Wedding Tips

How to start wedding planning: The first 3 things to do after getting engaged

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Congrats, you’re engaged!! Wedding planning can seem overwhelming, I know! Just take a step back for a second. You have plenty of time to plan, no matter when you are planning on getting married. As a wedding photographer (and someone who’s planned a wedding!), here are my tips for how to start wedding planning.

You’ll start broad and get smaller from there. If you start with these three things, the rest of your decisions will be a lot easier!

1. Celebrate!

Pause before you do anything, and just take time to celebrate your engagement! Whether it’s just between the two of you, a group of your close friends, or a whole engagement party. Yes, engagement parties are a thing!

Here are some ideas to celebrate:

  • Have a “staycation” weekend at a hotel near you, and go out for a nice dinner and some drinks or a show
  • Plan a date night with something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time
  • Gather your closest friends and family for a night out at a restaurant
  • Invite those same people over to your house for a more low-key gathering
  • Send out invites and invite a larger group of people to a restaurant or small venue that you rent out for the evening.

2. How to Start Wedding Planning: Lay Out Your Wedding Day Priorities

Based on my own experience, and talking to several of our wedding couples, this step is key to how to start wedding planning.

Once you celebrated, you’ll want to sit down with your fiance, and lay out your priorities. This will determine a lot about your wedding day, and will help you make all future decisions. 

These priorities will create a solid foundation for your decisions. It will help you determine many important things like your venue, and it will help you determine the order in which you do things. Later, it will also help with budgeting, but we’ll get to that.

For example, when you’re looking at venues, you’ll most likely have to play a little give and take. You might find a gorgeous venue, but it doesn’t hold enough people and you really prioritize the size of your guest list. If that’s a high priority, you’ll probably want to keep looking. If the size of your wedding isn’t a high priority, then you can feel more confident in making that decision and keeping your guest list a little smaller. 

For a detailed guide on wedding priorities and how they can help you make planning decisions, click here.

Here are some priorities to consider. This is not all encompassing, but I tried to include the majority of priorities that I’ve seen couples set. This does not mean you need to make all of these a priority. In fact, I do not recommend that, or you will have a really hard and stressful time trying to make everything a high priority. But it is okay to order them all to see where they fall. As I said, wedding planning involves some give and take, so this will help you know where to give a little when necessary.

Wedding priorities to consider as you plan

  • Capturing your memories (photography/videography)
  • Keeping the day “simple” and “easy” (having everything at the same venue)
  • Booking a particular venue, or style of venue
  • A specific date, month or season
  • Style (rustic, modern, elegant, industrial, vintage, gothic, holiday themed)
  • Location (destination, downtown, country, by a lake, near hotels, near a certain town or within a certain radius, ceremony in same location)
  • Size of your guest list
  • Ceremony location and/or officiant
  • Partying (dance/music, ending time of reception)
  • Really good food
  • A variety of drink options
  • Having an outdoor or indoor wedding (and having a good indoor backup)
  • Having your dog be a part of the wedding
  • Dress, or attire in general
  • Floral and decor
  • Hair and makeup (especially hiring a particular vendor)
  • Saving money (keeping it low budget)

In addition to using these priorities to make your venue decision, they will also help you determine the order in which to book things as you plan.

Let’s say a specific venue or style of venue is most important. You’ll want to choose your venue first. If your photography is most important, you’ll want to check with your desired photographer on the dates they have open, and then check your venue options. It is okay to contact vendors other than a venue before you have a date. Just keep in mind that most people won’t hold dates without a retainer, so you might want to be looking at venues simultaneously. 

3. How to Start Wedding Planning: Set Your Budget

(I know, this is probably the worst part!) You’ll want to lay out your budget based on these priorities. This can be difficult to do. The cost of weddings vary greatly between states or cities and even between vendors. But if you can assess how much money you actually have to spend on your day, it will allow you to set boundaries for yourself when looking for vendors, or looking at decor. Make sure you set aside a higher percentage of your budget to your higher priorities. 

The top 2-3 of your priorities should be where you allocate the highest percentage of your budget. In general, you will pay more for a better, more trustworthy photographer and videographer if you value capturing the memories of your day, you will pay more for a beautiful venue in a prime location if that’s a high priority, or you will pay more for a DJ or live band that really knows how to keep the party going if that’s important to you.

Click here for more on how to create your wedding budget.

We created a budget tracker on Google Sheets that you can grab here for FREE!

Please contact me here if you have any questions! Happy planning!

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