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  • How to Plan Your Own Wedding (Full Guide Written by an Expert)

You’re engaged and excited to plan your own wedding. It may feel a little intimidating planning your own wedding, but it is totally doable. With the right understanding and organization, you can enjoy your experience planning your own wedding while saving time, money, and effort.. If you’re ready to plan, we have some expert advice that’s a must-read no matter what phase of the wedding planning process you’re in. But first, let’s answer some of your most pressing questions about planning your own wedding.

Is planning your own wedding hard?

 Planning your own wedding is not hard. It just takes two key elements: being proactive and organized. You’ll want to set aside time each week to make sure you’re hitting the milestones. This is essential because if you wait too long, your choice vendors will become booked and it will become much more stressful scrambling to locate the few remaining vendors who have openings. You don’t want to be in that position.

 

The other element: organization is key. A wedding has MANY moving parts. It’s not just one thing, but many small details that all come together to make a spectacular unforgettable event. With so many small details to decide, plan, and execute, staying organized becomes your number one priority.

Can you have a wedding without a wedding planner?

 It is crucial to go into your planning with the guidance and advice of an expert. You can totally plan your own wedding, but you’ll certainly want to utilize the insight and experience of a professional planner, whether that’s using a course like ours or choosing a day-of planner to help with all of the details of the wedding day. Not knowing what you don’t know can get in the way of smooth, stress-free planning. Seeking the advice of a highly qualified expert in wedding planning and producing can get you off to the perfect start.

Is it financially smart to plan your own wedding?

 Wedding planner costs vary anywhere from $1500 to $10,000+range depending on the planner, size of the wedding and services being offered. While a planner can sometimes help negotiate rates or use their connections to bring costs down, they can be an added expense. Wedding planners often provide a budget and can help you make sure you’re staying on track. With the average couple’s budget around $15,000-$20,000 and the average wedding costs hovering around $35,000, budgeting is clearly an issue for most couples. If you decide to skip using a wedding planner, the responsibility to stay on budget will fall entirely on you and your partner during planning.


This is where your organizing will come into play. You don’t want to attempt to avoid the cost of a wedding planner but then encounter more costs due to insufficient planning and impulse purchases. Keeping a daily tally of your costs will help you see where you are over-budget and help you consider options for cutting costs in other places.


We always recommend to our couples that they do not run their wedding themselves on their wedding day. Ideally you can do all the planning and have everything in place and then hire a 'Day Of' wedding planner at the end to run the actual wedding itself. This will save you significant amounts of expense compared with hiring a full planning service. Since wedding planners charge for the services they offer ranging from full planning to partial to “day of.” Day of planning can actually feel more like “month of” as planners will often come in at the end to finalize with all of your vendors, run the rehearsal and manage everything on the day of the wedding.

How long before a wedding should you start planning? 

The general consensus in the wedding industry is that a year is sufficient time to plan a wedding. If you are planning a significantly more elaborate event, you may want to add a few additional months to your planning timeline. More time is always a good thing when it comes to wedding planning. For smaller weddings, you can get away with a shorter time frame, but keep in mind, the less months you have to plan, the more you will need to accomplish in each month.


It’s best to not rely just on your guest list number to decide how much time you will need, but to how many elements you’ll require to better gauge when to start planning. A wedding may have under 50 people, but if it’s an off-site wedding that demands lots of items being brought in, like lighting, furniture, flowers, and music equipment, that might require as much planning as an on-site wedding for 150 people where the venue covers most of the elements

What are the first steps to planning a wedding?

The First Ten Steps to Take Get Yourself Stress-free

  1. 1
    Brainstorm! Here’s your chance to dream big. Begin by getting all your ideas, visions, and preferences down on paper, including: Wedding themes Potential wedding dates Approximate size of your wedding Magic moments you’ve been envisioning Venue or locations
  2. 2
    Prioritize. What are your “must-haves” and what are your “would be nice” elements. Create two categories so you can balance things out while planning.
  3. 3
    Research and Establish a Budget. Begin by understanding the costs of your top five venue options. Your venue will probably account for around half of your wedding budget.
  4. 4
    Narrow down. Decide on a venue/location, wedding date and guest list. 
  5. 5
    Begin using your wedding planning checklist. Here you’ll be able to plot out your milestone dates for when certain decisions and actions need to be made. This will be your timetable guide and your action list that will help lead you step-by-step through the planning tasks.
  6. 6
    Start interviewing wedding vendors. This covers all the services you’ll need from flowers to music to photography. 
  7. 7
    Shop for attire and accessories, stationary and gifts. 
  8. 8
    Plan out the before events (bachelor party, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner) and after events (wedding night accommodations, post-wedding brunch)
  9. 9
    Choose your wedding rings, your wedding menu and your wish list on your gift registries. 
  10. 10
    Review all plans. Touch base with your wedding party and vendors. Handle the last-minute items like hair and makeup

How much time do you need to plan a wedding? 

