First Steps To Wedding Planning

It finally happened…. you’re ENGAGED!!! Congratulations! I am so excited for ya’ll and can only imagine you’re feeling on cloud nine! Now let the planning begin! Most Nikki Schell Photography couples aren’t sure where to start. The beginning can feel overwhelming and daunting, and EVERYONE IS ASKING QUESTIONS. I’m here to help! Let’s dive in: here are a few wedding planning tips and a downloadable wedding planning checklist!

Choose a Month/Season 

Before you start searching for the perfect venue, you will need to have an ideal timeframe in mind. You don’t need to have the specific date – unless there’s a select date you’re hoping for – but you should have a month or season you’re targeting. Another thing to keep in mind is if you’d be open to a Friday or Sunday wedding, or perhaps you’re only considering Saturdays! Most venues will tell you over the phone or by email if they have any dates available that meet your ideal timeframe. Speaking with venues before scheduling a walk-through will save you time (and any heartache of loving a space but learning they’re totally booked).

wedding planning checklist, summer wedding at chesapeake bay beach club

Have a Budget In Place

Once you get quotes from vendors – weddings come with a pretty sizable price tag. The average cost is between $35k-$40k for 100 guests in the DC area. The more guests, the higher the price. The majority of the weddings I capture are between 150-200 guests, and I’d guesstimate they are $60k-$75k weddings. Sticker shock at its finest, amiright?! Try setting a realistic budget before you start planning – it will make the entire process a lot less stressful. Prioritize the top 5 things you want for your wedding and go from there. Looking up each vendor’s average cost (in your area) will also help you create a more realistic budget. You can then decide where you want to make cuts and where you think your money is best spent.

Draft Your Guest List

Not only will your guest list affect your budget, but it will also play a role in your venue search. Your guest list doesn’t have to be final, but it helps to have a rough idea of how many people you think you will be inviting to your wedding. Be sure to discuss your draft with your family. Your family may have an opinion about who is invited. If your family is paying for anything, their opinion may need to be weighted more heavily. Having that discussion at the beginning of planning your wedding will save you added stress and potential hurt feelings later in the planning process. 

wedding planning checklist, fall wedding at woodlawn and pope leighey house

Remember the Big Picture

The smaller details such as finding your dream dress, picking the florals, and deciding on your dessert are all fun decisions to make. However, before you get ahead of yourself selecting some of those more granular details, take a step back. Try to determine: What style really speaks to you as a couple? What type of atmosphere do you want to create on the day? Are you going to have a theme, such as tropical, rustic, classic, etc.? What will your color scheme be? You can turn to Pinterest to gather some inspiration, but what I really recommend is working with a wedding planner and/or event designer. They’ll be able to take all your ideas and make sense of them, so they fit you as a couple for your big day. (My own story: I wanted color & pattern & tropical leaves & balloons… I feared it’d look like a circus; our event designer reeled in my ideas and gave us a design plan that was chic, colorful, tropical, and still classy)!

Also, the biggest picture of them all…? At the end of the day, ya’ll will be married!!

Keep Organized

The more organized you are, the better your wedding planning experience will be. Keep a digital copy of your essential wedding-related documents in one spot on your computer. This will help you easily refer back to them when needed. If you want to bring important documents along to meetings with vendors, you can create a wedding binder that contains all of the information you need. Plus, it will make for an excellent backup copy, too! Set aside one day a week to be your “wedding planning check-in day.” Maybe you have nothing to get done one week, but checking in on your planning at least once a week will ensure that things do not pile up too quickly. A solid wedding planning foundation is key to designing a stress-free wedding day. Start your planning off right!


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