Wedding Planning Starter Guide for The Couple to Be

You’re engaged! Congratulations! Now it’s time to start planning! We know how intimidating wedding planning can feel; however, we promise, you’ll have the time of your life. While it can be difficult to make so many important decisions in such a short span of time, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing everything come together seamlessly on your wedding day. As wedding professionals, we want to help take the stress out of wedding planning for you and your partner. That’s why we’ve created a free wedding planning ebook as well as this starter guide! So, get started here and if you’d like more information once you’re done reading, don’t forget to download the ebook!

Lock in Your Wedding Venue & Date

lock in your venue and date, wedding planner writing in her wedding planner - wedding planning
Photo by Marissa Grootes

One of the first things you’re going to want to do before you do anything else is lock in your wedding venue and wedding date. All of your other wedding day planning hinges on these two details. Your date determines who to hire, when you’ll need them, whether guests will be available to come, and so on. Your venue determines head count, how far out you and your guests need to plan, and is likely a big piece of your budget. So, two very big details if you ask us! 

Something to take into consideration when choosing your date and venue: flexibility. If you’re dead set on where you’d like to get married (your venue), then you may need to be flexible with your date. Your dream venue may not have your dream date available. For this reason it is important that you decide which is more important to you: your date or your venue. If your date is more important and holds some major significance for you, you may have to compromise on your venue. 

How to Choose Your Wedding Venue

If you don’t have a dream venue yet, then here are some tips for finding one! First you’ll want to choose a date or two that you would like to host the ceremony and reception. You’ll also want to have a general idea of how many people you’ll want to invite and how long you’ll want to occupy the space. Once you’ve got all of the details approximated, you can start looking around. You’ll want to start on Pinterest. What’s your vibe or the aesthetic that you would like to aim for?

Once you’ve chosen what type of place you’re looking for, whether it’s a more rustic barn setting or a more modern rooftop setting, you can begin searching for locations of that type in your area or the area that you would like for your wedding to be (in the case of a destination wedding). Once you’ve found a few places that match the vibe you’re going for, it’s time to start submitting inquiries. Let these venues know what your preferred dates are and give them any other relevant information. They’ll let you know if they have availability on those dates and they’ll also invite you to tour, if you’d like to. We highly recommend touring! 

When you tour, the event space will be able to answer all of your questions and give you any relevant information to hosting an event in their space. Think maximum capacity, suggested vendors, available rentals, etc. Then, if you like the space you can put down a deposit. If not, keep on moving! 

Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Date

Your wedding can be whenever you would like for it to be. Isn’t that wonderful? If you love fall and Halloween, you can have a fall wedding. Do you prefer warmer weather? Then you can have a summer wedding. Or if you want to get married on your first date anniversary, you can do that as well. When it comes down to dates, the only thing that truly matters is giving yourself enough time to plan. So, whether you decide on a summer, fall, winter, or spring wedding, just be sure you give yourself at least 9 – 18 months to get all of the details ironed out. Also, reach out to key people you want at your wedding to make sure they are available on those dates!  

If you’re planning a larger, more complex wedding, we recommend erring on the side of caution and giving yourself closer to 18 months to plan. If you’re planning a smaller, more intimate backyard wedding and don’t care much for a bachelorette party, you may only need 6 months. Just be sure to sit down with your partner and your families (and anyone else who will be involved in paying or planning) before you nail down a date to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

Hire a Wedding Planner

Hiring a wedding planner is one of the best things that you can do for yourself when planning your wedding, especially if you’re looking to cut back on stress. Your wedding planner will know vendors and will also be able to connect you with the right people based on your preferences. Not only that, but they will also act as a point of contact for guest questions so you don’t have to worry about being bombarded while you’re trying to get ready leading up to your big day. 

Wedding planners have seen what has or hasn’t worked for previous couples. They can be a great resource for couples that are looking for guidance and want to have an extra set of eyes on their plans. Having a wedding planner will also ensure that your wedding runs smoothly on the day of, so you really can’t go wrong by hiring one if you have room in your budget!

Choose Your Wedding Photographer

bride and groom being photographed by wedding photographer - wedding planning
 Photo by Cleyder Duque

Choosing a date, venue, and planner brings us to the second big step in planning a wedding: choosing your wedding photographer. You may be wondering why choosing a wedding photographer is so early on in the planning timeline. It’s because like wedding venues, wedding photographers book way in advance! So, if you have a dream wedding photographer that you know you would like to work with, the sooner you can sign a contract with them, the better. 

How to Find a Wedding Photographer:

Finding a wedding photographer can feel like a lofty task. I mean, your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and these photos will be some of the only physical memories you can carry into the future with you. No pressure! 

Fortunately, there are SO many amazing wedding photographers out there, even if your dream wedding photographer isn’t available, it would be harder for you to NOT find an amazing wedding photographer than it would be for you TO find one. We highly recommend starting on Instagram or Pinterest to get a feel for the style of photography you want! Start with a simple search of the location your wedding will be taking place in followed by “wedding photographer” or “wedding photography.” I promise, tons of results will pop up. Scroll through all of their profiles, check out their websites, read their blogs, and once you find the right one, fill out a contact form or shoot them a message! Bonus tip: One of the first things you’re going to want to tell them is your wedding date! That way they can immediately let you know if they’re available or not. 

