Rachel Griffin, owner & lead wedding planner
First Steps in Planning Your Wedding
Plan Along with Me Series – Step 1: You’re Engaged (Yay!!), Now What?!
When you first get engaged it’s SUCH an exciting time! There’re so many people to tell and share the wonderful news with and so many possibilities to dream over.
Then reality sets in... you actually have to plan a wedding. BOOM...What?! Where do you start? What the heck are the first steps in planning your wedding? How much is it going to cost?
Deep breath – I PROMISE you can do this, and it will be ok. Matter of fact, it will be MORE than ok – fun even! You’ve just got to have a plan and a place to start.
I’m here to help! I’ve got over ten years of wedding planning experience under my belt as the owner and lead planner of MasterPiece Weddings and Events and want to share it with you! We’re going to approach this series as if you’ve got about a year to plan your big day. (Which is pretty typical for most couples, give or take a few months.)
SO, what should you do first, after telling family and friends?
The first steps in planning your wedding are all about communication. Talk over the basics with your fiancé first and then your families. You’ll want to all be on the same page with the number of guests that you want to invite, a budget you want to stick near to, and a range of dates that would work well for your wedding day.
Number of guests is always one of the important first steps in planning your wedding because before you can find a venue that works or know how far your budget will stretch, you need to know about how many people you want to entertain and feed. Generally, you’ll have about 60% of those that you invite attend. (more if everyone is local, less if all your guests are traveling)
Talk about how many guests each side can invite, whether you want kids to attend or not, and if you want a sit-down meal for everyone or if you’d like to go outside of the box for something more non-traditional.
Budget is HUGE. You definitely don’t want to skip this step. No one’s saying that you have to set hard and fast limits, but knowing where you want to cap things at overall helps you to know where you want to allocate the funds and when you’re getting outside of where you’re comfortable.
Talk about what’s most important to you both for your day and make sure to pad that area of the budget. Are photographs the most important thing to you guys? Are you a couple that cares more about the music and food than other aspects of the day? Is an epic destination venue more your jam? That favorite (or favorites) vendor or venue should get extra budget funds to make sure you can find your dream service level. Then, take a smaller amount for things that aren’t as important to you and find ways to save there.
It’s also the perfect time to talk over who’s paying for what and how much they’re chipping in. You’ll want to make sure to set clear expectations for how much parents are paying, what you guys are covering, and any extra funds you’ll be able to count on. Knowing this up front can avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary drama down the road.
It’s a great idea to have a few different dates that work in mind when you start venue and vendor shopping. You don’t want to find your absolute dream venue or vendor team and then miss out because they’re booked on the only day you’re considering. Having more than one date just ups your options available.
Also consider any local events that take place around the time you’re looking at for your wedding. Here in Gainesville Florida, we frequently work around UF’s football season, graduation and Gator Nationals. Knowing the events in your area that will affect hotel costs, traffic patterns and vendor availability can be important to think about.
Finding your Venue(s):
After you’ve talked over the basics and are on the same page on the important big-picture stuff, start looking for your location or locations. Here are some things to consider:
Will your ceremony be in the same place as your reception or at a separate location, like your place of worship or favorite nature spot?
Where do you want to get ready at before the ceremony and how far is that from your venue?
What’s included with the venue you’re considering? Are tables, chairs, linens all available for your use or will you need to rent them? Also, is catering or bartending included? Do they have parking shuttles or signage for guests available? Is there a place onsite for you to get ready in?
What time can vendors get in for setup and can you arrive beforehand for photos? This is especially important for venues that are open to the public during the day and will close specially for your event. Knowing what time your guests are allowed in for cocktails or reception is super important if you’re booking a separate ceremony site. You don’t want guests arriving after your ceremony and having nowhere to go.
What’s the travel time between locations? Factor this in for timing blocks too. If it’s 30 minutes between locations, you don’t want to book your reception block immediately following the ceremony and loose that 30 minutes of time where your guests were just driving over. That’s 30 minutes you could have used for partying later.
Hiring a Planner:
Right at the start of planning is really the ideal time to consider hiring a wedding planner. Whether you’re looking for extensive help, or just assistance with wedding day management, getting off on the right foot with a planning professional is a fantastic idea.
A seasoned wedding planner can save you a ton of time connecting you with vendors you can afford that fit your style and what you’re hoping to plan, right off the bat. You won’t need to weed through all the others first that don’t fit your needs. With my couples, I’m always here for recommendations for vendors that fit budgets and personalities, logistics and etiquette questions, or even just a link to find great invitation or ceremony wording ideas. I’m happy to be a resource for any question along the way even if the couple is just hiring me for day-of coordination.
Hooray! You’ve now got a place to begin!
Once you get these first steps in planning your wedding out of the way, you’ll feel better knowing the direction you're moving towards and can keep building off that for all your next steps.
Wedding planning really is an adventure. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll get there, I promise!
Step 1 is done, celebrate and savor your engagement!
Check back with us next month for Step 2: The Five “F’s” - First Five Vendors to Hire.
If you want to learn more about our services and how we can help, reach out to us on our Contact page. I can't wait to talk with you!