How To Plan A Wedding – Step-By-Step Guide

Your wedding is an exciting time in your life and knowing how to plan a wedding may seem overwhelming. This wedding planning guide is aimed at helping take away all of the stress and guesswork, allowing you to enjoy the process of planning your wedding and making your wedding day the best it can be.

This guide will cover the logistics of planning your wedding. Broken down step-by-step, so you can organize your wedding day without getting overwhelmed by the details.

It even includes free printable wedding checklists, printable vendor question sheets, and much more to make this a simple and enjoyable experience for planning your dream wedding.

Wedding seating outside with tables and lights.

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Foundational Planning Tasks

To have a wedding, you need a wedding date but to set your wedding date, you need to juggle the three most important parts of planning your wedding:

Each of these affects the other. You need a wedding venue big enough to hold all your guests, and the number of guests and wedding venue affect the budget. However, how much money you have to spend dictates how many guests you can have and where it can be held. You get the picture.

So one of the first steps in your wedding planning process is to create a wedding budget.

Wedding Budget

A rough guide to where your wedding budget will go typically looks like this:

• The wedding reception (40%) – This includes the food and the alcohol, which will vary a lot depending on the guest list and whether you’re able to BYO, are paying full bar prices, or have a cash bar.

• Wedding clothing (20%) – The bride’s wedding dress, bridesmaids, groom, and groomsmen. If your bridal party looks after their own clothing this can bring the cost down a little.

• Photography and videography (15%) – The commemorative side of your own wedding.

• Stationery, flowers, and transport (10%) of the budget.

• Wedding ceremony (10%) of the total bill. This is the venue, celebrant, and marriage license (which isn’t very much considering this is the essential bit of the day!)

• Miscellaneous costs (5%) – Beauty appointments, gifts for the bridal party, and other things that can eat up the last bit of the budget

little money jar.

Parent Contribution To Budget

It’s all well and good setting a wedding budget, but you need to find the money to match the budget to make it work. So one of the first things to do is sit down and have a talk with both sets of parents. See if they are willing to contribute and if so, they need to tell you how much financial help they can give.

Once you get a rough idea of what you might have to spend, then you can start fleshing out your wedding budget.

Draft Wedding Budget

Using this as a guide, you can start fleshing out some figures to draft a wedding budget. Going forward, you’ll need to track your budget so it’s advised to transfer the rough figures into a wedding spreadsheet.

draft wedding budget

Having a central place for your wedding budget and wedding plans allows you to flesh out the figures as quotes come in.

Hopefully, by now you should have a rough idea of what your wedding might cost, and how much you will have to pay. How does that sit with you? If you’re feeling uneasy about spending that amount, or if it’s unrealistic, you may want to review your budget priorities. You may need to make some compromises.

At this point, it is also worth considering hiring a professional wedding planner for expert advice. If you have a large budget and want to outsource the planning of your wedding, then this is something to look at now. However, if you either have a tight budget or you read this guide and think to yourself that you can do this easy (and you can), then let’s keep going.

Take some time to draft the wedding budget. Then it is time to start working on the next pillar of wedding planning, the venue.

Wedding Venue

The wedding ceremony site and reception venue are the foundation for your wedding celebrations. It’s important to pick a place that fits you, your budget, and the day you have dreamed of.

You might already have a short list dreamed up in your head. But wait before you sign any contracts or pay a deposit. You should ask the potential venues, and yourself some questions. This is to get an idea of what costs, effort, and restrictions may come with the venue you ultimately select.

Whether you choose to separate out the ceremony and reception wedding venues or have the entire day’s celebrations in the same spot. You have many factors to take into consideration.

Wedding ceremony by beach with archway and seats.

Your budget, the style of wedding, and convenience all factor into the decision to have the ceremony in one spot, and the reception in another, or go for a venue that can manage both.

