Photo: Alison Conklin Photography
Planning a wedding is a huge task, and it's easy to get intimidated about all that needs to be done before you've even started. On the other hand, maybe you've been dreaming about this day for years and want to jump right in? Either way, the best way to set yourself up for success is to be smart about what you do first. So... where should you start? We asked wedding planner Danielle Ehrlich of Danielle Evans Events and Design about the first five things you should do when you start planning your wedding (after popping some champagne and spreading the news, of course!).
1. Discuss what type of wedding you both want.
Do you want to get married at a far-flung destination or somewhere local? Will it be small or large? In your backyard or a big ballroom? Do you want a ceremony in your childhood church, or to have a close friend officiate? Says Ehrlich, "All of these things will come up throughout the planning process, so it is good to start discussing your priorities beforehand. This way you'll both have input — and hopefully a few less surprises along the way!"
2. Figure out your budget.
"This is the hard part, but it will create a framework for everything else down the line," says Ehrlich. "It will determine which venues you look at, how many people you can invite, which vendors you'll hire. As a wedding planner, I don't encourage my clients to look at any venues or vendors until the budget is made. I know the excitement is high, but the last thing you want is to fall in love with something you can't afford!" She says to ask the following questions: Do you have an overall budget? Is it firm, or is there wiggle room? What does the budget include? (The dress, other wedding-weekend events, a planner, etc.)
3. Draw up your guest list (including an A List and a B List).
It's hard to come up with a guest count until you start writing down names — you'll quickly realize there are people you want or need to invite who didn't immediately come to mind. On the A List, put people who will absolutely be invited. On the B List, put guests you would love to have, but who might not make the cut depending on budget and venue size. "Make sure to ask your parents for their A and B lists, as well — especially if they are footing the bill," says Ehrlich. Something to keep in mind: the best way to cut your budget is to cut your guest list. "It will affect everything from the catering cost to chair and glassware rentals. Having guests divided into an A and B list will make it easier to know where to draw the line. And as you get closer to the wedding, whether you have extra funds available or there's space for additional guests because some can't attend, you can send out a few extra invitations," Ehrlich says. She tells couples who plan to do this to have two RSVP cards made — one for the A list, with an earlier RSVP date, and one for the B list, with a later date closer to the wedding.
4. Pick a venue, then a date — in that order!
"I love when couples come to me without a date, because it means we'll have much more flexibility when it comes to looking at venues and booking one they really love," Ehrlich reveals. If you're hoping to give immediate family members a heads-up before the date is set, select a range of 4-8 weeks (say, June and July or October and November). This will also be helpful when you're looking at venues so that you can narrow down the season and see which dates are available.
"Have fun, relax, and enjoy being engaged," says Ehrlich. "The next few months are going to be stressful, exciting, and full of emotions, so try not to lose track of why you're doing this: because you're in love and are making a big, romantic commitment to one another!"