Getting engaged is a beautiful thing. The minute that ring goes on your finger, you ascend to Cloud 9 and stay there for awhile. But after a few days you realize that you need to get moving and can’t keep skipping around in the clouds.
Getting the ball rolling on wedding planning can be quite overwhelming, though. There are so many lists, wedding websites and books that can tell you differing opinions. So, where exactly do you start? What are the most important things you need to do? After being a bride, MOH, bridesmaid and even a flower girl, I’ve learned a lot of lessons and realized what needs to happen to start your wedding planning process smoothly. Here are 5 tips that will help you focus your plans:
#1- Get an Overview of What You Want
It’s vitally important that you enter the wedding planning stage with a somewhat concrete idea of what you want. Pick a day to sit down with your fiance and ONLY your fiance (please no parents) and figure out what you both want. Details aren’t as important as the big topics at this stage in planning. So, before you nail down a venue or start sending your save the dates, here’s what you need to ask yourself:
A- What’s your budget?
This is the question of all wedding questions. Before you do ANYTHING, you need to figure out your budget. You should have two separate budgets:
- Ideal budget: what you want to spend
- Stretch budget: the most that you can spend
Once you know what your ideal budget is, you’ll be able to start looking at dresses, venues, etc.
B- What kind of wedding do you want?
It’s important that you have an idea of what you want before you start searching. Obviously, you may need to be flexible with certain things, but having an overall sense of what’s important to you will help everything else run smoothly. It’ll also help for you and your fiance be on the same page. Here are some categories you can start with:
The average number of wedding guests is 120. What size wedding do YOU want?
Will your wedding be: Intimate (Less than 50), Small (75 or less), Medium (100-150), Large (150-250) or Massive (250+)?
Knowing the size of your wedding will help you narrow things down. I automatically knew that my wedding would be large simply because I come from a big Latino family and a HUGE church family. If you aren’t too concerned about the size, let your venue determine the size of your wedding.
What season do you want to get married in? One important thing to look at before choosing your season is the type of weather that’s normal to your area (or wherever the wedding will be) during that season. For example, getting married in Florida during hurricane season isn’t ideal, nor is a January wedding in the northeast. Now if you’re on a tight budget or tight time schedule, you can always make due, but it helps to get married during typical times of calm. I got married in July, which typically is cooler than August. Just my luck, I got married during the end of a heat wave and had an outdoor wedding that was in 90 degree heat. It was a scorcher. Sometimes you just can’t avoid these things.
Some things to keep in mind:
Peak and off peak: June and September are the most popular months to get married, so know that venues will be pricey at these times, as will flowers, rentals, etc.
Where do you want to get married?
Do you want to getting married in your home state or somewhere else? Are you interested in a destination wedding?
Do you want an indoor or outdoor venue? Do you want it in a church, restaurant, established venue, natural area ( park, beach, mountaintop)
C- What’s your vision? When you imagine your wedding day, what do you see?
Close your eyes, envision your wedding day and write down what you see. Did you see yourself having a rustic barn wedding in the country with 200 guests or maybe a classy city wedding in a downtown venue with 50 guests? Also, what do you want people to remember about your wedding? This will help guide your decisions as well.
D- What’s a non-negotiable for you?
This is a HUGE question to ask yourself and your fiance.
What is absolutely essential for you to have during your wedding? Stick to it and don’t let these things go due to family or societal pressure.
#2- Find your venue ASAP
Your venue is the most important thing about your wedding planning. It will determine the date, price and the size. Without a venue, it’s hard to get started with anything because you don’t know how long you have to plan. Our venue search was rough because we had a $10,000 budget and a big guest list, but guess what? We found a beautiful house to rent for $2,500 that sat on 60 acres of land. It was exactly what we were looking for. It took us about 2-3 months of searching to find it and at times, we didn’t think we would find anything. Keep looking and don’t give up. I promise you’ll find something.
Important questions and things to keep in mind regarding venues:
- What is the price per person? Are kids the same price? Do they accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions?
- What is included in the price? Are there different options?
- Do they offer buffet style or table service?
- How much does it cost to decorate? Do you have to bring everything into the venue or will they decorate for you?
- What is the quality of the food? Check the vendor’s ratings and make sure you get a tasting. If a venue allows you to bring in food from an outside vendor, consider using your favorite restaurants. We used two of our favorite restaurants and it was cheaper and better quality.
