Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

Can't belive that the time flew by and our magical wedding is just a memory. I have been enjoying the process of learning about this industry, connecting with other brides-to-be and planning and organizing this big D day. 

It is time for me to share the observation and knowledge I have gathered personally with other brides-to-be.

Let me first highlight that before you will go into wedding planning, it is important for you two to set a budget and three key elements that are important for you. Things that are not negotiable and things that are a must for your wedding. For us it was:

1) Venue

2) Entertainment

3) Food & Drinks

The number of guests, venue place and date will hugely move your budget around. However, there are many other aspects of a wedding where you can cut down the cost or might not be important for you to do. In order for us to cut down the budget and stay low, we have DIYed many decorations for our wedding, including stationeries and other decorations. DIY wedding decor elements can be cost-effective and can add some incredibly personal touches to your wedding day. But a word to the wise: Don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up with more work than you know what to do with.

I am sure everyone has a wish list of what their dream wedding should look like. It will be helpful if you and your partner will sit down and write down all elements in a wish list and prioritize it to understand what is a must-have or nice to have.

Let's break it out and discuss key elements of the wedding:

1) Venue

This will be probably the highest cost of your budget. There are so many beautiful venues and locations where you can host your wedding or elope. 

Ask yourself first, where would you like to get married. Is it in your own country or abroad? Is it indoor or outdoor? Is it in the city or outside the city? Do you need just the venue or do you need rooms to stay over for yourself or guests as well? How easily approachable to the venue it is? Does the venue offer any packages or work with certain suppliers? Do you have any specific requirements that the venue may limit you - for example fireworks, confetti, working with selected vendors etc.

All of these questions need to be answered as they will determine your next steps and budget. 

The venue was an important aspect for us, we wanted to do a wedding outdoor in nature with a beautiful garden and views surrounding. Having a beautiful jaw-dropping venue will also help you to put less effort into filling the space with flowers or decorations.

Make sure to think about Plan A and Plan B. Whether you plan to get married outdoor or not, always think about the plan in case of bad weather. Do they have a big capacity indoor as well as outdoor? If not, do they have a marquee available or do you need to hire yourself? 

Laslty, view the venue before to see how easy is it to get there, to park, how you feel by being there and if you can imagine you getting married there.

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

2) Date

It is also known that weddings on Fridays and weekends are more popular and hence the prices will be higher than if you do a wedding on a weekday. Another thing that may fluctuate in price is the season of the wedding. Winter weddings may be less popular than summer ones for example (or depending on location). 

Booking date and a venue is the most important first step you should do as the demand during the season is high, and you don't want to lose on your dream venue for your wedding.

Our wedding was during a peak wedding season - June. However, we have decided to get married on Thursday, because it was a date that was selected by my grandparents (don't ask the details of it :D)

3) Photographer & Videographer

For some, it may be less important, but for me, I think investing in a good photographer and videographer who will be able to capture moments forever is important. 

The day will fly by - trust me, and it is once in a lifetime moment that you want to keep and cherish memories forever. 

Yes, your family and guests will all have phones and you can have phone images and videos, but it is not the same as you would get from hiring a dedicated person who is responsible to be there with you to capture the moments.

You can look for local photographers in your country or even the ones that specialize in destination weddings if you are doing a destination wedding or have a particular favourite one. 

 One tip I would recommend is to hire a photographer for some engagement/couple photography prior to the wedding to see if you actually like their style of shooting. 

4) Set a theme and colours

Not particularly a must, but will help you and all of the suppliers to work toward a vision and to stay consistent and coherent. Whether you have a moldboard, Pinterest board or ideas, put them all down and agree with your partner about the look and feel of your wedding. 

There are so many innovative ideas as well as the classical colour palette that you can opt in. Choose your colours and theme based on your personal preferences, based on the season or location of the wedding. What season is the wedding in? What is seasonal during the month you are getting married? What is your favourite colour? Etc. 

We didn't have a specific theme for our wedding - I just wanted to stay in line with modern, timeless and natural. For colours, our key colours were all shades of green, white, gold and beige/sand tones.

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

5) Guestlist

The guest list is something you both and your families should work on from the start to determine the number of guests to see if the venues have the capacity. I like to think that weddings are about 2 families joining together, and not just two individuals. Therefore, I like to give some room for parents for them to be able to invite their close friends too, as it is a celebratory day for both families.

It is important to also think about whether you are giving your guests an opportunity to bring +1s or not, whether you are inviting the whole family or specific individuals or whether you want kids on your wedding day or not.

Every person will be an add-on to your cost, especially for food and drinks as it is calculated per person. There is no wrong or right way of putting a guest list together. Many people have their own personal preferences whether they want a small or big wedding. Therefore, make sure that you are surrounded by your loved ones to enjoy the day. 

6) Bridal team

Probably as a first thing after your engagement you would share the news with your closest friends and already have in mind who you would like to nominate as your bridal team (bridesmaids, maid of honour, ushers or best man). 

