The Beginning Steps to a Smooth Planning Process
It’s finally happened! He’s popped the question, put a ring on your finger and you said “YES!”… now what? I’m a firm believer that if you lay the proper ground work from the beginning then the process should be easy breezy so, today, I’m going to walk you through the first steps to start planning your wedding.
Enjoy the Moment
Take a beat and enjoy being engaged. Celebrate with your family and friends, give your new fiancé lots of kisses, get your ring fitted (because let’s be honest it probably isn’t the exact right size) and just “be” engaged for a bit. In life we tend to rush through things and I whole heartedly believe that this is one of life’s big occasions where it’s ok to enjoy the moment for a few weeks before jumping right into the planning.
Set the Ground Work
One of the first things you’ll need to do is select a venue, but before you run off to look at a bunch of places there are a few things you should discuss with your fiancé and family.
- Set Your Budget. Who is paying for the wedding and how much will you have to spend? This will determine the type of venue, food and beverage and overall guest count you can afford. Stay tuned… I’m planning on writing another post on how to allocate your wedding budget, but basically you don’t want to choose a venue that will take 80% of your budget leaving you with very little to personalize your day.
- Determine Your Guest Count. Chat with both sides of the family and count up your friends to see how many people you would ideally have on your guest list. A rule of thumb is 80% of your invited guest list will attend so make sure you’re looking at venues that can hold at least that many guests and that fit within your budget. As silly as it sounds, the more people you invite the more your wedding will cost. Not only will you pay for more food and drinks, but you will need more linens, chairs, centerpieces, cake, etc…
- What is your vision? If you have a chic, modern, monochromatic vision in mind then you should probably not book a western guest ranch with a bold color palette. Try to choose venues to scout that will fit with your overall decor vision.
- Do you have a preferred wedding date or are you just interested in a specific season? You’ll need this info when inquiring with venues.
- Are you interested in and able to hire a wedding planner? If you’re a busy guy or gal with a full time job, active social life and planning a wedding from a-far (think living in New York planning a desert wedding in Arizona) you’ll likely need a planner on board. The best time to hire one is right from the start. A planner can set you up for success from the get-go with recommendations on venues that fit your style and budget and perhaps some places you haven’t heard of. Plus a planner with good connections and business sense can save you a lot of headache and money by reviewing proposals and contracts with you.
Start Collecting Inspiration
Stay tuned for another blog post on how to create your wedding vision, but here are some of my general rules of thumb. First, you probably have a secret Pinterest board that you’ve been collecting images on for years… maybe (likely) before you even met your fiance; however, now is the time to fine tune that board. Go through your images and delete any photos that you no long identify with and add some more if needed. This early in the process you really don’t want to go overboard, but having a little bit of clear direction will help you when looking at venues, dresses and vendors. Also, keep in mind that your wedding planner and/or designer should be able to help you narrow in on your vision and create a cohesive design plan.
Choose Your Venue
OK! You’ve set the ground work and now you’re ready to start the venue search. At this point, Google has likely become your best friend, but be sure to reach out to any personal connections you have in the area that might be able to point you in the right direction as well. Find some venues that you think fit your overall ideals and then reach out to their catering sales managers for proposals. This way you only set up tours with properties that fit your budget and have your ideal dates available. Once you’ve got a solid list, plan your venue scouting trip to your wedding city. I highly recommend my clients narrow down their initial search to 3 properties… once you go over that it’s hard to remember details and everything starts blending together. If you decide you don’t like any of them then you can add on a couple more to walk through.
As you’re touring properties, take your time… take it all in. When you immediately walk on property do you like the way guests are greeted? How’s parking? If it’s a resort – how’s the lobby, pool and guest rooms? Do you feel comfortable there and does it fit with your overall vibe? Also, do you like the sales manager? As silly as it sounds, it’s important to like who you’re working with! Next, tour all the available event spaces. Including ceremony, cocktail hour and reception spaces. Consider the pros and cons of each space and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Here are some sample questions to consider:
- What’s included? A resort usually includes standard tables, chairs and linens; however, if you’re looking at a private property they may not include rentals and you’ll need to outsource them.
- What other events might be hosted at the same time as your wedding? Could there be a prom in the other half of the ballroom the night of your wedding?
- What’s the best flow for a wedding? No one knows the property like the catering manager so be sure to ask him or her what set ups they like. What’s their favorite ceremony focal point and why? Which cocktail hour space gives the best view?
- What kind of restrictions does the property have? For example, if you are dreaming of dancing under the stars you may want to ask what the noise cut off is at night.
- What is the weather back up plan?
- Do they allowed outside vendors or make you use vendors off of their preferred list?
Once you settle on your venue and date you’ll negotiate rates and concessions and sign contracts. If you’ve hired a planner please have him or her guide you through this process. Our job as planners is to help protect you and set you up for success, but we can’t do that if we’re not kept in the loop.
Start Booking Your Vendor Team
There are a few vendors (or who we like to call creative partners) that you should book as soon as you sign your venue contract. That would be your planner (if you haven’t hired one yet), photographer, videographer, officiant, DJ or band, and beauty team because they may only take one wedding per day and will book out early. A few of those you can book based off of a good portfolio and excellent referrals and reviews; however, I would highly recommend having a consultation (phone will do if you don’t live locally) with planners, photographers, videographers and DJs. Not only do you want to work with people that do good work, but you also want to make sure you fit well personality-wise. No matter how good a photographer is, if they annoy you then it will show in your photos!
Choose a Dress
It’s important to choose your wedding dress early in the process. First, most gowns are made to order so they could take up to 6 months to ship plus added time for your fittings. Second, I believe your wedding dress helps set the tone for the wedding and the design concept should not be finalized until a dress has been chosen. If you always dreamed of a boho bash, but fall in love with a chic, fitted mermaid gown you may want to consider tweaking your vision a bit to match your attire.
Spread the Word
Save-the-dates should be sent around 9 months before the wedding and should include your names, date, location and wedding website link so that guests can access it for travel info and wedding details. A few of our favorite sites are Riley + Grey, With Joy, Minted or The Knot.
Once you get these main items completed a lot of the heavy lifting is completed and you should get a little planning break. In the months to come you and/or your planner will work on the design concept, continue to book your creative team, create the wedding day flow and timeline, etc…, but if you set yourself up for success in the beginning the overall planning experience should be seamless, stress-free and FUN!
If you’re looking for help on how to start planning your wedding contact us here!