The Ultimate Guide to the First Steps in Planning a Wedding 

By Julia Benda

Photo by Cat McCombs


Getting engaged is so exciting! And then it hits you – Where do you start? Planning your wedding can be one of the most thrilling times and one of the most daunting tasks you ever take on! This wedding guide will give you an idea of where to begin and where you should be heading, and what you can expect while planning your special day.

Consider the Size

Do you want a small wedding with just close friends and family? Or do you and your fiance want a day filled with everyone you know? Making the decision on how big or small your guest list will be will affect many elements of your wedding and give you a basis on what finances will look like. Keep in mind that usually 10-20% of invited guests will not attend. Make a head count spreadsheet to use throughout your planning process with columns for contact information, addresses, RSVP’s, and gift thank yous.


Decide on the date

Deciding on a date can be a tricky thing sometimes because every year is different and other important events in life can conflict with an ideal date. A few things to keep in mind while choosing a date are what the weather or season is like, how this could affect guests from attending or not, if the date conflicts with other obligations, and how much time this date gives you to plan. If planning an outdoor wedding, always have some sort of backup for a rainy or overly hot day.


Book your Venue

The venue is usually your largest expense when planning a wedding. Because there are many things to consider when choosing the reception and ceremony space, decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two venues. Then  look at things like style of venue, costs, services, parking, and availability, keeping in mind that most successful locations are often booked at least a year out. Vendors can often be eager to sign a contract with a couple but be sure to read the fine print and ask specific questions, so you do not run into unexpected costs down the line. A few examples:

  • How much would an extra cocktail hour cost?
  • What sort of decorations are we allowed/not allowed to have in this venue?
  • How many servers can we expect to work our event if we have XXX amount of people attending?


Work out your Budget

Financially, weddings are usually a pricey event. Determine how much money you have to spend on your special day, based on your families’ contributions and your own. To cut down on unnecessary costs, consider making a list of essential expenses and nonessential splurges and figure out ways to make your priorities happen and keep the extra costs limited. Weddings usually follow a budget like this:

  • 48-50% — reception
  • 10% — flowers
  • 8% — attire
  • 12% — entertainment
  • 10-12% — photography and video
  • 3-4% — invites
  • 2-3% — gifts
  • 7-8% — miscellaneous/unexpected expenses


Hire Must Have Vendors

Photographers, bands and DJ’s, florists, caterer’s and videographers are all an important aspect of the big day and need to be booked as soon as possible since they too are often reserved a year out.