The First Step to Planning a Wedding
Updated: Jul 16
The moment you first sit down to start planning, it will hit you just how much there is to prepare for your wedding day. From flowers to officiants to seating charts to videographers, it can be hard to know where to start.
Take a deep breath and relax a bit, because I am here to help with the very hardest step: the first one.
Start with your priority.
The word “priority” is singular by definition. Technically, you can only have one at a time.
Perhaps you have a budget that is set in stone, or you’ve been dreaming of your venue for decades, or you have a lucky number that just so happens to fall on a Sunday this year…
Whatever it is, pick a priority. This single decision will give you a reference point for the next steps of your plan.
Does your wedding priority differ from that of your spouse-to-be? If your priorities do not conflict, include them both in your plan - this day is about two people, afterall. If they do conflict, then discuss each of your priorities and try to reach a happy compromise. Failing that… I dunno, have two weddings?
Many guides say that the first step in planning is to set your budget, but I believe that you cannot set a budget until you know what you want. And you can’t really know what you want until you know what is available. It would be absurd to set a budget of $70,000 and then realize all you want is a backyard BBQ. Or, set a budget of $10,000 and then realize you cannot live without your Parisian Cruise Wedding. Either way, it isn’t going to work out.
So, before you go booking venues, take some time to look at inspiration and think things through.
To help you out here is a quick exercise, for you and your partner to complete separately.
Exercise: Rank the following items 1 - 9 in order of importance on y’alls wedding day.
Who will be able to attend
How the venue will look
The amount of money we will spend
What we and our party will wear
The food & drinks our guests will enjoy
What date or season will be our anniversary
How we will entertain our guests
Who will perform the ceremony & how
What spiritual or symbolic elements we will include
Once you and your partner have each ranked the 9 items above, compare lists. These are, essentially, the 9 things that your wedding planning must account for. If you know what is most important, then you can focus on that and the other 8 will begin to fall into place. As a bonus, now that you have your lists ranked by personal importance, you each know where to be flexible when it comes to planning the big day.
Now that you have chosen The Priority for your wedding day, skip ahead to the section that tells what to do first. Or, go ahead and read each of the sections, since you will most likely need all nine elements in your plan.
a) Who will be able to attend. Also known as, Guestlist.
If the most important piece of your wedding plan is who you will expect to see there, then you need to plan your other details around these beloved people. Your step one is: Make a Guestlist.
You can’t plan your whole wedding around your guests if you don’t know who you’re inviting. Sit down with your planning notebook and make a list of everyone you want there to witness your big day. List their contact details as well, if you can, and begin to collect the ones you don’t know. Consider who you want to be part of your wedding party, and start by reaching out to those VIPs first.
There you go - you’re off and planning. With your guestlist and your wedding party at the ready, you are set for a delightful wedding day.
b) How the venue will look. aka: Style
If your wedding priority includes a theme, vibe, feel, or costume that reflects the love you and your partner share, then you can get started by defining that style.
Your step one is: Gather Inspiration
No matter how well you can picture your wedding day in your mind, you are going to have to explain it to other creative types who will have to get it just right. Do yourself a favor, and collect pictures. Pinterest, wedding websites, instagram, and plenty of other resources are available for you to build a virtual vision board. Try to include your partner as much as possible in building this board - you may be surprised at how well your styles flow together.
Details like location and date will fall into place as your vision forms.
c) The amount of money we spend. aka: Budget.
We all have to face reality at times, and staring down the barrel of a wedding budget is one of them. You need to know what is a realistic minimum and what is a realistic maximum for your big, expensive day.
Your step one is: Price Check.
Hit the internet, or the phone, and figure out what stuff costs near you. Find out what you can beg or borrow from your loved ones. (We try not to steal.) Estimate a minimum cost, and then bump it up by about 15% - this is your realistic minimum. Then, have a poised discussion with your parents and your in-laws, and politely ask if they are willing to contribute. Do some math, and work out what you could save from your own monthly pay. You need to know how long it will take to pay for that realistic minimum, so that you do not end up in debt for your wedding.
