Hi guys! It has been a while, I have been a little preoccupied finalizing all of the details for our wedding in two weeks! Yes, only TWO WEEKS AWAY! I have felt every emotion possible planning this wedding the past year. There is something about weddings, everyone will have their own opinion about how to do things, but there is NO right or wrong way folks! The thing to repeat to yourself when things get difficult, is this day is about you and your hubby/wife to be! I know it can be hard to remember this sometimes, but your happiness depends on it. After all, it should be about celebrating your love, friendship and your special day with the two of you, so your loved ones should understand! I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, I really wanted to share what I have learned along the way and my tips to plan your own wedding!
1. SAVE FOR THE WEDDING
Save, save, save and then save some more! Then go back and start saving yesterday. The thing about weddings is that while they are beautiful, they come with a price tag! Any service you book will go up exponentially for a wedding! When booking your vendors choose ones that are reputable and professional. I knew it was important to book vendors based on these two things so that when it came down to it, I didn’t have to worry about anything going wrong. Although they might be a bit more expensive, you will pay almost as much for other vendors who you may feel uneasy about. Remember, the idea is to make your day run as smoothly and happily as possible for you and your hubby to be.
Think about the size of wedding you want and make A, B, and C guest lists since the bigger the wedding the bigger the cost of everything! Rentals, meals, favors, cake, stationary, etc. Decide what is most important to you! Check out vendors and decide which ones you must have and consider the cost when making a set budget and how long you will need to save to meet this budget. Don’t forget to budget for hidden costs and details you hadn’t thought of too, like about $600 for dress alterations on top of the cost of your gown or mandatory bathroom rentals that cost $1500 on top of your reception venue price!
2. PICK A DATE
So your planning your wedding! The first step is to pick a date, or a few that you have in mind! Remember that vendors book up quickly so you may not get the exact date you had dreamed of getting married on. If you have a specific date that has a significant meaning to you and your groom, it may affect your venue choice if it isn’t available for your big day. Prioritize what is most important to you! We had originally wanted an August wedding to make sure it would be a beautiful and sunny day, unfortunately our dream venue, photographer and videographer weren’t all available on the same day and this was a year in advance! So we worked around it and found a date in July that worked out for our venue and photographer. The videographer luckily ended up having our date available last-minute! Remember that until you have a date, you can’t really book anything or send out any sort of invitation so this is an important first step.
Also, start thinking about what feeling you want to have on your wedding day since this could affect what date you pick and make a Pinterest board for inspiration! Do you want a relaxed beach wedding or a romantic garden party? For example, I knew I wanted something soft and romantic, elegant but relaxed, whimsical vintage pieces mixed with classic simplicity. I knew I wanted to be outside in nature’s beauty which means summer was a must if we got married at home. I also wanted to be involved in the decision-making and have flexibility so I knew destination was out! Plus it was so important that our friends and family would be able to for sure join us. Consider weather patterns for destinations you are thinking about and how much time you should allow people to save up for the trip. Start checking out local venues or researching destinations so you are prepared for booking.
3. GET ORGANIZED
This part is for your own sanity, I promise you! I used a plain white binder from Staples for $5 and clear sheets to store all of the important contracts and documents, I took this everywhere with me in the early planning stages and recently in the finalizing stages. It has helped me stay organized and if I needed to back check any contracts or any details to confirm with other vendors it was at my finger tips!
I also found the Wedding Wire website super helpful, it has a budget calculator with presets to give you a realistic idea of cost, check list with things you never thought you needed to do, guest list where you can store addresses, RSVP’s and meal choices, seating chart, vendor info with reviews, and best of all everything is customizable to you and your wedding details! You can also create a custom wedding website for free on their site, you will definitely want to do this ahead of time and update it as you go so it is up and running when you send out your save the dates or invitations, especially if you plan on using a site to track your RSVP’s. Some sites charge an extra fee for this and to keep your site private so keep it in mind when choosing a host site! We made ours through Minted which also has some really cute templates!
