How To Plan A Wedding: The 2021 Ultimate Guide (With 50 Tips)
Congratulations! You’re getting hitched. You’re about to have the wedding of your dreams. You can probably already envision it: a tall, bold wedding cake, decadent arrays of roses and peonies, all your closest friends and family sitting around tables with white tablecloths and gold silverware…or maybe blue tablecloths and sterling silverware. Okay maybe you haven’t worked out every detail, but it’s still going to be great!
First things first though, you have to figure out how to start planning a wedding.
The initial steps in wedding planning can be daunting. Where do you even start? You may have an idea for what you want your special day to look like, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts, it can feel overwhelming. Not to mention, planning a wedding during COVID can be extra difficult.
Luckily, we’ve got your back. From wedding budgeting advice to tips on picking a venue and planning a COVID-safe wedding, our ultimate guide for how to plan a wedding has got you covered.
So, let’s get started.
Stage I: Budgeting And Organizing
As soon as you tell everyone in your family that you’re getting married, they’re going to start asking questions. When’s the date? What are you going to wear? What’s your hashtag? Beach wedding or rustic barn feel?
These are the exciting questions, and you should feel free to dream about them with your friends and significant other. But to really answer them will take some time and some research. Stay patient. On average, couples spend about 13 months between the date of their engagement and their wedding day. Use that time to be intentional about all the steps to plan a wedding.
1. Decide On Your Budget And Stick To It
One of the first things that you should do when figuring out how to start planning a wedding is set a budget. Weddings are notorious for racking up a huge bill before you know it. Especially if you are trying to have a more budget friendly wedding, it will be important that you track your expenses from the get-go. And of course, once you decide on a budget, really try to stick to it. There are plenty of great apps and websites that can help you with budgeting. Don’t forget to budget for your honeymoon too!
2. Think Big Picture First
When beginning to plan a wedding, there are some macro level questions that you can start to answer before you get into the details. Do you want a big wedding or a micro wedding with family only? Destination wedding or backyard, DIY feel? Figuring out the answer to these questions will help you down the line when you have to start thinking about food, seating, transportation. Also, you want to make sure that you and your significant other are on the same page. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Work Together
This one may seem obvious but it’s important to emphasize. Your wedding is a celebration of your union, and the planning should reflect that! Maybe one of you is really excited about the band while the other wants to design the theme. Make sure you have these conversations in the beginning because it will make for a much more stress-free and collaborative experience. You can even designate roles and responsibilities to each other.
4. Create A Wedding Email Address
As you start subscribing to things and contacting venues, photographers, caterers, and other wedding helpers, it can be nice to have an email address where all the information is stored. Have some fun with it and make it a cute combination of your names.
5. Create A Checklist
When it comes time to plan a wedding, master checklists are the best ways to stay organized and make sure you don’t miss anything when the big day finally comes. Here is a wedding day checklist to check out.
6. Pick Up A Wedding Book And Start Reading Blogs
This one’s probably obvious since you’re already here reading this blog. But there are tons of great resources out there that can provide you with inspiration, tips, and best practices for how to plan a wedding. Here’s a list of some great wedding books.
7. Ask Your Friends And Family For Advice
If blogs and books are getting boring, you always have your friends and family who are probably dying to talk wedding with you. Remember that your friends and family can be a great resource for you whether they’re offering advice on wedding dresses and menu items or simply just working as a sounding board for your ideas.
8. Start Thinking About A Guest List
Speaking of friends and family, you’ll want to start thinking about your guest list. This might be an especially challenging task given the COVID pandemic. Some couples who are eager to get married are navigating COVID by having a small wedding first and saving the date for a bigger ceremony later. And if you’re waiting until after the pandemic when you can have a big gathering, it’s still useful to start brainstorming your guest list early on.
Getting invitations out earlier rather than later will be helpful so you can start to get a picture of how many people exactly will be coming to your wedding. Those numbers are important for later questions like seating numbers, catering, tent size, the list goes on.
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9. Make It Personal
Remember, there’s no recipe for the perfect wedding. What’s important is that you make it your own and that it’s a celebration of who you are as a couple. So, don’t be afraid to throw your own personal flair into your wedding—it will make your day that much more memorable.
10. Take A Deep Breath
Weddings, cake, and soul mates are exciting—really exciting. You might have the impulse to start tackling all the steps to planning a wedding at once. But you want it all to go smoothly and be perfect when the day finally comes. Remember, you have time. No matter where you get married and which flowers you pick, you’ll always have your partner, and that alone is enough to make for a perfect day. So, while you’re planning, remember to breathe and enjoy the process!
Stage II: Venues, Receptions, And Ceremonies
Now comes for some of the fun stuff. Once you’ve completed the initial steps to planning a wedding like getting your budget set and creating a guest list, you’ll want to start deciding on dates and potential venues for your reception, bachelorette and bachelor parties, and the wedding itself.