Now that you know how long it will take to pay for your big day, you have an estimate for setting a date. Excellent work! Now keep planning.
d) What we and our party will wear. aka: Wardrobe.
If you have chosen an outfit (or costume) for your wedding day that you or your guests are wearing no matter what, then you’ll need to plan your details around that choice.
Your step one is: Dress Rehearsal
If you don’t already own the outfit you have in mind, then you need to go and get it. It might not even exist yet, and a tailor may have to invent it for you.
Alternatively, if you plan for your guests to all wear one sort of outfit, then you need to inform them of your plans and give them some time to go to the mall.
Either way, the first step to your wedding plan is going to be defining your vision and getting the pieces together.
e) What food and drinks our guests will enjoy. aka: Menu.
If the way to your perfect wedding is through your stomach, then plan your ideal first meal as a married couple and go from there.
Your step one is: Pick Favorite Foods that can be Catered
Unfortunately, you can’t serve every food you love at your wedding. Planning is as much about narrowing down as it is about opening up. You can narrow down your menu by contacting guests with Save-the-Dates and asking about dietary restrictions. Then contact caterers near you, and find out which of your favorites they do best.
f) Which date or season will be our anniversary. aka: Date.
Whether it’s for luck, weather, or any other reason, you want your wedding to fall at a certain time of year.
Your step one is pretty clear: Pick the Date.
If you’re choosing your date for a combination of numbers, remember to keep the weather in mind when choosing your venue. This year, October 10 (10/10/2020) is a popular choice because it’s memorable and also falls on a Saturday. However, if you intend to have the ceremony on a beach, then 8/8/2020 could be a better choice. (It’s a Saturday, also!)
The date you choose will help define your venue, entertainment, and menu. You're well on your way to a wedding.
g) How we will entertain our guests. aka: Entertainment.
If the most important part of enjoying your day is seeing your guests dance, or firmly preventing them from dancing, then you can base your wedding plan around your entertainment.
Your First Step: Research Local Options.
If your wedding priority is the music, then look into DJs, live bands, singers, and other musicians that can perform the music you and your spouse-to-be love.
If you have another type of show in mind, then look into comedians, magicians, even rodeo / circus performers.
Your wedding is an exciting day, feel free to fill it with everything you find fun. Then, keep your choices in mind when making your guestlist.
h) Who will perform the ceremony & how. aka: Officiant
If your wedding priority is the vows or readings at your ceremony, then the first step will be to find the perfect officiant who will do your wedding your way.
Your step one is: Meet Officiants, Emcees, or Clergy
Especially if y’all want to have a particularly nontraditional wedding, finding someone who will perform the ceremony may be the hardest step in your planning process. So, work out what you want and start calling around.
It is never too early to start writing your personal vows or choosing traditions to include in your ceremony.
i) What spiritual or symbolic elements will we include. aka: Symbols.
When the priority at your wedding is y’alls connection with the spirit, you start planning with a prayer.
Your step one is: Pray, whatever that means to you.
Whether you kneel, bow, light incense, meditate, or something else entirely, start by searching your heart and seeking answers on how your wedding will go.
Many other choices including venue, officiant, date, and even guestlist may be based in part on the symbolism that you want to include in y’alls wedding ceremony.
Essentially, the first step in all wedding plans is working out what y’all want and comparing it to what is available. Once you have decided on your priority, you can take on the rest of the list - one item at a time.
Guestlist; Who will be able to attend
Style; How the venue will look
Budget; The amount of money we will spend
Wardrobe; What we and our party will wear
Menu; The food & drinks our guests will enjoy
Date; What date or season will be our anniversary
Entertainment; How we will entertain our guests
Officiant; Who will perform the ceremony & how
Symbols; What spiritual or symbolic elements we will include