Where To Begin With Wedding Planning | Engagement Advice | Chesapeake Wedding Photographer

Ahh!! You’re engaged!!!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had wedding ideas swirling through your head for years, but absolutely no tangible idea of where to start.  Suddenly your mom’s cousin’s sister wants to know what the date is and if she can have the gluten-free option for dinner and all you want are a couple more days to just soak up that newly-engaged feeling!  It can go from pure bliss and sparkly rings to some serious stress super quick.

Listen.  I’ve been there.  I’d been dreaming of that day for so long that when it finally happened, and I was looking wedding planning straight in the face, I had more than a few freak-out sessions.  I really would have loved a solid 1. 2. 3. list to get me started.

That’s why I’m sharing my list!  I shared this with close friends who’ve gotten engaged because it’s so helpful to just have a starting point.  We did a lot of things out of order and would have really appreciated a FREE wedding planning mentor.  This list is a step towards that!  Everyone’s wedding looks different, and should look different, but it’s great to have a common beginning, a first step, a little ‘you can do this’ pep talk.  My goal is that that’s what you’ll find here.

So from one friend to another, here’s where to begin with wedding planning:

1. Budget

If you hear nothing else I say, this step MUST come first.  It will save you worlds of pain later on!  Sit down with both sides of the family and hammer out who’s giving what.  Sit down with your fiance and discuss what you two are comfortable contributing.  Lay out some percentages for what portions of the budget will go to what (this may require some research on venue and vendor price ranges in your area).  Come up with a plan for how you’ll document and make wedding purchases and who will keep track of what.

2. Date Range

Pick a month, and a day of the week.  Try not to be too specific with actual dates, because it helps to approach venues with several options.

3. Wedding Vision

Sit down with your fiance and talk about what you envision your wedding day looking like.  What matters most to you?  To him?  Food, photography, dancing?  What do you want the day to feel like?  Elegant, rustic, trendy?  What is the purpose of the day?  To throw a great party?  Catch up with old friends?  Worship the Lord together?

I think it also helps to sit down with both sides of the family and talk through this a little too.  If your mother wants you to get married in a church, it’s better to know that now than after you’ve already signed a contract with a barn venue.  Honoring your parents by hearing them out in this stage, while at the same time maintaining the boundary of “your day” will help make the whole wedding planning process less stressful in the long run.

4. Number of guests

You’ve always envisioned an imitate affair with just your closest friends, and he’s thinking back to his college dance party days and wants to invite them all!  Determining how many guests you want to have is important to know on the front end.  It’ll affect how you spend your money, what venues will or will not work for you, and how you envision the day.

5. Reception Venue

This will be the largest chunk of your budget.  There’s no way around it.  Unless your family happens to own a wedding venue (that would be sweet!), this is where you’ll dish out the cash.  So you need to think about it- what matters most to you?  The aesthetic?  Indoors/outdoors?  Location?

A note on venue hunting:  Make this fun!  I looked at venues with my mom that were way out of my price range (before I knew my price range, which is why budget must come first lol!) but we had such a blast doing all sorts of tours.  Bring people you enjoy, make a date out of it, and don’t take the losses too hard.

6. Photography / Videography / Catering / Flowers / DJ / Ceremony Venue

These next few can be done in any order, and having the “wedding vision” conversation will help you determine their importance.  For some, having that epic DJ ranks highest.  For others, having images they love to remember the day by matters most.  Everyone is different here, and no way is the ‘right’ way, so make it your own!  Invest where you want, and see it as that- an investment!

That’s my list!  A few additional notes:


Once you hammer down that budget, go dress shopping!  It’s such a fun way to get in the spirit of wedding planning and to get excited about your big day!  If you want to bring an entourage, it might be helpful to name your bridal party beforehand but going with just your mom is special and sweet too. 

Bridal Party

If you want help with any of these things, it may be good to choose your bridal party on the front end.  But if you have the time to make these decisions together, there’s no rush to name your bridal party right away.

A few things to keep in mind when choosing a bridal party:  The larger the party, the more coordinating it will take to get everyone together and the more $ you spend.  This is not me being cheap, just practical.  We kept our bridal party intimate for dozens of reasons, and this was one!  Bouquets, boutineers, housing, gifts… these add up!  Recognize that there are ways you can honor and include your loved ones in your day without hurting feelings or having a 20 person bridal party.  In the same breath though, if you really want a big party, just make sure you budget for it! 

If this list was helpful to you let me know in the comments below!  And feel free to share with newly-engaged friends so we can all have a better grip on this crazy venture of wedding planning!




PS- Loved this post?  Check out Don’t Waste Your Engagement, Wedding Planning, Sex, and Secrets: Not Your Average Book List, and Engaged? 7 Questions to Ask Your Married Friends for more engagement practicals and encouragement!

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