The moment the love of your life gets down on one knee and offers you a beautiful ring and a life together, the world seems to stop. You are a bride-to-be! But soon the excitement of being newly engaged dies down a bit and you realize: now you have to actually plan the wedding! Despite being thrilled, it’s very likely that you will feel overwhelmed, too. Where do you start? How do you prioritize? And most importantly, how do you work the conference call option on your phone so you can tell all your friends and family at once?
Take a deep breath. This blog post will help guide you to the most important things you need to do to plan your wedding.
Set a Budget
The budget is one of the first things you need to lock down when you’re planning your wedding, because the budget will determine the venue that you choose, the dress that you buy, and the vendors that you book. Though this might be uncomfortable, you’ll need to discuss your family members’ financial contributions at least 6 to 9 months prior to the wedding date. Only then you can evaluate how much money you have at your disposal and can create a budget that works with this figure.
Create a Wedding Binder
Create a wedding binder with these categories marked on tab dividers in order to stay organized throughout the planning process. Each category in your binder should have blank paper on which to jot down ideas and clear protector sheets for color swatches, brochures, business cards, or anything else that you can’t hole-punch. The first page of your binder should include a checklist, and you can attach a 3-hole-punched clear binder pocket (like students use) in the back for your receipts. Feel free to add new categories as you see fit.
You can also use a variety of online tools, such as creating specific Pinterest boards for visual inspiration, in order to keep your ideas in one easy-to-access place.
Develop a Guest List
This can be one of those wedding tasks that’s all too easy to continue putting off, but don’t. As soon as you have determined your budget for the big day, get to work on the guest list. This is a task that will require the help of your fiancé as well as both sides of the family. Before you can book the ceremony and reception venues, you will need to know approximately how many people you expect at your wedding. Remember that the higher number of guests, the higher the cost, as caterers usually charge per person.
Organize Your Bridal Party
Depending on your circle of friends, this may or may not be a difficult task. Either way, you must decide early on who will be your maid of honor and your fiancé’s best man so that they can clear their calendars. You also need to figure out who will be standing up as your attendants on the big day. Talk with each person individually to make sure that they are available to help you out and that they can commit to their responsibilities. Be open and honest about your expectations at the beginning of the planning process so there are no surprises—for you or for them. And don’t forget to have fun! Consider“proposing” to your bridesmaids by sending a bottle of wine with a note that reads, “I couldn’t imagine my big day without you by my side. Will you be my bridesmaid?”
Choose a Ceremony and Reception Location
Now that you know your budget and have your guest list, you can book the ceremony and reception locations (or location if they’re at the same place). This is the most important contract to lock down, because it determines the setting and date of your wedding day. Do you want an indoor or outdoor wedding? Casual and intimate or large and formal? At a local church or on a tropical island? Your budget and number of guests will determine the locations to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the perfect venue for your ideal wedding!
Find the Dress of Your Dreams
Once you have a date set and your venues booked, you can start looking for your wedding dress. Shopping should begin about a year in advance of the wedding date, and you should purchase your gown at least 8 months in advance. This allows time for the dress to be created or altered. This task is made easier once you’ve selected the ceremony and reception locations and thus the style of your wedding. If you’re having a fancy wedding, you’ll look for a formal gown. If you plan to get married in an outdoor garden, you’ll want a simple, more casual dress. Whichever style you decide on, choose a gown that makes you feel beautiful.
Pick a Theme and Color Palette
Now that you’ve settled on a venue and a dress for your wedding, and before you continue to book additional vendors, you’ll want to decide on a theme for your wedding day. The theme will inform most of your choices. For example, if you have your heart set on a vintage chic wedding, you’ll need to gather inspirational pictures to show your vendors. The theme and color palette will determine the bridesmaids’ dresses, the flowers, the invitations, the linens, the band or DJ, and the menu.
Select Paper Products and Design Invitations
Your paper products, including invitations, place cards, and thank-you cards, should be finalized and purchased about 6 months prior to the wedding. Again, your theme and color palette will determine whether you get matte or shimmery metallic card stock, black or colored ink, RSVP postcards or traditional response envelopes. Allow plenty of time to address your invitations so that you can send them out about 6-8 weeks before the big day.
Secure Vendors and Organize Contracts
Throughout the wedding planning process, you’ll be required to make choices about many different vendors, such as photographer, videographer, florist, band or DJ, officiant, baker, and wedding planner. Store all contracts in this section of your binder so that you can cross-reference them as you continue to plan your wedding. Plan on booking all vendors approximately 6-12 months in advance of the wedding date.
By making organization a top priority, the wedding process will be a fun adventure, rather than something that causes you an inordinate amount of stress. This is a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure you enjoy your moment as the excited bride-to-be.