Time

  • Expect to set aside 5-10 hours a week for planning. 
  • This includes: At the start of each week create a contact list of vendors and people you need to reach out to. So much of good wedding planning depends on good communication.
  • Every weekend: Review your wedding checklist. Update it with any progress you’ve made during the week. Make sure you aren’t forgetting anything that’s due during this time.

 

Organization

  • Using your wedding checklist is key to staying organized. You’ll want to keep it next to you whenever you do research, set appointments, book services, and buy items. Update the list with every new action you take.

What problems do couples face during wedding planning?

 It’s important to understand that when planning a wedding yourself, every couple faces challenges, disappointments, and frustrations. Maybe the venue you always imagined having your reception in is completely booked for the next two years. Maybe one of you wants a small wedding and the other’s family is demanding a big affair.


Take comfort in knowing that this is a huge undertaking, even with a wedding planner. And rest assured most every other couple getting married, like you, is running into some bumps in the road down the aisle. Here’s the most common problems couples face during the wedding planning process, so you can anticipate and gain some perspective on these common issues.


Wedding Budget

Of course money is a source of stress and disagreements. It’s typically a hot button issue for couples so it’s no surprise it can become a lightning rod for debate during a time when so much will be being spent. Focus on transparency and working with a budget that makes you both comfortable. Use your wedding checklist as a way to anticipate all of the expenses before you begin planning so you can realistically budget.

 

Wedding Date

Saturday is the most popular day for weddings, so those dates will book up the fastest and have a premium price. If you really had your heart set on a certain month, consider an alternative day like Friday evening or Sunday afternoon.

 

Guest List

You will need to include all of those who are contributing to your wedding into this conversation. Going into it understanding that each person involved will have to make some hard decisions is better than leaving no room for negotiation. Few couples are able to invite everyone they want but narrowing your list down can help you have a more connected, meaningful event with your closest loved ones.

 

Finding Vendors

Without wedding planning you may be wondering how you’ll find the right vendors. Searching can get overwhelming and you’ll probably have more than you’d like of recommendation and referrals from well meaning guests. Begin by considering the preferred vendors your venue uses and those of any other vendor you know you’ll be working with. Narrow your list by first finding their availability, then zoom or visit them so you can get a feel for what the chemistry feels like with them.

How to handle wedding planning stress?

 You have a lot of decisions to make in the next few months. You’ll undoubtedly want to maximize your enjoyment during this time and minimize the stress. Here’s our favorite tips for reducing wedding planning stress:


Our Expert’s Top 10 Tips for Cutting Down Stress here...

  1. Ask for help and take help when offered:  There will be many friends and family ready and willing to help with your planning chores. It is easy to say “No, thank you.” for fear they will do something wrong or because you think their help may lead to more work. No one can do everything themselves however. Giving clear instructions and specific tasks can be a game changer to helping your planning go more smoothly.
  2. Take a wedding planning break:  Get out of town with your honey, carve out a few days for rest and relaxation. This is great to do mid-way through your planning phase. Even if it’s just a weekend getaway, having a break means you’ll come back to your wedding planning refreshed and ready to go. Just remember to keep your getaway simple, this shouldn’t lead to MORE planning!
  3.  Schedule date nights:  To help make sure you keep the romance (and sanity) in your relationship, make sure you take time for just the two of you, sans wedding planning convos. It’s super easy to slip into every interaction being a discussion of decisions and action plans. To keep wedding planning from taking over your relationship, proactively schedule date nights where talk of wedding planning is off limits.
  4. Prioritize legal and un-sexy stuff:  Read and understand the requirements for your county when it comes to your marriage license. Make sure your engagement ring is insured. Look into the various types of wedding insurance. If you’re holding an outdoor wedding, are there noise ordinances or special permits you need to obtain. The sooner you take care of all this not-so-fun stuff the more relaxed time you’ll have for things like dresses, flowers, and cake.
  5. Have a must-order list with dates:  You don’t want to be sweating it waiting for your wedding rings to arrive with a few days left before the big day. Save yourself the stress and expense of needing any rush deliveries by using your wedding checklist to keep track of important ordering dates and deadlines.
  6. Let go of some things:  Your planning will start out with A LOT of ideas. Along the way many of those ideas will be pared down or abandoned. And that’s okay! Like Elsa says, Let it go. If every champagne cart in town is booked up and you’re getting more and more frustrated in your search, consider going a different route. None of your guests will know any better.
  7. Take a social media break:  While trying to plan out your wedding you probably now follow dozens, maybe hundreds of wedding-themed social accounts. These are great for ideas, but too many ideas can easily overwhelm. If you’re trying to focus on a vision for your wedding day, being inundated with fomo-inspo and unattainable photo shoot weddings can make it a challenge. Unplug and take the pressure off your planning. 
  8. Give and take:  Incorporating what each person in a couple wants their wedding to be can be a challenge for even the most experienced planner. Ideally you’ll agree on many decisions. For the ones you don’t, make sure there’s give and take so that both of you feel included and represented in the decision-making. 
  9. Give your brain something else to think about:  Take a class, visit a museum, go for a hike. Wedding planning and quickly consume your life if you let it. But it doesn’t have to. Give yourself a welcomed distraction and it will help keep things in perspective. 
  10. Remember to stay in the moment and keep things in perspective: On the topic of perspective, remember to check in with yourself regularly. Meditate and decompress. Remind yourself that your wedding is one day, but your marriage is the rest of your life. Little details are nice, but they aren’t worth excessive stress and drama.

