Congratulations, you’re officially engaged! And I’m sure you’re feeling a lot of anticipation, a lot of love, maybe a little nerves, but mostly just excitement. Choosing to get married and to spend the rest of your life with someone is a major decision. But the decisions have only just begun. Because after an engagement, there will eventually be a wedding. Depending on you and your fiancé’s preference, you might want a short engagement and get started planning a wedding or elopement right away. Or you might want to soak in the engagement glow for a little longer and choose to plan a wedding a year or two down the road. Whatever timeline you decide, congrats, because you just made the first decision about your wedding. The first of many.
Though I am in no way a wedding planner, and this is the first wedding I’ve been involved in planning, I want to share what I’ve learned so far and my experience along the way. In order to not get bogged down, there were a few decisions that Jeff and I focused on making first. We knew that once those were made, all of the other details & timelines could be put in place from there. Now that you’ve said yes to forever, here’s a few questions you and your fiancé need to answer first.
Choosing when you want to get married is probably the first step. It might not be picking the exact date just yet, but determining the year and season is a great place to start. Depending on when you get engaged, getting married the same year will require a shorter timeline for putting all of the proper details in place. Giving yourself a longer runway by choosing a date a year or more in the future might be preferred. If you have very specific vendors or venues in mind, choosing to have a longer engagement helps to ensure they are more likely to be available, depending on how far in advance they book up. After deciding that Jeff and I didn’t want to get married in 2021, and are happy to wait until 2022, we needed to decide on the season. Living in Wisconsin and having been to weddings in each of the seasons, we know that there are pros and cons to each.
We knew that we wanted it to be warm, but not right in the middle of June/July when the summer heat is peaking where we live. Also, we knew that choosing a day in early Spring or late Fall can be tricky, since Wisconsin weather can be very unpredictable in those months. We have seen snow days in April, and sometimes days that feel like Summer in late October/early November. Though it’s impossible to predict or control the weather for any particular day, we decided August or September are our ideal months.
Over the years, Jeff and I had a few different discussions on our wedding, what it would look like, and where it would take place. Besides our own thoughts, our family had some ideas about where we should or could get married as well. For a long time, my aunt was very much in support of a destination wedding. She was always telling us she was ready to book her trip to an all-inclusive resort on the beach anytime. We love the idea of a destination wedding, but it is also important to us for our family to be able to easily attend, especially our grandparents. Knowing that long distance travel isn’t always the easiest for all of our guests, we decided that getting married in Wisconsin was the best bet for us and our guest list.
When thinking about where you want to get married, there’s a lot of factors that come into play. Who you want to attend. What memories you have of certain cities, your hometown, or your current city. Is it important to be close to where your family lives? Or is it more important to show off where you currently live, or a city that holds a special place in your heart? When you narrow down the location on the map, the next step is to search for venues. Indoors, outdoors, in your backyard. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s what you want and reflects who you and your significant other are as a couple.
Now that you have an idea of when and where you want to get married, it’s time to decide what kind of wedding you want. An extravagant wedding with a never ending guest list? Or an intimate elopement with a chosen few? I can’t say this enough, but it’s so important to do what’s best for you and what you as a couple picture your wedding looking like. Picture your dream wedding, taking into account thoughts about budget, style, estimated guests, and overall experience. How do you want your wedding to look? To feel? To sound? What aspects of the wedding are most important to you and your significant other? How do you want guests to remember your wedding day? How do you want to feel and look on your wedding day?
There’s so many questions to be answered and details to be figured out. This is not the time to get lost in the weeds. You’ll figure out all of the menu items, floral details, decorative pieces, and more along the way. Try to keep this part of the decision high level. You can have colors in mind, but think about the general aesthetic, the approximate size, and the style of venue. If there’s a list of must-haves, feel free to add those, but you don’t need to have the whole day planned yet.
Depending on who you are as a bride, or as a couple, thinking through the planning process for a wedding may seem exciting. Or daunting. I have been thinking about ideas and plans for my wedding for years. And thanks to Pinterest, I have been keeping tabs on those ideas over the years. I am a planner, I love organizing parties, I love nitpicking details, I love creating playlists, planning menus, and creating excel spreadsheets to track expenses + guest lists. These tasks don’t seem undesirable to me, so I knew I could get by without the help of a professional planner. If anything, I just need a sounding board for my thoughts, ideas, and questions. Thankfully, my fiancé does a really great job of hearing my ideas and helping me make decisions. He has some ideas about the day as well, so we like to think through it all together.
But that’s just Jeff and I. As a bride, it’s easy to think you have to do it all yourself. Believe me, you don’t. There are professional planners out there with loads of experience. They help you answer all of these questions and even ones you didn’t even think of. But, if that’s not in the budget for your wedding, look to your family & friends for assistance. There’s a reason we have bridesmaids and that’s to help with some of the planning and preparation for the big day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think you’re going to need it or you just don’t know where to start. And don’t forget about all of the tools that exist out there to help plan weddings like The Knot or Zola!
One of the biggest decisions you’ll make about your wedding is the budget and who is paying for what. This truthfully should be one of the first decisions that you make, because it will impact all of the decisions you make throughout the planning process. The important part here is to have the budget discussion early and make sure all of the important players are at the table. There are some “traditions” when it comes to who pays for what, but honestly, you just need to do what’s best for you, your significant other, and your family. Typically the brides family is responsible for the wedding and reception. Sometimes the groom’s family covers the rehearsal dinner and beverages during the reception. If you’re in a place where you can cover the wedding completely as a couple, that’s a wonderful thing. Chances are, most couples do need some financial assistance covering the costs of a wedding. Depending on your initial plans for your wedding, there’s no right or wrong way to decide who pays for what. As long as everyone involved is comfortable and not left with a bigger financial burden than they planned for.
With four older brothers, I had always fallen into the traditional belief that my parents would help cover a lot of the major costs for my wedding. We are blessed that both of our parents are willing and able to contribute to cover a lot of the costs for our dream wedding. But we know there’s a few items for our wedding that are important to us that my fiancé and I plan on covering ourselves. Once we had done some initial research and put together some loose plans, we sat down with both of our sets of parents to chat through, get feedback, and discuss budgeting options. Jeff and I were a little nervous prior, but were so happy with the way the conversations went. Maybe some day I’ll share the presentation I put together to guide those conversations…
Once you lock down where, when, what, and how at a high-level, it’s time to dig into the details! Choosing the perfect wedding venue, deciding on your colors & decor, picking out the wedding party, and everything else. But as you dive into the details, don’t forget the meaning and the ultimate goal of the day. It’s about you and your significant other, choosing to spend your lives together as a married couple. It’s about celebrating your relationship, your commitment, and your love. That’s really all that matters.
If you have any questions or tips about wedding planning, make sure to drop them in the comments below!