The day I got engaged was definitely one of the happiest days of my life! It was New Years Eve and we partied the night away with our closest friends. However, over the next few days I had sporadic waves of feeling overwhelmed, lost and generally nervous about planning an event I really had no idea how to plan.
I’m one of those women who started “planning their wedding” at age 6 and I had been dating my now husband for 5 years, so it’s not like I had never thought about my wedding but when it came to what to do when, organization, how much things cost . . . I was clueless.
With lots of help from my married friends as well as blogs like this one I was able to navigate the wedding planning process and throw a fabulous party for my nearest and dearest.
Here is a step by step process that I've created. I've laid out 5 easy steps to get newly engaged couples started off on the right track...
Step 1: Congratulations!
Celebrate your little hearts out! This is a wonderful time to just take for yourselves to enjoy being newly engaged. Did you know that 40% of married couples were engaged for 13-18 Months?
My parents were engaged for 7 years. There really is no rush to get married or start planning. I like to tell my newly engaged friends about when I first got engaged and could not sleep, but would often lay awake next to my fiance planning my wedding in my head. I was so excited to start planning that I rationalized waking him up at 4:30am to ask him what season he wanted to get married in. Yeah . . . you don't have to do that. Relax and have fun being engaged!
Honestly there are just a two things you should do when you get engaged:
1. Call or visit your family and closest friends. Mothers, Fathers or parental figures are the first followed by sisters, brothers or close friends who are like sisters or brothers. These people will probably make up your wedding party. Next you will definitely call your Grandparents or the Aunts and Uncles you are close to.
Lastly, contact other friends who you are close with because changing your status on facebook is an awesome way to let the majority of your acquaintances know, but those that are special to you might be a little insulted not to get a personal phone call. Try to tell people via phone or in person before you turn to social media. It's a nice personal touch and as the days get closer to your wedding you are going to be leaning on these friends and family members for support.
2. Shout it to the rooftops errr, I mean the metaphorical rooftops i.e. Social Media. If this is your thing (and it's now over 2 million people's "thing") you are going to want to tweet, change your fb status, instagram your ring and create a pinterest board (if you haven't been pinning already).
Ready to move on to the planning stages? Here we go!
Step 2: Who to invite
This is the most important first step because guest count is going to determine pretty much everything. By everything I really mean the 2 most important things: Budget and Venue. The cost of a wedding varies a lot but it will to be based on how many people are going to be in attendance. The more people you invite the more your wedding is going to cost.
You and your fiance should separately make lists of people you need to invite to the wedding, then you should make a list of who you "want" to have at your wedding. Don't include your needs on the want list. My husband created a really cool guest diagram where he put circles of family and friends literally in circles. Our names were in the center and the different groups around us were closer to the center if we had close relationships with them while those at the edges of the paper would be our more distant relatives and friends. I know he's a genius, that's why I married the guy!
Go over the lists together to make a master list. Keep your original lists as well and cross our duplicate names. Here's the trick: have him cross out the duplicate family or friends that are more "your team" and you cross out "his/her team" on your list. When you are all done you are probably going to be overwhelmed by the number of guests on the new master list. That's fine because I have more tips on how to break it down even further. Now cross out people either you or your fiance has never met them. Lastly cross out anyone that you and your fiance hasn't seen in over a year. Brutal I know and if you are cool with a high guest count please skip the last two elimination rounds. I really suggest crossing out rather than erasing because people might pop back on this master list or become B-listers.
Give "Your List" to your parents and have your fiance give "His/Her List" to his/her parents. This will really help down the road. We don't want any fights about the guest lists after the invitations get sent about hurting your great aunt's feelings etc. Please keep in mind that this is your wedding and you totally have the right to veto people if your parents get too carried away.
