First thing’s first: wedding planning can feel pretty overwhelming at first. While recruiting professionals to help out can be pretty ideal, maybe you’re working under a tight budget, or maybe you simply love going the DIY route. It may be a lot of work, but it is possible to plan your own dream wedding!
It just takes a bit of organization to keep everything on track when you’re faced with endless decisions, lists, deadlines and, you know, your own life to deal with. The trick is taking things one step at a time and recruiting friends and family (including that future spouse of yours!) to help. And give yourself plenty of time to plan. You’ll make things so much harder on yourself if you try to plan and oversee every detail and try to do it all at the last minute. A longer timeline is your friend here—aim for around a year if possible. Now, where do you begin?
Once you’ve spent some time spreading the news of your engagement and actually enjoying that special time, the budget will need to be the very first thing you finalize to get the wedding planning train going. And that can involve some uncomfortable conversations if you have any family members who are planning to chip in for the big day. So don’t delay! Have those conversations early and determine the amount everyone is comfortable spending, and then build in a 10% “splurge cushion” for any unexpected costs or urges you’ll inevitably succumb to.
Be prepared for a reality check when it comes to budgeting for this big day. Many couples don’t realize the costs involved and may find that their dream wedding is a bit out of reach. In that case, be prepared to prioritize. You really can have your ideal wedding on almost any budget if you iron out what exactly is important to you and focus on those few things.
With the budget in place, it’s time to start getting inspired and nitty-gritty the nitty gritty details! Have some fun with this part; now’s the time to indulge in all those bridal magazines (ahem, BRIDES!) and blogs to get a sense of the style of wedding you want. Think about weddings you recently attended. What did you like? What would you do differently? Real life experience is always the best form of inspiration. Don’t forget to involve your fiancé in this step as well!
Your wedding should represent both of you as a couple. Organization is key when planning your own wedding. You’ll have so many balls up in the air at once, you’ll need a way to keep track of everything. You can use spreadsheets or one of the many wedding planning management apps or programs out there. Just find what works best for you and stick with it. Just remember that even with the most meticulous planning and organization system, there is bound to be some chaos from time to time. Try your best to plan ahead and don’t be too hard on yourself.
See more: The 25 Best Wedding Planning Websites and Apps for Every Kind of Bride
The most important thing to keep in mind: Try to have some fun! This is your wedding after all! Don’t get too hung up on those tiny details and focus on what’s truly important: a happy marriage with the person of your dreams.
Now that you’re armed and ready to begin the planning process, here are some of my top tips for planning an unforgettable wedding.
Set Your Budget, and Stick to It
Your budget will be the driving factor for many of your wedding-related decisions, so this should be one of the first things you tackle. If any family members will be contributing, chat with them about what they’re comfortable spending. If you’re footing the bill yourself, it’s time to take a hard look at your finances. Once you’ve got that magic number, stick to it!
Create a List of Priorities
Sit down with your fiancé and figure out the three most important aspects of your wedding. Is it the food? The booze? The DJ? Prioritize those details and be willing to compromise on the rest. This will help you stay within your budget.
Find Inspiration & Create a Vision Board
With so many sources of inspiration out there, it can be a bit overwhelming. Find one or two mediums you like best, whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, trusty bridal mags, blogs, etc. and start researching. Get a good sense of the type of style you like—translate that into something you can show your vendors. You can create a board on Pinterest or even do some old-fashioned cutting and pasting onto paper (we can’t help but suggest doing your cutting and pasting from issues of *BRIDES*!).
Work As A Team With Your Fiancé
Don’t feel like you’re in this wedding planning process alone. Turn to your fiancé for help along the way and even make wedding planning something fun you do together.
Limit Your Options
Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the inspiration that’s out there. Once you decide on your wedding style, try to stay focused on that.
Get Yourself a Wedding Planning Book
When you don’t have a wedding planner, a wedding planning book is the next best thing. Something like Mindy’s The Wedding Book will include tons of expert advice, tips and tricks and even examples of timelines and checklists. Better yet, search BRIDES.com for answers to all your etiquette questions.
You can use checklists, spreadsheets, Word/Google Docs—anything, really—as long as you have all your thoughts, budgets, numbers, etc. in one place. There are also some great programs and apps out there that can keep you organized.
Create a Master Checklist
You can find tons of examples online broken down by the months, weeks or even days. Find one and adapt it to your own wedding.
Don’t Rush Into Decisions
It may be enticing to book the first photographer or florist you meet, but take a step back and weigh all your options before making any quick decisions.
Pick an Ideal Timeframe
Are you envisioning a spring garden wedding? Or do you want to be surrounded by gorgeous autumn leaves on your big day? Choose a few ideal dates for your wedding and try to be flexible if possible so you’re not too constrained when trying to book a venue and other vendors.
Make Your Wedding Website Guest Friendly
Your wedding guests, and even your family members, will have a lot of questions for you. Avoid getting endless emails, text messages, and voicemails from your guests by putting up a wedding website where they can check out the details of your wedding and even have a day-of itinerary that lets them know where they need to be and when they need to be there.
Select a Theme
Whether it’s a few colors or an actual theme (like the Roaring Twenties or Festival Chic, for example), choose something to design your wedding around. It will be much easier to make design decisions and will make things look cohesive.
Have an “On-Site” Wedding
In wedding lingo, an “off-site” wedding is one where the venue doesn’t have a commercial kitchen and where you need to bring everything in – think places like a park, beach or even an open field. If you’re planning your own wedding having an “on-site” wedding somewhere like a hotel, restaurant, resort, etc. will make the planning process much easier.
Create a Schedule of Events
Create a schedule for the run-of-show at your wedding. Include things like when vendors will arrive, when the ceremony will be, when the first dance will happen, when the cake will be cut, etc. Be sure to give a copy to your MC, photographer, maid of honor and anyone else that should be in the know.
Gratitude goes a long way. You should always arrange for small gifts for your wedding party and anyone else who played a big role in your planning process. Don’t forget mom and dad!
What will guests notice most? A stressed out bride and groom! Be sure to have fun on your wedding day and truly enjoy the moment.