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The Basics of Wedding Planning- 10 Tips to Get You Started

Planning a wedding can seem daunting, which is understandable. From choosing your wedding dress to starting a registry and finding a wedding venue, there is a lot to stress about when planning a wedding. This article contains information about the wedding planning process and gives 9 tips to help guide and inspire you during the long process.

1. Creating your Budget

Before you can start planning the exciting portions of your wedding, such as the wedding dress, ceremony, and reception, you have to decide on the budget. In 2018, the average cost of a wedding in the US was around $44,000; a large jump from the 2017 average of $27,000. Weddings are expensive but you don’t have to go into debt to have your dream wedding, which is where budgeting comes into the picture.

As a general rule of thumb, always base your budget around what you can comfortably afford, not how much you have. There are 5 general things to think about when you are creating your budget:

  • See who is contributing to the wedding and what they are paying for
  • How much can you comfortably afford: how much money you can save before the wedding and can you dip into an existing savings account.
  • Estimate the guest count of the wedding – generally, the cost of a wedding is proportional to how many guests are in attendance. A wedding with 150 guests in attendance costs around $4,200 USD, which averages out to $30 per plate.
  • High priority features should take more of your allotted budget than less important details.
  • Be aware of hidden costs – don’t expect to pay the bare minimum for the hired services, keep in mind that you have to tip the vendors.

2. Theme Weddings

When you fantasize about your dream wedding, what do you envision? Maybe a rustic wedding out in the country? Or maybe you see your big day filled with glamorous decorations remnant of a 1920s flapper party. These two visions are examples of common themes seen in weddings.

Your wedding’s theme needs to be personalized to you and your partner and should be comprised of aspects that you hold dear to your heart. A few of the more common wedding themes of 2018 were romantic weddings, art-deco themes, modern/simple, beach weddings, and bohemian styles.

Related: 10 Tips to Plan Your Wedding on a Budget

3. Determining your Guest List

Estimating your guest list depends on your budget. If you are on a tighter budget and need (or want) to keep the attendance small but have a hard time deciding who has made the list, then you have a couple of options.

The first option is simple: increase your budget. If the list of important people is bigger than what you can afford, sit back down with your partner and go over your budget again. Look for extra expenses that you can cut and redelegate to allow for a few extra guests to attend your wedding.

The second option is also relatively simple: create a set of rules that you and your partner come up with and follow them. If neither yourself nor your fiancé has spoken to a particular guest in a few years and aren’t family, then take them off the list.

If you feel like you need to invite a person because you were invited to their wedding and would feel guilty to leave them out, don’t invite them. You can also opt in for an adult only wedding to drastically reduce the guest list.

4. Narrowing Down the Dates

Once you have your guest list sorted out, you need to narrow down the dates of your ceremony. There are a few things to consider when choosing a date – like cost and venue availability. If you are using a public venue and want to keep the cost low, you are better off to have a wedding during the winter or summer months.

Spring and fall weddings are incredibly popular for a handful of reasons, like beautiful scenery for pictures and perfect weather, which drastically reduces the venue availability and raises the cost. You will also want to discuss potential wedding dates with important guests to ensure there are no scheduling conflicts.

5. Wedding Ceremonies and Venues

One of the more exciting aspects of wedding planning is finding the perfect wedding venue for your ceremony. Before anything else, you should decide your general destination, i.e. – a destination wedding or in your hometown. Once you have chosen the destination, there are a few key details to keep in mind when scouting out potential venue spots.

You and your fiancé should agree on a few must have features for the venue. Once you have a list of venues that include your must haves, you then need to check for the maximum guest capacity and whether the venue can hold all the guests on your list, and if the venue is in your budget.

Once you have completed these steps and have a small list of your top venue options, you should call the venue to ask general questions about availability and pricing.

It is important to note that your wedding’s theme can greatly impact the cost of your wedding. For example, a glitzy and glamorous wedding in a public venue will be more expensive than a rustic wedding that takes place in a friend’s barn or on their farm.