The important thing is to make them feel like they have the opportunity to voice their opinion and that you will listen or at least take their opinion into consideration. Add the people you absolutely have to, based on your parents suggestions, to the master list and you have your guest count! I know they say that about 10% of the people you invite won't be able to attend the wedding, but keeping them on is a great way to have extra cushion in your budget. In any case your B-list could consist of crossed out favorites.
Step 3: Budget
Now that you've found your guest count you really can determine your budget much easier. I can tell you right now that it is really hard to plan a wedding that is $100 per person. It sounds ridiculous I know, but when you factor in the basics (tables, chairs, linens, food, location, plates, forks, glassware) it all adds up. The average cost of a wedding last year was $28,427 and the average cost per person was $204. This doesn't mean you have to spend this much, but it gives you an idea of the average.
So if you are considering a standard wedding, multiply your guest count by $200 and that's a starting budget. If you want to have a wedding with lots of extras, with unique features and over the top decor items you can absolutely have that, but remember that you are going to have to pay for it. You really can have everything you want for your wedding, as long as you budget for it. For example the average wedding at a private estate is closer to $400 per person since it is more of a luxury experience.
Everything has a price, but that doesn't mean deals aren't there to be had. I won both free photography and free videography from contests on facebook. My husband's cousin DJed my wedding for free and our good friend officiated the ceremony. There are also some ways to get your budget down by eliminating or going for the inexpensive route for some options. I can help you with that in Step 4!
It's also very important to nail down exactly how much your parents, relatives or friends are going to contribute to your wedding so you can budget accordingly. Talk about this early and often until it's all sorted out. Do not start getting quotes from your favorite venues, caterers or florists until you are 100% on who is contributing what and what you are willing to pay as well. The worst is falling in love with something for your wedding that you can't have or arguing about money with your loved ones including your fiance.
Step 4: Priorities
This is another fun activity where you and your fiance work separately and then come together to talk it over. There are several things to consider when planning a wedding:
-- Clothes (the Dress!)
-- Entertainment (DJ, Band)
-- Wedding Planner
-- Other Decor (lounge furniture, banners)
-- Details (Invitations, Wedding Party Gifts, Hair/Make-up)
Now take this list and order it in list of importance. Compare lists with your Fiance and see where there is overlap. Rearrange the list to where you are both in agreement. See those things on the top of your list, that is where you splurge. Those at the bottom can be the items you skimp on or eliminate altogether. For example my dress was a huge priority and my husband hates getting his picture taken so dress was at the top of my list and photography was at the bottom of his!
Step 5: Venue
The venue has such a huge influence on your wedding style, that I would say this is the first thing you should book for your wedding. You have just two restrictions on a venue search: It has to fit your guest count and it has to be within your budget. Many venues also come with catering, bar service and basic wedding rentals (tables, chairs, linens, etc.) so you can get a much better picture of what your minimal costs will be. The rest of your budget is more "fun money" to be spent on decor, DJ and photography etc.
I would really suggest seeing a variety of venues and being very upfront about your budget with those helping you schedule site visits. I told my venue rep about my budget and she right away sent me a packet that was just a few thousand over my budget. I made it work and had the most beautiful wedding. If you can imagine walking down the aisle and seeing your fiance at the end then this is your venue. It may not be what you've seen in Martha Stewart Weddings or what you've imagined since you were 6, but when you find your venue, you know it's right.
Also after you do visit the venue in person, see the colors of the carpet, look at the flowers in the garden you will be inspired to pick your wedding colors, think of what your decor items will look like and even dream of menu items that will fit the ambiance of the venue. It will be easier to decide what your invites are going to look like and most importantly you can finally pick a date. Chances are there will be several dates that are already booked up but if you have an open mind, you will probably get married in the month of your choosing!
While these are the first 5 steps the rest of wedding planning comes easily after the venue is all sorted out. I will write another blog in the days to come about more advanced wedding planning, but I wanted to hear about some other tips our readers have on how to start this crazy wedding planning world.
What were some valuable things you considered when you first got engaged? Let us know in the comments below!