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You’re engaged and you want to plan your own wedding, but you’re probably thinking where should I start? Well from experience, planning your own wedding can be VERY overwhelming at times. Some couples hire a professional to help manage their wedding plans full time, while other couples decide to do the planning on their own.
If you are planning your own wedding there are a few big take aways to remember – organization is key, stay on top of your budget and don’t stress too much just have fun with it. Don’t let the small details stress you out, people will always try to give you opinions about your special day, but remember this is about you and your future spouse and again, it’s YOUR DAY!
Okay, so where to start with your planning? Here are my 32 top tips for planning your own wedding and how to ensure the process is stress-free.
Set a realistic budget and stick to it! Go through your finances with your Fiancé and find out where you both stand financially. Figure out what you can and can’t afford. To keep track of your budget, create a spreadsheet using the old faithful excel or Google Sheets just so both of you can edit it and always keep track each time you’re making a purchase.
There are different ways you can go about this. If you are like me and like to have physical copies of everything, create a binder and have your wedding checklist, deadlines, budget tracker, vendor contacts, etc. all in one place. Or if you prefer to do things electronically there are plenty of online tools and apps that are helpful as well. Just to name a few – WeddingWire, WeddingHappy and TheKnot was helpful for me when I was planning my wedding.
Also, another way to stay organized is creating a personalized email address for just wedding planning. You don’t want to mix your wedding plans with your personal emails because things will start to get very overwhelming.
When choosing the wedding date there are a couple of things you may want to consider – the season and the day of the week. Take note, everyone prefers to get married on the weekend, well Saturday is the popular day. Typically with wedding venues the price will peak if you’re getting married on a Saturday and during the peak seasons. A key note is, choose a couple of dates and try to be flexible if you can.
Create a list of “must haves” that you want for your day. For instance, that venue you’ve been dreaming of and must have your wedding there and you won’t settle for anything else. Once you’ve created your “must have” list everything else for the wedding you’ll be able to settle for.
Whether it’s a specific color palette or a theme you love, it’s always best to choose a concept to design for your wedding. It helps to keep your vision cohesive and it will make your design decisions much easier. To get inspired Pinterest is the number one inspiration resource for Brides, Instagram is another platform to use to get inspired and wedding blogs as well.
When creating your guest list, start with the family members that you really want to be there on your special day and then work your way down. Really sit with your Fiancé and decide who you want to be there on your special day. My key advice about this, don’t invite guest and think “oh, I highly doubt they’ll come”. Chances are, they will definitely RSVP! You will also need to figure out if you want to invite kids and who you will allow to have a plus one. Lastly, make sure you account for your wedding vendors, as they will request for a vendor meal (make sure to review this in the contract).
As soon as you’ve already picked the wedding date, booked your venue(s) and have your estimated guest list, get started on your save the dates and picking your invitations right away. The rule of thumb is to send out the save the dates 9 months prior if it’s a destination wedding and 4 – 6 months for a local wedding. For invitations send out 6 – 8 weeks prior to the wedding date. You’d want to make sure to have your guest RSVP about a month in advance just so you can provide the caterer and venue an accurate head count when it’s time to place that final deposit.
If you got engaged this year and planning to get married next year, whether it’s the summer 2021 or fall 2021, lock those vendors down now. I can’t stress this enough, there are plenty of couples that are getting married next year and you want to get the vendors you deserve. The key to this is make sure to book vendors you vibe with, they are the ones that pretty much make sure your day is memorable and ensure things are running smoothly.
This is an important one, make sure to review all vendor contracts throughly before signing. Anything that is a red flag to you don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be sure anything that you arranged with your vendors are written down correctly in the contract – that will include the wedding date, time, location, deposits, etc. Everything you discussed with your vendor has to be written in the contract so you are protected. The biggest red flag to look after especially now due to the pandemic is to carefully review cancellation policies – this should be outlined in a way that states what will happen if both parties cancel.
