How To Plan A Wedding: The 2023 Ultimate Guide (With 39 Tips)
You found your soulmate, you got engaged, and now you’re left wondering where to even begin and how to plan a wedding. Planning a wedding is the ultimate task, but by breaking down the wedding planning process into smaller, easier-to-accomplish stages and steps, you’ll be a successful wedding planner in no time!
First comes the big-picture planning as you decide on a budget and begin brainstorming your initial vision. While starting the process may seem daunting, luckily, we’re here to put your minds at ease! Let’s walk through all the important steps of how to plan a wedding!
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Stage I: Budgeting And Organizing
As soon as you announce your engagement to all your close friends and family, they’re bound to start asking for details. When’s the big day? What are you going to wear? What’s your wedding hashtag? The inquiries go on.
While these are all exciting questions to dream about and consider, you may not have all the answers quite yet. And in all honesty, you shouldn’t! You still have the first stage of wedding planning to accomplish which involves research and budgeting. Don’t rush things. Stay patient. On average, couples spend about 12 to 18 months between the date of their engagement and their wedding day. Use that time to be intentional about all the steps for planning your wedding.
1. Decide On Your Budget And Stick To It
One of the first things that you should do when figuring out how to plan a wedding is set a budget. Every wedding guest, vendor, floral arrangement, centerpiece, wedding attire, and menu item comes with its own price.
Before you even begin to plan your dream wedding, discuss with your partner a budget you are both comfortable with. Figure out how much of your budget you should allocate to the various categories of spending. Every couple is different, so you should do thorough research to discern what the perfect wedding budget is for you.
While weddings can quickly get pricey, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to cut down on your expenses. You should also use a spreadsheet or online resource to track your spending throughout to ensure you’re still on track.
One of the easiest ways to cut down on expenses is to cut down on your guest count. When setting this initial budget with your fiancé, don’t forget to consider how many guests you are looking to have.
2. Create A Wedding Email Address
As you start subscribing to newsletters and contacting venues, photographers, caterers, and other wedding helpers, it can be a lifesaver to have a singular email address where all this information is stored. Have some fun with this step and make your wedding email address have a cute username. You could even use your wedding hashtag for this email.
3. Create A Checklist
Staying organized is one of the most important tips when it comes time to plan a wedding. Ensure you don’t miss a single detail by creating a cohesive wedding day checklist. Having a wedding planning checklist will help keep track of all the various moving pieces as you plan your special day.
4. Pick Your Wedding Party
If blogs and books are getting tedious, you always have your friends and family who are probably eager to talk weddings with you. Now’s a great opportunity to decide on your wedding party and enlist their help with your planning ideas. Whether they’re offering advice on wedding dresses and menu items or simply just working as a sounding board for your ideas, your wedding party can be a valuable resource for stress-free planning!
5. Create Your Guest List
You’ve enlisted your wedding party, now how about the rest of the guest list? Before inviting everyone you know, talk with your partner to figure out how large of a wedding you are looking to have.
Have you always dreamed of a huge celebration with 200 or more guests? Or perhaps a small wedding sounds like the perfect day as you create an intimate environment with only your closest loved ones.
As you narrow down your guest list, remember to think back to your wedding budget. Each guest has an associated cost to them in terms of food, invitations, favors, and the size venue you need.
Take some time to walk through your guest list with your partner, but don’t be hasty with this step, either. Having an accurate and solidified guest list will be incredibly handy as you continue on with learning how to plan a wedding.
6. Create A Wedding Website
To help you through this organizational stage of the process, it’s a great idea to create your own wedding website. Wedding websites exist to make the lives of you and your guests easier.
On this site, you can input information like dress code, your wedding registry, social media hashtags, venue locations, and travel recommendations all in one space. Each guest can receive instant updates, respond to polls, RSVP to all your wedding-related events, and answer questions about their plus-ones or dietary restrictions. Managing your own event website is easier than you might imagine.
Pro Tip: Wedsites is a great wedding website builder and online platform designed to streamline your entire wedding planning process from the moment you say “Yes” to “I Do”.