11. Start Nailing Down Some Dates And Seasons
Nailing down a season and some potential dates for your wedding will be useful as you start to engage with venues and try to lock in a save the date. Remember, the season you choose has bearing on what the rest of your wedding will look like—summer weddings have different feels than winter weddings.
12. Pick A Venue And A Backup
Once you’ve chosen a potential season or date range for your big day, you’re ready to book a venue. If you’re keeping your wedding local (backyard, family house), then you can start to envision how you want to transform your space—tents, dance floors, tables, an altar. And if you’re looking to book a venue at a specific destination it’s time to start doing research and making some calls.
If you’ve hired a wedding planner, they will be a great resource for you during this process. Here’s a guide we like to help walk you through booking a wedding venue. Don’t forget to have a backup plan in case things fall through too!
13. 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. Here’s a tool you can use to start finding reception venues near the location you desire. And if you want to have an outdoor (COVID-safer) reception, think about hiring a food truck for all your foodie needs.
14. Think About Your Officiant
If you’re going to hire someone to Officiate your wedding, you’ll 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—so if you’re going that route then you’ll want to give your friend plenty of time to go through the process. Ordination certification standards vary from state to state.
15. Recruit Backup
By this point in the process of planning a wedding, it might seem like the tasks and responsibilities are piling up. That’s probably because, unless you’re exceedingly organized, they are! The good news is that you don’t have to go about all this alone. You can always recruit professional help from wedding planners, designers, and coordinators. But if you didn’t factor that into your budget, then see if any of your friends and family can help. They don’t call them bridesmaids and best men for nothing.
16. Decide On A Menu
If you like food (and who doesn’t?), then this part should be fun! This part should be pretty straightforward, but if you’re looking for some food inspiration, check out this blog. Once you have an idea for the type of food you want—salmon, steak, ratatouille, whatever your heart desires—start contacting caterers to see which one will meet your food needs. Wedding Venture has a useful website for this task.
17. Ready The Booze
Once you’ve settled on your food, it’s time to think about drinks. If you’re having a dry wedding, then check out this website that has tons of options for creative nonalcoholic mixed drinks. If you’re going with alcohol, then you will want to look into putting together a bar and maybe hiring a bartender. Oftentimes catering companies will offer bar services too. Here is a guide to walk you through everything you need to think about when hiring a bartender.
Every great wedding has music. Whether it’s a live band, a DJ, 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 will work for your venue, and the dancing experience you want to create. While you’re at it, start thinking about what you want that first dance song to be.
19. Create A Wedding Invitation
Now that things are really starting to come together, you’ll want to create a wedding invitation and save the date. There are tons of great templates that you can find online—or you can design your own. Here’s a great place to get started.
20. Think About Transportation
Especially if you’re having a destination wedding, it’s important to think about transportation. How is everyone going to get there? And once everyone is there, how are they going to move around? To answer these questions, wedding Wire has got you covered.
Stage III: Wedding Themes And Attire
Now it’s time to get into aesthetics. How do you want to decorate your venue? This is the time to call up that aunt or friend who’s got a knack for fashion and interior design.
21. 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. Pinterest is chock full of pictures that will help get your creative juices flowing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the world of images on Pinterest, so we recommend starting a Pinterest board. As you browse, you can add things that you like to your board.
22. Make It Personal
A lot of a Wedding’s personality comes through in its details—which means a lot of what makes your wedding really YOURS is in the details. So, as you’re going through this stage of the wedding, don’t hesitate to let your personality shine. It’s your day. Own it.
23. Pick Colors
One of the easiest details to start nailing down is color scheme. You can go with your favorite colors, colors that match the season of your wedding, or colors that make your eyes pop. It’s important to think about your color scheme though because those colors will set the tone (literally) for the rest of the wedding details. Check out this blog for some more tips on how to plan a wedding around your wedding colors.
24. Choose A Wedding Theme
Your wedding theme is your chance to really own your wedding’s aesthetic and identity. There are tons of different themes to choose from, ranging from Harry Potter and Star Wars themes to winter wonderland and summer in paradise. Take some time to think through what kind of feel you want your wedding to have. Here’s a list of 77 theme ideas for inspiration.
25. Decorate Accordingly
With your theme and colors picked out, it’s time to start thinking about the rest of the accessories—tablecloths, lights, silverware… the list goes on. The main thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want everything to fit within the theme as much as possible.
Everyone always remembers the flowers. When it comes to picking the right floral arrangement, your theme and color scheme will often be major determining factors. As you’re getting ready to talk with a florist, it’s important that you do some research. It will help a lot if you know the names of some flowers and some common floral terms. Another thing to keep in mind is that flowers are often season dependent, so your options may be limited to what’s currently in bloom. Make sure to give your florist as much detail as you can about what kind of flowers you’re looking for. For more guidance on picking flowers, check out this guide.