4. BOOK YOUR VENDORS & HOTELS
So you have a date, your organized and your ready to start booking vendors. The most important vendor to book first is your ceremony and reception venue(s)! Keep in mind that some vendors have specific times when they start booking so this could affect choosing your date right away. For example, we were told we could not book our reception venue until the year of and our ceremony venue until October of that year. Each will have different terms to work around, just make sure to set reminders for yourself to make sure you don’t miss out and snag your dream venue! Most vendors will want to meet with you and your groom to discuss your plans and ideas so they can work out an estimate. Fees can go up in the peak wedding season of Spring/Summer months and book up quickly, so make sure to be prepared to put deposits down to hold your date, which is usually 50% of your set quote.
Next I would start booking other important vendors that can only book one wedding a day like your photographer and videographer. If you have yet to do an engagement shoot, most photographers include this when you book your wedding with them! Once you have these set you can move on to other important vendors. Like caterers, if not already included in your venue package – keep in mind some stipulate that you have to use their company so if you hate their food this could affect your venue choice! Other important details to ask them: Is set-up and take down included?, Do you handle the socan fees?, What is the cost of labour vs. minimum you have to spend to cover this? Will they honor current year prices? Also, look into rentals, we were lucky in that the company who owns our venue, also covers catering and has so many great options for rentals available! This quote will be an estimate until you have your confirmed number of guests. Now time for the pretty, book a florist! Some florists only book a certain amount of weddings per weekend so you will want to book this sooner than later. Don’t forget an officiant or priest, after all if there is no one to marry you, what’s the point right? If you are getting married in a church, some will require you to meet with the priest and do pre-marriage counseling with them.
You will also need a DJ or band, depending on what feel you want, consider if you want them to be there for the ceremony too or if you want an instrument instead? Find out other details, like if they can provide a mic for your ceremony and speeches as well as lighting for the dance. Next up is a cake/sweets, make sure you consider sizing of stands, etc so there are no surprise issues on the day of! We can’t forget hair and makeup! If you aren’t doing this yourself, decide if this is something you will cover for your bridesmaids or if you expect them to foot the bill. This was important to me so that our photos turn out perfectly and there is less stress getting ready so I wanted to provide this for my girls and my mom. Make sure you have enough makeup artists and hair stylists to get everyone ready according to your timeline too! We also booked a day of coordinator so we wouldn’t have to worry and be stressed about anything the day of, they are usually responsible for set up and other details the week of.
Lastly, but not least you need to get to your wedding! Schedule transportation for both you and your groom to get to and from your venues and back home at the end of the night. Also at this stage you may want to start looking into booking hotel blocks for your out-of-town guests, consider what is closest to your reception venue so it is easily accessible at the end of the night. Plus, if you have enough guests booking also consider booking a shuttle to transport guests so they aren’t drinking and driving.
5. ASK YOUR BRIDESMAIDS!
If you haven’t already thought about it (or asked yet!), around this time would be a good time to figure out who you want to stand up next to you on your big day! Think of how you want to ask them, I love the wine bottle stickers or a custom gift basket to pop the question! Also, things to think about are whether your best gals and guys will be able to afford the cost of being in your bridal party as well as the cost for you and your groom depending on what you are planning on covering for them! If you are planning on including them in the next step make sure to ask them prior to your scheduled bridal gown fittings.
6. ORDER YOUR DRESS
In my previous post I highlighted some of the important points to make finding your perfect dress a breeze! I would say the most important one is to give yourself enough time and order in advance so you don’t end up rushed and stressed right before the big day. To do this, give yourself at least a year as some bridal shops take up to 9 months to order your dress + 3 alteration and fitting appointments! Some can rush for an extra fee and some smaller boutiques can have your dress in 4-6 months sans the extra fee so these could be important questions to ask when scheduling your appointments.
Unfortunately I went a bit late due to our busy schedule and won’t have my dress until the week of! Luckily I found my dress at appointment number 2 of 3 I had scheduled that day. Although I was happy that I didn’t go too early either, changing styles and indecisiveness would have gotten the best of me I’m sure! I know some brides end up doing more than one day of appointments and struggle to make a decision though so maybe just give yourself enough time to explore a bit more. I was super realistic that I may not find the exact dress within my price range that I had hoped for so I settled for elements of my dream dress, a great price and a dreamy dress that matched our wedding theme and that I felt beautiful in!
