CONGRATS to all our lovely ladies who got engaged over the holidays! The holiday season is historically the season with the most proposals. You're high on love and holiday cheer and the idea of happliy ever after. But then it hits ya--now we have to actually plan a huge wedding! You've probably never done this before and have no idea where to begin. You might sit down and start thinking about all the different decisions you have to make and it can feel daunting! You can't make a decision about the caterer until you know where the wedding will be. Are you going to get married in Utah where your family is from or somewhere in SoCal where you guys live now? How many bridesmaids? COLORS?! You have to rent silverware?! How do you pick a DJ? We need vegan options, gluten-free options, dairy-free options, and also a meat-lovers option for your soon-to-be uncle Jim. Your parents hate the idea of an open bar but its a non-negotiable for your fiance. And how are you supposed to decide the order of the ceremony?! You've never planned a wedding ceremony before! Also every friend and Great Aunt you've ever had is pressuring you already about being invited to the wedding.
PHEW. You've only been engaged for like 2 weeks. Where do you begin with wedding planning? Where do you start so that you don't feel like you are drowning in decisions you have to make ASAP?
Don't worry--we've done this a few times. Here are some simple tips and advice for what to do now that you're engaged.
Step 1: Set Your Budget
This is possibly the most important step, and will guide every other decision you make. This is why we recommend brides figure out their budget first! You may have had your eyes on that gorgeous miminalist property in Hollywood for forever, but come to find out its waaaay out of your budget. Don't waste time (or get your hopes up) on something you can't realistically afford. This will just lead you into a dark, dark sadness. Trust us.
To go about finding your budget first sit down with your fiance and see how much the two of you are willing to put towards the big day. Then, see if both sets of parents were planning on financially helping as well. Traditionally, the woman's family paid for the wedding and the man's family paid for the honeymoon. But most people don't think in these terms anymore. With the rising costs of weddings, both sides of family tend to want to help in some substantial way! And often, grandparents ask to help as well. Simply, reach out to your family to see if there was a number they had set aside or were willing to contribute. In our experience, the best way to manage money offers from family is to simply ask them to give you the amount so that you and your fiance can manage the total budget all at once and pay for things as they arise.
We've seen brides ask family members to pay for one thing like say, the dress, or the bar at the wedding, or the venue. But often this route can lead to some tension. Perhaps a bride and groom are passionate about providing an open bar for their guests, and ask their parents to pay for it. It was perfectly within the overall budget, and the price of the bar is comparable to what this set of parents offered to pay for. However, the parents respond with their concerns about an open bar and in turn, begin to demand that there will be no open bar, especially if "they are paying for it." What happens here, is the bride and groom begin to lose what they pictured for their big day! It begins to become about the parents and what the parents what. Of course, one way to avoid this, is to not have your parents money involved at all. Or, if the bride and groom manage the money from the beginning, then the open bar is paid for not by one person directly, but by some of their money and some of their parents money and some of Uncle Johnny's money. Trust us, this leads to a lot less fights.
Also be prepared to set aside on average about this much for each vendor:
- About $3,000 for a photographer
- About $2,000 for videographer
- About $120 per person for food and drinks
- Dress anywhere from $1,000 and up
Of course, these prices can wildly range. But be thinking about this as you enter the next step...
Step 2: Decide What Is Most Important
Sit down with your Fiance. Think about the weddings you've been to in the past. What you've appreciated and what left a bad taste in your mouth. And think about what is important to the two of you. What aspects of the wedding speak the most into your story or who you two are? Are you two big music people? You two go out to concerts and music venues all the time. Your friends always come to you guys for what new music to be on the look for... Then maybe the music at your wedding will be a priority and you'll want to spend a little more on the DJ/live band/etc. Or maybe the bride is a big foodie and you two are tired of bad wedding food and really want your wedding to be a food dream for your guests! So splurge a bit on the caterer...
