After the excitement from the proposal fades, it’s time to get started on planning your dream wedding. With so many items to figure out, from the venue to the caterer to the actual date, it can be overwhelming and difficult to figure out where to start. Here are a few top priority items that you can tackle first and be well on your way to ticking things off your wedding to-do list.
1. The budget
This is probably the most important factor to figure out. Without a set budget, it could be very easy to spend thousands of extra dollars that you don’t have on invitations, your wedding dress, and any decorations for the big day. Not only can this be stressful, it can also cause you to slowly fall into more and more debt—which nobody wants. Determine if your parents will be helping you out with the wedding or if the sole responsibility falls to you. Then, figure out how much you’ll realistically be able to afford and plan your wedding around that number.
Note: Weddings can be expensive, but that doesn't mean they can’t be affordable. According to House Method, there are plenty of ways to still have your dream wedding without going into debt. For example, you could have a backyard wedding at your home or make your own decorations.
2. The date and venue
Second to the budget, figuring out your wedding date and where you’re going to have the wedding are equally as important. Make a list of venues and contact them to discuss availability, pricing, and what’s included in the space. If tables and chairs aren’t included, for example, you’ll have to rent them out separately. According to Real Simple, your venue will ultimately depend on your guest count, your budget, and the location you desire.
There were a few venues I had contacted myself that had Saturday night availability but were way out of my price range. There were others that were in my price range but only had Friday or Sunday nights open. If you’re trying to plan a wedding within the same year you got engaged, just know that it might be a little more difficult to nail down your top venue choice.
3. The caterer
Some venues will require you to use a caterer from their recommended list while others will let you choose your own. Regardless, if you really want a popular caterer to be at your wedding, you’ll want to talk to them as soon as possible. Most will book up a year out, so try to pay special attention to this vendor. Be sure to ask them what dinner styles they offer, how much food and alcohol packages cost, how personalized the menu can get, and whether or not they help with the cake cutting.
4. The photographer
If you have a photographer that you absolutely love, contact them after you nail down your wedding date. Ask them questions about what’s included in a wedding day package, scour their Instagram account for wedding inspiration, and get a sense of who you’ll be working with on the big day. You’ll want to feel comfortable throughout your wedding, so don’t be afraid to ask the photographer any questions you may have. Most photographers will be booked a year in advance, so if you have a preference with one, get them secured as soon as possible.
5. The bridal party
What could be more exciting than asking your best friends and family to stand by your side on your wedding day? Figure out how many bridesmaids you want to include and determine who you’ll be asking. This process might be more difficult than you’d think—before I got engaged, I was struggling to come up with people who I would love to stand beside me, but when it came down to it, I had to cut a few people that meant a lot to me. Having those conversations can be tough, but just remember that this is your wedding. Your real friends will understand that you can’t include everybody in your bridal party.
Once you have these priority items knocked out, start thinking about the wedding website and registry, securing an officiant, hiring a band or DJ, and investing in the small details like floral arrangements and cakes. Happy wedding planning!