How to Start Wedding Planning: Your First Steps Checklist

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You’re Engaged,
Congratulations!
(Now how do you start wedding planning?)

You’ve just got engaged and can’t wait to start planning your wedding, the most wonderful and exciting journey! It can feel pretty overwhelming to begin with, so I’m here to help – I’ll talk you through the entire planning process, from your first wedding planning checklists to how to budget for your wedding and everything in between.

I hope you find this article useful – make sure to have a look at little white book – the ultimate wedding planner before you go xx

Before you begin planning your wedding, take your time to celebrate your engagement. My official ‘first’ wedding planning checklist suggests that you take this time to enjoy and reflect on this life-changing time, and what you want for your ‘Big Day’ before you really begin wedding planning. If you dive in too fast without really giving thought to what’s important to you, it’s easy to get swept away, or caught up, with organising all kinds of wedding elements – some of which you mightn’t even want.

I suggest you think about the real purpose of your wedding, the ‘why’ instead of just the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. Talk to your fiancé about what you both envision for your special day, what marriage means to you, and what traditions or customs are meaningful to you. Think about your relationship, what makes you unique, what is it that draws you to each other?

Once you feel really comfortable that you know the purpose, the meaning, and the reason for planning a wedding, keep that in mind as you move through the planning process. If you feel yourself getting carried away, return to your purpose.

The first booking to made is usually your wedding reception venue, but you can’t really make this decision until you have considered your ideal date, your guest list and your wedding budget.

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Begin Wedding Planning with a Guest List

Before you even think about booking a reception venue and sending out your wedding invitations, you need to give your guest list some careful consideration. Whether you can afford a large wedding party with all of your friends and family; whether the venue of your dreams has capacity for everyone on your list; and whether you really want to organise a large wedding party.

The more guests you have at your wedding, the less time you’ll actually be able to spend with each of them, not to mention the level of extra work required for a big wedding and the expense. If you already have a wedding venue in mind, double-check their guest capacity.

Otherwise, if you’re flexible for venue and budget, start wedding planning by writing down the names of every person you’d like to see on your wedding day, and work from there. This may also give you an indication as to what style of wedding you envisage, and make sure to keep returning to your purpose. For more help with this go to how to start your guest list).

Don’t Start Wedding Planning without a Budget

Just like your purpose, you will return to your wedding budget often, and one of the first steps to wedding planning must be to begin a budget. Without an idea of your wedding budget expectations, you can’t possibly commit to a ceremony or reception venue or any other wedding vendors.

It’s a good idea to sit down early, talk it over with your fiancé, and any parents or family members who may offer to make a contribution to your budget. Start working out your finances well in advance (see more via the wedding budget guide).

Set a Wedding Date

This too will tie in with your budget, as if you don’t have your savings organised, or won’t be able to do so within, say 12 months til your wedding, you might want to consider a longer engagement and therefore a later date.

Are there any particularly special dates to you, such as your first date, or the proposal date? Looking at your guest list, are there certain people who will only be able to make it at a certain time of year (overseas friends coming back for Christmas, for example)? Keep in mind that 75% of brides still wish to get married on a Saturday, and most will get married in summer, so don’t wait too long to book if you have a certain date in mind.

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What Style of Wedding do you Want?

You don’t need to have completely determined your wedding style prior to starting wedding planning, because with the right decor you can transform almost any room. However, The more styling or changing a venue will need to suit your style, the more it will cost, so to stick to a budget, it may be best to choose a venue which needs little in the way of decor. If you’re likely to want a classic and elegant wedding, a barnyard reception venue may not be right for your big day. There’s no point in wasting precious planning time (or should I say wedding-cake tasting time) by visiting wedding venues which don’t fit your style.

Once you have an idea of your date, guest-count, wedding budget and style, you can begin finding your wedding venue. I’ve written specific articles on Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch wedding venues, otherwise you can head to the Top 10 New Zealand wedding destinations or to How to find your wedding venueIf you’re outside of New Zealand, I suggest finding directory wedding websites in your local area.

Have a look at the little white wedding planning bundle to help start wedding planning.

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