You’re engaged! Congratulations. Have you picked a date? Where is the wedding? Who are your bridesmaids? Have you thought about what dress you are going to wear?
From the second you get engaged, people will start asking you all sorts of questions and it can be overwhelming to even know where to start. What are you supposed to do first? I chose the top five things I thought were most important to think about once you have gotten engaged!
- Pick your city. Before you can start think about your venue or what date you want, pick the city you want to be married in. A lot of the decisions you will make will depend on the location. Sometimes this choice is easy; you are going to get married in the city you and all of your family live in. Sometimes it is a little more complicated than that. Your fiancé’s family lives 5,000 miles away. You live in the town you relocated to for work; everyone you know is far away. Maybe the city you live in is not special to you and your fiancé; you might want to travel somewhere nearby to get married. If a fall wedding is important to you and you live in a place where the trees don’t change color, find the place that will best suit you and your fiancé’s desires. Once you choose the city, the rest of the details will be easier to figure out.
- Spend some time researching the city that you picked. Before you decide on anything else, you need to know more about the location you are getting married in – even if you have lived there your whole life, it is still beneficial to research so you have plenty of options to choose from. If there is a bridal expo in the city that you have chosen, I highly recommend going. Most of the main venues will be there, which will be the next biggest decision you will need to make. The two largest aspects to research about the city you have picked are the weather/seasons and the venue choices. There are many types of venue choices, but it really depends on what city you decide to get married in.
Examples of wedding venues are hotels, banquet halls or community halls, country clubs, churches, farms/barn venues, beach, restaurants/bars, vineyards, estate venues, backyard venues, parks, city buildings, museums, art galleries, golf clubs, and more.
- Figure out your venue. After your research of the city you are getting married in, you will have a better idea of the different choices you have for a venue. Choosing a venue should be your top priority because all of the other essential decisions in wedding planning will depend on your venue. Below are some things to think about when choosing the place for your wedding:
- Location – It is easy to access? Are the ceremony and reception going to be in the same place? If not, think about the commute between the two and the hotels that guests will be staying in.
- Availability – The date of your wedding will obviously be contingent on availably of the venues. If you have a certain date in mind, you might need to shop around to quite a few venues until you find one with your date available. If you are open to it, ask about Friday or Sunday weddings. A popular wedding venue might have every Saturday in their book filled, but have openings on other days of the week!
- Volume – How many people will the venue hold? Some people base their guest list off of how many people will fit in their venue. Others choose their venues based off of their guest list. Either way, you will need to know the seating capacity.
- Staffing – Does this venue come with event staff? Will you need to hire your own wedding coordinator or does the venue provide one? Who will set up food, chairs, etc.? Are they familiar with weddings and events? Will they decorate?
- Design – Does this venue have room for the ceremony and the reception? Does the layout work well for the activities you want to have? Do you have a lot of older guests that will be attending – if so, make sure that it is accessible to them. Do they have rooms to get ready in or will you have to get ready off site? Do they have adequate parking for your guests or are near public transportation? What do the bathrooms look like and are there enough stalls?
- Food and Drinks – Does the venue have their own caterer or are you allowed to choose where your food and drinks come from? Look at the menus and make sure you like what they offer. Do they have just beer and wine or do they have liquor as well? Are you able to choose between plated dinners and buffets?
- Style – As I mentioned above, there are many different types of wedding venues. Does the venue match you and your fiancé’s personality and style? Don’t opt for a hotel wedding just because it is popular. Make sure you choose something both you and your fiancé like. The venue sets the tone for the rest of your wedding choices such as decorations and attire.
- Money – The biggest stressor of wedding planning is money. Make sure you get the entire estimate for the venue. If you don’t ask, they might not include all the extra costs. Does the renting price include AV, seating, tables, linens, plates, etc.? Do they charge per hour or do you get the whole day?
- Plan B – Does the venue have extra space in case of unexpected weather conditions? If you are outside, make sure to have a backup plan.
- After you have chosen your venue, the next three things you need to think about are your wedding party, the guest list, and the wedding date. Choosing a venue before these three things are crucial. You never know what kind of wedding venues are out there until you really look at them. You might find the PERFECT venue for your wedding, but it could influence your guest list and wedding date (availability and layout). Additionally, your guest list can highly influence your wedding party. In order to have your dream venue, you might only be able to invite a small number of people to the wedding. If you already asked your wedding party to be a part of your big day and then decide to limit guests to only family because of the venue, that is an awkward conversation you will have to have. Or maybe your dream venue has space for only 4 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen. I encourage you to pick your venue first in order to avoid these situations.
- Have a conversation with each and every person in your wedding party – Don’t assume that they know they will be in the wedding and don’t assume that they will say yes either. It is important to officially ask them to be a part of your big day (their answer might depend on the date and location as well!).
- Figure out the guest list and wedding date & send out save the date cards. Six to eight months before your wedding, send out save the date notices so people can start to plan for your wedding – especially if they are out of town.
- The next most important decisions are your wedding vendors and professionals. Some venues don’t give you choices on wedding vendors but some do. Make sure you research and get written contracts with any wedding vendor you might need. Again, make sure you choose your wedding date and venue before you make anything official with the wedding vendors (even your guest list and wedding party can affect your vendor choices!).
- Wedding Planner
- Make-up artist
- Bakers (cake or other desserts)
- Ceremony musicians
- Reception DJ or live band
- Graphic designer and/or calligrapher (for your invitations if you choose)
There is a lot that goes into wedding planning, but hopefully these first five steps will get you on the right track! Good luck!