Navigating the journey of getting engaged to saying “I do” can seem daunting to say the least! After the novelty of your engagement starts to wear off, it’s completely understandable to be feeling out of your depth with the wedding planning process.
So, where should you actually begin with organizing such a milestone celebration? Read on for our step-by-step guide to planning a wedding from start to finish, including our pro tips for ensuring everything flows seamlessly on the day.
Plan an Engagement Party
Why not kick off your wedding planning journey by celebrating your engagement? Whether it’s a casual gathering or a formal affair, an engagement party is a beautiful way to celebrate with your closest friends and bring both families together.
Pro tip: Make sure anyone who is invited to your engagement party is also invited to your big day. Read our guide on planning the perfect engagement party here.
Establish Your Vision and Priorities
Have an open and honest conversation with your partner to establish a shared vision for your wedding. Make sure you discuss your top priorities for the day, how you want the event to look and feel, and the experience you want to create for your guests. Aligning your visions early on will guide your decisions throughout the planning process, helping you create an authentic celebration that resonates with both of you.
Pro tip: Have this conversation at the very beginning of your wedding planning journey, before making any key decisions! Our free printable wedding vision worksheet is a great tool to help you both get on the same page.
Create a Mood Board
Visualize your wedding day by creating a mood board that reflects your chosen style and theme. You’ll want to include elements such as colors, decor and styling details like flowers, stationery and lighting. Your mood board will serve as a visual reference point, making it easier to communicate your ideas with vendors and ensure a consistent aesthetic across your entire event.
Pro tip: Pinterest is an amazing way to find and cull inspiration for your wedding mood board. Start by creating individual boards for each element of your wedding, before creating a “master board” that highlights your favorite images. You can also invite your partner, wedding party and wedding vendors to collaborate on your various Pinterest boards.
Set a Budget
Establishing a realistic budget is a foundational step in the wedding planning process. Start by determining the total amount you’re willing to spend, then allocate funds to various categories (such as venue, catering, attire, and decorations). You’ll want to regularly review and adjust your budget as needed, considering unexpected expenses that may arise.
Pro tip: Our handy budget calculator is an easy way to allocate your expenses. Simply input your wedding budget, and we’ll give you an estimated breakdown according to industry averages!
Choose a Wedding Date
Choosing a wedding date is an important decision that will impact various aspects of your planning. Some of the key factors to consider here are your preferred season and weather conditions, any special dates that are significant to you as a couple, and the availability of key venues and vendors.
Pro tip: If you’re working on a strict budget, consider hosting a weekday wedding. Several venues offer discounted prices for weekday or low-season bookings, so this can be an easy way to save some extra dollars!
Create a Detailed Wedding Planning Timeline
We’d highly recommend creating a comprehensive wedding planning timeline that outlines all of the key milestones, tasks and deadlines leading up until the big day. A well-organized timeline will help you stay on track throughout the planning process, saving you hours of time and stress!
Your timeline should include absolutely everything that needs to be done before your wedding – from key tasks like booking your wedding vendors, right through to small jobs like organizing guestbook signage.
Pro tip: Our digital wedding planner here at WedSites allows you to manage all of your wedding planning tasks in one place. You can even assign tasks to your partner and bridal party, and set email reminders to ensure nothing important is overlooked.
Choose Your Ceremony and Reception Venue
Selecting a wedding venue is another big decision that will influence the overall atmosphere of your day. Spend some time touring potential venues and consider factors such as location, price, capacity and style to help you find your perfect fit.
Pro tip: Choosing a venue that has the ability to host both your ceremony and reception will make your day flow more seamlessly, without the need for additional transport. Use our venue profile worksheet to help you take notes and compare your options!
Create Your Guest List
Collaborate with your partner to draft a guest list for your wedding, keeping your budget and venue capacity in mind. You may also need to consider input from one or both sets of parents, depending on whether they’re contributing financially to the wedding.
Pro tip: If you’re struggling to cut your numbers, consider creating an A and B list. Your initial round of invitations will be sent to your A list, and pending RSVP responses you may be able to extend another round of invitations to your B list. Read our ultimate guide to creating your wedding guest list here.
Select Your Wedding Party
If you’ve decided to have a wedding party, you’ll need to choose the individuals who will stand by your side on your special day. This includes your bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid of honor, best man, and other key roles such as your MC, flower girls and ring bearer. Once you’ve made your decision, you can pop the question!
Pro tip: Be sure to communicate expectations with your wedding party upfront, and keep communication lines open throughout the entire planning process. Read our guide to wedding party roles and responsibilities here.
Research and Book Your Wedding Vendors
You’ll want to identify and secure key vendors early in the planning process to avoid missing out on your top picks. This includes your photographer, videographer, caterer, florist, celebrant and entertainment. Be sure to arrange consultations, read reviews and view samples of their work to find vendors who align with your vision.
Pro tip: Create a dedicated “wedding admin” email address, and use this to source quotes and communicate with vendors throughout the planning process. When you’re dealing with multiple vendors, those back and forth emails can quickly get lost in your regular inbox!
Shop Your Wedding Attire
Begin the search for your wedding attire, including your bridal gown, groom’s suit, and attire for the bridal party. Don’t forget to allow enough time for fittings and alterations before the event, and keep your overall wedding vision in mind for a cohesive look.