What should one not forget when planning a wedding? 

If this is your first wedding you’ve planned for yourself, it’s hard to know everything that you should be thinking about. That’s like expecting someone who has never worked in a restaurant to know how to pull off serving dinner for a packed house on their first night on the job! So please, cut yourself some slack. You’re doing great by reading this tutorial. Knowledge is your best friend when it comes to wedding planning. Learning from the pros can give you insight that took professionals years to learn.


With that in mind, here’s our pro picks for the three things you don’t want to forget when planning your wedding.



The Three Must-Haves For Wedding Planning

Wedding Checklist: Your wedding checklist is going to be your map, your guide, your all-in-one sanity saver for keeping your wedding planning organized and stress-free. Take it with you wherever you go for wedding meetings, have it on hand to jot updates, and keep it handy as an easy way to remind yourself of important dates and milestones.

 

A Budget Cushion: There will be those must-have items and options you never thought of that find their way into your wedding day expenses. There will also be additional costs like cash tips for staff that you’ll need to factor in. It all adds up so anticipating the unknown and creating a budgetary buffer can help you from entering into married life with additional unexpected debt.


Knowledge of all Contracts: Contracts are probably the least fun and romantic part of wedding planning. But they are necessary and it’s important to protect yourself by reading them closely. In the rush to check items off of your wedding checklist it is tempting to want to race through booking and locking down vendors. But the fine print is important. Just ask the many couples who lost tens of thousands of dollars during the pandemic lockdown and could not get deposits returned.


Deposits in the wedding industry are usually non-refundable. This is because most weddings book 12-18 months in advance and if you cancel the venue or vendor may not be able to re-book that date and will lose that revenue completely. If you aren’t the contract-reading type of person, bring a trusted family member or friend to help you with this part. It’s especially important to understand cancellation and reschedule clauses within contracts.

Tips to Simplify Your Wedding Planning

 When planning your own wedding it’s key to make things as easy as possible. The old adage to work smart, not hard applies here. Based on hundreds of weddings planning, here’s some ways to simplify the planning so you can focus on the parts that mean the most to you:


  • Choose an On-Site Wedding:   Off-site weddings can appear simple and low-key at first glance. Places like the park or your parents backyard can be free for use. What they lack in cost however these spots can make up for in complexity. There may not be enough restroom facilities or parking for the number of guests you are expecting. Also, factoring in all of the items that will need to be brought in by multiple vendors (everything from food to tables and chairs) the cost and logistics can quickly increase. An on-site wedding which is held at a venue that handles a volume of events which simplify things to one contact who already has most of the elements you’ll need to pull off a beautiful wedding. 
  • Trust Your Gut with Vendors:  Does a photographer feel impossible to reach or a videographer feel like they aren’t listening to you? Although a vendor might have great reviews and a stellar portfolio, it’s important that you click with them. If you feel like it’s always work trying to communicate with them, it might be time to simplify things and hire someone else. 
  • DIY Strategically:  Seeing gorgeous favors or centerpieces can lead you to say, “We could totally do that ourselves!” The appeal to save your budget where you can is strong of course, but at what cost? Creating one centerpiece might be doable, but will you have the time and energy the night before your wedding to make 50? Is that how you want to spend the days leading up to your wedding? DIY-ing elements of your wedding can add a nice personal touch. Just be wary of taking on too many projects or ones that will be too time consuming. 
  • Extend your “Don’t Play” list beyond the DJ:  There are many wedding traditions that get incorporated into the event. It’s a great idea to discuss which you love and which you really don’t carry about. Do you want to smash cake in each other’s faces or be officially introduced “for the first time” as a married couple? Some couples dream of those moments and others cringe. Your wedding is your day so don’t let tradition dictate what needs to be included. Include only the things that matter to you both. 
  • Downsize Your Wedding Party: The bigger the wedding party, the more coordination you’ll need to do. More weddings are leaning toward smaller wedding parties to lower costs and planning. 
  • Go with Digital communication rather than printed:  Stationary adds a significant amount to your budget and timetable. You need to choose invitations and all the stationary that goes along with them, possibly hire a calligrapher, gather addresses, and mail out everything at the right time. Or you could hit the send button on a digital invitation and cut down on resources used and energy spent.
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