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Eager to get the ball rolling on that dreamy wedding of yours? I know it’s easy (read: oh so tempting) to dive right into wedding planning and start emailing away… after all, you two are so excited to start planning the Big Day. But, stop yourself. Slow your roll! It’s important to enjoy the whole wedding planning process – and that means being prepared. But how do you know where to begin?
To make your life easy, I’ve listed six things every bride-to-be should do before meeting with vendors. Read on to see what you need to know before booking!
#1: Get organized
Between all the bridal magazines, emails, and Pinterest boards, things can get a little crazy when you start wedding planning. Take a good minute to get organized and set yourself up for success. Buy that cute wedding planner you’ve had your eye on, or better yet, go digital!
Create a Separate Email Address for Wedding Planning
So, here’s the solution for how to keep your sanity: create a wedding-only email address. Do yourself a huge favor and keep all your wedding planning emails in one place!
You won’t have to trash your personal email address after the big day
You keep your personal and work emails separate, don’t you? Your wedding emails should go to their own inbox, too! This way, you won’t be tempted to plan at work (probably). You know you’re going to end up signing up for all kinds of wedding-related newsletters and subscriptions anyways. If you subscribe to larger wedding chains, such as The Knot or David’s Bridal, your email inbox could be spammed with multiple emails per day. It’s usually best to keep all of those emails under one roof, so when the big day is over, you can just stop checking it.
You both have access
Easy peasy – a shared inbox means you and your partner both have access to any important documents and emails. You’ll be able to easily find just what you’re looking for rather than rummaging through their inbox multiple times a day.
Google Drive is your new best friend
You can set up your wedding-only email address through any free email provider, but I suggest using Gmail. It’s free and it comes with Google Drive, which will allow you to collaborate with your partner (and anyone else with a Gmail account, for that matter) easily and quickly!
You can work on documents or a spreadsheet at the same time, track what changes other people made, and even chat while working. Google Drive has a mobile app, and if you’re like me, your phone is always in your hand or in your cup holder in your car (just don’t Google Drive and Drive). Say goodbye to the hope that you remember that one fleeting thought about registering for a ladle 10 minutes from now, and hello to editing on the go. You can add songs to your “do not play” list for the DJ, add an item to your registry, and quickly find the contract for a vendor any time you need it.
Share whole folders, or share single documents with individuals – you can even list them as “view only” or “comment only” – something to keep in mind for your future mother-in-law, amirite? Just kidding!
Communicate with your guests: if you plan on having your guests RSVP on your wedding website, you definitely don’t want all those responses and questions crowding your personal email. Use your wedding email address instead!
Into Paper Planners?
Write down your questions and thoughts. With so much to think about, it’s best to write literally everything down so you don’t forget! Check out our favorite notebooks and wedding planners!
BRIDE2BE Notebook | Take Note Leatherette Initial Notebook | Miss to Mrs. Bridal Planner | Love Never Fails Digital Planner | Sugar Paper Notebook | Panama Wedding and | Honeymoon Planner Set | Starry Sky Metallic Wedding Planner | You and Me Gender Neutral Wedding Planner | I Do Bridal Journal
#2: Let’s talk numbers
Money isn’t the most exciting topic, but having a solid plan when it comes to your wedding budget will set you up for success. First, determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own. Don’t assume anything, and be sure to have a conversation about specific numbers, so that everybody is in agreement. If you haven’t had that super fun conversation, make sure you do before attempting to create a budget.
If either of your parents are contributing any amount of money towards the wedding, you should definitely find out if there are any strings attached to their contribution. It’s important to ask and find out if things aren’t crystal clear. Even if it’s awkward, it’s best to get on the same page up front so that you can avoid arguments later when you’re well into the wedding planning.
be sure to budget regardless
If you are paying for the majority of the wedding yourselves (like we did), you still need to plan out a budget. Once you have a number, you can begin to establish your top priorities, where to save, and where to splurge. Once you have a budget set, you can move on to everything else, but make sure that you are always weighing your next decisions on the number you agreed to spend.
Not sure how to divvy up the funds? Individually list out your top three “musts” and your three “meh’s” or the things you can totally pass on. Whether it’s having an open bar, your perfect wedding dress, a certain DJ or band, or anything else, having this reference list will help you hone in on the details that really matter to you during the planning process.
Keep in mind that some wedding items are fixed expenses, while others vary based on headcount. For example, the cost of photography will be the same whether you have 50 or 100 guests. Be sure to keep in mind that the cost for the reception (items such as food and linens) will push you way over your limit if you end up inviting more guests than you’ve budgeted for.
#3: Pick a General Date Range
You’re engaged? Congratulations! When’s the wedding? JK – I know, I know, this question just made you cringe.
Your Personal Schedule & dates you probably didn’t think about yet
When you consider your personal schedule and the essential people in your wedding (family, besties, the bridal party) are there any no-go’s as far as a date? Is anyone serving in the military, an accountant, a student, or a teacher? Think of work schedules, vacation time, holidays, and yes, even football season (or whatever sport your family is obsessed with). Skip certain days and check this list of dates you might want to steer clear of when booking your wedding, and maybe even ask your VIP guests what their preferences are.