When selecting a venue i’d suggest considering an “on-site” wedding – such as a banquet hall, hotel or restaurant. What that means is, you will have access to the basics that will include, tables, chairs, linens, flatware, cutlery and an on-site coordinator that will assist you. If the venue has multiple spaces to host your ceremony and reception that’s a plus as well. This will definitely simplify your wedding plans.
When choosing a venue, look at the reviews, contact the venue coordinator ahead to see if you can do a site tour of the location and ask questions before signing any contracts. Another important note to consider is to ask if there are any restrictions with guest limits due to the pandemic as well.
We don’t know how the future will be but you still want to take safety precautions when planning. Consider providing mask, hand sanitizer stations for your guest and make sure your ceremony and reception seating are socially distanced. With your vendors, figure out a game plan and discuss with them on how they can be of service to ensure everyone is following the social distancing rules.
Don’t plan alone, make sure to include your honey in the planning process. A way to include them in the planning is to assign duties that they are interested in taking on. Such as, if they love budgeting, music and food hand off those task. You don’t want to go through this process alone, it can be very overwhelming and stressful.
The Knot and Zola are great platforms to use to create your wedding website. When creating the website make sure to include the following – Hotel blocks, wedding date, the time, parking instructions, wedding registry, dress code, etc. The online platforms will guide you through this process as you create your website and a basic note, whatever is included in the wedding invitation put it in your website.
My key advice to you is, choose your bridal party wisely! Discuss with your Fiancé the size of the wedding party that works best for both of you and who will be capable of upholding the required duties. Being a Bridesmaid/Groomsmen can be a lot of work so when asking your family/friends to be in your wedding, go over some of the duties they will be in charge of and what they’ll have to pay for (wedding attire and pre-wedding events).
Once you’ve gotten engaged you’d want to start your wedding registry relatively early just in case you have relatives that want to send you engagement gifts. You can always make changes as you go through the planning process. If you already live with your Fiancé and feel like you don’t really need any home items. Maybe consider going around your home and see if there are certain items that can be upgraded and add it to the registry. Or if you prefer Monetary gifts, you can create a honeymoon fund online as well. Just take note, with certain online platforms it could take a few weeks to cash out the honeymoon fund, so just be mindful of that.
With the pandemic bridal salons are advising that you can only bring 2 – 3 people with you while you shop for wedding gowns. Make sure to plan ahead – schedule your appointments, bring pictures of your dream dresses, know your budget and please if you can only go to 3 bridal gown stores. Anything after that you’re going to feel overwhelmed and confused with your decision.
If you are planning to DIY any elements of your wedding, don’t push this off until the week before your wedding. It will stress you out for real! Projects such as wedding signage, card box, flower girl basket, etc. DIY something that will be easy for you. You can also invite your bridal party over for cocktails and ask them if they can assist with these projects. Oh, my key advise, if you are planning to make your own floral arrangements and this isn’t your specialty, i’d say leave this up to a professionals to handle. Dealing with real flowers is a lot of work, if you can fit a florist into your budget I’d definitely recommend doing so.
If you are planning to have any pre-wedding events let your bridal party know. Delegate these task to them so they can start planning ahead of time. Girl, don’t try to plan your bridal shower and bachelorette party! Let your bridal party handle it. You only need to hand off the guest list and the dates you’re available that’s it. (I know this from experience) i’m such a control freak and wanted to dip my hands into everything SMH! Plus, the less you know the better, you want to be surprised on these special days.
If you are balancing a full time job and planning your wedding on the weekends make sure to schedule some time for date night. It’s important to make time for one another and when you’re having date night don’t start talking about wedding stuff, that will literally kill the romantic vibe!
When arranging transportation there are a few things to consider. You may require transportation for you and the wedding party to get to the ceremony. Transportation to the reception for you and your spouse while the wedding party rides together to the reception. Also, if you have out of town guest, arrange a group transportation that will take them to the ceremony, reception and their hotels.
When searching for a venue ask if they provide a bridal suite for both you and your Fiancé. This room is for you and your bridal party to get ready before the ceremony. If the venue doesn’t provide this, make sure to figure out a location where you and your bridal party will get hair and make up done. Be mindful of the distance from the venue and transportation arrangements as well.