Your wedding dress will be one of the most beautiful parts of the wedding—besides you of course and your partner of course! There are so many amazing options for dresses these days, from traditional, to modern chic, to avant garde. You know your style better than anyone, so stick to it. Of course, when you finally make an appointment, get sized, and start trying on dresses, you’ll want to bring along those couple friends who have impeccable taste and style. Check out some more tips on picking a dress.
Guys, it’s time to look fly. Getting a great suit is often an overlooked as one of the steps to planning a wedding, 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 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 will probably be able to wear it for years after your wedding. Here’s an extensive guide to help get you oriented in all things suits.
Still looking for the perfect suit? Use the code Hashers10 for 10% off any purchase of $194 or more at The Suit Shop.
29. Tablecloths And Silverware
Another thing you’ll want to think about is table design. You’ll want to make sure that your tables match your wedding aesthetic. If it’s a barn wedding, maybe have nice wooden tables. If it’s a beach wedding, then think about how the tablecloths can match the aesthetic of the beach. Here’s some inspiration.
30. Concept Lighting
Good lighting can make weddings feel that much more magical. Discuss with your venue what’s feasible in terms of adding your own lighting flair. From candles to hanging lights, good lighting can create a perfect ambiance, especially as the sun goes down. It also helps to have flattering lighting for all the pictures that will inevitably be taken on your wedding day. To see some of the latest lighting trends, check out this blog.
Stage IV: Photography, Videos, Social Media
31. Create A Wedding Website
As more and more things go virtual, people are becoming more dependent on things being online. Wedding websites are meant to make the lives of your guests easier. You can put information like dress code, your registry, social media hashtags, location, and travel recommendations on your website, allowing easy access for all your guests. It also can help guests connect with each other on things like carpooling.
One concern we often hear about is that websites are public. Couples don’t want all their wedding info just accessible to everyone. The good news is you can gate your website with a password making it so only the select few can access your info. Don’t know how to code? No problem. There are tons of great tools to help even the least tech-savvy people build a website with ease. Here’s one we particularly like.
32. Online RSVPs
No longer will guests lose their invitations in their pile of mail. Online invitations make it easy to RSVP and track attendance numbers. Some couples opt to have both a card invite and an online e-vite so they can have both the elegance and personal touch of mail and the utility of an email. Invitations and RSVPs are one of the first things your guests will see, so make sure to personalize them and make them cute! Here’s some inspiration.
33. Engagement Photoshoot
Now that everyone has a smartphone and is an amateur photographer, there are plenty of opportunities to snap pictures of you and your significant other. However, there are many great moments that you may want to capture before the wedding day as well. Many couples arrange an engagement photoshoot to capture some of the earlier moments of their wedding journey. These are the perfect pictures to add to your website if you decide to make one!
Oftentimes, engagement shoots are built into the package deal that wedding photographers offer. Plus, engagement photoshoots are often a good way to test if you’ve found the right photographer. How do you hire the right photographer? Check out our next tip.
Choosing the right photographer comes down to preference. Photographers will vary on style, editing, and price. To see what kind of style you like, we recommend hopping on Instagram. Most photographers will have an account (and probably a website) where they post their work. Once you’ve found a couple photographers that you like, you can hop on the phone to interview them. Make sure to ask them questions about how they like to shoot, how long you can expect them to be at your wedding for, what the expected turnaround time is for the pictures, and what their rates are. Try to gain a good sense of what working with them will be like—they’ll be at your wedding after all.
Photography can be very personal, so you want to make sure that the photographer you choose will be the right fit. Here’s a good place to get started looking for photographers near you.
While you’re thinking about photographers, you may also want to think about videographers to capture some footage. They say your wedding day goes by in the blink of an eye. Hiring a wedding videographer is a perfect way to make some of those memories last. Ask your photographer if they include videography or if they have a friend they recommend hiring! Or just get your friends to record lots and lots of videos on their phones.
36. Wedding Registry
Your guests are going to want to give you gifts. If you’re looking for some new household items, then creating a wedding registry to inspire your gift givers is a great move. This helps prevent duplicate gifts and also helps guide your guests on what to get. It makes everyone’s lives easier! You can easily create a registry online. Not in the mood for gifts? We’ve also seen some couples opt for raising money for a cause or organization rather than giving gifts. Check out GoFundMe to create a fund for your guests to donate.
37. Wedding Hashtags
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. They also have a practical use in helping to organize all your photos onto one page on Insta. But lately, it seems like couples are more in it for the fun of the #. Some names are easier than others to turn into hashtags.