The printable list of questions below will take you through the important questions to ask potential wedding venues. It can be a good idea to print multiple copies of the question sheets. This is so you can jot down notes about each individual venue while you’re looking around.

Once you have a few of the best venues that match your needs shortlisted it is time to try to figure out the right one for you. To do that you are going to need the final pillar of wedding planning, the guest list.

Wedding Guest List

Your guest list dictates the size of the wedding venue and the size of the budget you need. Unfortunately, compiling your wedding guest list can be quite challenging. It is nowhere near as fun as cake tasting or selecting a wedding dress). The one wedding planning topic that causes the most stress, and is the hardest to help with, it’s wedding guests.

The best way to start this process is with your partner to jot down a long list of all the people you want to invite to your wedding.

Wedding guests outside drinking bubbles.

In general, there are 6 types of guests on your wedding guest list; close family members, extended family, close friends, workmates, family friends, and ‘obligations’:

Count up how many nearest and dearest you’ve jotted down (and take a deep breath or two). Once you’ve started on your budget, then you can start to mull over whether you can afford to entertain that many guests. In other words, do the guests you have, fit with the budget you’ve got? Would you consider waiting a year to get married? This could give you more time to save, just so you can have more guests. 

If you have too many people, then here’s where you need to make some hard decisions. At this point, you might consider creating an A/B list of wedding guests. That is a list of people that’ll be invited if the initial round of guests (the A-list) can’t make it. Use the below flowchart to help you trim your guest list. Once you have your guest list, start to compile your guests’ names, addresses, and dietary requirements all in one place.

Booking A Wedding Venue

After tackling your big three of the wedding budget, venue, and guest list, it is time to use them all together and start making the big decisions.

The first one is to decide on your wedding venue and set the date of your wedding with the vendor. This is a big milestone to hit, so celebrate when reaching this point.

The date and location that you have set will flow onto all the next big decisions you need to make in your wedding planning journey.

Wedding Vendors

Hiring dedicated, wedding professionals is the next step. Their efforts should ensure you have a wedding that’s relaxed and problem-free.

First here is a list of the main wedding vendors you will want to consider finding, vetting, and booking.

Start going through these vendors and prioritize booking them in order of what is most important to you. Then collate their details and costs in your wedding planner and budget.

Booking all of your vendors can take some time but once they are all booked in for your special day the wedding planning process is all downhill.

Bridal Party

It’s a good idea to start thinking about your wedding attendants early. The number of bridesmaids and groomsmen you have will affect your budget. This is especially so if you’re planning to cover the cost of their clothing.

The main thing to consider when selecting your bridal party is your expectations about the role you want your bridal party to play. There is no ‘have to do’ in wedding parties, so what duties they may have is up to you. You need to decide upfront what you want, so you can pick the right person for the role you have in mind (like a maid of honor or best man.) This way you can communicate what your expectations of that role will be.

The quicker you are able to pop the question, the better. Your wedding party is likely going to be giving their time and money, so communicate your plans with them early. That includes things like who is paying for wedding clothes, bachelor parties, and bachelorette parties.

Bridesmaids with the bride.

Wedding Planning Tasks

At this point, you have made all the big decisions. Now it is a case of working through and prioritizing the rest of the wedding planning tasks alongside your budget.

Printable Wedding Checklists

It is always useful to have wedding planning checklists to help keep track of what you still need to do in the lead-up to the big day.

You should hopefully have plenty of time for you to slowly work through your wedding checklist and deliver the perfect wedding day.

wedding checklist.

Wedding Planning Summary

Planning the wedding of your dreams can be overwhelming but the good news is that by now you should be well aware of all the important steps and even the tiny details of what you need to do to plan your wedding.

You do not get to marry your best friend every day and so make sure that during the planning process you do not lose sight of the big picture.

Work through the big three important decisions of budget, venue, and the guest list. Then slowly complete the other elements in the planning process.

By the time of the wedding day, you will get to enjoy every last minute of it with your future spouse.

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