Planning Your Wedding

10 Steps to Plan a Wonderful Wedding

One) Talk to your fiancé. It may seem overly simple, but the first step is to make sure you’re on the same page with one another about how you envision your dream wedding day! Do you want a big wedding or small? Outdoors, in a church, a hotel? Do you want to get married where you live or where you grew up? Write ALL of your ideas down together, without judgement, and see where you land. Take the ideas you have in common or are willing to compromise and put those on a separate list. Now you have ground zero for wedding planning.

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Two) Pick a tentative date or time frame. Try not to be stuck on a specific date, as it may depend on availability of venues or favorite vendors. If you are thinking you MUST have a Saturday wedding, pick a month of Saturdays and be willing to be flexible. Be sure to look at a calendar and avoid potential conflicts. Remember if you or your guests are going to be traveling that costs go up around holidays and dates might be harder to choose.

Three) Set a budget. If you have family helping you pay, have the difficult conversation of exactly how much they are contributing. No one likes talking about money (unless you’re a financial manager) but it’s important to know where you are starting. Be realistic about how much you are willing to spend. Once you have a total budget, break it down into categories. There are lots of places online you can find recommended percentages of how much to allot to each vendor category. I would start, however, from what is most important to you (review your list from step 1). Don’t spend 20% of your budget on something just because you’re “supposed to” allot that amount. Spend more in areas that matter to the two of you.

Take a Break – Breathe, Laugh, Do Jumping Jacks

Four) Research venues. You can’t finalize a wedding date without a venue, so this is the logical next step. Keep in mind budget, and realize that you are not comparing apples to apples with pricing. Some venues include things like chairs and linens and staffing, while some are totally a la carte.

Five) Contact a Wedding Planner. This is a sometimes controversial step, but I HIGHLY recommend at least talking with a few wedding planners. No matter what you are told, your Venue Coordinator is NOT a replacement for a planner. The Venue Coordinator is always going to put the needs of the venue first. That’s their job. A wedding planner is always going to put your needs first. That’s their job.

Keep in mind also there’s a large disparity in what planners offer. Don’t confuse Event Designer, Wedding Planner or Month-of/Day-of-Coordinator. While some professionals may offer all these services, some specialize in one or two. Do your research and find what fits your wants and needs. Tell them what you are looking for in a planner. Even if you are planning a “DIY wedding” you still need a coordinator to help you put all the pieces together. You do not want to spend your wedding day decorating tables, or wondering if your cousin is going to get the ceremony started on time, or helping your BFF put bouquets together.

Six) Research wedding photographers. Photographers are the next step because they tend to book up further out, especially for those prime Saturday dates. Also, if you are planning to do an engagement session you will want to book that soon. Engagement photos are often used in save the date cards, wedding websites, or making a wedding guest book. Therefore these images need to be available for use fairly soon, depending on your planning timeline.

Take another Break – Kiss your Fiance, Smile, Dance

Seven) Start dress shopping (if you’re wearing a wedding dress). Dresses can take a lot longer than you think to order and get fitted properly. Even if you are buying off the rack or from consignment you will want enough time to get it cleaned (if buying second hand), steamed and have it altered, especially if you lose weight before your wedding! Plus the style of your bridesmaids dresses and your groom’s attire, etc will depend on the style of your dress.

Eight) Start researching other vendors. Especially important are DJ/Band, Caterer (if not included in your venue) and Officiant. DJ or bands book out early, like photographers, so they need to be secured for your date. Caterers can book out, but you also need to allow time to schedule a tasting and make menu decisions. Officiant is something I find many couples leave too long. They DO book out. Also, if you are having a religious ceremony, your officiant may require pre-marital counseling or classes. Additionally you need time to plan the ceremony itself, including readings, vows, music, etc.

Nine) Select the rest of your vendors including florist, rentals, transportation and anything else you need to make your day come together.


Ten) This is the most important step. Don’t forget to ENJOY THE PROCESS! Wedding planning can be stressful, but it shouldn’t. Get a planner, enjoy the time with your fiancé, get a mani/pedi or couples massage and have fun!

Have other ideas or concerns regarding planning your wedding day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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