7. SEND SAVE THE DATES
This is a step that is definitely not a must, but if you are having a destination wedding that guests may have to save up for it is nice to give them a heads up so they know they are invited and to well, save the date! We knew we would be sending invites out later on so we wanted to let our guests know to keep our wedding date open! This can be confusing for some guests, they may not know the difference between a save the date and an invitation so we added our wedding website with all of the other details for them to take a peek at! Other important information might be travel and accommodation details, to let them know to expect an invitation, the ceremony and reception venues, etc.
This also gives guests an opportunity to hopefully let you know if they will be unable to make it to your wedding or not. This way you can re-visit your guest list and when you send out invitations include guests from your B list so they don’t feel as if they were a last-minute option! We used Minted for our save the dates, they have so many cute and customizable options, plus you can store all of your guest’s addresses on their site to use in the future and they offer free addressing for your envelopes!
8. DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS!
The details are such an important part of your big day and will really take it from being just another wedding or event to being your dream Pinterest worthy day. I again wanted simplicity and wanted the florals to really be the focal point so I didn’t want too much clutter. For any decor details I wanted, I tried to incorporate styles that we would use again in our home and that reflected our style. I decided to order any of these items that weren’t local at this stage so I wasn’t worrying about delays later on.
I knew I wanted to order my favourite confetti and co balloons that we used for our engagement shoot and a cake topper from their super cute shop, a Mrs. box for styling our rings and blush silk hand dyed ribbon for our bouquets and styling.I would suggest to order any items for your bridal party gifts that will take a while to receive, for example I knew I wanted Plum Pretty Sugar robes for myself and my bridal party, these actually took about 6 months to order so keep that in mind!
Next you will have to choose favors, I wanted something simple but cute that would match the theme of our day and be cost friendly. If you don’t have an idea that really matches your theme, try something that is personal to you and the groom. Since we are getting married in a garden with a tent reception I loved the idea we went with! I ended up finding recycled wildflower seed hearts that your guests can plant in their garden, a custom stamp with our names and wedding date on brown kraft paper bags all available on Etsy.
I also ordered dresses for my bridal events like bridal shower and bachelorette, again to avoid any stress when you are closer to your big day and finalizing everything. Start searching for any other items like vintage pieces that you have in mind or collecting pieces like centerpiece vases or candle holders! This is probably also the time to go pick out your weddings bands to ensure they have enough time to order them and work out any issues if need be!
9. ORDER YOUR GROOM & BRIDAL PARTY OUTFITS
This should be a fun day with your girls, I wanted each of them to feel beautiful and comfortable in front of our family and friends so I opted to let them pick a style that was flattering to them and their body type. Explore options online and locally to figure out which is the best option for your bridal party both cost wise and in keeping with the theme of your wedding! Watch out for sales in the new year to get a deal on your bridal party outfits too. Also, if you go to local bridal fairs make sure to sign up that year to get deals on your groom and groomsmen suits! Consider how they will look together and work with your theme when choosing a colour palette.
10. SET UP YOUR GIFT REGISTRY & BOOK YOUR HONEYMOON
This part is fun! We were so excited to make a day of running around and choosing gifts for our registry. We went with a department store so there would be lost of options to choose from for household items. We have been living together for the past almost 5 years now so we have a lot of the items newlyweds typically register for. That said there are many guests, especially older ones who prefer not to give money as a gift and will still want to be able to buy you a gift from your registry so I’m sure you can manage to find something ;)
We replaced some worn items like cake pans and added some we will always use, like towels and bedding. We registered at Hudson Bay and they were so helpful! They have a really great guide to help you, they consider the amount of guests and suggest registering for a certain amount of items at different price ranges so everyone has options. They will offer you a 10% discount for a year or so after your nuptials on any items that haven’t been purchased yet which is on top of any sales they have as well. Keep in mind that some places do not offer this! Now have fun and scan away!!!
Also, you may want to start thinking about your honeymoon if you are planning on taking one right away. Even if you plan on waiting closer to the date to decide, at least have some ideas and be prepared to book. We booked off time at work at this point to make sure we could get away when we finally decided what and where we wanted to go, plus a few days before the wedding to welcome out-of-town guests, go to final appointments and relax!
