The holiday engagements are FLOODING our timeline and we love it! There’s nothing quite like an engagement to add more love, excitement, and joy to the holidays. But we also know that as soon as you catch your breath, the daunting task of planning the wedding looms in front of you. Relatives have barely finished saying “congratulations” before they ask “when is the wedding?”
Let us be the first to tell you that you do not need to have an answer right away. It absolutely okay to take a couple weeks to just be engaged. Enjoy being a couple and being together.
That being said, when you’re ready to start planning, thinking about everything that needs to get done can feel overwhelming. Here are some of the most popular questions we get and how we recommend you start the planning process.
Where do we even start?
The short answer: Budget, guest list, and date.
We know the first thing you want to do is rush out to look at venues, but put the brakes on for a minute. The two items that should be at the top of your to-do list are determining your budget and compiling your guest list. We’ve had far too many brides come to us in tears because they found the “perfect venue” and signed a contract but they looked at it before they knew their guest count and it does not have the capacity, or it does not fit their budget. However, once you sign a contract, you’re locked in and there is not much wiggle room. Don’t let that happen to you!
To figure out your guest list, start by compiling one between you and your significant other. Next, have each of your parents go through it and add any friends or family you might have missed. After everyone has added to the list, comb through it with your S.O. to get a sense of who must be invited, who probably won’t attend but needs an invite anyway, and who is the first to go if you need to make some cuts (we know…it’s a harsh truth). The way Cindy puts it is “everyone thinks they want 400 guests at their wedding, but when you do the math and find out each person could cost $300, suddenly 400 is way too many.” Be reasonable and do what you need to do to make it work for you.
Once you’ve got your budget and guest list or covered the “how” and the “who”, then it’s time to think about the “when.” Ask yourselves what season you’d prefer, what night of the weekend you’re comfortable with, and how long you want to have to plan. You may want a couple of date options laid out before you walk into a venue.
Before you’ve accomplished the who, when, and how, there are some things you definitely do not want to do. Don’t give people the date yet. You can tell them a season or month you’re aiming for, but don’t starting handing out dates until you have a venue and ceremony site locked down. Are you having your ceremony off-site? If you are, don’t sign a venue contract until you’ve confirmed that you can find a church, synagogue, other ceremony site, etc. for the same date as you are booking your venue.
How do we figure out a reasonable budget?
The short answer: Sit down with your parents and each other to find out how much each person is able to contribute.
Ahh money. The least fun wedding topic to discuss, but arguably the most important. To kick things off, you have to have the hard budget talk. It often starts with the parents. If you know they will be contributing financially, it is incredibly important that you know how much. This conversation is also a great chance for you to talk out their hopes and expectations for your wedding. If they will be giving money towards the events, odds are they have a few wishes for you to keep in mind.
Once you have an idea of what your parents are willing to contribute, talk it out with your S.O. What are each of you able to contribute? What is your ideal number and what is your hard limit? Take this time to also decide what is most important to you both. Is it food? Is it music? Is floral? For example, if having a great live band is really important to you then that needs to be noted in your budget plans, but if you’re happy with a good DJ then you can let it fall a little lower on the list.
As you try to decide what’s a “reasonable” budget, you’ll also have to make some decisions. Will you be doing a wedding in the city or the suburbs? Some quick research will show you that the location difference can have a pretty big impact on the price. Are you aiming for prime wedding season or off-season? Will you be having it on a Saturday night or are you comfortable with a Friday or Sunday? Many venues have off-season pricing as well as Friday/Sunday pricing that can help you save a little cash.
If you’re feeling particularly lost, schedule a consult with a planner. At Effortless Events, we’ll happily do a financial consult with you early on in your process to talk out your budget, give you some tips of what is reasonable and what is outrageous, and set you off on the right track. Costs appear sooner than you think with deposits and other upfront costs often taking a large portion of your budget, so we want you to be prepared.
Is it possible to plan a wedding in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months?
The short answer: Well, there isn’t one. You can plan a wedding in any amount of time if you’re flexible with venues, times, and vendors, but you may not want to be.
This is a tough question because the answer is always a little yes and a little no. It all depends on your flexibility. Generally, we recommend you give yourself over a year to plan. For a Saturday night in the city during prime wedding season, venues will often book about 18 months to 2 years in advance.
If you have a smaller guest list and don’t mind a Thursday or Sunday event, then you could probably book as late a few months out. It truly depends on what it will take to fulfill your vision. Having more time, though, often translates to more options and maybe a little less stress.
If you really want a short engagement, you just need to think outside the box. Have you considered a brunch wedding? Very on trend and easier to plan. A Thursday night wedding? Could also save some money. Creativity and flexibility will take you a long way!
When do we hire a wedding planner?
The short answer: Immediately.
Whether you’re doing full-planning, partial planning, etc., get us on board right away. It never hurts to schedule a consult and have a planner put you on the right path, so when it’s time for them to join the process later on, you’ve laid the groundwork for a smooth transition.
And in the midst of all this, don’t forget to breathe! You can do this. Your wedding will happen and it will be wonderful. The most important part is the person you are going to share the rest of your life with… pause the planning and have a date night every so often.