Just got engaged and not sure where to start? Nikki (yes, our lovely lead, Nikki!) felt the same way after her surprise engagement in Kansas City so I figured, hey if professional wedding planners can be overwhelmed by the wedding planning process then “normal” brides are probably feeling the same way x10, right?!

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Even if you’ve been a bridesmaid a handful of times or helped your sister plan her wedding, when it comes to planning your own, it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are some of our top tips for how to start the wedding planning process.

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1. Enjoy Your Engagement!

The first step in the wedding planning process is to enjoy your engagement! Well, more like a pre-planning step. Take the first month (or at least first two weeks!) to enjoy this new phase of your lives together. Tell your friends and family, go out for champagne to celebrate, and don’t do a single bit of wedding planning.

I know, pretty contrary advice to what you’ll see everywhere else! But this is the first step I truly stand behind. You deserve this time to revel in all of the congratulations and joy that comes with such a big announcement. Buy all the ‘Mrs’ things! Drink all the champagne! And enjoy all those snuggles with your beau.

How to start the wedding planning process

2. Gather Wedding Inspiration

Now, first – start with a fun task that doesn’t require a lot of expectations…your vision! Utilize Pinterest and Instagram to find the vibe for your perfect wedding day. Boho? Classic Elegance? Rustic Chic? Let’s plan the wedding that is the best representation of y’all and your love story. Looking for ideas?! Check out our Pinterest for more inspiration!

SEE MORE: 8 Things You Need To Know Before Planning A Barn Wedding

How to start the wedding planning process

3. Determine Your Wedding Budget

Next – a not as fun task, but an absolutely necessary starting point – the budget. Sit down with anyone who has expressed interest in financially supporting your big day and determine what each of you are willing to contribute. Whether that’s $30,000 or $130,000, you need to have a set number going into venue and vendor hunting.

How to start the wedding planning process

4. Decide What Is Most Important

After determining your budget, figure out what your priorities are. Are flowers your absolute fave and you’ve dreamed of a gorgeous overgrown arch? Make sure to dedicate a sufficient amount to make that happen! Have you always dreamed of having a trolley shuttle you and your friends around for photos? Make sure to carve those funds out first.

While budget calculators from The Knot and Wedding Wire are a great starting point, your budget is where a wedding planner truly comes in handy, since they can best tell you what to expect and anticipate from each vendor category in your region. Did you know you can work with our WIL girls hourly, and this is something we’d be happy to take care of for you!

5. Set Your Guest List

The larger the guest count, the larger the budget. Most people think that receptions are the most expensive part of a wedding because of the food and alcohol, but an experienced wedding planner can tell you that’s not the only expense to think about when determining your guest count. In addition to the food/alcohol/cake cost per person, be sure to include these commonly overlooked expenses:

  • Place settings – depending on your caterer, utensils, drinking cups, and napkins may not be included and decorative chargers are additional costs per person.
  • Tables/chairs – the more guests, the more tables, chairs, and linens you need to seat them.
  • Centerpieces – more tables = more florals/decor needed for centerpieces.
  • Stationary/postage – there are multiple pieces in a wedding invitation suite that often require additional postage. The more guests you have the more stationary you need to order and the higher your postage costs.
  • Gift bags – whether gifting little treats to take home at the wedding or welcome bags for out of town guests, don’t forget about this expense

I really could go on and on with a lot more expenses related to guest count, but just know it’s not as simple as “# of guests x $ food/alcohol = how many people you can afford to invite” and to consider ALL costs before deciding guest count.

How to start the wedding planning process

6. Narrow Down Your Month Or Season

Assess the pros and cons of each season and use that to shape the type of venues you will be looking in to and the time of year you get married. Always dreamed of a garden wedding? Stay away from rainy seasons and the high heat of summer! Make sure to draw on your wedding planner’s expertise in selecting the perfect season for your big day.

7. Venue Hunting Time

After you have all the above steps figured out, then you can start looking for your venue. I highly recommend, not setting an exact wedding date before you select your venue. Keep your date ranges flexible and open, so you don’t fall in love with a venue that’s already booked on a date you’ve committed to. Utilize your wedding planner and her knowledge of area venues. Narrow it down by venue type, budget allotment, and guest count capacity.

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