Getting engaged is always such a beautiful, exciting life event. Yes, it’s about a ring and a proposal story. But it’s also about two people deciding to intertwine their lives and take a wild ride together. I put together a wedding planning checklist to help you out! Because…
You’re engaged! Buuut… now what?!
Often, the proposal and engagement that follows is followed by a brief moment of panic – when you suddenly realize that you have a wedding to plan! Unless you’re in the wedding industry or an event planner, it can be a stressful undertaking and overwhelm can set in pretty quickly!
I decided to share all of my tips with you (along with some photos by yours truly) so that you can breathe easy and enjoy your engagement! Keep scrolling to go through my ultimate wedding planning checklist!
PLAN YOUR WEDDING GUEST LIST
First things first, I want to start off by saying that you do not have to follow this checklist to a tee, or at all. It’s okay to say “no thanks” to more traditional wedding ideals and pave your own way together as a couple.
You can elope or have a small, intimate wedding instead of a huge event.
If it feels more true to you, it’s absolutely okay to forgo a large guest list (where you feel duty-bound to invite people you’re not even close to) in favor of a more intimate gathering. If an intimate wedding sounds more up your alley, check out my top 10 tips on how to have an intentional wedding day.
An elopement or intimate wedding can be local, or at a destination further from you. (I travel worldwide and love photographing destination weddings!)
It also allows you space with your close family and friends, without having to “perform” for a bunch of guests. Keeping your wedding list small also leaves more room to splurge on other things in your budget, like decor, flowers, or gifts for your guests.
That being said, if you’re excited about hosting a huge party with all of your friends and family, then go for it! This is about having a celebration that fits your ideals as a couple, so plan whatever feels right for you.
SET A BUDGET
It’s so important to have a budget laid out BEFORE you start planning and booking vendors.
You want to make sure that you’re leaving room for all of the big items on your list (like venue, photographer, and catering). And don’t forget about all of the things that you may not book right away (like an officiant, favors, videographer, or table linens)!
Sit down together (maybe with some wine!) and plan out exactly what you’d like to spend, and then divvy it up amongst all of your must-have items.
PIN DOWN YOUR WEDDING VISION AND PICK A VENUE
Choosing a venue can be difficult if you’re not 100% sure about how you want your day to unfold. It’s much easier to narrow down your search for the perfect venue if you have a clear vision of your day beforehand.
Pinterest is great if you’re a visual person. Once you have an idea of how large you want your wedding to be, you can create a visual collage of colors, decor, and themes to help guide you.
A lot of popular venues book up far in advance. If you’re flexible with your date, though, you can book a weekday wedding instead.
Booking your wedding on a Thursday or Friday leaves you with more available options. This is especially important if you’re planning your wedding in a shorter timespan. Also, if budget is an issue, some venues offer a weekday wedding discount. Keep in mind that each venue has its own rule and may require you to use their catered services or vendors.
CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING PARTY
This is more in line with a traditional wedding. If you envision yourself celebrating your big day with your favorite people standing beside you, then a wedding party is a great way to include everyone.
There are no hard rules about wedding parties. They can be uneven numbers, friends or family, or people from different stages in each of your lives. You get to decide.
On the other hand, if you’re having a non-traditional wedding and decide NOT to have a wedding party, that’s completely up to you! You can simply decide to each appoint a witness (or maid of honor and best man) to sign your documents and make things official.
If you’re opting to not have a wedding party, you can still have a beautiful, memorable day! I shot a wedding where the bride didn’t have a bridal party standing with her at the ceremony. She did however have a maid of honor for the day.
Her maid of honor gave a touching speech at the reception that left everyone in tears. It was, and still is, one of my most favorite weddings to date because of how intimate and relaxed the environment was.
SHOP WEDDING DRESSES
This is the one thing that a lot of couples don’t leave a lot of time for. It can take some time (and several appointments) before you find “The Dress”, and often the sample sizes you try on at the boutique aren’t available off the rack.
Be prepared for a lot of wedding dresses to take several months to be made/sewn. Also budget time for your dress to be shipped to the boutique.
You’ll also want to leave yourself plenty of time to have alterations done, typically 2-3 weeks before your wedding date.
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER OR COORDINATOR
If planning and organization isn’t something you enjoy, then hiring a planner will make your life a whole lot easier. There are so many options available, and most planners offer day-of coordination if the thought of putting everything together by yourself stresses you out. Every couple I’ve worked with who has hired a planner has said it’s worth every penny!
Even if organization and planning are your thing, the last thing you need to be worrying about is keeping track of the day’s events.
Letting someone else keep the schedule on track will help you actually enjoy your wedding day, instead of eyeing the clock the entire time. My advice? Leave the planning and scheduling to the professionals.
PLAN FOR ENGAGEMENT OR PRE-WEDDING PHOTOS
And finally…it’s time for you to look for your photographer to get engagement or pre-wedding photos done! Not only do you get super cute photos to hang up in your home, it’s a great way to document your journey together. I always recommend doing an engagement or pre-wedding session to find a wedding photographer you click with (pun intended). After all, on your wedding day, you’ll be spending the most amount of time with your photographer…even more than your future spouse! You deserve someone you feel comfortable around to document your day.
I hope these tips help to give you some guidance! If you need vendor recommendations for your wedding, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to tell you all of my favorites! If you found these tips helpful and know it can help another frazzled, overwhelmed couple, don’t forget to share this blog post with them!