Let’s be real, wedding planning is a LOT. How do you know where to start? What if you miss something? Lucky for you, we’ve planned our fair share of weddings and are here to help you through the entire process. Keep reading for our ultimate guide to planning your wedding!
First things first, the budget. As much as we often want to rush past the budget and move on to more exciting things, creating (and sticking to) your budget early is the best way to manage expectations and stress as you plan your wedding. Know who all is contributing and how much you’re willing to spend before you get too far into the planning process.
2. General timeline
Next, you’ll want to have a general timeline for planning your wedding. Are you trying to get married in the next few months, or are you having a longer engagement? Knowing when you want to get married will help you know when you need to start looking for a venue, go dress shopping, and book your vendors.
Make sure you and your fiancé sit down and discuss the non-negotiables for your wedding. Knowing what each person wants most out of the wedding will help you break down your budget more efficiently and understand their perspective as you plan.
You’ll want to make sure your closest friends are all available to stand by your side for your wedding. Make sure to check when they’re available and ask them to be in your wedding party early so they can mark your date on their calendars.
5. Start Compiling Guest List
You’ll want to start compiling a rough guest list early on into the planning process. What you’ll spend on your wedding largely depends on your guest count, so it’s important to get a good idea of how many guests you want to (and can afford to) invite to your wedding.
6. Tour and Choose a Venue
Time to schedule a tour! Since the average engagement is between 12 and 18 months, chances are venues are already pretty booked by the time you get engaged, which is why it’s a good idea to start touring venues early if you can. Make sure to have a general idea of what you want and know what questions to ask when you begin touring venues.
7. Secure Your Date
Once you’ve toured a few venues and have narrowed it down, it’s time to secure a date. Talk with your venue about their booking process and putting down a deposit. The earlier you can secure a date, the better. This not only gives your wedding party and family plenty of time to block off their calendars, but it will also help as you reach out to your vendors.
8. Reach Out to Vendors
You’ll want to start booking your “big” vendors early. This includes your photographer, DJ, and any other vendors who are essential to your wedding day.
Let the fun begin! Some people know exactly what they want their wedding to look like by the time they get engaged, while others haven’t even begun to think about it. Now is the time to start figuring out your colors, decor ideas, and more.
Our biggest inspiration tip? Don’t let it overwhelm you! Pinterest, Instagram, and magazines are fun and all, but it can become overwhelming quickly. Start simple. Pick one or two main colors and an overall “feel” to your wedding (moody, bright, relaxed) and go from there.
10. Wedding Website
With the digital age comes wedding websites. There are many great tools to creating your own wedding website such as Zola or The Knot. Having your own website is a great way to share all your information in one place for your guests and is also a helpful tool when it comes to the RSVP process.
You’ll want to put together a registry around the same time as you create your website so you can add it to your site. Make sure you take inventory of what you actually need and some special items you want. The Wedding Spot Blog also recommends having several items in various price ranges so all your guests can buy something for a price they’re comfortable with.
12. Finalize Guest List
Now it’s time to start nailing down your actual guest list. Knowing how much money you can spend, how many guests your venue can hold, and other details can help you finalize who you’re going to invite. Chances are you’ll probably end up cutting a few people off the list, and that’s okay! Keep those most important to you on the list. If some
13. Get Organized
Do your best to stay organized as you plan. There are tons of tips you can follow to keep your head above water with all the details and moving parts.
14. Dress Shopping
Say yes to the dress! You’ll want to give yourself enough time for alterations when you find your dress, so you don’t want to leave this until the last minute.
15. Wedding Party Attire
As you start getting your look together, you’ll want to make sure your wedding party is doing the same. Let your bridesmaids know what dress and accessories they’ll need, and have the guys rent or buy their suits. Be courteous to their budgets as you’re deciding what you want them to wear.
16. Engagement Photos
Time for engagement photos! These photos can be used for your save the dates, invitations, wedding decor, and so much more. It’s also a great opportunity to work with your photographer before your wedding and make sure they’re a good fit for you.