7. Get A Personalized Wedding Hashtag
Wedding hashtags may be one of the most fun wedding trends today. It’s a slogan for your union! Whether punny, romantic, cute, or straightforward, hashtags are a perfect way to get your guests excited about your wedding day. They also have a practical use in the digital space for helping to organize all your photos neatly on social media platforms.
If you’re struggling to think of a clever and customized hashtag yourselves, luckily there are professional hashtag writers out there who can do the heavy lifting for you! With Wedding Hashers you can submit your and your partner’s details to the pros and within a business day, their team of writers will send you a complete list of personalized tags to use on your special day!
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Stage II: Venues, Receptions, And Ceremonies
Now comes some of the fun stuff. Once you’ve completed the initial steps of planning a wedding, such as getting your budget set and creating a guest list, you’ll want to start deciding on dates and potential venues for your various wedding events.
8. Pick A Wedding Date
Depending on when and where you’re hoping to have your wedding, venues and vendors can start getting booked up pretty quickly. In order to make all your necessary arrangements, you’ll need to first pick a wedding date.
It might be helpful to consider the season you and your partner are looking to tie the knot. Some seasons might be busier than others such as in the late spring and early summer, which is considered wedding Season.
If you’re not looking to compete with other wedding bookings, consider having your special day in the off-season. Most weddings also take place over the weekend; however, if you decide to plan a weekday wedding instead, there might be more openings available for you to book the exact vendors you want, and likely at a lower price.
Once you lock in on your wedding date, the fun can truly begin as you start booking your venue and sending out those save-the-date cards.
9. Pick A Venue And A Backup
With a potential season or date range for your big day in mind, you’re ready to book your venue. If you’re keeping your wedding small and local, such as in a backyard or family home, now’s the time to start envisioning how you want to transform your space. Will you be needing tents, dance floors, sound systems, tables, chairs, and an altar?
If you’re looking to book a venue at a specific destination, it’s time to start doing research and making some calls. For those who have hired a wedding planner, they’ll be a great resource as you settle on the perfect space. With your budget and wedding size in mind, search for your ideal venue. Don’t forget to have a backup plan in case things fall through!
10. Book A Reception Facility
Generally speaking, it’s good to get ahead of the curve when booking a wedding reception. When starting to plan a wedding, couples tend to book reception venues around 9 months before the actual reception. The sooner you can lock down a date, the higher chance you’ll be able to land the reception venue of your dreams.
11. Think About Your Officiant
If you’re going to hire someone to officiate your wedding, you should look into hiring an officiant sooner rather than later so you can ensure that the right person will be available on the day of your wedding. Wedding Wire has a good searching tool for finding officiants near you.
Remember, you can also have a friend officiate your wedding as long as they get ordained. Thus, if you’re going that route, you’ll want to give your friend plenty of time to go through the process.
12. Decide On A Menu
If you like food (and who doesn’t?), then this part should be fun! There are many different serving methods to consider. Are you looking to have a few individual plates that guests can decide between beforehand or are you interested in having a buffet?
Another great option to consider would be renting out wedding food trucks for your guests to order food as they please. No matter what option you decide on, you should work closely with your caterers to understand the pricing of each dish according to how many guests you have coming. Also, don’t forget to ask your guests about any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
13. Ready The Booze
Once you’ve settled on your food, it’s time to think about drinks. Whether you’re having a dry wedding or an open bar, there’s plenty of planning to do. For starters, will you be hiring caterers, bartenders, or niche food trucks to handle these drink requests?
Some venues might include a bar in their package, in which case all you need to do is think up a menu. Get creative with your drink menu by creating your own cocktails and mocktails to serve. You can even have a bride’s drink and a groom’s drink for your guests to custom order.
Don’t forget to also have tons of non-alcoholic options, sodas, juices, coffee, and water for the kiddos or guests who aren’t interested in adult beverages.
14. Think About The Music
Every great wedding has music. Whether it’s a live band, a DJ, or a dope playlist that you and your friends create, music is key to a good time. There are a couple of factors to think about when deciding between these options. Think about your budget, the type of music that’ll work for your venue, and the dancing experience you want to create. While you’re at it, start thinking about what you want your first dance song to be, too.
