Before you jump into full-on wedding planning, you need to determine your exact vision. For those who have envisioned their wedding since they were little, it might just be about making their Pinterest board come to life. For others, it’s about realizing how many different options you have to create a memorable event…and then trying to narrow them down.
I love a good theme, and I think I had a hazy vision of what my wedding would look like. My fiancé and I had talked about things we wanted to do, but once we were engaged, it was about seeing how all those ideas fit together into a cohesive event. We also knew what we DIDN’T want to do – and we wanted to make sure our wedding was different from all the others we had attended. I resisted the Pinterest bandwagon for a good year or two, but once that ring was on my finger, I lasted about 72 hours. (Note: I now love Pinterest and see how valuable of a platform it is – especially for event planning!)
The books and binders I linked in my last post (and in the “bride” section) have worksheets and questions to help you narrow down your vision. From my experience, the first things you need to determine are:
1) When and where are you going to have the event?
Doug and I knew we wanted to get married in LA, as this city is a part of our relationship. However, not all of our family and friends (I’m from NY and he’s from Chicago) were thrilled (at first) about a “destination wedding.” For us, it made more sense to have the event somewhere where we could easily plan it – and with locations, vendors, and resources we knew. Talk with your fiancé about what it would look like (realistically) to plan the wedding in any of the locations you are considering. For us, the date was a obvious choice, as it is the same day we started dating (in 2012) and got engaged (in 2014). You need to think about travel arrangements (is it a holiday weekend?), availability of family/friends (are a majority in a career field that has a “busy” season? How many days, if any, would they need to take off from work?), weather (which includes “will everyone be able to travel here or is there a potential for weather delays/cancellations?”), ease of getting there (closeness to airports/public transit, hotel options), and the possibility of taking time off before for preparations and after for a honeymoon (if your plan is to do that right away).
2) What is going to be the “feel” of the event?
Formal or informal? Mixture of modern and traditional pieces? Determining this will help you narrow down locations, dress code, “must-haves,” and details like invitations and menu. For us, our non-negotiables included:
- Near the ocean, preferably with a view (originally we considered a beach ceremony, but then realized that navigating sand might be difficult for some of our guests) – we wanted it to “feel” like California!
- One location for ceremony and reception (much easier when most guests are from out of town!)
- Personal, non-religious ceremony (we have one of our friends officiating – more about that later!)
- Privacy (we didn’t want a location where people could easily watch our ceremony or interact with our guests)
- The ability to personalize the event as much as possible (we are having a “punk rock wedding” after all!)
- Reasonably priced for our budget. What’s “reasonable” will vary from person to person, but you have to take budget into account. You don’t want to go into debt because of your wedding!
3) What kind of ceremony and reception do you want to have?
One or two locations? Day of week? Time of day? Meals? Adults only or family-oriented? Is it one day of celebrating or a multiple-day event?
4) Which vendors/experiences are the most important and take priority budget-wise?
For us, it was really important to have great photography and cake, but we didn’t feel like we needed a videographer. I didn’t want to put people on the spot to talk to the camera, and our wedding is small enough that we will be able to interact with everyone, so we didn’t think we would watch the video. The only thing I would want recorded is our vows – but we’re going to frame handwritten copies of them with a photo instead.
5) Are you having the wedding YOU want and not the wedding other people want you to have?
There could be many factors influencing your planning process. While it’s probably in your best interest to make important people (parents/families, children, close friends) feel as though they have a say in the wedding, it’s important that you keep it true to who the two of your are and your relationship. This may take some savvy negotiating (maybe about locations, or which cultural traditions to include, or to only have 100 people instead of 300 people), but creating your vision in the beginning, and clearly stating it to all interested parties might help you have these conversations early in the planning process – and hopefully avoid stress later!
Now that you’ve narrowed down your vision – it’s time to start researching options! But first – one of the MOST valuable tips I can give you in this process – create a separate wedding-specific email account. It’s amazing how many emails (vendors, special offers, spam) you will get once you start putting yourself out there as a bride or groom. Having a separate email address allows you to keep everything in one place AND you can avoid getting wedding spam in your regular email for the rest of your life! Additionally, you can create shared documents through this and give your partner access so you can work together to plan your amazing day!