Planning a Wedding: Your First Steps

Congratulations!  You have decided to get married and can now start the fun of planning a wedding, and a lot of fun it should be.  The trick to avoiding the bulk of wedding stress and anxiety is to be extremely organized.  Having a complete checklist of what needs to be done and when is the key that all wedding planners use.  Even if you are using a wedding planner, you will need your own checklist yourself.  The following are the biggest items that you need to work on first.  It is not an exhaustive list and other details will arise as you start the process.  Once you get these first steps done, you can start moving on to the details of planning the wedding party itself.

Envision your wedding.  This is where it all starts.  Sit down first by yourself, and then with your fiancee.  Close your eyes and think about what you want your wedding day to look like.  Are you in a flowing white princess gown in front of a beautiful mansion, or in a cathedral?  Are you in a sleek, chic gown in a modern New York City loft?  Or, are you in your own backyard with a tent, a big group of friends, and the barbecue smoking away?  Weddings come in all shapes and sizes.  Budgets can be accommodated for pretty much any vision.  Just spend the time upfront to really think about the style and size you want, the general colors, and a theme (often popular these days).  The rest of your planning will flow from there.

Set a date.  When you decide on your date, think about some of the logistics involved.  Depending on the style of wedding you want, your date may be determined by the season, number of people who need to make travel plans, or just how much you want to do yourself vs. put in the hands of a professional.

Pick a planning tool.  This seems a little mundane, but you need to decide on your system for planning and taking notes from the start.  Wedding websites are often free and are great for keeping track of everything.  Most people are fairly computer savvy these days.  There are great apps on iPads for project planning, if you are good at that.  A simple Excel spreadsheet can facilitate your budgeting as well. Then again, there is the old-fashioned binder and notepad.  It’s worked for centuries.

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Select your rings.  The sooner that engagement ring is on your finger, the sooner you can show it off to all your friends.  If your fiancee hasn’t picked one on his own, you can get recommendations from reputable jewelers and go shopping together.  Think about how your wedding band will fit with your engagement ring when you are trying them on.

Choose your key wedding party members. Who will be your maid of honer, best man, bridesmaids, and groomsmen?  Ask nicely, just in case they don’t want to do it.

Decide on and choose a wedding planner.  Planners also come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets.  This isn’t necessarily a question of whether you can afford a wedding planner, since you can always get someone to help with just part of the wedding.  However, if you are having a wedding of any reasonable size, such as over 100 people, a wedding planner can save you from making all sorts of mistakes. He or she will keep you on track, take away a significant amount of stress, and can often save you money in the long run.

Your budget.  This is one of the most difficult parts for many people.  If the bride’s parents are not paying for everything, the traditional approach, you need to figure out where the money is coming from and how much you want to spend.  Think about your priorities as they relate to your wedding vision when you decide where you want to spend the budget that you have.  Is the music and entertainment the most important part?  Spend more there and look for second hand designer dresses.  Is the location more important?  Think about changing the type of reception to something less traditional and less expensive, such as dessert only.

Use our free wedding budget calculator

Determine number of guests.  You need an approximate number when selecting locations. You will also need a general idea of how many people will be travelling from far away and need accommodation.  If necessary, reserve a block of rooms at a nearby hotel that they can book.

Select your ceremony and reception locations.  This means figuring out the type of ceremony you want, along with the type of reception you envisioned and what you can afford. Don’t forget to actually reserve the officiants you want to use.  If they are not available on the date you want, you may want to change that date depending on how important they are to you. Also, check into the wedding license and requirements you will need based on where you want to get married.  In some locations, the licenses could take a long time to get.

Send out save-the-date cards or notices.  These could be via your wedding website, email, or more traditional snail-mail methods.

Once you have all these basic steps completed, you can start working on the rest of the details of planning your wedding. That’s where the real fun begins.

Get Wedding Budget Tools and Resources 

Other articles to read:

Guidelines to Creating a Wedding Budget
Ideas for Planning a Wedding on a Tight Budget
Planning Your Wedding Party: The Details

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