15. Start Booking Wedding Vendors
With your venue and reception all set, your food and drink menu taken care of, and your music options in mind, it’s time to start thinking about your other wedding vendors. These vendors include your caterers, florists, hair and makeup stylists, and your baker for the wedding cake.
16. Create A Wedding Invitation
Now that things are really starting to come together, it’s time to let your guest list know of your upcoming day! Start with a save-the-date card once you’re sure of your date or have comfortably booked your dream venue. Then it’s all about the wedding invitation. Whether you choose to go with digital invitations or traditional prints, creating a beautifully designed invitation online is incredibly simple with the great variety of templates out there!
17. Think About Transportation
Especially if you’re having a destination wedding, it’s important to think about transportation for both you and your guests. For weddings that’ll have guests traveling, recommend flights and try solidifying cars or buses to get them from their hotel rooms to the venue.
Even for more local weddings, transportation is still important. Is your wedding venue a bit farther from your reception? Renting out proper transportation such as limos, buses, cable cars, or other unique vehicles is not only more environmentally friendly, but it’ll take the headache away from guests getting lost along the way. You might also want to think about renting a wedding car specifically for you and your partner!
18. Organize Accommodations For Guests
For all those wedding guests from out of town, it would be courteous to arrange or suggest accommodations for them to stay during your wedding celebrations. This is especially important if you’re having a destination wedding, a weekend wedding, or a celebration that will stretch out for multiple days with your rehearsal dinner, wedding day, and post-wedding brunch events.
Plus, if you organize a singular hotel or Airbnb location for your guests, they can all mingle under the same roof and be able to arrange transportation and carpools more easily together.
Stage III: Wedding Themes And Attire
This next stage of planning a wedding is all about the look and aesthetic you’re looking to achieve. It’s time to consider the theme, the color scheme, and the style of how you want your wedding day to be. This step is all about the details, so feel free to get creative!
19. Start A Pinterest Board
Once you’re delving into the details of how you want your wedding to look, you might want to check out Pinterest for inspiration on wedding ideas. Pinterest is chock full of images, tutorials, and crafty ideas that will help get your creative juices flowing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed scrolling through the massive database of Pinterest, so we recommend starting your very own Pinterest board. As you browse, you can add the ideas you like to your personalized wedding board.
20. Choose A Wedding Theme
Selecting a wedding theme can help serve as a guiding light when it comes to wedding planning. The overarching theme is the aesthetic and identity of your big day. Whether you want a rustic wedding or a whimsical one, there’s a theme out there for every wedding style.
Choosing the style that best fits you and your partner can help when it comes time to make decisions about the venue, decorations, floral arrangements, and more. When in doubt, think back to your theme and go for the option that most closely aligns in order to create a cohesive celebration.
21. Get Your Wedding Dress
Have you always dreamed of finding the perfect wedding dress style for you? It’s now your chance to have that fairytale moment as you try on dazzling dresses and decide on the one. There are so many wonderful styles out there from long and traditional gowns to tea-length wedding dresses.
Book your bridal gown fitting appointment and don’t forget to bring along some trusty family members or your bridal party and maid of honor to give you their honest feedback and opinions as they help you decide on your style. Once you have your dress, you’ll also want to consider what accessories you’ll pair with them such as wedding shoes, jewelry, a tiara, and a wedding veil.
22. Bridesmaid Dresses
Once you’ve selected your stunning wedding dress, you’ll next have to consider what bridesmaid dresses to choose. When it comes to dresses for your bridal party, there are a variety of options and styles to choose from. You can have everyone wear the same style and colored dress in their given size or you could opt for a mix-and-match style.
With a mix-and-match style, you can provide your crew with guidance in the type of dresses you want them to pick out while still giving them some freedom with their selection. Perhaps you’re looking for everyone to match your color scheme, a specific color tone such as pastels, or you want them to embrace all the different colors of the rainbow.
23. Pick Your Suits
Guys, it’s time to look fly. Getting a great suit is often an overlooked wedding planning step, but not for lack of importance. First things first, you’ll want to go to the tailor. Even if you know your size, it can’t hurt to check to make sure this suit fits perfectly. Next, grab a couple of your closest buddies, groomsmen, and your best man, and head to the store.
