16 Steps to Plan a Wedding: a Step-by-Step Guide

October 20, 2022
Liz Arnold

A lot goes into planning what will most likely be the most wonderful day of your life. From the perfect location to the guest list, from wedding transportation services to your outfit, it’s not easy to keep track of everything when you plan a wedding party. Once you’ve found the perfect partner and decided to join your lives together, you may be wondering where to start with the wedding planning journey.

This wedding planning checklist will help you stay on top of all the elements that come into play in the wedding planning process so you can have an amazing time on your special day.

#1. Set Up a Strict Wedding Budget

Set Up a Strict Wedding Budget

Weddings are expensive, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making your day as unique as possible. If you are wondering how to start to plan a wedding, the first thing on your to-do list is determining your budget – and sticking to it. It will determine everything else, from your venue to the number of guests and the type of celebrations you can organize. It is common for families to contribute financially to plan a wedding. If that’s the case for your family, have an open conversation early to figure out expectations.

#2. Prepare Your Guest List

Once you have determined your budget with your partner and your families, if they choose to be involved in the process of wedding planning, it is time to decide who will be invited and who may be left out to accommodate your wallet and venue restrictions. It’s not always easy to organize a wedding and manage everyone’s expectations, and setting up the guestlist is definitely a moment when emotions can run high. Everybody probably has an opinion given social obligations, family ties, shared history, and affinities. Stay calm and use this moment to gather addresses for every potential guest.

#3. Consider Hiring a Wedding Coordinator

Consider Hiring a Wedding Coordinator

At this point, you may realize that the steps to planning a wedding can feel like a full-time job. If you live far from your wedding location, have a busy lifestyle, or do not enjoy the process of planning a wedding as much as you thought you would, you may want to hire a wedding planner to handle the details for you and free your attention for the fun stuff, such as entertainment and wedding attire, without worrying about the nitty-gritty details. Wedding planner basic services include finding the venue, negotiating the contracts, and offering options that match your vision and budget.

For a more hands-on approach, you can explore digital solutions like creating a wedding website or downloading a wedding planning app. These tools allow you to organize important aspects of your wedding conveniently and stay engaged with the planning process on the go.

#4. Determine the Wedding Style

If you are set on figuring out how to plan a wedding by yourself, now is the time to browse social media and magazines to find weddings that inspire you and your partner. If you have hired a wedding planner, they likely have a portfolio of past events that can help you determine your wedding style. If you are a visual person, you can create a vision board, either physically with bridal magazine cutouts or using websites such as Pinterest, to keep things harmonious. Make sure to include personal details about yourself, your partner, and your history as a couple.

When choosing a wedding theme, consider these popular options for your special day:

  • Romantic: Capture a dreamy ambiance with oversized floral arrangements, satin ribbons, soft lighting, and a palette of pink, white, and pastels. This is perfect for those seeking a fairytale wedding inspiration.
  • Formal: Opt for a black-tie event, complete with traditional attire, paper invites, a multi-course feast, and a sumptuous setting. Ideal for classic elegance on your wedding day.
  • Winter/Holiday: Embrace the magic of the season with indoor pines, fairy lights, and red ribbons, adding a festive touch to your wedding celebration.
  • Rustic: Incorporate country-chic elements for a traditional yet laid-back style, blending simplicity with charm.
  • Nature-Inspired: Go beyond rustic with an emphasis on botanicals and eco-friendly practices that are perfect for couples who cherish the natural world.

#5. Choose a Date and the Wedding Venue

One of the most important wedding planning steps is to find the perfect venue and determine the date. These two elements are intimately linked to each other. You may need some flexibility on your date if you have your heart set on a specific venue.

The location and date of your wedding will also strongly influence your budget. You may cut down on costs by choosing a date off-season or by opting for a Friday or Sunday wedding instead of a Saturday. It is best to decide on your wedding date at least one year in advance and check for local events, such as conferences, graduations, or sports competitions, that could affect hotel availability in the area.

#6. Finalize the Guest List

Once you have decided on a venue available on your preferred date, you will have a better estimate of how many people can be present to see you saying your vows based on your venue’s capacity. You may need to make some tough decisions in the process.

#7. Hire Vendors

Hire Vendors

When selecting wedding vendors, consider what services your venue provides. This will influence how many independent vendors you need. Essential hires typically include:

  • A catering service
  • Wedding photographer
  • Videographer
  • DJ, singer, or band
  • Florist

Remember, certain professionals, like your photographer, can only work one wedding per day, so prioritize their booking. On average, couples hire 13 vendors. To ensure your wedding details are perfect, keep your budget in focus, seek recommendations, and decide where to splurge. This could be on a top-notch photographer or lavish catering that aligns with your wedding ceremony needs.

