1. Choose your date.
While you don’t have to have your date set in stone to start planning, it is one of the key components you’ll want to figure out before finalizing many of your other details. Take into consideration how much time you need (do you want to tie the knot asap or does a leisurely planning timeline sound more appealing?). Check significant dates: You may want to get married on a special anniversary or on 11/11 for luck, and definitely look to see if there is a competing event like a holiday. You may want to avoid a big game weekend, as visiting guests will have to pay premium accommodation prices. Finally, you’ll want all your loved ones at your vows, so take a moment to think about any health concerns. If you have an elderly grandparent who isn’t well, for example, you may want to consider moving up the wedding date.
2. Set your budget.
Before you begin, talk with your parents and figure out who is paying for what and research the vendors and venues in the location you’re planning to tie the knot. Note: If you have a smaller budget, you may want to avoid big cities like NYC and Chicago. When you start to create the budget, think about what’s really important to you and be ready to compromise if needed … do you really need those elaborate save-the-dates?
3. Book your venue.
This one goes hand-in-hand with choosing your date. Depending on the location, you’ll have to plan around venue availability-some venues book up over a year in advance. (Unbelievable, right?!) If there is a particular location you have your eye on, give them a call to see how far in advance couples typically book or to inquire about potential dates. Your venue can also inform the size and style of your ceremony, so take these things into consideration when making your decision.
4. Determine your guest list.
This is a huge part of what makes the wedding special. Establish your VIPs by writing separate lists and circling the ones you both pick. Decide if you’re going to allow plus ones and kids and if you’ll give that option to everyone or just to the bridal party. Talk to your parents about their dream guest list and consider giving them a set number of people they can invite, too.
5. Select your big-day style.
Settling on a style means combining your personal tastes and envisioning how your ideal nuptials play out in your mind. The best reference is your day-to-day life. For example, if you’re a couple that enjoys laid-back wine nights or casual Sunday brunches, don’t feel pressure to host a formal fête-a wedding doesn’t need to be black-tie to be meaningful!
6. Find your photographer.
Having beautiful, dramatic, and professional wedding photos is usually a must for couples. By securing your photographer early, you’ll ensure the pros in your area aren’t all booked up and that you find someone you love.
7. Investigate any religious requirements.
Depending on your faith or the faith of your significant other, you may need to take marriage classes before heading down the aisle (you or your partner may even want to convert). It’s best to do a little research to see how long this preparation might take. Alternatively, if you’d like a particular person to officiate your wedding, check with them as early as possible to confirm availability.
8. Think about travel.
Whether you’re having a destination wedding or not, people fly in from all over the country (and world) to attend weddings. If you know that any of your guests will need to book travel (flights, hotels, time off, and so on), try to set a date and share the information with these special people as soon as possible.