1. Determine your estimated guest count. Before you begin planning, it’s a good idea to consider how many guests may attend the wedding. Between the two of you, discuss how many people you would like to attend and how many you think may actually attend. It is probably helpful to include parents or immediate families in this discussion; and you’ll want to include anyone who is financially contributing to the wedding. Their input may sway those numbers one way or the other.
Knowing your estimated guest count will help in your venue search – you’ll need to make sure you have a space big enough to comfortably seat and entertain your guests. Your guest count will also have the most significant impact on your budget in terms of food & beverage and rentals. For every person attending, you will not only need to serve drinks, appetizer and/or a meal, and dessert, but everything they will need to enjoy those things – think china, glassware, flatware, and linen napkins. The more guests you have, the more tables you have. While venues often provide the table itself, table linens will have to be rented, and you’ll need a centerpiece for each.
2. Budget Wisely. Be thoughtful about your budget. When planning a wedding, it can be easy to lose track of spending and before you know it, you’ve blown the budget. Be intentional about the things that are most important to you. I tell couples that their budget is just a list of priorities with a dollar amount next to it. It makes sense to spend more on the things that are important to you. Are you a big foodie? By all means, have fancy hors d’oeuvres and multiple desserts! Do you love music and want a party vibe? Splurge on a live band!
Consider the things that will last vs. those that won’t be remembered past your wedding day. Your photos (and video) will be something you cherish forever, perhaps looking back at them each year on your anniversary, and showing your kids. It’s well worth the higher cost to hire a professional photographer to capture all those important moments.
Your priorities may differ from your partner’s priorities. And that is okay. It’s important to discuss so you can account for all those things before you start spending. And check with anyone else who is helping pay for the wedding. They may have some “must haves” on their list, too.
3. Don’t hire your friends and family as vendors. Let your loved ones enjoy the day and celebrate with you! No one wants to work your wedding when they can be partying with you. Asking your friends or family member to “work” puts them in a tough spot of wanting to be a guest but also wanting to help you out. They will be pulled into responsibilites for the day that don’t allow them to relax and be a part of the festivities. Vendors should not consume alchohol while on the job; however, friends and family are encouraged to partake from the bar. Having a friend/ family act as your vendor creates a grey area in which they may not act as professionally as you’d expect.
4. You get what you pay for. You may have heard this, growing up, from a parent or teacher. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. It can be tempting to hire a wedding vendor who gives you a bargain price. But buyer beware, that may come with more headache that it’s worth. Often, vendors who offer lower pricing are not making anything (or very little) from your event. “Doing a wedding” may be their weekend hobby they enjoy on occassion. You will probably discover they do not carry liabilty insurance, may not have a legally-binding contract (which protects them AND you!) and they may not even be licensed to do business in your state. You should expect to pay more for a vendor’s experience. Ask how many weddings they have done, how long they have been in business. You will feel so much more at ease on your wedding day, knowing you are in capable hands.
5. Hire a wedding planner! Already feeling overwhelmed by reading the first four? You need a wedding planner. Wedding planners can help you navigate all of these discussions and decisions. Chances are, this is the first wedding you have planned. You aren’t expected to know “ALL. THE. THINGS.” But guess who does? Yep, a wedding planner! He/she has planned dozens if not hundreds of weddings, and has seen it all. A wedding planner can help you avoid pitfalls, can calm your nerves when too many family members are weighing in, and always has a back up plan for the “what if’s”. A planner can take the vision in your head and make it come to life. They literally can do magic, if you trust them. Of course, I am a little biased, but I’ve been told that hiring a wedding planner is the best money spent.