You just got engaged? Congratulations! If you don’t know where to start planning the wedding of your dreams, here is a complete list of what to think about.
Of course, this list is to be adapted to your tastes and needs; not all weddings need to be the same – and that’s good.
Consider the big picture
It’s not necessary to start planning a wedding the day after the engagement; it’s also okay to enjoy the moment before you get started.
But before you get into the planning stage, it’s best to define and/or agree on the big picture, starting with:
The number of guests
At this point, it’s not an exact number that we want, but simply to know if we are in the register of “our immediate family and close friends only” (say, 20 to 50 people), “extended family and colleagues” (50 to 100 people) or “everyone we know and our parents know! “(sky is the limit, up to 300 people or more!)
Again, you don’t need an exact amount, just a rough understanding of what you have to spend. Do you have money saved up or can you count on gifts or other family support, for example?
Are we talking about a church ceremony followed by a reception in a hall? Is it more of a civil ceremony, either at the courthouse or at another location (celebrants travel everywhere)? Do you want something different: a wedding on your parents’ huge property, in a cottage by the lake, on a beach somewhere?
Sometimes the date is inflexible (because of a long vacation, your ability to take a vacation, or the availability of certain guests to travel) and it’s the other factors (say, the location) that have to conform.
Sometimes the date can vary a bit, for example depending on the availability of a venue you love and absolutely want. The idea at this point is to know when it will be, whether it’s a month or a season (example: in the fall next year).
Note that often people plan a wedding a year in advance, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. A memorable wedding can also be planned in a few months, probably with some compromises (i.e. your dream venue may already be booked). A simple “small” wedding can be planned in a few weeks.
Not everyone works the same way for the organization, but the important thing is to have a system to manage everything related to this project. This could be an Excel file, a binder, a folder on the computer, a Pinterest board, etc. Realistically, it will probably be a mix of all of these! Be sure to save this list.
The location of your wedding is still the centerpiece that you should reserve before anything else.
The choice of location may determine other factors, such as the date, the style of reception or the number of guests (minimum or maximum).
Venues – reception halls, restaurants, inns, hotels – that are accustomed to hosting weddings can often recommend or have partnerships with suppliers (e.g. a particular caterer, DJ or baker).
If the venue is not handling the food and/or drinks, this is the 2nd biggest piece, to be chosen fairly quickly. Note that other options than a sit-down meal or even dealing with a caterer are possible:
A cocktail party
The family prepares the food itself
A “potluck” formula
An after hours reception with only desserts or a candy table, etc.
Whether it is a religious or civil ceremony, the person who is marrying you is important and should ideally have a good “fit” with you. You will need to meet with them at least a few times in advance.
The photographer (and video)
It’s good to book this (these) resource(s) early enough in the process, to make sure people are available.
Not applicable to all weddings, but may include a marquee, tables and chairs, dishes, etc.
This person will be able to inform you about the availability of certain products according to the season and direct your vision…
The DJ or the band
Because music is important! Note that a great playlist on Spotify can also help.
Clothing and accessories
As these often require adjustments, it is good to give yourself time (several months). We are talking about the bride and groom’s clothes as well as those of the bridal party and close family.
The beauty treatment
We are talking about appointments for hair, makeup, manicure, etc.. Don’t hesitate to schedule additional appointments for try-ons.
It’s not essential to have a traditional wedding cake (there are other options), but it is part of what people remember! Bring pictures of what you like.
You can have them printed, calligraphy or do it yourself! A good guide: it is usually recommended to send them 2 to 3 months in advance (not applicable to all situations).
The actual number of guests will be determined based on the responses from the guests, which will allow you to notify all the suppliers for whom this number is relevant (caterer, baker, rental…)
Is there anything to prepare for the room? A guest book, posters, banners, etc. Gifts for guests can also be included in this category.
This is the time to plan these details: will there be music, specific decorations, texts, etc
Are there any hotel rooms to rent (for the bride and groom or guests)? How many, for how long, do all these out-of-towners have transportation, etc.?
The legal side of the wedding requires procedures, forms and different steps (including a delay for the publication of the banns) and it is necessary to give yourself at least 3 to 4 weeks to complete it (there are some exceptions for which this delay is less long).
How the transportation will work, what time the bride and groom should be ready, when the hall will be available, etc. This is the time to choose “delegates”, i.e. trusted people close to the couple, who will be able to carry out different tasks: welcoming people when they arrive at the ceremony site, preparing the room, picking up things and bringing them to the reception site…
It is good at this point to reconfirm this process (arrival time, etc.) with all the suppliers. Up to this point, you have probably given deposits to most of them, but just before the wedding (or sometimes even on the day itself), it’s time to pay them in full.
Everything that comes around
We can talk about brunch the next day, family dinner the night before, packing, arrangements to take care of pets and/or children, etc.