So you’ve made it official — congratulations! Many couples spend so much time thinking about their perfect proposal that wedding planning responsibilities catch them off-guard once the question has been popped.
One sparkly ring and an enthusiastic “yes!” later, reality starts to sink in when they begin seeing sample checklists and timelines for the planning process. There are a lot of steps on the way to the aisle.
Fortunately, progress starts to flow once you get the ball rolling. Knowing where to start is half the battle, so we’ve consulted with wedding experts across the industry to provide you with the can’t-miss tasks to kick off your wedding planning journey.
Consider this guide as your wedding planning primer — these ten to-dos will help you establish a solid foundation for your big day.
Protect your new bling.
Before anything else, make sure to take care of that beautiful ring! Insurance provides coverage for loss, theft, or damage, which will bring peace of mind to your engagement.
Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events, confirms: “If a piece of jewelry was given as part of the engagement, you should immediately have it appraised and insured! You will likely be adding it as a rider to a home or renter policy that you are already carrying.”
If you don’t have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, you can also find independent providers that specialize in jewelry coverage.
Celebrate your engaged status!
Getting engaged is an experience filled with emotions and excitement — don’t let that pass you by! Feel all of the feelings and lean into the love shared by those around you.
“Stop thinking about planning the wedding and just enjoy it!” encourages Shannon Tarrant, owner of Wedding Venue Map. “The planning period can be a stressful time. Let everyone in your circle know you’re going to enjoy it for a predetermined amount of time before choosing a venue and a date. Have some date nights and just enjoy being a fiance for a bit of time.”
Lay the groundwork for planning.
When you’re ready to get to business, start by sitting down with your partner to discuss expectations for the planning process. The wedding details can wait; for now, you need to set boundaries and ensure a smooth journey to the aisle. No wedding is worth months of disagreements and confusion!
Owner and lead planner of Kindred Weddings and Events, Sarah Blessinger, elaborates: “It’s important to ready yourself for the task of balancing your ideal vision for your wedding day with the actual resources you have. This includes not just the money you have accessible for a wedding budget but your resources of time and energy as well. Take a look at what your day-to-day life is like and what you know you can successfully achieve together using each of your strengths to help move the process forward.”
In addition to personal boundaries and expectations, take some time to create a system to maintain organization. Make sure it’s one you each feel comfortable using, as suggested by Tara Melvin, owner of Perfect Planning Events: “I recommend creating a planning calendar/task list for you both to access in a central location to allow you to stay on track, keep open lines of communication and transparency. Google Drive is an excellent centralized resource tool for sharing and storing all things wedding!”
Start talking about your vision.
Now, you can start getting into the fun part! Before making any firm decisions, spend some time with your partner simply to talk about how your wedding will look and feel.
Jaclyn Watson, principal planner for Jaclyn Watson Events, explains: “Once you have taken the time to enjoy the moment of being engaged, your next steps should be to have a serious chat about what each of you want for your wedding day. “It is important to be on the same page, as this is your story and your wedding team will want to fully understand what you are trying to share with your family and friends.”
Take notes as ideas come up, but remember that nothing is set in stone yet. This stage is simply for brainstorming the many possibilities for your wedding day. You’ll curate it down later in the process, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Get clear on your budget.
With a general idea of your wedding vision, you can start forming a comfortable budget for you, your partner, and any outside contributors. While the numbers may change as you start booking vendors, it’s best to go into the research stage with an idea of how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding.
“You need to figure out who is contributing to the wedding budget and what the overall budget total is,” states Jordan Xu, owner of Emily Jordan Events. “Every vendor will ask you about your budget, so start by figuring out what the big number is.”
And if family members intend to contribute to your wedding, make sure to loop them in on the conversation as well. Owner of COJ Events, Cathy O’Connell, adds: “Have an honest conversation with each other and anyone helping to pay for the wedding about expectations – number of guests, budget, location, time of year, etc. You have to know where everyone is coming from before you start looking at venues and dates.”
As for realistic estimates, Marry You in Hawaii owner Loren Petrowski cautions against asking others: “Do not ask your friends who were married a couple of years ago how much they spent on their wedding. Prices have gone up drastically since the pandemic started. It’s just a completely different landscape now, from florist to food to rentals and everything in-between. You will really need to do your own research starting from now by working with vendors and venues and coming up with a realistic budget accordingly.”
Book a trustworthy planner.
With your vision and budget established, it’s time to find your right-hand person: your wedding planner! As Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, confirms, “Don’t do anything until you’ve hired a planner!”