The good thing is that there are tons of great generators out there to help inspire you. Our favorite by far is The Wedding Hashers, the largest network of professional wedding hashtag writers in the world. That’s right, people actually specialize in writing wedding hashtags.
38. Set The Tone For Phone Use
While having everything online is great and all, phones and computers are also famously good at taking people out of the moment. Of course, the blurry pictures and videos that you and your friends take during the best moments and life are irreplaceable and always good for a laugh. But you may want your guests to be engaged and offline too. Make sure you set the tone for how you want everyone to use their phones during your big day. Some couples even decide they want a completely offline wedding!
Slideshows are an awesome way to showcase you and your significant other’s journey together during the wedding. Lots of couples opt to show these pictures during their rehearsal dinner. Putting together the pictures can be a great thing to outsource to one of your friends—as long as you trust them to not put every embarrassing picture of you on there. Most likely you’ll need to have a big screen and a projector for the slideshow. If your venue doesn’t already have these things, then you can look into renting them here.
40. Follow Awesome Wedding Instagram Accounts
If you’re leaning into social media for your wedding, don’t forget to follow some awesome Instagram accounts. These are great ways to get some passive inspiration from professionals with experience in how to plan a wedding. Also, you can even DM some of them to tell them about your wedding–you may even get featured! Here are some of our favorite accounts.
Stage V: Tying Up The Loose Ends
By this point, your wedding is coming together and you’re becoming an expert on how to plan a wedding. All that hard planning work is paying off. There are still a couple things to do to tie up all the loose ends though.
41. Seating Charts
Designing seating charts for your wedding can be fun. Have you always wanted to set up those two friends who you think would be a perfect pair? Sit them next to each other and watch the magic happen. Aside from matchmaking though, seating charts are helpful for keeping everything organized on the night of the wedding.
42. Place Cards
Of course, if you have seating arrangements, then you’ll also want place cards. Instead of writing these by hand, check out these labels to print some awesome place cards.
43. Sequence Of Events
In the name of keeping things organized, it can also be useful to have a sequence of events planned out. The flow of the wedding is up to you but making sure everything has a structure will be helpful for keeping things moving throughout the day. After all, once the day gets going, you’ll most likely be too caught up in the moment to remember what’s coming next. Even if you have a sequence of events planned out, remember to be flexible and just enjoy the moment. It’s likely that everything won’t go entirely according to plan, and that’s totally okay.
One time where it might be especially helpful to have the order of events planned out is if you’re having a traditional wedding. Your officiant will be super helpful here, but you’ll want to be familiar with the structure too. Check out this guide for more information.
Don’t forget about your honeymoon! This is your chance to take that trip you’ve always wanted to take. To make this trip doable though, you’ll want to factor in your honeymoon expenses into your wedding budget. Thinking about your honeymoon can be a nice break from all you need to do to plan a wedding. If you are looking for the ultimate vacation, check out these Love Nest Suits from Sandals.
45. Wedding Vows
Writing wedding vows can be difficult. Not because you don’t know what to say, but more because it’s hard to sum up your love, hopes, and dreams, into a few sentences. That being said, it’s a great way to show your love for your partner and it will be a great thing to look back upon years down the line into your marriage. Our main tip is to not wait until the last minute. Write drafts of these so you can get the wording right.
Remember that you don’t need to include everything. Most importantly, make them genuine to who you are as a couple. Make promises that you want to keep. Remember to say I love you.
Wedding speeches are another one of those things that people tend to remember from wedding nights. Well, they might not remember anything that gets said exactly, but they’ll remember if they liked it and if they thought it was funny or sweet. It can be tempting to speak from the heart and just wing it, but what really makes for a great speech is practice.
You don’t have to get up there and read a script word for word. But you’ll still want to brainstorm some ideas prior to the actual speech. Think about relevant stories, keep it short and sweet, and always end with a good toast. Here’s a wedding speech guide we like.
47. Schedule In A Spa Day
Wedding planning is exhausting. You might feel like the days leading up to the actual wedding day 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 when you finally walk up to the altar.
48. Don’t Forget Your Rings
With so much going on during your wedding, it’s easy to forget the little things. But rings are little things you don’t want to forget. A good way to remember little details is to set reminders on your phone.
Like with speeches, practice makes perfect. As you get closer to the day of your wedding, run through how you want it to look in your mind. Rehearsal dinners are also a great way to have a dry run for your wedding.
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, take a nap. It’s important that you’re well rested for your big day.
How To Plan A Wedding
There’s no right or wrong way to plan a wedding. The important thing is that you make it your own and that it’s a celebration of you and your spouse. While planning all of it may feel daunting, there will also be tons of moments of joy throughout the process. Plus, these days there are so many resources to help your planning go smoothly. So, if you’re just getting started, don’t fret. Sit back and enjoy the process. You’re getting married!
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