By: Kristen Darkow
So you’re planning a wedding…first – congratulations! Being engaged is such a short time in someone’s life, and yet one of the most exciting times. Soak it up!
Second, it’s time to get planning. Seriously. I used to laugh a little at couples who started wedding planning the day after they got engaged – like, whoah, just slow down and enjoy this for a second. But if you have any preference in wedding date, venue, or other vendors, it’s important to swipe them up quickly! If you’re planning an engagement of 2+ years, you’re probably fine to take your time a little more, but the average engagement is 14 months (ours was 10.5 months!) and you’d be surprised how quickly wedding venues and vendors are claimed! So, while the wedding planning process is very exciting, it can also be daunting and overwhelming. Today we have for you a few tips and tricks on where to start:
- The first step is to pick your ideal date or season, and maybe have a backup date or season if yours is really unavailable. For me, I knew I wanted late spring or early summer (May or June), and my backup was early fall (September or October), so when it came to venue shopping, checking on available dates was a little easier.
- The second step is to research some venues in the area you want to get married. Some may have a strong preference in the style/vibe of the venue, some may be open-minded, and some may go with something entirely different than what they thought they wanted! I really thought I wanted something rustic and outdoors, like a barn venue. But the more I researched, the more I started leaning towards a golf course. There are so many things to consider – like, what are the chances it will rain, snow, etc. and is there an indoor option? Are there permanent restrooms or will you have to bring in porta-potties? Is alcohol provided or will you have to bring it in? Does the venue have their liquor license? Don’t be afraid to tour a lot of venues in person! Photos just don’t do them justice sometimes. Once you’ve found one you like, check if your ideal date is available! If you’re having the ceremony and reception in two different places, make sure your ideal date is available at both. Same goes for an officiant. If so, jump on it! Quick!
- Congrats – you have an official wedding date! Lots of planning hinges on the wedding date, so now that you have it, chaos ensues. For us, the next steps were looking into catering. Our venue provided it, but also allowed outside catering. We wanted to do our research and make sure we found the best food for the best deal, which ultimately meant just going with our venue’s catering.
- Another thing that happens once you have a venue/date is dress shopping! Your dress style can be dependent on time of year and venue/location – if it’s a summer beach wedding, a heavy dress with sleeves may not be the best option. If it’s a formal church wedding, something more modest may be appropriate.
- You may also want to start thinking about your bridal party – the sooner you ask them, the sooner they can block off that date and make sure to be by your side! There are some really cute ways to ask your bridal party (thank you, Pinterest and Etsy!). Here’s what I did:
- Locking in your vendors is also a necessary next step – similar to venues, they get claimed quickly! Research photographers, videographers, florists, planners, cake bakers/decorators, transportation, hairdressers, makeup artists, etc. I think we booked our photographer and florist first (about 9-10 months out). I still have another post coming up with the wedding vendors we used. 🙂
- Start your guest list. Save The Dates typically get sent out about 6-8 months in advance, so you’re going to want to start deciding on a guest count. Maybe you already have a rough idea of how many (since certain venues only have so much room), but this step is important before you get too far in the planning process.
- Pick colors. This will mostly have to do with choosing bridesmaids dresses, tuxes and ties, but will come into play a lot more as you get closer to the wedding day and start picking out decorations and flowers. A great starting point for picking out colors is at Azazie.com. This is the website I used for the bridesmaids dresses, and they have tons of colors to choose from. Andrew and I both picked our favorites, and ordered swatches in each of those colors. Once we had swatches and were able to see how the colors went together in person, we chose two complimentary colors for bridesmaids and personal attendants to wear and ordered ties from Azazie in the same color. I told bridesmaids floor length and sky blue, and then they were able to choose their own style of dress. We wrote an entire post on the Azazie experience here.
I think that sums up most of the important first steps! Once you have a wedding date, venue, food, photographer, dress, bridal party, etc, you’ll start seeing things come together and begin to feel a lot more relaxed. 🙂 After that, it’s just all the little details that you can take your time figuring out over the next several months. Good luck!