How to Start Planning a Wedding (It's Not as Scary as It Seems!)

Planning Tips

You just got engaged and you couldn't be more stoked, but now that the reality of actually planning a wedding has finally set in you have no clue where to start. First of all, don't have a panic attack! If you're feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed or like your head is spinning a million miles a minute, take a deep breath, relax and simply begin by crossing these five things off of your to-do list.

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Step 1: Identify the size of your budget and guest list
According to seasoned wedding planner Sandy Malone of Weddings in Vieques, the planning process always needs to start out with these two things. "You can then coordinate with your families to make sure they're on board with the budget (if they're contributing) and the potential date and location," she notes. "Without knowing how many guests, when and how much you are able to spend, no wedding planner or venue can give you an accurate quote on what your wedding festivities will cost."

Step 2: Hire a wedding planner if you can
If your budget allows for it, bringing a wedding planner on board can save you a lot of time, money, sweat and tears, believe it or not. "Even if they're only able to be somewhat involved in the planning process, a good wedding planner or event producer will help you with finding the right location and the best vendors, as well as everything from budget guidance to space diagramming and room design," advises Kristin Banta, owner of Kristin Banta Events.

Step 3: Create a good game plan
No wedding planner? That's okay too. First things first, you'll want to figure out how much wedding items generally cost in your geographic area and where your priorities lie so that you can create a good game plan, suggests Florida-based wedding planner Aviva Samuels of Kiss The Planner. "This should include not only how much you plan to budget for each item, but also a time frame in which you'd like to accomplish things," she states. Putting it all down on paper (or using an app like our Budget Calculator and Tracker) will help you stay organized and give you the confidence you need to sign each contract with ease when the time comes.

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Step 4: Book your ceremony and reception site
Although going wedding dress shopping with your BFFs right away sounds like a total blast, before you drop any money on anything (other than a wedding planner, of course), Robyn Bruns, president of Red Letter Event Planning, says you'll want to have your venue and date booked and set. "The location and date set the tone for the rest of the wedding," she explains. Be sure to check in with your parents and any other people you couldn't bare missing out on your big day to see if the date works for them as well.

Step 5: Choose a theme or color palette
"Brides often choose individual elements of their wedding without thinking about the larger picture," points out Eriko Wadsworth, owner of Annalisa Style Flowers. "It's a great start to choose a theme (vintage glam, romantic blush, summery yellow, etc.) or a color palette and words that describe your overall vibe." Whether this is accomplished via Pinterest or the old fashioned way (clipping pages out of wedding magazines) doesn't matter. You'll then want to share these ideas with your wedding planner and individual vendors as you book them.

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