Newly engaged? Avoid the overwhelm!

How many weddings have you planned?  None, right?  (OK, maybe one, or maybe you helped your BFF, but realistically, there's probably NO reason why you should know what you're doing right now.  So don't worry if you're completely lost.)

Most of our clients apologize for not knowing where to start, or what to do next.  Our response is always "why SHOULD you know what to do?  You've never done this before!!".  It's like expecting that you should know how to change your own oil, or understand all the ins and outs of buying your own house.  Experts exist for a reason, y'all!

Honestly, there are a million little details involved in planning a wedding, and for some weddings, there are two or three million.  🙂  But if you have a strategy and know some of the basics, you can get started on your own, and be super successful along the way.  Here are our top tips to avoid getting overwhelmed, and to stay sane while planning an amazing wedding.

  1.  Start with a guestlist (which, in and of itself, can be SUPER complicated) and a realistic and firm budget.
    • Don't generically tell yourself that you might have anywhere from 100-250 guests . . . come up with a pretty firm idea, based on a written list.  (Also, make sure you chat with your families about this first!!).  This will definitely affect your venue choice.
    • Budget is also very, very, very important.  You need to have some sense of where you're actually comfortable, and then you can work backwards from there to plan a wedding that doesn't put you in the poorhouse, or require multiple mortgages or the sale of a firstborn.  (Stay tuned for more on how to estimate a realistic budget, if you're, like, totes clueless).
  2. Set a realistic schedule, and stick to it.
    • Procrastination is your enemy. There are some pretty hard and fast rules in wedding world.  I always say "there are no wedding police", but honestly, if you don't book a venue before you book a bunch of other vendors for your date, you're kind of in trouble.  If you don't send out your invites 8-12 weeks in advance, you're kind of in trouble.  Try to accomplish one thing per week, and you'll be OK, as long as you do the things in the right order.  🙂
  3. Book primary vendors first (i.e. vendors who can only perform one wedding per day/at your ceremony or reception time).
    • Again, there are no wedding police, and this will depend a bit on your priorities, but here are my suggestions of where to start, in order.
      • Venue (reception AND ceremony), and a vague idea of ceremony/reception time
      • Caterer/Bar staff (if not included in venue)
      • Photography/Videography
      • Live Band/Ceremony Music
      • Secular Officiant (if you're at a church, this is kind of a package deal)
      • DJ
  4. Book secondary vendors next (i.e. vendors who can do more than one wedding per day/time).
    • I still suggest firming these up sooner rather than later, but these are vendors who could, conceivably, be doing multiple weddings on your day.
      • DJ (if you're booking a large company with many DJs and not a specific DJ)
      • Hair and makeup
      • Transportation
      • Flowers
      • Decor
      • Cake
  5. Purchase attire.
    • Realistically, dresses take more time than suits.  Guidelines are:
      • Wedding dress: 8-12 months in advance
      • Bridesmaid's dresses: 6-8 months in advance
      • Groom/groomsmen attire: 2-6 months in advance
  6. Make sure you have a realistic itinerary in place.
    • there are a million things that play into this, but consider:
      • Hotel check-in time for guests
      • Photography schedule
      • Officiant/ceremony venue availability
      • Length of cocktail hour
      • Dinner service time
  7. Think about guest communication/comfort:
    • this incorporates pre-wedding stationery, like Save the Dates and Invites.
      • Send Save the Dates 8-12 months in advance (only really necessary if you have a lot of out of town guests, or if it's a holiday weekend).
      • Book hotel blocks if you have a lot of out of town guests.
      • Send invitations 8-12 weeks in advance (make sure you have thought through the RSVP process, and the information that you need to include [i.e. meal choice, allergies, shuttle info, how to track RSVPs, etc.])
      • Book shuttles for guests, if needed
  8. Think about day-of details.  This includes:
    • Stationery:
      • Ceremony programs
      • Reception maps (if different than ceremony)
      • Seating charts
      • Table Numbers
      • Placecards
      • Menu cards
      • Miscellaneous signage
        • welcome/itinerary signs
        • ceremony seating signs
        • bar signs/taxi signs
        • instagram/photo sharing signs
        • memorial signs
    • Locations for getting ready
      • girls and guys, and transportation to ceremony, to reception, and home at the end of the night
    • Photo schedule
      • timing and location of formal and family photos, communication with wedding party/family about where to be and when
    • Caterer/Bar staff service times
      • What time are cocktails?  Dinner?  How will guests know when to be seated?
    • 'Duty' event times
      • When will speeches happen?  In what order?
      • When do the first dance/father-daughter/mother-son dance occur?
      • Is there a cake cutting?  Slide show?  Shoe game?  Kissing game?
      • Communicate all of these details to your MC and DJ
    • Set up/tear down details
      • who is setting up decor?  When?  Who is taking it down?  Where will it go?
      • What needs to be taken home by the couple/family/friends?  Whose vehicle will it go in?  Can teardown happen the next day, or night-of?
  9. Confirm with ALL vendors the week prior.
    • someone needs to do this - hopefully, it's your coordinator, but if not, make sure you follow up one final time with all vendors to ensure they're on the same page.  It's likely that there have been MANY communications with most of them, so make sure all vendors know the FINAL times/locations/decisions on all elements of the day.

Always, know that there are supports out there.  If you get stuck on any of the elements of planning, feel free to contact us - we are happy to help in any context, whether it be directing you to our helpful resources, or actually working with you to help plan your day.  Happy planning!

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