“They will simplify the whole process for you from breaking down your budget, finding a venue, booking your vendors, and getting you the best pricing available,” Sheils continues. “They will guide you in order to hire wedding pros. This is VERY important as wedding vendors are booking up fast, and if you book in the wrong order, you may miss out on another priority vendor you could have locked in had you not waited.”
Booking the right wedding planner kicks off the rest of the process, as you’ll no longer have to do anything alone. So find someone you get along with and trust to have your best interests in mind!
Create your wedding website.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to confirm every last detail before launching your wedding website! Instead, it can serve as a glimpse at your planning process, sharing critical updates and fun stories for loved ones to enjoy along the way.
Jennifer Sulak, wedding photographer for Weirdo Weddings, expands on this idea, stating: “I personally suggest you make a wedding website right away to go along with your engagement journey. We all love seeing your story and the details of the celebration unfold as you go. So ALL your wedding & event details can end up in one place. I would suggest finding a place to start the website and run with it!”
As you continue planning, you can update your website with your wedding date, venue, and other details once firmed up. The slow-and-steady buildup will generate anticipation within your friends and family, so everybody is ready to pull the stops out for the big day!
Discuss timing and ideal dates.
Selecting your wedding date will define many details, including your color palette, attire, floral options, and other seasonal elements.
To start nailing down a date, The Bridal Finery’s Bri Marbais suggests: “Decide as a couple what’s most important — the date itself, the day of the week, or the season. Couples will not be able to move forward with booking any services until they have their date locked in. In some instances, pricing will also vary based on the date itself.”
Xu elaborates, adding: “With the current wedding boom, I recommend having 2-3 ideal dates so you can be flexible based on your favorite venue’s availability. Make sure to check these dates with your VIP guests, including your family members and wedding party members.”
And if you’re open to it, don’t count out the possibility of a weekday wedding! “You will have substantially more options for a non-weekend wedding, or even a Friday or Sunday wedding than you will a Saturday in the middle of the busy season,” Sheils confirms. “You will likely save money in the end as well.”
Start the venue hunt.
With a rough idea of your ideal wedding date and the support of your planner, it’s time to begin the search for your perfect venue. But before scheduling site tours, make sure to discuss key venue expectations with your partner and other decision-makers.
Tarrant reveals: “Most couples start venue searching before they have had the right conversations. When you look before knowing exactly what you are even wanting, it is a waste of both your time and the venue. Talk to each other (and possibly your family) about your vision for your wedding day and the things that are really important to you.”
“These categories include budget, how many people are on the guest list, the venue style, distance of the event space from your home, ceremony and reception at the same venue or at two different options, the date, and your timeline of the day,” Tarrant adds.
So how do you know when you’ve found the right venue? Simple. “Looking for the perfect venue is synonymous with finding the perfect home,” affirms Melvin. “You should feel connected to the space and it should reflect your unique sense of style and personality. And just like a home, as soon as you step one foot into the space, you should instinctively know that this is the perfect place to welcome family and friends to witness and celebrate the love you share with each other.”
Shift your focus to priority vendors.
Once you’ve secured a date with your wedding venue, you can start working with your planner to build your wedding dream team. Xu recommends focusing on top priority vendors first, “as well as the vendors that can only take one wedding a day – vendors such as a photographer, a videographer, and a band or DJ.”
Concerning the wedding boom, Carnevale shares insight on timing: “If your intention is to get married in 2022, you do need to move a little faster, especially on a planner, venue, officiant, entertainment, photo/video team, and beauty team. If you are considering a 2023 wedding date, I think the worst of the boom will be over and you should be able to have a somewhat normal engagement experience.”
Be mindful of the busy season wedding professionals face, and expect date availability to be more limited than ever. “It’s best to be as flexible and understanding as possible when reaching out to wedding professionals,” Marbais says. “They should understand that the average 12-18 month booking window is now looking closer to 18-24 months for weekend dates.”
While these ten steps might seem like a lot to do upfront, remember that you are on your own timeline. There’s a lot of value in longer engagements, so don’t let anyone pressure you into any decisions you can’t make with confidence.
“Do not rush to ask people to be in your wedding party, or to promise an invitation to the wedding,” Carnevale stresses. “Take your time, deflect awkward questions, and make a plan before making commitments.”
And you can rest easy knowing that, once these ten steps are finished, you are already halfway there. The rest is about filling in the gaps with little details to personalize your special day, so you can have fun with cake tastings and attire fittings without worrying since the heavy lifting is already done!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.