So you’re getting married, hm? Got that engagement ring (or maybe a placeholder) and now you’re all excited about the big day? I’m here to crush that excitement with a little reality.
You have SO much planning to do.
Weddings don’t just fall into your lap, and your Pinterest board isn’t going to suddenly come to life and set itself up. A lot of little things are about to crop up, like “What’s your ‘something blue?'” and “What kind of cufflinks are you wearing?” and all the older folks in your life who’ve “been there; done that” with weddings are going to have opinions.
Fortunately for you, I have also been there; done that. I handled all the planning, designing and most of the purchasing when it came to every aspect of my ceremony, and I did it all for under $8,000. In a day and age when most weddings cost upwards of $30,000, I think I did pretty well for myself. If you’re anything like me (and if you’re here reading this article), you’re looking to save on your wedding purchases, but money might be your biggest obstacle to having the wedding of your dreams. I want to help you overcome that obstacle, and to do that, I’m going to start by breaking everything down. Yes, everything. Every little thing that has to do with how to plan a wedding, we’re gonna talk about it, and we’re gonna talk about how you can save on it.
Now, I’m not going to give you a wedding planner checklist or anything since I figure you can find that anywhere on the Internet. What the FatWallet team and I are going to give you is information on every aspect of planning a wedding on a budget that you can think of (and the ones you didn’t).
To kick off your wedding planning, I’m giving you an overview of what that process might look like (it’s different for everyone, after all). Make sure you bookmark this page because we’ll continually add links to more in-depth articles on each aspect of the planning process.
Excited again? Good. Let’s get started.
Setting a Budget
First thing you need to think about is your budget. How much do you want to spend and how much can you actually spend? Set a minimum and a maximum and stick to them. Are you planning to pay for everything yourself, or can you get help from family? Work this into your budget, as well, but personally, I would make the assumption that the entire financial burden will fall on you and your partner unless you already cleared a check.
Prioritizing Your Planning Check-list
Next, prioritize your planning. What is most important to you? Let’s say you want great food, great photography and the perfect dress, but you don’t care as much where you get married or what the décor looks like. Focus your planning and budget around the things you want the most. There are time-sensitive things that you still need to address at this point, like booking your venue and sending out invites, but for right now, just get your ducks in a row. Lists will be your best friends for the next 9-14 months, assuming you’re planning this on a traditional engagement-to-wedding timeline.
Picking a Date
This step might take a bit of time. Be sure to take into account the birthdays of those closest to you, people that might or definitely will be involved in your wedding, and any other dates, like holidays. When you finally have your date, you can start taking steps to solidify the planning. It took me three years from my engagement to get married, and I planned the whole time, so don’t think you have to get married right away now that you’re engaged. On the money-saving side of things, “wedding season” is typically June through September, so you might be able to get reduced rates with vendors or locations for booking out-of-season. See who will give you a discount for giving them business outside their busiest time, assuming the date is not that important to you.
Creating Your Guest List
Like I said earlier, there are a lot of things you need to consider when planning, and now that you’ve figured out your budget, your priorities and the date, you need to look at the whole picture. Start thinking about your guest list, since the size of your list will influence the size of your venue, the amount of chairs, tables and food you need (and who will sit where), who you’ll invite to your engagement party, how many invites you need to order and what kind of entertainment you’ll book. Guests aren’t just numbers, and your planning might get political: based on your budget, you may need to make cuts that make some folks unhappy. Stick to your plan, and don’t be bullied into overspending.
Signing Up for Registries
Sign up for registries as early as possible so people have things to pick from for things like wedding showers and engagement parties. Oh, yeah, and think about how many parties you’re going to be having from here until the big day. Are you having an engagement party? Is someone else throwing your wedding shower for you? Are you having one for your whole family, future in-laws included, or will there be two for the separate halves? Bachelorette and bachelor parties will need to be planned for, as well.
Working with Vendors
Set reminders for your vendor payments throughout the planning process. If they require a deposit, get that in ASAP so you know you won’t lose out on your dream DJ to someone else. Ask if they allow payment plans if you’re strapped for cash at the moment. Plan for potential emergencies, like vet visits or flat tires. Life doesn’t go on hold while you plan your wedding.
All the Little Things
Little things like bridesmaids’ gifts can sneak up on you if you’re not accounting for those, as well, so if it starts to feel like too much, ASK FOR HELP. Hopefully, you’ve got a support structure that wants to be involved and lend a hand, so don’t be afraid to go to them. Pick a bridesmaid and a groomsman you trust absolutely to be your maid/matron of honor and best man; don’t just pick the people who have the most fun. Surround yourself with reliable folks who can get the job done. You’ll save time and lots of money if everything goes smoothly during planning. (See what I mean about having a lot of planning to do?)
Featured image credit: Katsu Nojiri