Another way to think about how you want to prioritize your budget, is to think about what you value. Do you value having everyone you love be able to attend or having the dopest wedding of all time? This is important to think about as it may change your location from somewhere easily accesible for grandmas or family members in wheelchairs, as opposed to an amazing cliffside hike-up wedding ceremony. Framing your wedding around the things you value most will make it significantly easier to make decisions. Ask yourself: would this decision be in line with X? Whether "X" is making it easier for family & friends to attend, or having the most stunning photos to look back on, or creating a casual laidback environment, or hiring a wedding planner so that you and your soon to be husband aren't stressed like crazy during this time, or whatever it may be that you value!
Some things to consider that you may value over others, could be:
- having a wedding planner (vs. doing everything yourself)*
- type of music (DJ vs. live band)
- date or season of wedding
- type of food that is served
- alcohol (beer + wine only vs. open bar)
- decor (minimalist vs. DIY vs. luxury vs. etc.)
- most stunning dress of all time
*We strongly recommend discussing whether you want a wedding planner right away, as if you decide to go with one, the sooner you book a planner the better it will all be! Your planner can help suggest industry leaders when it comes to venues, caterers, etc. and can help you further make decisions upon your value system. She can book appts for you, and will SERIOUSLY decrease your stress load.
Step 3: Set A Date (then start looking at venues!)
Next step is to pick an ideal date! (Of course, be prepared when you bring up your date to a potential venue that your dream date may already be booked. If this is the case, then you have your first opportunity to make a decision based upon what you and your fiance value more. Do you value this wedding venue more than your dream date and would be willing to move your date to whatever they have available OR do you value the date more and would be willing to pick a different venue with your date available?)
A few ways to think about deciding on a wedding date are:
- Pick a sentimental date to you two as a couple.
- Pick a season or a month, and ask if the venue has anything available at that time.
- Choose a date that most of your guests would be able to travel on if your having a destination wedding (ie. holiday weekend or over the summer)
- Maybe you just have to choose a date that is not taken from all your friends that are already getting married around the same time!
- Also remember: the sooner the wedding date is, the more likely it is that people may not be able to attend. If you're engagement season is 6 months or less, you are probably prioritizing just getting married over having everyone you love be able to attend the wedding. (On average, we recommend save the dates go out at least 6 months prior to the wedding!)
Step 4: Buy Your Dress!
Ladies, as soon as you get engaged, BOOK THAT DRESS APPOINTMENT. Seriously. Some brides have to go to 6 different appointments at different salons just to find the dress. This can take sooooo much time. And what many women don't realize, is that you don't just walk out of that store after saying Yes to the Dress with that garment bag in your hand. Your dress will need alterations because you want that puppy snug and looking like it was made to fit you! But these alterations take timeeee! You would probably be surprised how long these alterations will take.
And not to mention, if you walk into a bridal salon and tell the stylist your wedding is in 6 months or less, they will probably say "Wow...." followed by an "Okay so that limits our options, a lot." Because many dresses simply cannot have alterations done in that time frame! Although, there is usually the option for a rush fee, but when you're already spending $3,000 for a single dress, are you really trying to spend $1,000 more just for a rush job? In reality, some dress styles won't be able to be rushed on your timeline and that will severely limit the dresses you can chose from. If you are a beaded, glamour-loving bride, good luck! Those things are the most difficult and sensitive to alter, so you better hope you don't have a short engagement! But again, it is all about what you value and prioritize. If you want your dream dress, don't have a short engagement. Instead, we always suggest that brides buy (not start looking for) their dresses 8 months before the wedding so that there is plenty of time for alterations.
Now that you've done all 4 steps, you have your wedding planning trajectory set! From here, everything else is easier and will naturally fall into place. And, as we always tell clients, with every single decision you make, it gets easier and more clear. So just take it one decision at a time!
Let us know if you have more questions about where to begin when it comes to the beginning process of planning a wedding! And, as always, subsbribe to our blog so that you can get these industry tips and advice sent straight to your email! (Our subscribe bar is now located on the right!) And comment below if there is something else you guys have questions about or something you specifically want to see from us in these blog posts!
Ps. See more of Mat + Alex's engagement photos below! If you're looking at this post and getting engaged soon, holler at us for help with engagement design + setup.