Remember, you can always rent a suit, but the beauty of buying a suit is that you’ll probably be able to wear it for years after your wedding. If you don’t know where to start, here’s an extensive guide on all things related to the groom’s suit.
Still looking for the perfect suit? Use the code Hashers10 for 10% off any purchase of $194 or more at The Suit Shop.
24. Pick Out Wedding Favors
As a sweet way to thank your guests for coming to celebrate your big day, it might be a nice gesture to give out wedding favors at the end of the night. Personalize your wedding favors by having them correspond to your wedding theme. For example, this could include mason jars filled with honey for a rustic theme or a DIY s’mores kit for a summer or outdoor wedding.
Stage IV: Wedding Photography
This next stage in the wedding planning process is all about capturing your special moments. Your wedding day is an important milestone in your life and relationship. You’ll want to make sure you plan out how you intend to memorialize this grand day with photographers, videographers, and a wedding hashtag to organize all these visual assets in one place.
25. Engagement Photoshoot
Prior to your wedding ceremony, you might want to book an engagement photoshoot. The beautiful photos you take here can become quite useful as you announce your engagement on social media, show off your engagement ring, personalize your wedding invitations or wedding website, or decorate your wedding venue with pictures of your relationship.
26. Book a Photographer
When your big day arrives, it will be important to have a top-notch wedding photographer there to help you capture the precious moments. For this step, you’ll want to give yourself enough time to research a few photographers and book them before it’s too late.
Before booking your wedding day photographer, compare different photography styles and their different pricing or packages. Will they retouch or edit your photos after the event? Do they offer printed photos directly? Can you customize your photography package or make special requests?
You’ll want to make sure you find a photographer that fits your style and aesthetic then interview them and ask all your questions to ensure they’re the right fit. After all, they’ll be capturing all the pivotal memories of you, your spouse, your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and your family. You’ll want someone who can professionally capture it all!
27. Consider Videographers
As you look for a photographer to capture your special day, you’ll also want to find a wedding videographer. Once again, you’ll need to think about the style or aesthetic you and your partner are interested in for your wedding video. Do you want it dreamy like a fairytale or upbeat like a celebration?
Consider your budget and ask the right questions to ensure you convey your ultimate video vision to the vendor you plan to hire.
28. Book A Photo Booth
As an additional form of entertainment for you and your wedding guests to enjoy at your reception, book a photo booth for everyone to capture silly and sweet group photos together throughout the day. There are various photo booth vendors out there either offering booths or backdrops to fit your style. You can also plan a DIY photo set up with your own custom scene complete with a backdrop, floral arrangements, chairs, props, and more.
29. Decide On Where To Display Your Wedding Hashtag
With all this talk about wedding day photos, we can’t forget about your wedding hashtag which can help keep all these visual memories organized on social media. As you and your guests take photos throughout the night, you’ll want to prominently display your wedding hashtag on signs around your reception to encourage and remind your guests to use your hashtag as your celebration rages on.
Some great places to display your wedding hashtag would be on your wedding welcome sign, at your bar on the drink menu, on a neon sign hanging on the wall, or on props and other silly signs at your photo booth station. The more that guests see and pose with your wedding hashtag, the more likely they’ll be to use it!
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Stage V: Tying Up The Loose Ends
Congratulations! You’ve reached the final stage of the wedding planning process. At this point, the major moving pieces to the puzzle should really be coming together. You’re that much closer to seeing the fruits of your labor pay off. But before you exchange those wedding rings, there are a few more final touches to take care of.
30. Create Wedding Seating Charts
After all your guests RSVP, your next task will be to create the seating chart. Figure out how many people your tables will accommodate and how many tables you’ll have. You’ll likely want to keep households together, but now’s your chance to work some magic and place friends or those you’ll think will mesh well together at the same table. Have some fun with it!
31. Plan Out Your Rehearsal Dinner
Traditionally the day before the wedding will be the rehearsal dinner. Now’s the time to truly tie up those loose ends as you do a dry run of how the day will go. This typically involves going to the site of your wedding ceremony and running through the process with the bride, groom, officiant, witnesses, wedding party, immediate family, and anyone else with an important role.
