7 First Steps to Planning a Wedding

Congratulations! You’re recently engaged and you’re over the moon.

And then you have to start wedding planning, and that may not be as wonderful haha. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming! Having a plan is a great way to make this process as stress-free as possible 🙂

1. Announce & Enjoy

I’ve received photography inquiries from ladies who got their ring less than 24 hours ago. And while I love their excitement to jump into wedding planning, don’t feel pressure to figure things out yet. Cherish your new engagement with the people that you love!

2. Make a Wedding Budget

Making a budget doesn’t sound like the most romantic part of wedding planning, but it is crucial. 

The most common cause for divorce is money fights & money problems. You want to have a wonderful wedding day, but more importantly, you want to have a wonderful marriage. Please do not start married life on worse footing by spending more on your wedding than you can afford. 

I truly recommend that you limit wedding spending to what you have in cash. How much do you already have saved? If you don’t have much saved already – if your wedding is 6 months away, how much can you save in 6 months? Please do not go into debt for your wedding. 

You can have a fabulous wedding on any budget. This may not be what others in the wedding industry tell you, but you don’t want anyone on your team who doesn’t truly have your best interest at heart. You may have to research more to find options in your budget, but it’s 100% doable and your guests will still have a marvelous time.

When making your budget, talk with your fiancé about how much you’re willing/able to spend of your own money. And then have direct, exact conversations with any family members who may also want to financially contribute.

Word of Caution: When accepting wedding-related money gifts from your family/friends, please be honest with yourself. Does this gift come with strings attached that will cause me stress? Is that worthwhile?  

3. Rank Your Wedding Priorities

Ranking wedding priorities with your fiancé early on is a great way to keep perspective during wedding planning.  A wedding can easily go over budget if you’re not careful and intentional about what it is you want most.

What’s more important to you? Hiring a specific videographer or a certain wedding dress? Having a priority list protects you from paying for things and then later being unable to spend on things you actually value more.

I also see so many couples pay a deposit on a venue and then later decide that they don’t actually care about having a more traditional wedding and would rather do something small. They cancel their big wedding and loose the money they already spent in deposits.

Here’s a list of a few wedding-related things you could rank. Please do not feel pressure to have any of the below things on your wedding day:

  • How many guests you invite
  • Allowing guests to have +1s
  • Allowing guests to bring kids
  • Rings
  • Bride’s Dress
  • Bride’s accessories
  • Groom’s outfit
  • Including a certain # of people to be bridesmaids/groomsmen
  • Save the Dates
  • Invitations
  • Venue
  • Additional Lighting
  • Chairs & Tables & silverware & plates (if you need to provide them yourself)
  • Wedding Planner
  • Day-of-coordinator
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Hair & makeup artist
  • Florist
  • DJ
  • Other Decor for your dinner tables
  • Other decor just generally
  • Alcohol – unlimited quantity? certain quality? etc
  • Food
  • Cake
  • Other desserts
  • Wedding Favors

For a breakdown of Caili’s personal top wedding priorities, click here

4. Figure Out Who You Want to Invite

Sit down with your fiancé and list out everyone you absolutely want to invite. Then decide together how you want to handle +1s/co-workers/acquaintances. And then you may want to discuss this list with your parents as well. 

No other factor will impact your budget as much as the number of guests. The number of guests directly influences how many invitations, chairs, tables, meals, and favors you will be providing.

If you’re providing every guest dinner, ask yourself what’s the cheapest you could realistically pay per plate. Multiply that by the number of people you’re thinking of inviting to get a rough catering estimate. Do the same with alcohol service.

Ask yourself how much you ideally want to spend on your wedding and be honest about how many guests that budget can cover while still providing you with the wedding you are envisioning. If your large guest list is a priority to you, you may need to compromise on some other spending choices. 

5. Choose Your Venue & Set a Date

Step 1 (setting your total budget) comes before Step 4 (finding a venue) for a reason.

If your total budget is $20k, spending $15k on the venue limits what you can spend on everything else. Will the remaining money be enough to cover everything else? If not, this may not be the best venue for you. 

Click here to read my blog post “Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Venue & Why I Chose Snowbasin”

And read your contract for the venue. When I signed the contract for my wedding, it didn’t click until later that I agreed to a mandatory 22% tip on all food and alcohol and 7% taxes on tens of thousands of dollars. Factor these costs into your money calculations before putting a deposit down on a venue. 

Pay attention to what outside vendors you are/aren’t allowed to bring in

Especially catering and alcohol because this will be likely a significant expense. It requires less coordination work for you if the food/drinks are provided by the venue. However, you likely have more options to save money if you are able to bring in food/drinks from outside the venue. Keep this in mind before committing to a venue. If a venue doesn’t allow outside catering, look at pricing per person and get a tentaive idea of “each guest who comes will cost me an additional $___ for their food & alcohol.” You may need to adjust your guest list accordingly or opt for a different venue. 

And pay attention to what is already included with the venue. Set up & take down? Tables & chairs? Serving staff? These are things that you’ll have to budget/plan for if the venue doesn’t take care of them for you. 

Once you choose a venue that you love, work with the venue to set and book a date 🙂 

^That’s the order that works for most couples. However, it’s important to other couples to get married on a specific date and they will choose the venue around that. And when I got married, I knew I wanted one photographer in particular. So I got a few available dates from my venue and then discussed with the photographer to make sure she also was available before committing to a date.

6. Tell Guests to Save the Date

Many brides nowadays mail their guests a “save the date” which is exactly what it sounds like – “hey you! I’m getting married on this date and I want you to be there so don’t make other plans!” Brides do this in order to alert guests about the date as soon as possible, but the bride hasn’t done more in-depth planning (like finalizing times, registries, hotel blocks, etc.) so she isn’t ready with all the information needed on an invitation.

When I got married, I chose not to send “save the dates” in the mail. That seemed like an unnecessary hassle for me. Instead I just told future guests to save the date via a text message. But it’s all up to you!

The point is to get this done sooner rather than later 🙂

7. Book the rest of your vendors

Once you have a date set, you can plan the rest of your wedding. Other vendors need you to have set a date in order to know if they’re available to work with you. 

For Brides


7 First Steps to Planning a Wedding

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