17. Save the Dates
Give your guests plenty of time to clear their calendars for your wedding by sending out your save the dates early. You can make your own invitations with sites like Minted or you can work with a vendor who does custom stationary.
If your venue does not have their own catering services, then you’ll need to figure out what you want to serve your guests during the reception. See if your venue has preferred caterers or see if your favorite local restaurant caters weddings. Getting this big-ticket item done earlier rather than later will alleviate stress down the road.
19. Room Block For Out-of-Town Guests
Do you have a lot of out-of-town guests? Reserve some room blocks at local hotels so they have somewhere to stay during your wedding weekend.
20. Make Plans for Rehearsal Dinner
Don’t forget about the rehearsal dinner. Make sure you know who’s planning it, who’s helping pay for it, where it will be, and all the other important details.
21. Book Honeymoon
If you’re jetting off to your honeymoon after your wedding, you’ll want to start nailing down the details of your trip.
You should be sending invitations out no later than 6 weeks before your wedding. Typically, you’ll need to have RSVPs back 3 to 4 weeks before your date so you can finalize your guest count with your venue, caterer, and any other vendors. Your invitations should include the important information including when and where the ceremony and reception will take place as well as how to RSVP.
23. Take Marriage Counseling
Marriage counseling is a great way to prepare for married life. A good marriage counselor will not only prepare you to deal with big conflicts that might arise, but will also help you and your partner better understand each other as well as talk through your marriage expectations.
Who doesn’t like dessert? Whether you go with a traditional wedding cake or opt for a donut wall, make sure what dessert you’ll be serving your guests. You’ll also want to check with your bakery to see if they will deliver and set up your dessert.
25. Buy Wedding Bands
If you haven’t already picked out your wedding rings, now is the time to do so. You don’t want to get to the altar and realize you don’t have any bands to exchange!
26. Marriage License
The marriage license is one of those things you absolutely can’t forget. Without it, you basically threw a large party instead of a wedding. Book an appointment at your local clerk’s office a few weeks prior to the wedding. If you have more questions regarding all that they entail, then check out our post on all things marriage licenses.
27. Hair & Makeup Trials
If you’re having someone do your makeup and/or hair for your wedding, it’s a good idea to do a trial-run with them to work out exactly what you want. You want to feel confident and comfortable with how you look and your hair and makeup artists can help with that.
28. Figure Out Day-of Transportation
Who all will be driving to the venue day-of? What is everyone bringing? Who’s in charge of taking everything home at the end of the night? These are good questions to ask and figure out before the day of.
29. Song Choices
Finalize your song choices with your DJ or live band for dances, the ceremony, dinner, and dancing.
30. Final Venue Walk-Through
Make sure to schedule a final meeting with your on-site coordinator or a last walk-through with your venue to finalize guest count, vendor set-ups, arrival time, and other details.
31. Seating Chart
Once you have your final guest count, you can create a final assigned seating chart for your reception. Be sure to send this to your coordinator, venue, and anyone else who might need it.
32. Write Vows
If you’re writing your own vows for your ceremony, spend some time working out what you want to include. It might be a good idea to have someone read both your and your fiance’s vows prior to your ceremony to make sure they’re about the same length.
33. Last Minute Prep
In the last weeks and days leading up to your wedding, you’ll want to finish any DIY projects you’re doing, get your nails done, pack for your honeymoon, organize and load wedding-day supplies, pick up wedding attire, and any other remaining items. If you can, get everything done a few days prior so you can relax and enjoy the days leading up to your wedding.
34. Get Married!
The day is finally here. You’re getting married! Be present in the moment and enjoy the day. Remember not everything is going to go as planned, and that is okay! At the end of the day, this is about you and your spouse committing to taking on life together and celebrating that covenant with those closest to you.
Planning your wedding? Still need to secure a venue? Come tour Four Oaks Manor!