It is an exciting chapter of your life to be shared among your friends, and they deserve to be next to you on your big day. Make sure to communicate any tasks you have in mind and what they can help you with prior and use their help to offload your stress during wedding planning, as you are not alone. 

If you are doing any DIY activity, why not use that as a fun day for your bridal team. 

7) Planner

Whether you want to hire a planner or plan the entire wedding yourself is your choice. A wedding planner can offload your stress and work by helping you to plan your wedding. 

Now, depends how large is your wedding or whether you are planning a destination wedding, you may need a planner to help you operationally and coordinate various moving items. 

We had our wedding in Italy. Hence we have hired a local wedding planner, as we thought it is beneficial to have someone locally present and also someone who speaks the language to help us. Maybe it was our choice of a planner, but it didn't work as I expected.

I ended up planning our wedding pretty much full and she was just assisting me or consulting me whenever I had queries. It was not what I have imagined to be like having a wedding planner. I don't want to say that people should not hire a planner, but maybe it would be helpful to set up deadlines, milestones or detailed expectations from the beginning. 

However, whether you decide to have a planner or not, check with your venue if they provide any coordination or help on the day. Either way, you will have to definitely get a coordinator to help you out on the day, as that is the last thing you should have in mind on your wedding day to coordinate all suppliers and decorations.

You also have your bridal team and family, and if they are willing to help then use their help whenever you can.

8) Invitation

Another key item to make sure to do way in advance is to send out invitations or save the date invites. Securing a date and venue is one of the key things to do in advance, so you'll have pretty much all the information you need to send an invitation. What might be more difficult is designing it to match your theme of the wedding. Therefore by this time, you should have a clear idea of your theme and colours for the wedding.

There are many ways to do and send invitations nowadays. Whether you will design and print your own, use a template, hire a graphic designer or even use digital invites to save on costs and environment. 

Physical invitations are something pretty and give a personal touch. However, the majority of us will throw it in a bin soon or later. Make sure to send one invite per household/family/couple rather than to each individual.

9) Catering - food and drinks

Another aspect of the wedding that will take a larger sum of your budget is food & drinks. It depends on the number of guests you will have as well as the plan for the food and drinks. Are you planning to have a buffet style or sit-down meal, will you have an open bar, will you have canapes, will you be having midnight food?

Depending on the flow of the day and the length of your wedding day, your food timings and drinks need to reflect that, as you don't want guests to be starving.

Make sure to go for a food tasting before making final food decisions and work closely with the catering company to tailor to your needs and food allergies if any for yourself or for guests. 

The wedding cake is also an important aspect of a wedding. Either your catering company have their own patisserie that they work with who can make a cake for you or they can recommend another patisserie that they specialize in cakes. The best saving tip I would say is to use your wedding cake as dessert to serve to your guests (because what are you going to do with all of the cake at the end). However, if you really want to be serving different desserts or have a sweet bar, then consider having a smaller wedding cake (either fewer layers or a cake that will serve fewer people) for 

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

10) Flowers

Flowers are also a key part of the wedding and they can add to your costs too. Therefore be cautious about what you are wishing for. Get help from a florist to discuss what options you have and what can be feasible given your budget and the venue as well. 

Therefore, if you have a venue that is also rich with decoration or has a fully bloomed garden, then you can cut down on the costs of having to fill the space for example. This was our case, where we wanted a beautiful venue with rich outdoor spaces. 

Another thing to consider is to pick flowers that are in season. If you are getting married in June, maybe consider adding peonies to your flowers. Check online to see what flowers are in season for your wedding and consult with your florist to incorporate these, as seasonal flowers tend to be more affordable the something out of season. Try considering also adding on dry flowers or fake flowers to cut down the cost if necessary.

Lastly, think about what is the must-have and nice to have with flowers. Do also think about re-purposing flowers throughout the day if that is applicable to your wedding venue, such as we had flowers on ceremony chairs which were then moved into the cocktail area and placed around tables in small vases.

11) Attire

Wedding attire is something you should consider 6 months + ahead, at least for ladies. Depending on whether you are planning to buy, rent or custom made your wedding dress, the timeline should reflect the number of fittings needed.

I suggest researching online about various types of dresses and getting some inspiration, so when you go into the salon you have some ideas on what you are looking for.

Salon appointments should be a time to confirm what works for your body and what you actually like in real life. What shades of white do you want? Or do you want a different colour for your wedding dress? What shape of the dress do you want? What patterns or finishing do you like? There are so many variations and options for you to choose and try on.

Treat salon appointments as a perfect girl's day out and involve your bridal team and/or your family to get their view and opinions. 

Once you secure your dream dress, think about all accessories needed for it. Veils, jewellery, shoes etc. 

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

12) Music

Music is also a key aspect of the wedding as it will boost energy and ambience throughout the day. While you think about your songs for the ceremony and first dance, think about what type of music you want. 

