We’re engaged! Now what?!
First you need to figure out the money. It’s an awkward topic and not the fun part of wedding planning (Cake tasting. Enough said) And even though it’s one of the more stressful aspects of planning it’s pretty vital to the whole process. The best way to avoid the anxiety that goes along the dreaded money issue? Set a budget. And make sure you stick to it.
It seems easy enough to do but my husband and I found it to be one of the most challenging parts of wedding planning. Our solution? We each made a list of our top three priorities for our wedding day. I wanted stunning photography, a delicious meal, and a venue that exemplified the beauty of the Northwest. He picked excellent food, an awesome dance party and a unique outdoor venue. So we focused most of our budget on our venue and catering followed by photography and music. Once we determined our priorities the daunting task of planning an event with 120 of our nearest and dearest didn’t seem as scary.
Even though we still ran into overspending (yeah the dress was worth it) we found creative solutions to save in other areas (thank you Costco candles). So figuring out how much and where you’re going to spend it makes the “how the hell are we going to plan this?!” a lot easier.
Next step is to figure out the people. You need to determine your guest list before you can plan much of your wedding. It’s directly related to your budget – 5K goes a lot further for an intimate wedding of 15 compared to one with 150 guests. More guests equals more money. I know it seems obvious but it was definitely something I hadn’t considered until we started receiving numbers from caterers.
I remember the exact moment my husband and I looked over our estimate from our caterer. His reaction was something like “HOW much do we have to pay to feed everyone?!” But once it was explained to us through the Olive Garden rule it made a lot more sense why the estimate was a fair one. Even if it nearly caused us to run away to Hawaii and elope.
Olive Garden rule (courtesy of APW via Liz Coopersmith of Silver Charm Events):
“Unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks notwithstanding, even at the Olive Garden, an appetizer, a salad, a main course and a couple glasses of wine will cost about $50 per person. Transition that to a hundred guests, and it would cost $5,000 to serve Olive Garden at your wedding. And this isn’t considering tables, chairs, linens and table setting rentals. And don’t forget tax, service, gratuity and delivery. Basically it’s going to cost a fair amount to feed and booze up your guests.”
Your guest list also helps narrow down venues. Your parents backyard might not hold the 200 people you’ve invited. Or the gigantic ballroom might be a bit large for your 75 guests. I had made a massive list of venues when my husband and I first got engaged and once we made our guest list I had to cut about half of the venues I had picked out. I had underestimated the amount of people we wanted to invite and most of the venues couldn’t handle a 200 plus person guest list. And even though we figured about half of them wouldn’t be able to make it we still had to find a venue that could fit everyone – just in case.
Finally you should try to choose a theme or a vibe to your wedding day. I like to think of picking your theme as more of how you want your wedding day to feel. Are you and your partner looking for a laid back urban cocktail party? Or a church wedding with a unique intimate reception? Or a full weekend destination beach wedding? Ultimately your wedding day is a celebration of you and your partner’s love and relationship. And finding a way for your wedding to represent you two gives the planning process a clear direction.
My husband and I are transplants – he grew up in Montana and I from Wisconsin. Our relationship began and thrived here in the Seattle. So it made perfect sense for us to get married in Washington. And since a majority of our guests were from out of town we wanted our wedding to be representative of how beautiful and amazing the Northwest is. We kept this in mind when making our wedding planning decisions. And it made the whole process a whole lot easier.
And voila! You’re on your way to planning the best wedding ever. And once you’re all set with a budget, guest list and general vibe of your wedding day you can move onto choosing a venue, picking out a photographer or even crafting a timeline. Interested in more wedding planning advice? Check out some more blog posts here. Have some more questions or want to talk about your wedding with someone else who isn’t a related to you, part of your wedding party or works with you? Send me an email and we can grab a drink!