How to Plan Your Wedding – The Ultimate Guide
A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. ~ Robert Quillen (Tweet this)
I was ready to marry my now husband one year after starting a relationship with him. After all I wasn’t a kid anymore. At 26 I knew the main things I wanted from life and from a man. Of course, such knowledge comes with experience and I was six when I first fell in love.
Twenty years of trial and error did it. My thirst for bad boys was quenched, my need for validation was under control. I loved myself completely, just as I do now and was finally ready for real love.
So naturally, after real love found me and proposed, I was thrilled to say yes. The excitement lasted just long enough for us to go through with the wedding.
Once we started discussing what we (I) wanted and how much we (our parents) could spend – we (we) knew we had our first real challenge as a couple.
If you are in a similar situation, today I’m going to walk you through some guidelines to plan your wedding and enjoying your perfect wedding day with the least hassle possible. For example, making it crystal clear what you really want. Even the least romantic girl on this planet has a vague idea about what kind of wedding she wants.
Organizing a wedding could be really challenging especially if you cannot afford a wedding planner. Here are some tips about how to plan your wedding . . . by yourself! It is now time to clarify this idea as much as you can.
To make it easier for you to do that, let’s think of the wedding components.
Plan your wedding components:
The style of your wedding is the overall vision, which will help you plan your wedding appropriately and guide you when you have to make difficult decisions.
Do you want a beach wedding or a ballroom wedding? Where and how do you picture it? Will you have a dress code or will it be more casual?
This all falls under the style of the wedding. If you want to be even more specific, you could create a theme. For example, you could have a fairy-tale-style wedding and if you want to take it further, you can go with The Wizard of Oz theme.
If you already have a date in mind, great. If not, that’s okay. Let’s just narrow it down, so we can move on with the organization.
First of all, think which season would work for you. Second, how much time do you think you need to organize things?
Then take into consideration when you’ll be available, and the major part of your families available as well. For example, my mother is in tourism and she’d have been challenged to help me with—or even come to—a wedding in the high season.
If you can narrow it down to either the beginning, middle, or end of a certain month, you are good to go.
3. Number of guests
Don’t tell this to my husband, but I had the list of guests before he even proposed. It’s good to have an idea how big of a wedding you want. Personally, I think about a hundred people is a good-sized, fun wedding.
You can stay below that of course, my wedding was about 70 people and perfect. The weddings over 100 people could also be fun and beautiful, but say goodbye to the free-hassle, low-budget concept.
Make a list of your guests in a few categories: your family, his family, your friends, his friends. Some friends will be common for both of you, so be careful not to duplicate names.
Now that you have a vision and a number of guests, you can think venue. What is non-negotiable for you in a venue? For me, it was view of the sea. For some people it is nature, for others it is silk wallpaper and crystal chandeliers.
This is also important. Conduct research online, call a few phone numbers and ask for an e-mail offer. Most places would be happy to do that if you give them approximate number of guests and an approximate date. If you like a venue based on their website/pictures and their offer, organize a viewing.
Keep in mind I went to see 15 places for my wedding and I ended up choosing the first one. So I recommend a good pre-selection and no more than 5-8 viewings. It will save you a lot of time.
Do I even have to explain how important the wedding dress is for every bride? This is exactly why my advice is basically the opposite of the one with regards to the venue. Choose your top three wedding stores that you want to visit and try as many dresses as possible.
Try what you’ve always wanted or imagined and stay open minded for everything else. You may insist on a ball gown when you look amazing in a mermaid. So take a friend or your mother and go have some fun with that. And don’t forget that being comfortable matters.
Each culture has its own wedding traditions. Because we live in the 21st-century, most often you won’t do all of those traditions. But maybe you would like to do some. Carefully consider implementing that in your modern-day wedding.
Decoration is very detailed and could be quite an expensive part of your wedding day. When I say decoration, I mean all those little things you cannot have a wedding without: a center peace, candles, the cards with the table-number etc.
You can include invitations here too. Try to visualize what colors you imagine and what will go well with the style of the wedding. I definitely recommend hiring someone to take care of all that, so maybe do some research.
9. Food and Drinks
Typically, different venues will prepare menus. Still, give thought to whether you want fine dining or more traditional food; how many courses and what kind of drinks go with whatever food you choose.