Following the practice is the rehearsal dinner to celebrate. Plan for this night accordingly by sending out invites to the smaller group you wish to have join you then be sure to book a dinner reservation at a nearby restaurant.
32. Sequence Of Events
The more organized you are when planning your wedding, hopefully, the smoother it’ll go. The wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner is a great way to get out your wedding jitters and walk through the sequence of events. Plan out the order of your wedding ceremony as well as your reception celebration schedule ahead of time so you know exactly what should happen when.
33. Plan Your Honeymoon
Your wedding day is exciting, but you’ll also want to look ahead to that special honeymoon once you’re officially a married couple. Dreaming up your honeymoon plans can be a nice stress reliever from wedding planning.
Do you picture you and your spouse at the beach, lounging and relaxing at a Sandals resort? Or perhaps you’re feeling adventurous with a honeymoon full of hiking, snorkeling, skydiving, and rock climbing. Maybe you want to get your adrenaline pumping at an amusement park.
Take some time to make your honeymoon bucket list of places and activities you want to see and do, but don’t forget to set a budget. With your budget in mind, start booking your accommodations, dinner reservations, and any excursions you need to purchase or reserve ahead of time.
34. Wedding Vows
Writing your wedding vows can be a beautifully emotional yet difficult thing to do. There’s so much you wish to convey to your future spouse, yet so few words to communicate how you feel. Just take a deep breath and write from the heart. Write about your relationship and your promises for the future.
They can be short and sweet, but be sure to make them personal. Don’t write your drafts at the last minute. You’ll want plenty of time to revise them, memorize them, and truly get them right. There are many styles for writing vows, but as long as you express your love, you’re on the right track!
35. Prepare Your Speeches
It may be easy or tempting to forget about wedding speeches and leave that for the day of. While it might seem like a great idea to get up there and speak from the heart, it’ll likely be more meaningful and impactful to have brainstormed your speech ahead of time.
If you’re not incredibly comfortable with public speaking, it might be best to write a draft before the big day to have on hand and reference when the mic is in your hand. Otherwise, it’d be wise to at least brainstorm your main points or the important lines you want to say or quote so your speech about your partner is poignant, emotional, and on track.
36. Schedule A Spa Day
Wedding planning is exhausting. You might feel like the days leading up to the actual celebration are driving you crazy and tiring you out. So, to give you a moment of zen, schedule a spa day in that final week. Once you’ve scheduled it, you’ll have no excuse not to have a day all to yourself (or yourselves) to relax and reset. Plus, you’ll have that post-spa glow for when it’s time to walk down the aisle.
37. Get Your Wedding Bands
Wedding bands symbolically represent your lifetime commitment to each other. Hopefully, you and your partner have picked out the perfect wedding rings for each other.
If you’re still struggling to find a style you like, Manly Bands has plenty of great wedding bands for men that you can customize.
When your big day arrives, there will be so much to do, think about, and remember, so be sure to remain organized with a wedding planning checklist. Remembering your wedding rings should be at the top of this list!
38. Get Your Marriage License
Aside from your wedding rings, your marriage license is another pivotal thing to have ready for your big day. All real weddings need a marriage license as it’s the legal document that authorizes you and your significant other to get married.
Each state may differ on how to obtain a marriage license, so be sure to do your research on how to apply and obtain one. It may even take a few weeks before the request is accepted, so it’s essential to plan ahead!
One of the best things you can do to plan for your wedding day is to get some sleep. With all the excitement, this may be hard. If you can’t sleep, then at least find time to relax. Meditate, do some yoga, exercise, or take a nap. It’s important that you’re well rested for your big day.
Celebrate Your Love!
Above all else, it’s important to note there’s no right or wrong way to plan a wedding. Simply, design a ceremony to match your and your partner’s vision. Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, the important thing is to pivot and remember that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. Your wedding day is the time to celebrate your and your partner’s love for each other as you embark on this next chapter together.
Remember to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. It’s your wedding day after all!
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