Engaged? Now What??
That's the big question, isn't it? Some people have been attendants in friends weddings, some have never been to a wedding before, and some have already been married. Take from this list what will help you get started with planning your big event!!
Get your pen ready....you'll be signing a few contracts!
Attend a Wedding Show
If you've already one that - awesome. If not...see if you can, and be sure to bring a bag to stuff all the information you'll be collecting into it. It's also a good idea to make notes on business cards, or pricing packets you receive so that you can remember who you talked to and what was said. Be prepared to ask questions! The vendors are there to serve & help you any way they can, so don't be afraid to engage in conversation about your plans.
Once you get home, sort through the information you received and get in touch with the vendors you connected with that you are interested in communicating with more. Here is a list of Wedding Vendors that I've either worked with, or found to be very helpful.
Pick a Date OR a Venue??
Depending on how soon you want to get married, you might be at the mercy of your chosen venue for a wedding date. A lot of top rated venues book out 12+ months in advance, and clever dates (12-13-14, 10-10-2020, etc.) are the first to go, next to Saturdays in June & October (warm, not hot months). You definitely don't want to hesitate on this part of your planning! You can see a list of Wisconsin Wedding Venues here You can also read tips on How to Choose a Venue here
Photography / Videography (together??)
Like venues, popular dates go quick with photo/video companies, and they're typically booked 12+ months in advance as well. So when you find someone you like - don't wait!
Please visit these posts where I discuss tips on choosing a photographer and whether or not you should get video and the controversy of hiring a one stop shop.
**Tip for later** Bring a prop or something personal to include in a photo for you to use as your thank you card.
Wedding Day Timeline
If you're getting married at a different location - that requires an appointment for your ceremony time - think about allowing for about 2-3 hours of time from the completion of the ceremony to your arrival time at the reception. Here's why....
- Post ceremony receiving line - 10 seconds per guest (125 guests =20 minutes)
- Family formal photos - 25 minutes
- Travel time to ______ for photos - ??minutes
- Wedding party & couple photos - 1 hour (preferred)
- Travel time to reception - ?? minutes
- Line up for DJ to announce wedding party - 5 to 10 minutes
- Grand Entry - 5 minutes
- Blessing / speeches 3-10 minutes depending (speeches can be done after dinner is served)
- Dinner served - Desired Time
This will be different if you're at one venue, or if you decide to see each other before the ceremony & get all the photos out of the way ahead of time.
Sit down and make that list.Start with parents - and work outwards with family from there (aunts/cousins, etc.). Then friends - mutual friends, childhood, highschool, college, work.
Once you've got everyone you know written down...HA...start narrowing it down to the people who you couldn't imagine NOT being there to share your special day.
Decide if you want to have a kid friendly wedding or not.
**Tip for later** When addressing your invites, make a second label for your thank you cards.
You'll want to get an idea of per head pricing for food. Buffet or plated dinners can vary widely in cost, so perhaps budget on the high end for this part to be safe. There are two things that are super important when it comes to food & catering... How quick people get their food - and how yummy it is. If you're opting for a plated meal from a caterer, discuss the way they deliver the food. I've been to weddings where I was one of the last tables to get served, and an hour had passed from the time the head table was served. As a photographer, I don't mind...but as a guest that would have been uncomfortable.
Schedule tastings with a few vendors to make sure their food is good! Aside from sharing the love with you, your guests look forward to a great meal as well.
You'll also want to consider hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, especially if there is a longer break between ceremony & reception.
**Tip for later** Your day will start early with your wedding party. Having a cooler or arrangements for snacks, lunch and refreshments is a good idea!
The basics - a DJ.Interview a couple of them and get a feel for their personality. Read reviews. Make sure that they have professional equipment and a wide selection of songs, and are willing to work with you on a play list.They should be able to read the crowd & keep the music playing that keeps your guests on the dance floor!
Musicians - I love live music. Consider having a string quartet or trio perform during your ceremony & maybe even cocktail hour.
Photobooth - guests usually love these. And you'll get some fun photos too!
Games - I've seen yard games inside a ballroom & outside at a barn wedding. It's a cute idea and great when you have a kid friendly wedding.
Flowers & Decor
Start collecting ideas - Pinterest is a great resource! Do you want to go big? Or take more of a minimalist approach? DIY or eco-friendly? Vintage, modern, traditional? The options can be overwhelming, so take your time with this part. It's not quite as time sensitive as a venue.
- Decor from church/ceremony venue can be reused for head table / reception decor
Shopping for wedding attire can be fun! Bring your friends, and make a day out of it. Most shops require an appointment and will go all out for you - so call around and get some ideas for how you want to plan it. Have one or two color palettes chosen, and see what looks best on your wedding party. Once you've finalized your colors, that might help with narrowing down your flower & decor plans.
For the day of your wedding, I've seen brides have matching robes for all their bridesmaids, which makes for fun photos too.
**Tips for later**Don't forget hangers! Even if you buy a pack of wood hangers for the dresses, or just one nice one for the bride's dress, it makes for nicer photos.
Shoes - if you're buying new shoes for the wedding day - break them in by wearing them around the house as much as possible ahead of time. Getting day-of blisters is not fun! Consider having a back up pair of comfy shoes for when the dancing starts!
Dancing / Walking / Sitting
I'm just going to give this it's own heading. You're going to be doing all of these things - and it's going to be a long day. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you can sit, walk and dance comfortably in it!
In the event you have your ceremony & reception at different locations - and are getting ready at a third location - you'll want to think about transportation for yourself & your wedding party attendants.
This is entirely up to you, and may depend on whether you're having a Catholic Church Ceremony, or a backyard wedding. Here are some ideas:
- Unity Candle
- Unity Sand
- Knot tying ceremony
- Unity Cross
- Tree Planting Ceremony
- Wine Box Ceremony
I love when the officiant shares the couples love story. Perhaps not all your guests will know how you met, where you became engaged or at what point you each knew you were going to get married. It's a great and fun way to personalize the wedding ceremony for the two of you.
Vows - reciting your own vows is also a personal preference, but a great way to bring out some tears and laughter from your family & friends.
Gifts & Favors
Not for you...for your people.
- Sweets table (Candy Bar)
- Favors at the table
- Incorporate a keepsake favor into the name card
- Have a basket of favors at the name place card table
- Wedding party thank you gifts (given during getting ready or rehearsal dinner)
- Parent thank you gifts
It's also nice when YOU the couple exchange gifts, cards or letters. It makes for pretty detail photos too.
**Tip for later** If you exchange any of these gifts the night before the wedding, let your photographer know so they can be documented as a part of your wedding day.
Choose someone to marry you! Ideas...
- Pastor from home church - (who may have married your parents or your siblings)
- Have a friend get ordained
- Search for highly rated & reviewed officiants in your area
I'm getting a little out of order here - but these should go out 6-8 weeks ahead of the wedding. Consider incorporating your color theme into the invitations. Your guests should have received a save the date about 4-6 months in advance, so they're already aware of the big day.
**Tip for later** Keep a copy of your stationery for your photographer to take pictures of.