I loved this part, I love shopping for jewelry so I couldn’t wait to include this in the planning! Make sure to consider your budget, after purchasing the bands take note of the time frame if the bands have to be custom ordered as this can take some time. Make sure to add the insurance policy to the rings and keep the policy receipt in a safe place so you won’t lose it.
Usually those that are attending the rehearsal dinner is the wedding party, the parents and some close family and friends. A few things to consider when planning this, the guest list, invitations, location and catering selection. If you planning to have your rehearsal dinner at a restaurant make sure to plan ahead considering with COVID-19 at the moment, it’s only outdoor seating. Give yourself a few months prior to your wedding to plan this.
If you are planning the wedding you don’t want to be the one executing those plans the day of. It’s beneficial to hire a Day of Coordinator because typically they’ll step in 6 – 8 weeks prior to take on those last minute details. On the day of the wedding they’ll be the ones to take care of all logistics, managing vendors, executing your wedding vision and taking care of any issues that may come up. If you are planning to hire a day of coordinator I’d suggest booking right around the time you are searching for a venue.
This is important to not forget, Make sure to research this early on and take note that the marriage license is only valid for 90 days, so plan ahead.
A great thing to consider if you didn’t hire a videographer there’s this really great photo sharing app called The Guest. What it simply does – anytime your guest takes pictures and videos during your wedding, those photos and videos will automatically upload to the gallery on the guest app. All you will need to do is send the link to your guest so they can download the app.
Also, hash tags signage, photo booths are great to incorporate into your wedding. This is a great way to get your guest to share photos of your wedding and tag you on social media. You can simply place your hashtag signs on your guestbook table, embed it in your welcome sign and bar station. The design is pretty much endless.
When planning your honeymoon it can be time consuming so make sure to give yourself a enough time to plan. If you are planning to go on a honeymoon, my suggestion would be to go on your honeymoon a few days after you get married. Honestly, after the wedding is over you are going to be really exhausted. The last thing you want is to be on your honeymoon and you barely can get out of bed because you’re so tired. So if you can, give yourself a few days to refresh and then go away on your honeymoon.
This is the time let your vendors know of any final details. Check in with the venue(s) and confirm what time your vendors can start setting up the day of the wedding. Make sure to ask if you can store certain decor items at the venue just so you won’t have to worry about them the morning of. Some venues won’t accommodate this because they don’t want to be liable in case things get stolen but you can ask if you’d like.
Please don’t push this off until the last minute. Trust me, I did it! I wrote my vows the morning of my wedding and I was a nervous wreck. Do yourself a favor and write your vows far out in advance. Take some time to really indulge in your feelings and write from the heart. Once you’re done, type them up, read it out loud to yourself and hand the vows off to your Maid of Honor the night before the wedding.
Creating an itinerary is to ensure everyone is on the same page and everyone is aware of what’s taking place the day of the wedding. The schedule will include – Arrival to the bridal suite for hair and make up, getting ready photos, vendor arrivals and set up time, parking locations, guest arrival times, ceremony schedule, first dance, speeches, cake cutting, reception activities, etc. Once the schedule is properly outlined, detailed and confirmed, print out copies and give it to wedding party at the rehearsal dinner. Make sure to send electronic copies to wedding vendors a couple weeks in advance just in case you’ll need to make any adjustments.
Providing gifts to your wedding party and those that contribute to helping you out during your wedding plans is a nice gesture. This is a great way to say thank you for holding you down during this long planning journey and for supporting you along the way. You can hand the gifts out during the rehearsal dinner or the morning of the wedding.
Yay you finally made it to the finish line, you did it! My biggest tip for you is to make sure to focus on your big day. Be present in the moment, trust me when I tell you this the day will literally fly by so fast! Remember, you’ve worked so hard to plan this special day, you want to focus on enjoying this day with your new spouse and to celebrate with love ones.
I hope these tips were helpful and will make your planning process easier! XO, Jalyssa