Congrats! You're engaged! Now what?
Assuming you've clicked on this blogpost because you're engaged; CONGRATULATIONS. You're about to embark on the most exciting journey of planning your wedding and being married. This is the most common question asked, and while there are so many amazing resources out there for how this process should work, we think that planning a wedding is a two-part process.
One: The Ideal (and realistic) plan.
There's a few questions you should ask yourself before trying to begin your wedding planning process. This will help ensure your priorities are in order when the stress gets the best of you, or when something budget-related interferes with a decision or even simply when you can't decide. It's basically about setting the goals and platform for the wedding.
1. What does our ideal wedding look like?
You've probably already decided on what your dream wedding day looks like, but in terms of logistics, this looks a lot different. Is your wedding indoor or outdoor? Are you thinking a dinner or a stand up lunch/canapés? Is it in your city, destination, or maybe out in the country? Industrial or eclectic? Simple or extravagant? These will help you stick to your plan when making decisions based on venue, decor etc. Decide what you would love your ideal wedding to look like.
2. What does our budget realistically look like?
This is a given, but many people don't really set out a budget until later in their planning. Do it beforehand and be realistic with yourself and the industry. The average wedding costs $35000 in the US, which mightn't be for everyone. Maybe your parents are willing to contribute, sit down with them and chat about what that looks like. How much are you honestly willing to spend on a wedding? Now take 80% of that and thats what you should spend on your wedding; added costs will creep up on you and last minute emergency funds for a wet weather plan, natural disaster, transportation should always be factored, not to mention tipping, gifts or whatever that looks like for you. Any extra money can be used on your honeymoon, or to give yourself a well needed massage after the wedding day (or just make your spouse to do it for you).
3. Who is essential to be at the wedding?
Guest lists: this is a touchy topic for lots of people. Realistically, who can't you do your wedding day without? Who do you do life with regularly? How many of your best friends do you want to be in your wedding party? Make 3 lists: one listed essential (and these are the closest, nearest and dearest to you, including parents, siblings, grandparents etc); another listed preferred (these might be close friends, aunts and uncles, family friends); and your final list should be listed extras; these are for the people who you would love to be there, but its not a dealbreaker (extended family members, employees, high school friends etc).
When planning your wedding, depending on your budget on catering, your venue guest restrictions, you can decide how many of these people you can choose, starting from your essential list. If your whole guest list is 115 and your venue allows 150, congrats! You can invite everyone. But if your venue only allows for 90, you can start making cuts from that extra list without compromising anyone essential. You can estimate that most venues charge anywhere upwards of $40 for a plated dinner so this is usually your largest expense.
4. What are our priorities for our wedding day?
Do you NEED to have your dream dress? Or are you willing to throw a two piece together from Anthropology? Is a videographer a must-have? Or something you'd like to add later on if you've got some extra money in the budget. Knowing these beforehand will help you figure out how much of your budget should be allocated to each party/vendor. We've listed the average investment for most vendors in our area so you can get an idea on what to expect during peek season (this is not the exact amount and ranges significantly):
Bridal Bouquet: $400
Full Florals, bouquets, Installations: $4000
Wedding Dress: $1500
DJ/Live Music: $600
Catering: $50 per person
Wedding Cake: $300
Make sure you spend the money on the things that mean the most to you. If you don't care at all about a DJ/Live Music, save yourself the money and allocate a friend to be in charge of the playlist. Budgeting is easy if you prioritise who is worth the investment.
5. What do we want the day to look like and feel like?
This is more-so about aesthetic. Want a moody, boho day? Or a beautiful and vibrant and colorful wedding? Do you want it to be cosy and comfortable or formal and classy? Decide how you want your guests to feel and what your aesthetic is and choose your vendors based on that. If you want comfortable and cosy, industrial might not be the ideal venue for you, but maybe a country property. Unless you're willing to make the industrial cosy and heck. This will help you pick things like decorations, your attire, your flowers and accessories etc. It will also help you figure out how much you can DIY and what you should spend your money on.
GREAT, SO YOU HAVE YOUR GOALS. NOW TO START PLANNING.
2. Getting the ball rolling; the essentials; where to start, right? In the first month of wedding planning, whether you decide to start planning immediately after the engagement or to wait a while, here are the things you should do first.
- Pick your ideal wedding month. Want a fall wedding but live in California? November. Want a Spring wedding but live in Oregon? May. Want a winter wedding but no snow? late Feb/early March.
- Find a venue. Reach out to a few and see their availabilities. Usually you can save yourself money by choosing a Sunday or Friday over a Saturday, or off-season rather than peek. Go and view the venues, see how parking is, if they have required vendors (some don't allow outside caterers/planners etc), what is their alcohol policy, etc. Have a couple of options in case your original is booked or not what you expected.
- Book a planner. This isn't always necessary but can make the planning so much easier and the process. Even if it's simply a day-of-coordinator, get this booked and figured out. They'll help you put together a timeline so you can decide how long you need your vendors for on the day so you can begin booking.
- Book a photographer. We usually book out pretty quick and once that's set in stone, we can usually recommend you a bunch of amazing people we work with in your area, even if we're coming from out of state. The photographer and venue will likely be your biggest expenses so getting those out of the way in the beginning will help you figure out how much you can allocate to the other vendors. Get your engagement photos out too so you can send out 'save the dates'.
- Start dress shopping. Sometimes it can take 4-6 months to get your dress, especially if it's being handmade. Start shopping early and make sure you have plenty of time in case of alterations. If you're trying to get in shape for your wedding, be realistic about how much you can change before your day. You can always take in a dress, but you can't add to it, so buy a size or two bigger than you're expecting to be on the day.
The rest of the details can be slowly worked out in the lead up to the wedding. Click here for an amazing checklist you can download.
Ultimately, going into your wedding and engagement season is exciting and refreshing. Make sure you enjoy being engaged and don't rush that time away stressing over a wedding. Engagement season is such a beautiful time to get to know your future spouse even more and talk seriously about your future.
Your wedding should be a fun event, so stick to your goals and priorities and don't budge on your budget (but be willing to allocate more money to particular areas that are a more worthwhile investment).