11. ORDER/SEND INVITATIONS & WAIT FOR RSVPS
Order your invites a few months before your big day if you haven’t already. Consider what you want them to say and what you want to be included in your invitation suite. We chose to have an invite, RSVP card and another detail card since our reception was at a different location than our ceremony, but some also include a map or various other details that are important to your day. Don’t forget to include postage for your RSVP cards if you are doing one! We used a local designer and calligrapher to do our suite, this worked out to be more cost-effective than Minted and more customizable to our wedding theme!
Then comes the waiting game! This time is both extremely exciting and stressful, you know how much you still have to do, finalize and order but all you can do is… you guessed it, wait. We chose to have a paper RSVP that guests mailed back, because how exciting is it to get mail in our technology filled world?! We requested that our guests respond fairly quickly to avoid anyone forgetting since they had so much time, but unfortunately this will still happen! Frustrating I know, but remember although this day may be all about you, not everything is ;) If you still haven’t heard back in the next week after your requested RSVP date, reach out to friends and family to ensure no one missed their invite, etc.
Once you have your final numbers, you can work on your seating chart, meal count (if you are having a plated dinner) and place your final stationary order once you have all of your RSVP’s back, this would include your place cards, menus, programs and any signage you wanted! To make this go smoothly, make sure you are organized and know exactly what you want these to say beforehand.
12. MORE DETAILS!
The love really is in the details so I reserved this time to find details that were available locally or could be ordered in store like you and your bridesmaids’ shoes, which you will need for your first dress fitting. Also, accessories for you and your bridal party and wedding like a guest book! This is a great time to review your numbers and make sure you have enough cake stands, centerpieces, candles, etc. for each table and any last-minute ideas you want to incorporate! Book last-minute appointments with rental vendors if you haven’t found something you had your heart set on or hit local vintage stores and garage sales. This is also a great time to find last-minute details for your bridal party gifts and put them together!
You will also need to get your wedding license around this time, so around 90 days or less before your wedding. These expire so that is the earliest you can go!
13. FINALIZE EVERYTHING
This part will be as busy as when you started planning, most vendors have the same terms which means they are all going to want to confirm details and arrange for final payments about 2-3 weeks before your big day and some will require this to be done 1 month prior. There might also be questionnaires that some vendors require you to complete and submit during this time too! You will need to finalize numbers with your caterer and rentals company now as well. If you have a day of coordinator, most will take care of these final details too but if not, make sure you back check all of your original contracts to make sure there are no new added fees that were not outlined in your original quote!
Also, make sure you have a wedding timeline set and that it works with all of your vendors so every one is on the same page and your day goes off without a hitch! This literally goes down to minutes, especially when planning photos and getting ready. If everyone is aware of where they need to be and at what time, this should take a little stress off of you! This will be really important to give your day of coordinator or whoever will be helping you set up that day along with a vendor contact list. That way they can take care of anything behind the scenes for you! But if you are organized and have your check list in place, finalizing all of the details should be a (busy) breeze!
14. BOOK BEAUTY APPOINTMENTS
Book beauty appointments for you and your girls! Think manicures, pedicures, waxing, hair cut and color. I would take this time to maybe also do a trial of your wedding makeup and hair. I would be hesitant to try anything new, keep it classic and consistent with your style so you don’t have any last-minute beauty emergencies. Think, a bad rash as a result of facial waxing, burns or a streaky fake tan! So if you are planning on tanning, I would do this about a month prior so you have time to get a tan safely and there is no risk for redness! Do what you know will have you looking beautiful and YOU on your big day! I booked the day before at a local beauty boutique to get pampered and relax with all of my best friends with drinks and snacks! Another great idea might be to book a couples massage so you are both happy and relaxed going into your wedding day.
Most couples traditionally host a rehearsal dinner for their families and bridal parties and to do a run through for the ceremony. While I really do love the idea, we decided not to add one more thing to plan on our plate and are opting for a more casual evening the night before with just our bridal party. We figure this way we can actually relax and get prepared for the wedding the next day instead! If you are able to do any set up the day before this would be a great time to do that or just get everything prepared for the next morning.
16. LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Your married! Go enjoy your honeymoon newlyweds!!! Okay so I’m not there yet so I will have to let you know on this one, but I’m guessing its pretty good ;) Plus, don’t forget to preserve your wedding dress and order/send out thank you cards to your guests! Lastly, if you are changing your name, you can now start this process when you get home too!