by Christie A. Brogan {8.23.17}

As someone who just got engaged, (In March…he asked at the base of a waterfall, at the top of a mountain in Steamboat Springs, CO…since you asked) the list of “what to do now” can be confusing and overwhelming…even for someone like me. Still, my experience over the past decade as a wedding planner, caterer, and venue owner has certainly provided for some practical steps and strategies to get the planning process off on the right foot. Done well the planning process can actually be enjoyable.

The first thing to note is your new “bestie” is the wedding checklist. Ok…it doesn’t have to be, but I’ll be darned if those checklists don’t help keep things organized. With a good checklist, each step of the process builds on the next and, when done right, should make for a wedding day experience that flows beautifully together.

{First Things First} Before you start scheduling venue tours, or dress shopping, or booking the “must-have” photographer…there are some questions to ask and decisions to be made.

  1. What’s your budget? Oh no, the “B” word already? Yes. Including contributions from parents or loved ones, any wedding funds, “extra” monthly earnings (and without racking up a pile of post-wedding debt)…what is the total you and your fiance are prepared to spend? Things to note, when considering budget. You will have to pay deposits to secure the venue, the caterer, the vendors, etc. You will not have to pay for the entire wedding tomorrow. So, what can you comfortably budget towards the wedding? Unless you are one of the lucky few where budget is not a concern, answering this question will impact all of the other questions to follow.
  2. What’s your headcount? The headcount impacts your overall wedding costs more than almost anything. (You can find more details in our {5.5.17} blog post, Wedding Budget…The #1 Question Answered.) A simple example is the cost savings on Food & Beverage alone. If you trim 50 guests from your list (150 guests at $50 per person = $7500 vs. 100 guests at $50 per person = $5000), you save $2500 out of the gate. The other big impact of headcount is when choosing the venue. One of the first steps in planning your wedding is selecting the venue. All of the experts (we are biased around here so we rely on the experts) will tell you the venue is NOT where you should scrimp. Why? The venue will set the stage for your wedding. And, the right venue, will provide character and ambience that can be a money saver on decor later. What does the venue have to do with headcount? Ummm…everything. Here in lies the wedding planning version of “the chicken or the egg?” If you plan to invite 300 guests, you need to find a venue large enough to accommodate your guest list. If you find the venue that is just perfect but only accommodates 150, then you have to make some hefty cuts to that initial guest list. Whichever the case, you have to at least have a ballpark idea of how many guests you plan to invite.

{Your Top 5} What’s most important to the two of you? Would you consider yourselves “foodies”? Is your “soon-to-be” an outdoor enthusiast?  Is a day with your toes in sand an apt description of perfection? Take a moment to consider these things as you determine how best to spend the budget. The experts will tell you your wedding budget generally breaks down something like this pie chart.  Rank the items on this list from most important to least. Once you have done that, make some adjustments to reflect the priorities on your list.
1. Location
2. Cake
3. Gown, Tux, & Accessories
4. Food & Beverage
5. Flowers & Decor
6. Photography
7. Entertainment
8. Wedding Rings
9. Wedding Planner/Designer
10. Favors & Gifts
11. Transportation
12. Misc.

{The Fun Stuff} Now that you have a budget, a headcount, and your “Top 5″…it’s time for the fun stuff.  Shopping. Planning. Creating. What’s the look and “feel” you want for your wedding? Is your style casual and laid back? Or glamorous and over-the-top? Does your budget allow for a wedding planner or event designer? If so, relying on their experience, contacts, knowledge, and know-how can make the process even more enjoyable. So…

  1. Select a Venue (be flexible with your “date” especially when booking in the high season)
  2. Book Your Pros (without a venue and a date, most wedding pros won’t sign a contract with you)
  3. Find the Dress (the dress should compliment the style and design of the your wedding day)

In the end, your wedding day should feel like it was made for the two of you.  Our checklist should get you started on the right path. Of course, there are lots of online fully-customizable options like this one from our friends at WeddingWire. Whatever tool you choose, enjoy the journey. Happy planning!




Christie Brogan {Co-Founder & Partner – 128 South and Bakery 105 in Wilmington, NC. Founder of SocietyWed – Design Collective. Entrepreneur, Small Business Mentor, Event Planner, Wedding Geek, Writer, Business Innovator, Idea Maker, Boot Camp Betty, Yoga Nut, Animal Lover, Avid Reader}


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