Pro tip: Annual shopping events like Black Friday and Boxing Day sales can be a great way to score bridesmaid gowns and groomsmen suits at a reduced price, so be sure to mark them in your calendar!
Send Save The Dates and Invitations
Communicate the details of your wedding to guests by sending save-the-dates and wedding invitations. Remember: this is the first glimpse your loved ones will get into your special day, so use your stationery to set the tone for your celebration.
Pro tip: Go paperless with digital stationery if you’re looking to cut costs and reduce the environmental impact of your day. Paperless invitations can also encourage your guests to RSVP faster, as they can respond in the click of a button!
Create a Wedding Website
A wedding website is a great way to keep guests informed and engaged throughout the planning process. Your wedding website will serve as a central information hub for your guests leading up until the big day, and should include details such as venue directions, accommodation options and a schedule of events. You can also personalize your wedding website with your love story, introduce your bridal party, and showcase your engagement photos.
Pro tip: Use your wedding website to address common FAQs, such as your dress code, gift registry details and parking instructions. Not only will your guests appreciate the information, it will save you having to answer the same questions over and over again!
Manage RSVPs and Dietary Preferences
Keeping track of RSVP responses and dietary preferences will be critical throughout the wedding planning process. Our digital guest list manager here at WedSites is the perfect tool for storing all of your guests details in one place, with printable reports that can be passed on to your venue and caterer.
Pro tip: Use your RSVP form to gather other essential info, such as whether your guests need a seat on the bus or their song suggestions for the dance floor!
Plan Your Wedding Ceremony
Collaborate with your partner and celebrant to plan the finer details of your ceremony. For example: your wedding vows, special readings or specific cultural and religious traditions you wish to include.
Pro tip: When it comes to writing your wedding vows, it’s a good idea to agree on length and tone with your partner beforehand. This way, your vows can be a surprise, while still matching each other’s vibe!
Create the Perfect Wedding Day Playlist
Collaborate with your band or DJ to curate a playlist that enhances the mood of your wedding day. You’ll need to decide on song selections for key moments such as the first dance, ceremony processional, and reception.
Pro tip: Personalize your playlist with songs that hold sentimental value to you as a couple. Check out our tips for creating the perfect wedding day playlist here.
Plan Your Pre-Wedding Events
Set dates for any pre-wedding events (such as your bridal shower, bachelorette party and rehearsal dinner) and determine a guest list for each one. You’ll also need to figure out who’s responsible for hosting each event, and where your input is needed.
Pro tip: It can also be a nice idea to host a post-wedding brunch or lunch the day after the wedding. This is a great opportunity to spend more time with any out-of-town guests as you reflect on your celebration together.
Create Your Gift Registry
While it’s not essential, creating a gift registry will help to guide your guests in selecting presents that align with your needs and preferences. Make sure you include a variety of items at different price points to accommodate all budgets, and share the details on your wedding website to make it easily accessible.
Pro tip: If you don’t want physical gifts, consider setting up a honeymoon fund or online wishing well instead. Check out our gift registry ideas and wording examples here.
Plan for Wet Weather
For outdoor weddings, prepare for unexpected weather changes by creating a wet weather contingency plan. This may involve renting tents, providing umbrellas, or arranging an indoor backup location. Having a plan in place will ensure your celebration can proceed smoothly regardless of the weather.
Pro tip: Once you’ve decided on a wet weather plan, make sure this is clearly communicated to your entire team of vendors!
Create Your Wedding Seating Chart
Create a comfortable and enjoyable experience for your guests with a well thought-out seating chart. Consider factors such as existing relationships, family dynamics and any accommodations for pregnant or elderly guests. Start by assigning seats to your “VIP” guests first, then seat the remainder of your guests according to their friendship groups, ages and personalities.
Pro tip: Simplify this process by using a digital seating chart creator, so you can easily chop and change until you find the perfect layout.
Build Your Wedding Day Runsheet
Craft a detailed runsheet for your wedding day that clearly outlines the timeline and sequence of events. Once complete, you’ll want to share this runsheet with your vendors, wedding party, and anyone else involved in the coordination of your day. Having a clear plan ensures that everyone is on the same page for a flawless execution!
Pro tip: Use your ceremony start time to begin building your runsheet, then work backwards and forwards to slot in everything else. You can find our step-by-step guide to creating the perfect wedding day runsheet here.
Be Present in the Moment
On your wedding day itself, be sure to embrace the joy of the moment. Focus on being present with your partner, taking in the surroundings and savoring all of the precious memories. Trust that the planning process has prepared you for this day, and allow yourself to fully enjoy the celebration.
Pro tip: Block out some time in your runsheet to connect with your partner one-on-one. We love the idea of a private last dance before leaving the wedding venue for the night!
Complete Post-Wedding Tasks
Finally, don’t forget to tick off those post-wedding tasks such as sending thank you cards, settling outstanding bills and dry cleaning your attire. Leaving reviews for your wedding vendors is also a wonderful way to show your appreciation for their hard work.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to add your wedding photos to your wedding website once you receive them! Not only is this an easy way to share your favorite snaps with your loved ones, it also means your wedding website will become a digital keepsake for years to come.