One of the most important pieces of advice for wedding planning for beginners is also to make sure to read all your contracts thoroughly before signing on any dotted line. Although paperwork is the last thing you want to deal with as you organize a wedding, it contains important details regarding the services offered, cancellation policies, the timeline, payment plans, and so on.

Make sure that you check every detail to avoid nasty surprises, especially if anything goes awry during the wedding planning process. Although some policies may be industry standards, others can put you in a dangerous position.

#8. Send Out the Wedding Invitations

After finalizing the guest list, make sure you have an up-to-date address for all your guests and determine a +1 policy to avoid hurt feelings. Send out invitations early enough so your guests can find accommodation and transportation, especially if they need to travel far for your wedding and include an RSVP deadline.

#9. Plan Pre-Wedding Events

Pre-wedding events, like engagement parties, bridal showers, and bachelor(ette) parties, fill your schedule leading up to the wedding day. Although the couple may not plan these events, attendance is key as the guest of honor. Details for the rehearsal dinner, typically the night before the wedding, also need attention. Traditionally planned by the groom's family members, it's important to clarify who’s organizing and financing it. It’s also important to keep your bridal party informed about the wedding date and their roles.

#10. Buy the Wedding Attire

Finding your dream wedding dress is a pivotal part of the planning process. Custom wedding gowns may need up to a year to order and leave time for alterations, so start your search early.

Considering both the dress cost and expenses for alterations and accessories. Explore styles through magazines, Instagram, and Pinterest to define your style, but stay open to different designs.

Wedding party ensembles should also be ordered at the same time, typically around the six-month mark, while the groom and groomsmen can be ordered five months before the wedding.

#11. Take Some Time Off with Your Significant Other

Planning your wedding can be all-consuming and leaves little time for enjoying each other’s company, taking a toll on your relationship. Make sure to take some of the pressure off by spending some quality time with your partner, with any wedding-related discussion being off-limit.

#12. Buy the Wedding Bands

Buy the Wedding Bands

Based on your taste and budget, make a special date to find the wedding rings you and your significant other will wear for the rest of your lives. You may also want to get the bands and the engagement ring insured in case of mishaps.

#13. Don’t Forget to Make It Legal

A wedding is a fun and emotional celebration, but it also has significant legal ramifications! Do not forget to get your wedding license and gather all the documents you will need to receive it to avoid undue stress. Things can get even more complicated if you plan a wedding in another country, so research thoroughly.

You’ll need to obtain your marriage license within the appropriate time frame, usually 14-30 days before your wedding, and be prepared for costs, which can vary. After the wedding, you'll need a marriage certificate, which also requires notarization. Keep in mind the validity period of the license, as it varies by state. Don’t forget to discuss other legal aspects like name changes and financial arrangements with your partner.

#14. Postpone Your Honeymoon Planning

After a few stressful months into the process of wedding planning, you are probably looking forward to spending some time with your significant other away from it all, swimming in newlywed bliss. However, planning your honeymoon can be just as stressful, not to mention expensive. Consider leaving some breathing room between the wedding and the honeymoon.

#15. Write Your Vows

Your vows are a unique opportunity to tell your future spouse everything you love and appreciate about them. So forget about the material details of planning a wedding and remember the reason behind this celebration: your relationship and the promise you make to love each other for the rest of your lives.

#16. Don’t Forget About the Wedding Transportation

Your wedding day is a unique opportunity for your guests to celebrate your love, but it can also be stressful for them if they are not familiar with the area – or if they decide to celebrate a little too enthusiastically.

Consider the following benefits of hiring a wedding transportation company:

  • Timely Arrival: Ensures guests and the bridal party arrive before the ceremony starts.
  • Celebration Continuity: Keeps guests together between multiple venues, maintaining the festive mood.
  • Stress Reduction: Simplifies logistics and reduces the burden on the couple and wedding planner.
  • Flexible Options: Accommodates all wedding sizes, from large gatherings to intimate events.
  • Decorative Freedom: Personalize the transportation experience with decorations, music, and snacks.
  • Parking Solution: Eliminates parking hassles, especially for large or destination weddings.
  • Safety Assurance: Safeguards guests, particularly if alcohol is served, to ensure a safe return to hotels or homes.

Contact us for a personalized quote or if you need additional information for your wedding party planning process.

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