Your choice of wedding ceremony also influences your venue list. For example, if you are having a religious ceremony, you would probably want a traditional church wedding. Interfaith weddings have ceremonies that intertwine the differing religious beliefs of the couple into one ceremony; and non-denominational weddings include ceremonies for those who believe in a religion but are not devout. There are also civil marriages that take place in a government office, like a courthouse.

Related: 9 Major Mistakes to Avoid in Wedding Invitations

6. Planning the Reception: Dinner Options, Transportation, and Entertainment

The reception is where the real fun begins, where you get to celebrate with the people you cherish most in life. The reception is expensive and should be allocated a large part of your wedding budget. When planning your wedding reception, you need to focus on dinner options and entertainment.

During your reception, you will have to rent or buy tables and chairs for your guests to sit in during the reception. Additionally, you will also be charged a rental fee for sound equipment, like speakers for your DJ or band.

You will also need to make sure that your guests are fed during the reception with dinner or food tables. When looking at the different dinner options, keep your guest list and budget in mind – while you may want to serve your guests a 5-star meal, it is not sustainable for those with lower budgets.

If your venue is in a different location then your wedding ceremony, you will also need to factor in transportation for your guests to get to the reception venue.

7. Creating Formal Invitations and RSVPs

Wedding invitations are formal letters sent to those on your guest list informing them of the date and time of your wedding and whether they are able to attend. Generally, you will want to send out your formal invitations six to eight weeks before your wedding. If you are having a destination wedding, you should send them out at least three months in advance to give your guests enough time to make travel arrangements.

Some couples have their wedding invitations created by businesses that specialize in stationary gifts, while others choose to save money and make their invitations by hand. Regardless of the way the invites are created, they must have a sentence describing who is hosting the wedding, an invitation to attend the wedding, and the address of the wedding venue.

If your wedding reception will have a dinner with different meal options, you will want to put a separate sheet in your invitation with the different meal options, allowing your guests to order what they want. This way, your caterer will know how many servings of each meal option to make and can streamline the dinner service of your reception.

8. Setting up your Wedding Registry

While not necessary, many brides choose to set up a wedding registry with various stores to communicate their gift preferences to their guests. You will want to set up a wedding registry at least five months before your wedding to give your guests ample time to browse your registry.

To create your own bridal registry, you will want to register with at least one home goods store, one department store, and one kitchen store to get all your needs covered. Usually, the registry should be larger than your guest list and contain gifts at various price points to give your guests the option to buy a gift within their budget.

Related: The 15 Best Venues for Outdoor Weddings in the USA

9. Choosing a Wedding Cake

Deciding on your wedding cake flavor is one of the more relaxed details of your wedding planning process. Sit down with your partner and start making a list of potential flavors and discussing what you both have in mind for the cake.

When you have your top flavors chosen, start looking around for bakeries in your area and price range and start scheduling consultations. It’s always a good idea to schedule consultations with multiple businesses to help you find the bakery that fits your wedding perfectly.

During your taste-testing sessions, don’t forget to try out different toppings as well as different cake flavors. If you and your partner are torn between two flavors, ask for a layered wedding cake with the two cake flavors, that way you both are happy with the cake.

Remember that the cake will have to be big enough for your guest size; on average a three-tier wedding cake will have 50-100 servings. Nationwide, the average cost of a wedding cake is $250 – $450, but is influence by the size of the cake, how many layers, and any special decorations.

10. Scheduling Vendors: Florists, Photographers, Caterers, and More

The final wedding planning tip is to schedule all your vendors in advance. While details about the videographer, photographer, florist, and caterers may be lower on your priority list, you need to schedule them early.

To make sure you have ample time to meet and find your perfect vendors, you will want to schedule consults with each vendor about 10 months before your wedding.

With these wedding tips, you will be well on your way to planning and having the wedding of your dreams!

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