Hiring a Wedding Photographer:

The hiring process is super simple and I promise, the concept of “hiring” someone doesn’t have to be intimidating at all! Wedding photographers are typically wedding industry experts and they’ll make you feel totally at ease about not only working with them, but also planning your wedding. The first step will be submitting an inquiry to them. This typically includes your budget, date, location and other basic information like you and your partner’s names. Then, your wedding photographer will let you know if she’s available for your date. If she is, she will typically send you a proposal so that you can choose what package you would like to go with based on how many hours you would like them to shoot your wedding, whether you would like a second shooter in attendance or not, etc. 

Once you have completed your proposal, they will send you a contract and you will typically pay your first installment of your retainer. Wedding photographers typically provide you with the option for a payment plan, so don’t let the price tag intimidate you! You’ll have plenty of time to pay down your total and it will be well worth it. Once you’ve paid your retainer, you’ve got your wedding photographer booked! Congrats! Now just be sure to keep in touch with them so that they can be prepared for your big day!

Decide on a Theme or Wedding Aesthetic

wedding reception table with flowers - wedding planning
Photo by Photos by Lanty

By the time you’ve chosen your venue, date, planner and photographer, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what you’d like for the overall vibe of your wedding to be. This wedding theme or aesthetic will help you move forward in the planning process because it will provide you with a way to hone in on what types of details and decor you would like to include at your ceremony and reception. So, if you haven’t chosen a specific theme or aesthetic for your wedding, now’s the time to do it. 

Wedding Theme Examples:

  • Rustic Wedding
  • Boho Wedding
  • Black and White Wedding
  • Art Deco Wedding
  • Ethereal Forest Wedding
  • French Countryside Wedding
  • Country Chic Wedding
  • Farmhouse Wedding
  • Luxe Wedding

How a Theme Will Help You Plan:

Your theme will help you plan every other aspect of your wedding. From what types of furniture you would like to rent for your reception, to what you want your reception table centerpieces to look like, and even what types of goodies you would like to send home with guests. For example, if you decide to have a boho wedding, you may line the aisle with pampas grass and add crochet doilies to the back of each guest’s chair. Whereas if you chose to host an ethereal forest wedding, you may choose to have a floral arbor at the end of the aisle and fairy lights strung up above reception tables. 

Knowing what your theme or anticipated aesthetic is will also help you narrow down your vendor options. When you first begin planning and don’t have a theme, the abundance of available wedding vendors can feel incredibly overwhelming. However, once you decide on a theme, many of those vendors will no longer be relevant because now you have a more specialized vision for what decor, florals, food, and activities you would like to include in your ceremony and reception. 

Not to mention, choosing a theme for your wedding will also help you keep everything cohesive while planning. 

Tips for Choosing a Theme:

We’ll keep this short and sweet. There’s a good chance you have had a vision for your wedding for a long time. Maybe you got some ideas from a wedding you attended in the past. Or maybe you and your partner have already talked about your dream wedding. Regardless of what stage you are at with choosing a theme, make sure the theme you pick is one that you will be happy with 30 years from now. For some, this may mean choosing timeless over trendy.

Before you finalize your wedding theme or aesthetic, please don’t forget to check in with your partner! It’s so easy to get carried away on Pinterest by adding a million pins to your “dream wedding” board and getting attached to an idea. So before you do that, just have a quick sit down with your other half and pitch your idea to them. We’re sure they’ll be fine with it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

For more timeline related tips, get the ebook! For general tips, keep on reading!

Your Bridal Party

bridal party before wedding - planning a wedding
Photo by Joeyy Lee

Your bridal party will be your support system both leading up to your wedding and on your wedding day. So choosing the right crew is of the utmost importance. Let’s dive into how to choose your bridal party as well as what next steps are once you’ve made your decision!

Choosing Your Bridal Party

Choosing your bridal party can be intimidating. You don’t want to offend anyone by not including them, but you also don’t want to have too many bridesmaids. So, how do you pick? We recommend writing down a list of VIPs. Who are your closest girl (or guy) friends? Who do you know you can trust the most? Also consider if you need to add siblings or other family members to your bridal party. 

While it is an honor to include someone in your bridal party, there is a chance they will need to step up for you. They will likely have a role in planning your bach parties and acting as a point of contact for you day-of, making sure you are looking and feeling your best. You want to make sure that your most reliable, trustworthy people are in your bridal party. 

With all of that in mind, and having already written down a list of your VIPs, take a look at your list again. Is there anyone on it that may not be a good fit? Anyone on the list that has trouble getting places on time or tends to be a bit forgetful? If so, it may be a good idea to take them off the list.. Another great method is asking yourself, “would they ask me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding?” If the answer is “no,” you can more than likely remove them from the list as well. 

