You're engaged! But now what? As a wedding photographer, I have a few tips and steps for you I've found to make a world of difference leading up to your wedding day. Everything from what to book first to the wee hours leading up to your wedding day. Let me help you make your most memorable day as stress-free as possible!
1: You're now a Fiance!
Now is the time for you to celebrate! I know. Your mind is starting to swarm with all the things you need to do, the people you need to talk to, the decisions you have to make, but for right now, take a deep breath, look at the love of your life, and just celebrate this moment of your life! Go on a little date night to celebrate, tell your friends and family, cuddle on the couch and look at that beautiful ring :)
There is no need to rush into the planning process. Your proposal is not a meeting with your manager telling you about the next project he needs paperwork for on their desk by Monday...it's a milestone in your relationship that you get to revel in! It's like an instant honeymoon phase.
2: I've Celebrated! Now Let's Plan.
Planning a wedding is a lot of work, so first make sure you have people to help you, whether that means hiring a wedding planner or making sure you've got a friend or two helping you out.
A wedding is probably the biggest party you'll ever throw and, unfortunately, parties cost money. As much as you want to start looking at dresses and gorgeous flowers and cool wedding decor, you need to decide on a budget.
This is entirely up to you, your fiance, and whoever else is helping finance your wedding. But don't go pulling a number out of thin air. Talk to some people whose weddings you've been to and ask them how much they spent so you have a good idea of what size wedding you can get with certain budgets.
I know talking money isn't the most fun thing to do, but I'll let you in on a little secret. Creating a budget will make your wedding planner easier.
How? Once you have a budget set, you immediately narrow down your options. If you decide you will spend $10,000 on your wedding, you know you probably shouldn't even look at the $5,000 dresses. It will also help with deciding how many people to invite. A smaller budget means a smaller venue which means a smaller guest list. So, set a budget first, then the fun can start!
3: Pick a Date and a Venue
Picking your wedding date should go hand in hand with picking the venue. Oftentimes, you'll have to work with whatever dates the venue has available.
First things first: decide what is most important to you. Location? Date? Inside vs Outside?
Once you decide your top priority, it'll make it easier to start choosing and narrowing down venues. Do you have to have your wedding on June 25th because it's an important date in your relationship? Then cross off any venues that don't have a June 25th availability. Do you really want to have a fall wedding? Then call some venues and see what dates in fall they have available and choose from those.
4: Wedding Party & Guest List
Once you've booked your venue, you know how many people you can invite. Now is where you start building your guest list so you can get save-the-dates out as soon as possible!
Start by building your wedding party. You will want your closest friends with you to celebrate along the way and be up there with you when you get married. Between you and your fiance, decide how many bridesmaids and groomsmen you want. There is no right number! I've seen wedding parties as small as 6 and as large as 20!
Once you've got your wedding party decided, now is for the guest list. Move from your closest, inner circle of people (siblings, parents, grandparents) to the outer circles (aunts and uncles, co-workers, other friends).
Having a solid number of guests will come in handy when it's time to send out invitations, book a caterer, and other details later down the line.
5: Hire a Photographer
You've got the wedding date, the venue, and your guest list. The next most important thing to book is the photographer! Most photographers book 9-12 months in advance, so it's important to book your favorite photographer as soon as possible because their bookings will fill up fast!
I plan on making a future blog post where I'll get into the nitty-gritty details of how to find your wedding photographer sometime soon, so keep an eye out for that ;)
Staying within your budget is important, but you need to decide how important wedding photos are to you. Most people spend the majority of their budget on the venue, photographer, and food. If tons of beautiful, magazine-worthy wedding photos are super important to you, you'll want to invest in a really good photographer. If you just want someone who knows how to work a camera and have them capture the memories of the day, then you probably don't have to spend as much on a photographer.
Here are my 2 top tips for finding your wedding photographer:
1.) Stalk photographer's websites and Instagram pages. You want to make sure you like the style of their photos. There are 2 styles wedding photographers typically shoot in: light and airy or moody.
2.) Have an in-person or video call consultation with a couple of photographers. You want to make sure you connect with and vibe with the person who will be with you for the entirety of your wedding day.
Your wedding photos will something you keep for the rest of your life, so you want to make sure you are going to love them.
6: Food, Cake, & Music
It's time to fill the reception now!
If you don't even know where to start in deciding on food, cake, or music, talk to an event coordinator at your venue. They will have a list of tons of different vendors and can give you recommendations.
The biggest decisions you'll have to make right off the bat are
Food: Plated dinner or buffet?
Music: DJ or Band? (or a well made playlist)
Cake: Cake for all or small cake for you and desserts galore!
Food is also the spot where you have to be cognizant of your guests and their dietary needs. If your fiance's family is all Kosher, you'll need to find a caterer who can cater to that. Or if you just love BBQ but half of your guests are vegetarian, you might need to pick something else.
I want to leave some words of wisdom to my brides and grooms regarding food: Make sure you schedule time for you and your new spouse to eat! I've worked so many weddings where the bride and groom hardly get time to eat their dinner with having to take photos during cocktail hour or greet and talk to guests while everyone eats. This is more of a wedding day timeline topic, but I feel like it's so important I have to say it now too.
7: The Dress & Other Fun Stuff!
Now that the biggest things are out of the way, it's time to have some fun!
There are so many different styles of dresses and wedding dress designers and dress stores. My advice: start slow. Schedule a wedding dress appointment with a local wedding dress shop and don't expect to find 'the one'. Your first wedding dress appointment is just to start seeing what's out there and what styles you like.
No matter how many hours you spend on Pinterest looking at wedding dresses, you won't actually know what styles look best until you try them on. So you can have a board filled with lacy boho dresses and believe that's what you'll go with, but once you try on an elegant silk dress you may change your mind. So, be open to exploring your options and just have fun trying on tons of gorgeous dresses!
8: Wedding Day Timeline
Planning the timeline of your wedding day is the last major thing you have to plan and set in stone. You'll have to tell your vendors when to show up and where and how long each part of the day should take.
You should build everything off of what time you want the ceremony to start. Some people do a 3:00 ceremony in order to have ample amount of time for family photos and cocktail hour before the dinner and reception starts. Other people choose to do their ceremony right as the sun starts to have beautiful golden lighting.
I'm going to give you an example of a wedding day time-line so you can see about how long each part of the day should take to allow for ample photo time AND make sure you don't feel rushed during your wedding day.
Hair & Makeup: 11:00-2:45
First Look: 3:15-3:45
Guests Arrive: 3:45
Family Photos: 5:00
Cocktail hour: 5:20-6:20
Wedding Party Photos: 5:20-5:45
Bride & Groom Photos: 5:45-6:20
Reception starts: 6:30 (with announcing the wedding party)
First Dance: 7:30
Cake Cutting: 8:15
Dancing and Fun: 8:30-10:00
Send off: 10:10
This is just a little jumping-off point for you to start thinking about how you want your wedding day to look. Make sure you allow time for people to get to your ceremony and reception locations, especially if they are at 2 different venues.
Hopefully I was able to help you grasp the reigns and start feeling a little more confident in starting to plan your wedding. You are not alone in this journey. So many different wedding vendors (photographers, florists, caterers, DJ's...etc) will have tips and tricks and advice on planning your wedding. All you have to do is ask!
Just to get you started, the most important things to plan/book first are your wedding date, venue(s), wedding party, and photographer. You can always refer back to this post when you need ideas on the next step.
I wish you all the luck in the world and would absolutely love to help you cross wedding photographer off your list...if you'd let me, of course :)