying in the room.
- A thank you card.
Will you help arrange pick-ups from the airport or train station? Will your guests party until the sun comes up and you don’t want them to drive? Will you provide a shuttle from your venue to their hotel?
Is your reception at a place where parking is scarce? A lot of weddings don’t need transportation, but it is always good to have on your radar.
Keep these things in mind:
Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner – Who will you invite? Typically, rehearsal dinners include the wedding party, immediate family, and any guests who travel far to celebrate with you.
What will you eat? Make sure you can use your spot of your ceremony.
You should tip everyone who did you a service.
Think about a pre-wedding brunch or a brunch the day after the wedding to say goodbye to all of your traveling guests.
Don’t let the list overwhelm you…
This is your day! You get to pick and choose from the list.
You get to decide what is important between you and the soon-to-be spouse.
Let your wedding reflect your personality and your love!
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