How to Start Planning a Wedding

A Photographers Viewpoint

flower girl watching Cleveland bride put on veil

A big question most newly engaged couples surely will have is how to start planning a wedding.  Of course, we all want to know what to do to succeed, especially when planning our wedding day. But just as important are the pitfalls and mistakes that are only made and realized after the fact, when it’s too late. I want to provide some simple suggestions, with the help of some of Cleveland’s leading wedding coordinators, that can help you navigate your way to a wonderful wedding day.

Having a Wedding Coordinator

I will begin this post by saying that a HUGE benefit would be hiring a coordinator. Whether they assist you with all of the many details throughout the entire planning process or they are there on the big day as a day of  coordinator. An experienced wedding coordinator can make the whole process much more enjoyable and less difficult. Even if you have a friend help out it will take some stress off of your shoulders.  So getting a coordinator is not something that you should avoid but something that is highly recommended.

Setting a Date

The first thing to avoid when planning your wedding is setting your wedding date too close to the engagement. Give yourself 12-18 months to plan your day. Having the extra time will allow you to make solid choices and even change your mind. Do not wait set your date and not give yourself time to get things done in stress free manner.

Melanie Tindell of Oak and Honey Events adds, “Avoid booking a venue that is not open yet or under construction. Construction schedules  are never concrete you don’t want to chance finding out you do not have a venue a few months before your wedding.”  Such and excellent point. Your wedding is too important to rely on a venue that is not quite ready for prime time.

Creating a Wedding Budget

Next, avoid planning without a solid budget. Melanie suggests, “Budgets are key to planning your wedding and without one, you can end up having to cut items you love a few months before the wedding.” Cassie Mullins of Cassie Mullins Event Planning and Design states, ” If a bride starts booking vendors without having an established budget, they may find themselves well beyond their budget before booking all vendors.”  Be strategic. Lay out a plan and follow it. Pick your 3 or 4 most important items that you will dedicate most of your budget and solidify those things first. It could be the reception venue, a band a…ahem…experienced professional wedding photographer 🙂 . These are things that you really don’t want to compromise the quality of service and are willing to allocate more of your wedding budget. I call them “The Big 3”, since I had 3 no compromise items at our wedding (venue, photographer and band). Everyone will have a different Big 3 and only you can decide what those are. Once you select your “must haves”, work to nail those down and you can then move forward on other things allocating your wedding budget accordingly.

Selecting Your Wedding Party

Next, you don’t have to have everyone in your bridal party. Your instinct is to not hurt anyone’s feelings so you have 25 bridesmaids. This is not necessary unless you are 110% sure that every person is the most important person in your life. If you communicate very clearly to family and friends from the very beginning, they will understand why you are limiting your bridal party. Merry Rini of Merry Me Creations says, “Think about the ones who will genuinely support you and will also still be your friend in 10 or 20 years.”

Creating a Guest List

Additionally, you don’t have to invite your mothers cousin’s childhood friend’s neighbor to your wedding. Your guest list should be limited to those that are closest to you. The people that are most important people in your lives. The biggest way to control your budget is to limit the number of guests that you invite. Marie and I had the “Christmas Card Rule”.  If we hadn’t received a Christmas card from you within the last five years, why would we be inviting you to our wedding?  Also, do not feel obligated to have a “plus one” on your invites.  Think about it…why would you pay $50-$100 or more for a stranger that you don’t even know?!  Of course if your cousin is in a serious relationship and you know their partner’s name, then by all means…invite!  Marie and I chose not to do plus ones and we had no regrets!  Melanie Tindell adds “Avoid having a guest list with A, B, and C lists. You run the risk of sending invitations out too late for any guests on the B or C list.”

Wedding Day Timeline

Next, don’t ignore your timeline. Your wedding day has a finite amount of time to accomplish quite a lot. The  timeline is absolutely essential in making sure that you can fulfill your wedding day obligations while still enjoying the day. Not an easy task if you neglect your timeline. And be sure to listen to all of your wedding vendors. We have a ton of wedding experience to share with you. Our only goal is to make sure that your day goes perfectly.  Eileen Benson of Bridal Consulting by Eileen states “Make out a timeline (with help from experienced planner) be sure to make a hair and make up schedule and pad the schedule. Have someone help keep track of time. If there is a delay with hair or make up or transportation it can throw off the photos!” I like the way she thinks! :). So, pay especially close attention to your wedding day timeline.  Here are my thoughts on your wedding day timeline.

Wedding Vendors

My next point may anger some of my vendor friends, but my only aim is to give my clients the best advice possible so that they can have the best wedding day imaginable. My next point would be to avoid Jack-of-all-trades vendors. Or more defined, vendors that offer every single service under one roof. I’m not saying that they are bad. Most are quite competent. But if you want the absolute best, find those that specialize in one thing. A photographer that only does photography. A videographer that only specializes in videography. And so on. These vendors are putting all of their efforts into perfecting their one service. It will cost a little more, but having the best usually does. If you want to save money, whittle down your guest list or figure out how to afford the best vendors in other ways. Remember the “Big 3” rule. Also, as Melanie of Oak and Honey Events says, “Avoid using family members as vendors. All too often when family members are used as vendors and they do not complete the work (they cause) stress for the bride and groom.”  Even worse, you could end up souring relationships if these family members do not deliver on their promises.  So true. And this can also be attributed to newer or budget oriented vendors. You might save a few dollars, but you might have to sacrifice the additional service that vendors that cost more excell at.

Other Helpful Tips

Cassie Mullins adds an excellent point. on your wedding day don’t avoid eating! “Breakfast delivered in the morning, and snacks in the limo! Dinner usually isn’t until after 6pm.” she states. You’re wedding day is a LONG day. You need your energy to be able to get thru it and enjoy it.

My last and most important thing to avoid when planning your wedding…avoid worrying too much! Look, worrying about all of the details and having a perfect wedding day is completely normal. If you didn’t worry and stress a little that would mean that you didn’t care. Stress is a good and normal part of the wedding planning process.  But don’t OVER stress. It’s very easy to do. Just relax the best that you can. Leave everything to all of your competent wedding vendors and enjoy your day. Then you can avoid having regrets, and have a day to remember.