You just got engaged and you are likely feeling a wave of emotions. As excited as you are about spending the rest of your life with your fiancé, you are probably getting overwhelmed at the thought of planning a wedding. Although this is supposed to be an exciting time, thoughts of what to do first have already crossed your mind. Our goal at Elizabeth Events is to not only make you feel like a guest at your own wedding, but to also make you feel as stress free as possible during the planning process. I hope this blog post helps you get more excited than stressed. Here are a few tips of the first steps to take after you get engaged, other than hiring a wedding planner. If you know you are wanting to work with one, we recommend that being your first step!
- Begin with your guest count
I bet you did not expect this to be the first tip listed. The reason that beginning with your guest count is so important is because the next step on this list is finding a venue. Your guest list does not have to be exact, but it is good to have a general idea of how many you are expecting. You would not want to tour a venue with a max capacity of 100, fall in love, book the venue, make your guest list, and then realize you want to invite over 200 people. Then you are put in the situation of having to cut your guest list. On the flip side, you also do not want to fall in love with a huge venue with a 300 person capacity and only have 50 people on your guest list and be disappointed. This is also a really helpful number to have when you are planning your budget. Your guest count affects so many aspects of your budget such as food, rentals, and floral arrangements. If you are planning on having a larger guest count, the costs add up a lot quicker. If you have a smaller budget, the easiest way to save is having a smaller guest count.
- Map out your budget
Before you start booking vendors, it is important to map out what you are able to spend for the wedding. I suggest first coming up with a total amount and be specific about what that is going to include. For example, is your dress going to be included in that budget, will it include the rehearsal dinner, travel accommodations, etc. Next, I would put a star next to the items that are most important to you. Oftentimes when working with a wedding budget, you will splurge in some areas and save in others. I recommend that couples pick a few items that are most important to them to spend more money on and then the items that do not matter as much, save. For example, if you love florals and want to make them a statement at your wedding, splurge in that area, but be more mindful when it comes to food. Pick a less expensive food option and do family style or a buffet instead of plated. I do not recommend working your budget off of percentages (20% for food, 10% for entertainment, 30% for venue, etc). This is a blog post for another day, but my quick rationale is this: you and another couple are getting married at the same venue and have the same guest count of 200. Your budget is $10,000 and their budget is $50,000. Both of your ideal meals are pasta family style. That leaves you with allotting $2,000 for food and the other couple $10,000 for food. Just because you have a budget of $2,000 does not mean that you will be able to feed 200 people for that amount. You may need to spend a little more on food while the other couple may not have to spend all of their 20% allotted funds. Again, that is a topic for another day but you get the idea.
- Pick your venue
I recommend picking your venue before picking your date! Wedding venues book really fast, especially in the Nashville area. When looking for a venue, I would have an idea of what month(s) you would be wanting to have the wedding in, and then see what the availability of your venue is. They may not have the exact date you had in mind available, but they could have several other options for the same month. The only time where I would not recommend this is if you have a date picked for a sentimental or specific reason. I also recommend picking your venue first because they do book up really fast and it is a key point in planning the rest of your wedding. Your venue may play a factor into the style of photography you want and the overall vibe of the wedding.
- Book your photographer and videographer
Photography and videography are two other things that book up fast, especially in the Nashville area. Right after you book your wedding venue and settle on a date, I would take care of these two vendors. When booking, I suggest that once you pick your top three favorites, you have phone calls or in person meetings with them. It is important that you see how you interact together. These people are going to be right by your side the whole wedding day. If you feel awkward around them or your personalities do not click, you will not have the best experience. Another bonus in booking them early is that you can add on an engagement session with your photographer and begin to get comfortable with each other and with being in front of the camera.
- Hire a wedding coordinator
If you chose to not hire a full or partial wedding planner (first step), but you are wanting someone to coordinate the day of your wedding, now is the time to book them. Coordinators also get booked fast, especially during peak season. When picking a coordinator, I would pick a budget range that you want to stick to and then talk with different coordinators. Do not pick your coordinator solely off of price. I’m not saying to spend $2,500 on a coordinator when you only have $1,000 to spend. If you connect really well with a coordinator but he/she is $300 more than another coordinator who you did not click as well with, spend the extra money. It is worth it! This is very important with vendors like your photographer, videographer, coordinator/planner, and DJ.
I hope these tips help you begin the planning process without feeling overwhelmed. For all of my full and partial planning clients, I create a roadmap that outlines the order that I suggest all vendors being booked. This is a helpful tool for keeping planning on track, not feeling overwhelmed, and knowing the next step in the process. I have recently opened that up for anyone who is interested! This is great for couples who are not booking a planner or who are just using a month of coordinator. I offer fully customizable roadmaps for $50. If this is something you are interested in shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help guide you through more of the planning process. Also, check us out on Instagram @elizabethevents_ for more planning tips!