So you’re engaged. You are probably admiring the ring, picturing the perfect wedding that you have always dreamed of, and browsing Bridal magazines galore! Before you start the planning process, there are some steps that you should know BEFORE you even pick out your linens or order that cake. Weddings are expensive and sometimes more expensive for the people that just dive right in without taking the time to do it right. So let’s do it right, save some money, and still have that gorgeous wedding you have always thought you would.
I have compiled a few steps that you should take first in order to plan that successful and affordable wedding. After catering and doing cakes for over seven years, you pick up on these things.
1. Set a Date! This is the most important step. I cannot tell you how many times I have met brides who ask for a cake or catering quote, but do not even have a date! If you don’t have a date, the vendor cannot even tell you if they are available that day. Some vendors charge more for certain seasons and days of the week. Date is VERY important. It sets the tone of everything. A winter wedding is much different than one in the middle of July. When setting your date, give yourself AT LEAST six months to plan. Wedding planning is extremely stressful. Trying to squeeze it all in less than six months out is just going to send you to your wedding missing chunks of hair. Many vendors are already booked out six months in advance. If you can, it’s even best if you give yourself a year.
If you are on a tight budget, plan a wedding that is “off season.” The typical “wedding season” is March to August. Many vendors have higher pricing around those times due to the high demand. Setting your date will also determine your color palette for the wedding, dress style, flowers, etc.
2. Look at a Possible Guest Count – It’s hard to determine the amount of people you will have a year from now, but you need at least an approximate guest. Guest count determines catering prices, venues (some can hold more guests than others), invitation counts, etc. This should be the next step after setting that date. You should not even pick a venue without knowing how many people you think you’ll invite. After all, if you want to invite 300 people, you have to then shop for a venue that can hold 300 or more guests.
3. Set the Budget – Talk to family, fiancé, and check your bank account. Budgets are the bottom lines of weddings. If you can only spend $1,000.00 on your wedding dress, that’s all you can spend. Once you have a total, sit down and allocate which funds go where. What is the most important to you? If you want an elaborate dress, then be sure to leave enough funds for such. What items can you or family do yourself to save some money? There are a lot of DIY projects you can do for weddings. Just keep in mind that you have A LOT to plan. So do not overwhelm yourself with doing it all yourself. There are some things you should leave to the professionals (i.e. catering, cakes, photography, etc). However there are always things you or a family member can do to save money.
Things you can easily do yourself without testing your sanity:
-Making your own centerpieces. You can make them with fake flowers months in advance or have a family member do them with fresh flowers a few days before. For great centerpiece ideas check out www.superweddings.com. They have creative and affordable centerpieces.
-Do your own invitations. Instead of hiring a company to create, address, and mail them, do it yourself. Order your invitations online from a wholesale invitation company, such as www.123print.com or even by them at your local Target. Have family help you address them and buy some stamps. I promise you will save money and can easily do this project while watching a little late night TV.
Those are just two examples. There are many other things you can do yourself, but just remember you only have so much time. Visit Expos and Bridal Shows for ideas and even discounts that some vendors will offer at the shows. Visit DIY websites for neat tricks on wedding items you can do yourself. If you have an unlimited budget, just remember that just because you can spend it, doesn’t mean you have to. Every wedding can be as elaborate as you want, but sometimes it’s nice to spend that additional money on a honeymoon, rather than just that one day. Trust me, after the stress of planning a wedding, you may just want a really good vacation.
4. Picking Vendors and Venues – Always, always, always pick your venue first. The venue sets your tone, budget, and caps your options. Some venues have packages where they include catering, cakes, décor and even photography. One-stop-shop! Some venues do not allow you to use outside vendors. This is why you need to pick a venue before you hire a caterer and pay that deposit. Many vendors do not refund deposits. Pick a venue that is close to you and people you are inviting. The further the drive, the less likely people will attend and the more stress for you to get there on your wedding day. Shop around for venues and tour as many as you can. Do not just pick the first you can find. Ask venues about discounts for mid-week or off season weddings as well. Remember that a venue can determine the “style” of wedding. If you have a modern venue, everything will follow in theme. If you have a very elegant setting you want to follow with that. I cannot tell you how many brides buy a dress that they have to replace because it does not match their venue.
After you have chosen your venue, you now know what other vendors you need to obtain. If your venue will be including everything right down the napkins, you just crossed off a load from your vendor check list. If not, then you have some shopping around to do. Always remember to check for vendor referrals, have consults, ask for portfolios, and never settle for the first you meet with. Just remember your budget as you meet with these vendors. If you blow your budget on food and flowers, then you will have to skimp on other items. Make sure the items you have to cut in the budget are not things you are going to regret later. Never go for the cheapest vendor just because you are on a tighter budget. Bottom line, you get what you pay for in the end.
5. Bridal Registry – Is there really a point for this? Many Brides and Grooms will spend the time to register at local vendors only to find that hardly anyone buys from the registry. To be quite honest, I find them pointless myself. I have yet to see a registry actually used to its fullest. More so, people may buy off them, but not list that the item was purchased. Hence why you ended up with six of the same towel sets. Many people want to register just to give people ideas. That’s fine, but just remember to not be disappointed when people do not actually use it. Also remember that when you register at highly expensive stores, people may not use them at all. Try to register for gifts that people can actually afford to buy you. Do not register for items only over $100.00 and expect your distant aunt’s cousin’s sister to actually purchase it.
6. Get Everyone Involved – You can’t do it all yourself! Ask your fiancé, family, and even friends to help you out. Split up the tasks so that you are not planning and shopping around. Always have a family member or friend with you when you visit each vendor. Two opinions are better than one. Some vendors prey on single brides. They are stressed and almost willing to buy anything to just check off something on their list. It’s better to have someone there not under “the pressure”.
…Is your head spinning in circles yet? Just remember that wedding planning can be easy. You just have to give yourself time. The more amount of time you give yourself, the easier it will be. When you try to do it all in three months you are going to be insane by the time of your big day. Take it slow, breathe, and ask for help.
Remember! Know your limits when it comes to budget, venue, guest count and time frame. If you only have so much time, you may not be able to get everything you want. Many dress makers need six months for that custom gown. If you only have three, you may get stuck with a dress you really do not want. You may get stuck with a caterer you don’t want, but they are the only one free. If you are getting married during the wedding season of March to August, most definitely plan six or more months out. Many vendors are already booked the year before for a June wedding.
In the end, just remember that though it is your “special day” it is just still one day in a lifetime of days to come. Things will never go exactly as planned and the more you fret on every detail, the less it will work out. Take it slow, take it easy, and do not stress if it doesn’t work out. In the end, you just want to be happy and celebrate that you are getting married to someone you love.