CONGRATS! The love of your life has asked to seal the deal. You’ve ugly cried, jumped up and down, and keep checking your hand and asking yourself if this is this even real! You're high on love and the idea of happily ever after. But then it hits ya—you have to plan a 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, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, oh, 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 a hot second and the decisions are swirling around your head like crazy. WE. GET. IT. And we got you. Here is some tips and advice on what you should 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 minimalist 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 to a dark, sad place. Trust us.
Calculate how much you and your fiance are willing to put towards the big day. Then, see if both sets of parents were planning to contribute as well. Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for the wedding and the groom’s family pays 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 for your big day. 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." Messy. Messy. Messy.
Be prepared to set aside on average about this much for each vendor:
$3,000 for a photographer
$2,000 for a videographer
$120 per person for food and drinks
$1,000+ for a dress
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 and think about what is important to the two of you. Think about the weddings you've been to in the past. Discuss what you've appreciated and what left a bad taste in your mouth. What aspects of the wedding speak the most into your story or who you are? Are you big music people? If so, 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 guys 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. Would you prefer having everyone be able to attend or do you value the experience of a destination wedding more? 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? 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 to hire a wedding planner right away. Your planner can help you stay within your budget, source vendors, and can help you further make decisions upon your values.
Step 3: Pick a Month + Find a Venue
Next step is to pick an ideal date and start reaching out to venues! Most wedding venues can be booked out a year in advance so do not be surprised if your dream date is not available. If your ideal date is already booked at a venue you love, 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?
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 (especially if you’re having a destination wedding)
Step 5: 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!
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 thousands of dollars on a dress, who wants to spend anymore money on a rush fee? In reality, some dress styles won't be able to be rushed 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.
Once you’ve completed all five steps, you have laid the framework for a successful wedding planning experience. Don’t get us wrong, you may still get stressed, but we promise that once you establish a budget and identity what you value most plus knock out some of your biggest planning decisions, you will feel much more grounded. With every single decision you make, it gets easier and more clear. So just take it one decision at a time!