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Relax and let this moment sink in
Did you expect this list to start with a list of things to frantically do to start planning the “perfect” wedding? Nope! This is a BIG moment. Let it sink in. You get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend! You don’t have to plan your entire wedding today. You don’t need a budget, guest list, decorations or a dress right now.
My husband Tony had the two days planned out after proposing to celebrate with our family and friends. He knew that I would anxiously want to start planning so he made a rule that I couldn’t in those first two days. I’m grateful for that, but I wish I would have taken more time to chill and enjoy the first couple weeks of our engagement instead of rushing into full on planning mode.
Pick your priorities
Talk to your fiancé and figure out your priorities for the wedding. Pick one thing that is MOST important to you and a couple things that closely follow in priority. Those are the things you will put more money towards and help make decision making easier for your day. For me, having awesome photos and video of our day was most important and the décor and my dress were least important.
To afford the photo team I wanted, I bought a clearance dress off the rack (and totally loved it!) and skipped a fancy floral arch and chose plain black folding chairs for the ceremony. If having an amazing meal is super important to you, maybe invite less people and really wow them with a gourmet meal. Or if a big guest list is really important, chose a simpler meal or have a cake and punch reception. If you’ve always dreamed of having a live band or open bar, you could pick a venue that is more cost effective. Regardless, figure out your priorities before you start any planning.
Lock in the essentials
Create a guest list and budget
Create a rough guest list and budget, but hold both loosely, especially at first since you likely have no idea how much things cost. Even being in the wedding industry myself, I was totally caught off guard by the prices of everything and way underestimated initially.
Base your budget around your top three things and figure out the rest from there. Don’t blindly follow what The Knot and other sites say you should spend in each area. Your day will be unique, and your priorities are different from other couples’. Having a rough estimate for guests and budget will help you know what kind of venues to look at even though your numbers will likely change throughout the planning process.
Hire a planner or coordinator
You’re thinking, “That’d be nice but I definitely don’t have money for that! I can totally do this myself.” Planning and coordinating your wedding is way more work than you’re expecting and having an expert to help will be a lifesaver! After all of the work you put into your wedding, you want to know the day is going to run smoothly and that you, your family and friends won’t be running around on the day stressing about making everything happen. Even if you’re planning an intimate wedding or elopement, there are coordinators who have packages specifically built for those weddings like Lace and Brass.
If you’re still not convinced, ask in a wedding group or forum who didn’t hire a coordinator and regretted it. You’ll get tons of responses. I wasn’t convinced and Tony and I did everything ourselves to save money. But the stress, especially the month leading up to the wedding, was NOT WORTH IT! It’s the only thing I would change about our wedding.
Day-of-coordinators provide help leading up to the wedding (usually in the last month when the logistics and details get stressful) so don’t wait until the last minute to hire them. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you hire them right away. Or look at hiring a virtual, cost-effective planner at https://chooseyourown.wedding/.
Ask for recommendations
Use what you’ve got to do the rest of your planning! Finding the right venue was the hardest part of planning for Tony and me. I researched at least 50 different venues, most of which were too expensive, too DIY or the wrong vibe. Once we finally found the right one, the rest of the planning fell into place.
Our venue recommended great people when we didn’t know who to hire, and they took care of catering, linens, china, and bartenders, etc so we could cross that stuff off our list.
I have a list of vendors that I’ve had great experiences with and give that out to all of my Lumos Couples so they can put together their dream team. I’d be happy to send you a copy of mine. Just email Laura@LumosImages.com. You can download my list of intimate wedding venues here. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from friends, family, online and the vendors you already have like a coordinator.
Keep your sanity
Get plugged into awesome communities with people who can relate to to you. My two favorite wedding podcasts are Bridechilla and The Secret Life of Weddings. I loved that I could listen to them in the car or while doing stuff around the house.
Bridechilla has practical, down-to-earth advice and has covered most wedding related topics after 300 episodes. Secret Life of Weddings tells crazy but true wedding stories that will keep you laughing, help you not to take your wedding too seriously and make you think, “well at least that didn’t happen to me!”
Both podcasts have Facebook groups full of helpful and kind people who won’t tell you your ideas are tacky like you might find on other forums.
Lean on your friends and family when things get tough. They will most likely be happy to help or let you vent at times and celebrate wins with you!