- Are there discounts for bigger or smaller rooms?
- Are there discounts for weeknights or holidays? Friday, Sunday and holiday weddings are all the rage now. Consider this if you’re on a tight budget.
- Do they have a wedding planner, venue manager, maitre d and bridal attendant who will be serving you that day?
#3- Get your dress
Ladies, this is the second most important thing about your wedding!
- Look at styles on Pinterest and online. For me, it was love at first site. I saw my wedding dress on a Bari Jay website and fell instantly in love. I saw this photo and fell instantly in love with the style, color and even hairstyle. It was everything I wanted, simple and classic, so I started to call shops that had the dress. While trying on dresses, others came close, but once I tried this on, I fell in love. I added a beaded sash to the dress to complete the look.
- Schedule appointments as soon as possible
- Pick about 3-4 different stores and schedule appointments
- If you get engaged around the holidays DEFINITELY make appointments as soon as possible because stores will start getting booked due to all of the holiday engagements.
- Be open-minded: you may want something that doesn’t flatter your shape, so be open to getting a dress that you didn’t expect.
- When you go to try on dress, try on more than one style, even if you don’t think you’ll like it. I’ve heard so many brides say that they chose dresses they never thought they’d like (that was my story as well)
- Only bring people whose opinions you TRUST. I cannot stress this enough. Bring people who will tell you the truth, will not be jealous if you look beautiful and won’t be overly critical. Bring people who 100% value you and your happiness. I’ve heard horror stories about brides who left stores in tears because they brought people to fittings who just threw unkind opinions their way.
#4- Wisely pick your bridal party
Next month I’ll be writing a detailed post on this, but I want to tell you right now: It is VITAL that you pick the right bridal party members. I cannot tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about picking the wrong bridal party members. I unfortunately made one wrong choice that ended up complicating matters for me.
- Pick people who will put you first and leave negativity behind. You want honest people, but they need to understand that constructive criticism is better than complaining. Pick mature people who will go to you with issues and not complain to everyone else.
- Set their expectations immediately and let them know an estimated amount of money they’ll be spending and that it’s all about YOU for this short period of time.
- If you’re having a big wedding or an express wedding (less than six months to plan), having a big bridal party will help you. The burden will fall on the shoulders of the BP for many things, so more people to share the load will help.
- If you’re having a small wedding, a small BP will be easier
- Do NOT pick people out of guilt or obligation. Most brides regret this.
#5- Prioritize Your Honeymoon
In my opinion, the honeymoon is also in the top 5 list because of its value. For Christian couples who are having sex for the first time on their honeymoon, it holds even more value. For everyone else, it’s a necessary time of refreshing. Weddings are so stressful that they deserve to have a time of unwinding. Personally, if I hadn’t had a honeymoon, I would have had a nervous breakdown because I had started teaching a new class, moved twice, AND planned my wedding all at the same time. I was DRAINED in every sense of the word and I’ve seen the same things from couples everywhere.
I would say that you need to make your honeymoon apart of your budget. Even if it means inviting 20 fewer people, make it happen. Trust me, you will NOT regret it.
Questions to ask about your honeymoon:
- Budget: how much can you spend?
- Location: Caribbean beach, historic city or exotic location? Look into natural disasters prone for the type of area you want. Will it be hurricane or blizzard season? For example, last year, the Zika virus changed a lot of honeymoon destinations.
- Date: if you can’t afford a big honeymoon, go on a mini moon first and then a bigger honeymoon at a later date. Be careful, however, because most couples I know who had mini moons never got around to going on their honeymoon. Go while it’s a priority.
One thing I want you to always remember:
It’s YOUR wedding.
Don’t let anyone stress you out. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Don’t let anyone try to pressure you to do what you don’t want to do. Don’t allow anyone to make you and your fiance abide by “etiquette” or expectations.
It’s YOUR wedding. Do what you want.
The current trend for weddings is for couples to do what they want and add their own flavor to their wedding. That’s what makes brides and grooms the happiest. Stay true to what you value and enjoy your wedding. I’ve been to at least 60 weddings and can tell you that I’ve seen beautiful weddings in all shapes and sizes. The best weddings have always been the unique ones that reflected the bride and groom’s personalities.