You’re getting married! You’ve made the announcements to your close family and friends, and can’t stop admiring how your gorgeous engagement ring goes with EVERYTHING in your closet. You’re excited to begin the planning process, but…where do you start? Who do you research first? Should you have a guest list already? What about your wedding colors? It’s easy to get caught in a spiral of decisions that can quickly take you out of your dreamy state of engaged bliss.
It’s OK, we’ve got you!
We put together a wedding checklist of the first steps you should take 12+ – 10 months before your wedding. Some of these items include searching for a wedding venue, creating a guest list, and picking your wedding party.
Decide Your Wedding Budget
Before you start reaching out to vendors, come up with what you and your partner are comfortable spending for your wedding. Will family members help with any of the expenses? How much can you dip into your savings account? Decide on where you want to save and where you want to splurge. Most likely your largest expenses will be your wedding venue, catering and your wedding gown. Don’t forget to factor in little costs that can add up, like stamps for your invitations, rental/décor items, and tips for your vendors.
Hop on Pinterest, buy a few wedding magazines, then sit down with a glass of wine or tea and start browsing. Circle or save the photos that speak to your style. Soon you’ll start to get a feel for your wedding vision. Did you save five photos of elegant barn venues? Maybe you’re consistently drawn to bridal bouquets featuring calla lilies. Or perhaps the A-line wedding gown photos keep calling your name. It won’t take long for you to find the style you want for your wedding.
Create a First-Draft Guest List
You and your partner should write down everyone you’d like to attend your wedding. If you need some help, reach out to your parents to make sure you’re not forgetting any family members. Will co-workers be in attendance? What about childhood friends you may not have spoken to in a couple of years? Decide how intimate or large you want your wedding to be. Keep in mind that your guest count affects your budget, especially when it comes to catering costs.
Choose Your Wedding Party
You know for sure that you want your sister to be your maid of honor, and your 5-year-old nephew will hold the title of ring bearer. Discuss with your partner how many attendants you’d like to have, and write down the names of those you want to stand with you on your special day. Think about friends you are not only close to, but who are also reliable. Your attendants will plan your bachelorette/bachelor parties and wedding shower. They’ll also help with various aspects of your planning process, which can range from researching florists to helping you stuff invitations. Choose people you can count on.
Find Your Venue and Choose Your Date
One of the first things you should book is your wedding venue. For helpful tips on this is, click here. If you have a date or season in mind, this will help when you begin talking to wedding venues. Is your date firm for you, or are you flexible? Let the venue know this as well. Decide if you want to get married on a Saturday, or possibly a Friday or Sunday to snag a lower venue fee. Getting married on a weekday carries an even larger discount. Monday and Thursday weddings are gaining in popularity because of both availability and cost.
Say Yes to Your Dress
Now that you know where you’re getting married, start shopping for a dress that matches your personal style and the venue’s feel. You likely won’t choose a gown with a cathedral train if you’ve planned a beach wedding. You also don’t want to select a casual, knee-length dress if you’ve opted for a formal wedding at a historic home. Deciding where you want to get married before purchasing your dress helps you choose a dress that matches both your preferences, as well as the style of your venue.
Start Booking Wedding Vendors
Book your caterer, officiant and photographer/videographer early, as their calendars fill up quickly. Check with your venue to see if they have a preferred vendor list you can use as a starting point to research vendors. Vendors on this list have worked with the venue before, and are familiar with the space.
Does your venue have an on-site caterer? Reach out for sample menus and start thinking about your cuisine. If you need to search for your own, think about the type of food you’d like on your menu that would fall within your budget. For example, Filet mignon probably isn’t the best choice if you have to keep your pricing under a certain amount. Research caterers with a similar offering that meets your taste and budget. Don’t forget to check if items like linens and service ware are included in the price per person. If not, you’ll need to add the task of renting these items to your wedding checklist.
Search for photographers and videographers that have a style that mimics that of your wedding vision. Do you want photos that are bright and airy, or do you prefer a dark and moody style? Do you want a simple video of your wedding that captures the heart of your day, or are you looking for an elaborate movie-like feel for your video? Once you book your photographer, set up a time for your engagement photo shoot as well.
You may already have a trusted pastor or friend that you’d like to serve as your officiant. Secure your date with them to ensure they’re available on your big day. You can ask if your venue has someone on site who can marry you as well.
Create Your Wedding Website
Hop on The Knot, Zola, Minted or any other site you prefer and start creating your wedding website. Include your venue location, a fun story about how you met, info on the wedding party, nearby attractions and any additional information you know thus far. As your planning process moves forward you can add overnight accommodation information, the day’s itinerary, etc. Some websites also let you create a page where guests can RSVP online.
Daydream About Your Honeymoon
While you’re checking off your to-do list, take time to dream about your honeymoon getaway and where you’d like to go. Are you picturing a tropical paradise with frozen drinks and a private cabana? Maybe you’re thinking about a cabin with mountain views, a cozy fireplace and a hot tub. Or your ideal honeymoon is a 10-day road trip with lots of snacks, playlists and adventure. Sit down with your partner and start a list of ideas.