1Budget, timeline and record-keeping
Set a budget. It’s important to stick to a budget and to keep your wishes realistic. While this is a very special day your life, it’s not an excuse to be wildly extravagant with money you don’t have. Remind yourself when you feel like fretting that you still have many wonderful days ahead and you don’t want these marred by paying back an unplanned overspend.
- Aim to never exceed the amount specified as the total of your budget. If you overspend on one item, another item has to take a cut to meet the budget. Be prepared to be flexible and to prioritize the big spends that really matter. You can always make do or DIY on the things that are less important or even the frivolous but desired aspects.
- If your parents or future in-laws are partially or wholly funding the wedding, you have an added help. However, remain conscious to not burden them either. Ask them for their budget ceiling and stick to it.
2Set the timeline for planning.
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Of all things about your planning, this is the most important aspect. Develop a sensible, reasonable timeline depending on how much time you’ve given yourselves. Begin with a calendar before you and try following a suggested timeline from a wedding guide. You will find such timelines in wedding guide books, magazines, online and even at the base of this article. In general, you’re likely to find that most guides assume you have around 12 months to plan your wedding; if you’ve less time, simply adjust the timeline accordingly (the last three months matter the most anyway). (Timeline suggestions will be provided throughout this article.)
- Don’t panic if you don’t have 12 months. Generally what planning guides suggest happens in the first few months are things that can be done fairly quickly, such as announcing your engagement, sending the announcement to local papers, purchasing planning books and software, planning the budget, selecting the bridal party and settling on a wedding date.
- One of the principal reasons for a long lead-in time is the wedding and reception venues––the most popular ones are often booked out a year or more in advance and many people have taken to planning the wedding around venue availability. If this irks you or you just don’t have a year, look around for great alternatives, from public garden spaces, to lesser known churches and mosques or town halls. Avoid the trap of thinking you have to use the venue every other bride is using this year!
3Choose a workable method for your record-keeping
You’ll need to keep tabs of everything you’ve already decided and what’s planned ahead. Also, invoices, quotes, receipts, seating plans, photos of desired decorations/clothing, patterns, instructions, etc. will need to be kept in one place, so have at least one large plastic pocket to keep these in one place. If you’re more organized, use a few pockets to separate by categories.
- Wedding software or planning apps can work well for digital planning. If you have tech-savvy friends helping plan the wedding, you might even consider making a wedding wiki open only to those of you helping with the planning. This can help enormously with shared planning and strategizing. On the downside, software and wikis need to be maintained through the inputting of information and scanning in documents, while a notebook can be taken anywhere and you can jot down things quickly and you can simply add the growing mound of papers to a binder. For many people, both digital and paper planning tools combined are the best of both worlds.
4Size of the wedding, venues and setting the date
Decide on the size of your wedding. Remember to talk this over with your fiancé. A dream wedding for one may not be right for the other. You’ll need to know how many people are going to attend for the purposes of venues, catering and invitations.
- As part of this decision, choose your bridal party. How many bridesmaids and groomsmen do you want? From one to a dozen, the choice depends on what you have always dreamed of and what space you’ll have available for everyone to stand in at the ceremony. Remember that your total number of guests includes your bridal party.
- This decision is usually done at around the ten-months-to-go mark.
5Choose the venue.
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The sooner this is done, the better, so that you know you have the place you really want. Check out the spaces offered, the catering deals, the marriage fees, the ability to decorate a church or synagogue, wedding space, etc. Find out whether the prices quoted cover everything or whether you’ll be expected to pay for extras.
- Be aware that even church and synagogue venues may charge fees.
- Research into venues for the wedding and reception usually starts around the 12 months-to-go mark, with bookings occurring within the month once you’ve made up your mind.
6Set the date.
The factors in choosing a date include the availability of your venue, friends and family. Think about who you must have at your wedding, and try to set the date with their availability in mind. Most people will do their best to accommodate a wedding, so unless you know this person has major surgery or a competing wedding in their calendar, you should be fairly right with directing their calendar.
- Send out “save the date” cards to your guests. Once the venue and guest lists are confirmed, let everyone know what’s coming up. Send emails if you know people will read them, otherwise, send cards to their postal addresses.
- Setting the date usually occurs at the same time you’ve confirmed the place of the wedding and the place of the reception. Finalization of the guest list should be done when there are about seven months to go. Do expect some cancellations and possibly some last-minute additions due to illness, pregnancy, overseas travel, etc. It often can’t be helped, so go with the flow.