As for your Maid of Honor, this coveted spot is typically bestowed upon a sister or a best friend. If there is one person in your life that, without a question, is above the rest–has been there for you through thick and thin without hesitation, that’s your maid of honor. And hey, who says you can only have one? If you’re the third part to a bestie trio or you have multiple sisters, aunts, or cousins that you’re very close to, you can have as many maids of honor as you’d like! Or alternatively, if you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, you can opt to go without a maid of honor!

Proposing to Your Squad

Alright, now we’ve got the hard part out of the way–choosing your bridal party. So, it’s time to have some fun & propose to them! We love the idea of bridesmaid proposal boxes. If you have the time and the means, it’s such a sweet way to show your bridesmaids that you love them and you appreciate the time that they will inevitably have to dedicate over the coming year to helping you plan. 

For your squad proposal, whether you decide to put together an entire box or not, it’s always a great idea to send your bridesmaids-to-be a handwritten card. In this card, you’ll want to be sure to highlight what they mean to you and how special it will be for them to be a part of your wedding day. Bridesmaids do A LOT to help with the planning of pre-wedding parties (like the bachelorette party or any bridal showers), so showing them some appreciation is always encouraged!

Lastly, you’re probably wondering when you should propose to your bridesmaids. We recommend doing so as soon as you can! Once you’ve said “yes,” had some time to nail down a few initial details like date and venue, and decided who you want to be in your bridal party, you can go ahead and start proposing! The more time bridesmaids have to plan, the better! Nine or so months in advance should be perfect–that way you’ve still got plenty of time to plan the bachelorette party!

Maid of Honor Responsibilities 

Traditionally, your squad will take care of a few bits of planning for you. The biggest of which just so happens to be your Bachelorette Party! Most of the nitty gritty details and planning responsibilities will typically fall on the shoulders of your Maid of Honor, so be sure that you have a chat with her as soon as you propose to her just to make sure that you’re both on the same page. Especially if she has never been in a wedding before! 

Your Maid of Honor is also typically in charge of making sure bridesmaid dresses arrive on time, acting as a point of contact for you on the wedding day, helping you stay on track during your wedding day, giving a speech during the reception and assisting in planning your bridal shower. Taking on the role of Maid of Honor can be a big task, so be sure that your Maid of Honor knows what you expect of her before she agrees to her role. 

Your Guest List

guests at the wedding - wedding planning
Photo by Cleyder Duque

Choosing who will be invited to your wedding is one of the most important parts because it is the guests that make it a party, isn’t it? However, with max capacity limits and venue restrictions, sometimes it can be hard to choose who exactly you should or shouldn’t send an invitation to. So, here are some tips for putting together your guest list. 

Decide on a Number

First thing is first! You have to decide on a number. This number should be based on your budget and your venue. How many mouths can you afford to feed? What is the venue’s max capacity? Will you be offering transportation? Once you have a number, you can move on to the hard part–deciding who makes the cut. 

Decide Who Is or Isn’t Invited

There are so many ways to decide who is or isn’t going to be on your wedding list. To help decide, we love employing the five year rule as well as the five minute rule after coming up with a list of must-have VIPs. In order to use the five year rule, you’ll simply ask yourself, “have I seen this person or spoken to this person within the past five years?” If the answer is no, they may not need an invitation. To use the five minute rule, ask yourself, “Would I want to speak to this person for more than five minutes?” If the answer is “no,” then they more than likely don’t need to be on your guest list either.

If you would like more tips on how to choose who should be on your guest list, we just published a great article where we dive deep into the guest list process. 

Decide How You Will Communicate with Guests

Communicating with guests can be quite the hassle! That’s why we recommend using Guestie to communicate with guests after they have RSVPed. Guestie not only has a group message board and Text Alert features, but they also have features that allow your guests to get to know each other better before your wedding day. This way, your guests that don’t know each other can skip the small talk and get straight to partying after your ceremony! 

Streamline the Guest Experience & RSVP Process

We all know that for parties in general, RSVPs and the guest experience can be a lot to manage. But also very exciting! RSVPs help you finalize your wedding plans. How much food will you need? How many tables? What will the seating chart look like? Asking yourself questions about the guest experience will also help you down the road. How will you stay in touch with everyone and streamline communication? How will you ensure that guests are comfortable coming to a party where they may not know everyone? For that reason, we wanted to leave you with some parting tips on how to streamline your RSVPs and guest experience. 

Keep up with RSVPs by using a wedding website so that people can RSVP online. Guests are more likely to click a button than they are to send you a physical piece of mail. It’s just simply more convenient for your guests, and you.

Once you have your RSVPs collected, it’s time to show your guests some love. Set up an Guestie event to introduce your guests ahead of your wedding. Upload your guest list to create profiles for your guests. That way you can connect all the important people in your lives. With features like a digital guestbook, song requests, the Name Game, and a group message board, Guestie not only makes it easier to keep in touch with all guests in one place before the ceremony, but also allows them to get to know each other before your reception. Goodbye awkward intros and hello epic wedding vibes!

We hope that all of these wedding planning tips help you plan your dream wedding! If you’re looking for more info on wedding planning, be sure to download our free ebook! Need even more inspo? Head on over to our blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or TikTok for even MORE wedding content.

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