Don’t lock yourself into just one wedding date before you tour venues. Having a set date will drastically limit your options… be a little more general, a little more flexible. Instead of a specific date, choose a general date range. Which season? Which year? Spring or winter? If you choose a time of year, rather than a specific date, you’ll have more flexibility to say yes to that venue you fell in love with on the tour.
How much time do you want to plan?
This is up to you! Think about the type of wedding you want and how long it would take you to plan. We’ve all seen how weddings can be pulled together within weeks on TV. If you want to plan your big day in a short amount of time, know that anything is possible, but there might be areas where you will have to sacrifice in exchange for the quick turnaround.
A longer engagement will allow you more time to focus on the details and to spread out payments to vendors. Unless you’ve already been saving for a wedding, don’t underestimate how quickly a year flies by! Give yourselves more time to plan and enjoy your engagement – it’s a magical time.
#4: Come Up with the Headcount First
Leave the emotions out of it, trust me! A headcount is a very matter-of-fact type of decision. You’re just working with numbers, not people, so you’re able to think about this decision more methodically. Less personal and much easier! By starting with the headcount before diving into the guest list, you’re not bogged down with the guilt and pressure that comes hand-in-hand with creating your guest list (that part comes later, yay!).
Your budget and headcount are linked. When you’re coming up with your headcount, you’re really just going over your budget to see how many people you can afford to invite in order to stay within budget. It’s sooo much easier! You will save yourself so much stress.
Start thinking about who is going to make the guest list
The guest list was one of the most stressful parts of my wedding. This is a tough one because yes, of course you want to invite everyone you know to your wedding. Well consider this your warning: the more people you have, the more you have to spend (this is why you come up with a headcount first.) A generally accepted rule is for the guest list to be determined by whoever is paying for the wedding and traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the wedding, but that’s super outdated. More couples pay for their own wedding or at least contribute the majority of the funds these days.
While you should make a little extra room for parents’ friends if you can, you might have to set some boundaries. And that’s okay! Setting these boundaries with parents is just a necessary part of preparing for marriage and starting a new life with your future spouse. If you have hands-off, super reasonable families, then consider yourself lucky! But if you’re like most, these kinds of issues tend to cause lots of drama.
Starting your guest list and knowing your estimated max is crucial. Hopefully, your guest count will go down by the time save-the-dates need to go out… but hey, after a while, it’ll get really easy to cut the people you’ve only met once!
#5: Decide Formality and Style
Once you have your budget, a date, and a good idea of who is going to make the guest list, the time has come to sit down and really finalize the overall wedding vibe with your partner.
What’s important to you?
What do you value? Do you love the beach? Do you love getting dressed up? Vintage or modern? Sparkles, boho, or minimal vibes? The beauty of “wedding styles” is that they go hand in hand with decorations and details, and so knowing from the beginning will help you later on.
Formal or informal?
Formality will tie heavily into your wedding venue, decor, etc. A ballroom is more formal, while a beach or farmhouse obviously leans more towards casual. The season and weather affects your wedding’s style because it can also help set the mood. If you love darker, richer colors, then a fall wedding is for you. If pastels are your thing, then a spring wedding is right up your alley.
Our wedding didn’t really have a theme, aside from the colors we chose, but we did get married in the same building where we had our first date. It was very sentimental for the two of us! We also were sure to add lots of details that were very personal. I think that there is no better wedding than one that reflects the couple’s personalities, so be sure to stay true to yourself when deciding on a wedding theme. Settle on the general look and feel of how you want your wedding day to be, and once you have that down, it’ll be much easier to think about venues!
#6 Get ready to Find Your Dream Wedding Venue
The first thing to book? Your venue! Booking a wedding venue can be an intimidating process, so be sure to give yourself enough time to research, visit, and book your ceremony and reception venues. Popular wedding venues will book up more than a year in advance… so get on it! If you have less time than that, don’t worry because you can still book a dreamy location, especially if you don’t mind getting married on a day other than Saturday.
If you’re having a long engagement like we did, try to book your venue early so that you get quoted that year’s prices versus the year you’re actually getting married. We paid 2016 rates even though we were married in 2018, which saved us quite a bit. Also, you should know that most venues don’t allow you to switch the date once you’ve signed their contract, so you’re locked into “I Do.”
While venue hunting, take the bare bones into account. It’s easy to transform a venue from meh to gorgeous with décor and flowers, but all that can easily add up. Find a venue you can see yourself getting married in with minimal extras. Be sure not to fall in love with a place that can’t fit your guests. This is one thing a venue can’t budge on, no matter how kindly you ask.
Need more wedding inspo?
- Take a look at our Bride Guide!
- Be sure to check out our Just Engaged: Now What?! series for more!
- The last post: 5 Things You Need to do Right After You Get the Ring
- The next post: Questions to Ask Your Wedding Vendors Before Booking (Coming Soon!)