Are you looking for a band, instrumental, vocal, DJ or Spotify is enough? Don't forget to discuss whether your music suppliers will also provide an audio system, in case you need it (for speeches or during the ceremony).

During our wedding, we had a cello and harp duo during the ceremony as well as during the cocktail hour. For the dinner reception and party, we had a DJ. Make sure to work on your playlist as well to supply to your musician/DJ prior your wedding so they know what type of music and songs you like. Discuss with them any key important moments as well (such as the first dance, or if you want specific music for cake cutting, bridal tossing etc.). Likewise, if there are any songs you hate or don't want to be played, you should discuss these prior too.

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

13) Transportation

Depending on your venue location, you should also consider transportation for bride and groom, as well as for your guests. Check how guests are expected to be arriving to your venue, can they get a taxi, can they drive and park there, will you provide shuttle buses for guests etc.

Make it as smooth and convenient for guests so they can drink and enjoy the night without worrying about dark nights back home.

14) Decoration

Once you have discussed all the important aspects of the wedding, you then can think about little details such as decorations on the day or gifts for your bridal team. Unless you want something spethe ctacular, decoration can be sort out later at the stage.

Think about little decorations, such as items on your registry table, photo booth, guest book, photos of you two or if you wish to do you may also have wedding favours for guests.

Flowers should have been the primary decoration for the day. However, you may be as creative and playful as you want to decorate the details. 

For wedding favours, we had custom-made fans that were given out to guests during the welcome area, as we had our wedding in Italy, the weather was hot, so I think it was a very practical and memorable gift that guests found useful.

We also had wedding favour as Jordan almonds on the dinner table. This is something traditional in Italy and we wanted to incorporate these into our wedding as well. We decided to go for this, as it is a small cultural gesture as well as it was eatable so it is less likely to go to waste. 

15) Entertainment

Entertainment is not usual for all weddings, it really depends on your personal taste, culture and programme for your big day.  

Entertainments during weddings are for example fireworks, fire shows, dance shows, traditions etc. You want to have a day that is memorable for yourselves as well as for guests.

Depending on the culture as well, they might have specific traditions or customs that are often done at the wedding, such as in the Czech Republic we have breaking a plate and the bride and groom need to sweep and clean it together. These porcelain shards symbolise happiness and the noise of breaking them casts off evil spirits who want to harm them.

Not only we have incorporated some of the cultural elements from three different cultures during our wedding, but we also had a butterfly dance during dinner and a fire show in the evening. It was magical and everyone enjoyed that.

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

16) Officiant

Whether you are planning to legally binding in the town hall before your wedding or during the wedding, it is your personal choice. Also maybe depends on the location of your wedding. In either case, do not forget to do all legal documentation as well as hire an officiant for your ceremony if you are having a civil or symbolic one. For some of us, we prefer to hire a priest or other equivalent if you would like to follow a religious ceremony.

Make sure to talk with them beforehand to clarify any queries you or they might have as well as to understand the flow of the day so they can help you to guide the guests during the ceremony.

17) Produce a schedule of events

It is important to think about your order of the day so you can work backwards to know what time you should be starting to get ready on the day.

Make sure to communicate well with your guests about the expected time you want your guests to arrive at the venue. Don't give them the ceremony time, in case of guests being late. You don't want to be delaying your day just due to a few people not arriving on time. Therefore give some time buffer between expected guest arrival and to actual ceremony start time.

The order of the day is purely up to you both. Whether you are planning a wedding breakfast, dinner or just the ceremony, make sure to communicate well with your guests and suppliers so they are confident of the expectations.

During the day, it is important for you to have a coordinator ideally. Someone who will help with suppliers as well as keep on track of the agenda for the day.

18) On the day stationery

Once you have all the major aspects of the wedding at least halfway sorted, the next thing to think about closer to the wedding day is on the stationery. So things like menu, place cards, welcome board, seating plan, any signs and booklets needed for the day etc.  

Try to keep it in the same styling format, colours and theme as you have used for your invitation. Whether you have designed it yourself or worked with a graphic designer, make sure to be consistent and coherent.

All of our stationeries were DIYed, and I have very much enjoyed the creative process of these. Not only the invitations we have assembled ourselves, but also we have created double-sided menu with a thank you note, name tags that were placed on the menu, table seating plan as you see below and also we designed and printed stickers that were used for our wedding favours. 

Everything you need to know to start planning for a wedding

19) Wedding bands

You can't get married without rings though, can you? Don't forget to go together to research and try out what wedding bands work for you. Whether you decide to have a wedding band that will match together, match your engagement ring or go totally different style is up to you. There are many types of rings out there, and if you want a more personal touch to your ring, you can get them to engrave, add fingerprints or even make the rings yourselves!

I wanted a ring that goes along with my engagement ring that is in platinum as well as a ring that is timeless and can be worn at all times even without the engagement ring. My partner went for a gold ring to match his pinky ring. Even though our colours of the rings are different, we went for the same brand and both of us got a ring that is in natural shape, meaning it is not curved and rounded as usual rings would be.