Don’t forget the vegetarians and vegans. They will be really disappointed if they can’t eat anything.
Now that you’ve decided on all previous points, the music will be easy to choose. Do consider the styles of music both you and your husband-to-be like, and what other styles you are okay with. Budget-wise, another important decision is whether to have live music or a DJ, or both.
One of my favorite TV show is “Platinum weddings.” It comes to show you that having it all is great (like we didn’t know that already!). But if you don’t have millions you can still have an amazing wedding. The key to that is knowing your priorities. Look up at the above categories. Now really think what matters most and what you can compromise with for a happy marriage.
I will give you some examples from my personal experience:
Venue: I wanted a beach wedding ideally held in a hotel complex, so that everything is at one place. However I was open to getting a restaurant on the beach and letting people find their own housing.
Guests: You want to invite everyone, I get it, but look at the list and ask yourself who is close enough to share your special day. Also keep in mind around 10% of the people you invite probably won’t come. Do that for every category. I am not saying you will have to compromise with everything, but once expenses start flowing in you will be able to cut something off the list without thinking too hard.
Plan your wedding budget
You clarified what it is that you want exactly and what’s most important to you, as well as what you can compromise with. Now let’s move forward and plan your wedding by discussing:
- where are you going to get the money,
- how you going to use the money wisely, and
- track your progress
so that you actually have a wedding on the date you’ve chosen!
1. Finding the money
Here comes the budget talk—my favorite part. Before we start calculating, let’s talk about your options for finding the money.
- Yourself: If you have savings or you are okay with postponing the wedding until you save up what you need, this is your best bet. You will have the power to choose almost everything by yourself and will value your money while taking decisions. Stress levels would significantly decrease.
- Parents: Most weddings are paid for by parents. In some cultures it’s expected that the bride’s parents cover the expenses and in some it’s the groom’s parents. Regardless, all that actually matters is who can afford what. So both of you should have serious talks with your parents in order to know how much money you have for your wedding. Even though you won’t need the money right away, knowing your budget is important (so do that sooner rather than later).
- Loans: Some people think that getting a bank loan to do a wedding is stupid. I am here to tell you your wedding is an amazing, special day that only happens once in your life (ideally). So if you really want to have this experience, it is well worth the interest. You only live once, right? Do your research, find the bank that will give you the best offer and go ahead.
- Combination: My personal favorite. Save a little, get a little from your parents and if you still need some, there’s always the credit card or overdraft.
2. How to use the money wisely
So now that you have it, where will your money go? Most couples who can’t afford an agent are worried they will forget to budget something in. I am here to tell you, you only need to hire people to do things you really cannot do yourself. For me, that was the decorations, but I do have a crafty friend who decorated her own wedding.
This goes to show we are all different and we would use our money in a different way. But I will share my personal experience in the form of what percentage of my money went where. You can see that below:
- Food – 24% of the budget
- Wedding dress (incl. veil) – 14% of the budget
- Housing (covered for family only) – 10% of the budget
- Decoration (incl. Invitations) – 9% of the budget
- Drinks – 8% of the budget
- Video – 7% of the budget
- Miscellaneous – 7% of the budget
- Photographer – 5% of the budget
- Suit – 4% of the budget
- Wedding rings – 3% of the budget
- Shoes (his and hers) – 3% of the budget
- DJ – 3% of the budget
- Jewelry / accessories – 2% of the budget
- Outside Ritual – 1% of the budget
Sure it’s okay if your distribution looks a little different, but you can use that as a starting point so you are clear on what you can afford for each section. Then you can move some cash around to fit your priorities.
3. Track your progress
So far you know what you want and what’s important. You know where you’ll get the money and how to distribute it. Great! So what now? It’s time to start crossing off tasks from your to-do list. Here is a good way to start:
- Firstly, take care of the most important people involved in the wedding. Choose your maid of honor and best men; meet yours and your partner’s parents; decide whether you will have bridesmaids and if so, who?
- Decide on what you want and prioritize
- Determine the budget
- Research venues and organize viewings. Choose a place. Confirm menu.
- Book a date with city hall. Once you have that, confirm the date with the place you chose.
- Choose decorations and send out invitations.
- Choose photographer, DJ, video producer. Book them for your date.
- Organize wedding dress shopping: Have a walk around wedding stores and choose a maximum of 3 to do your shopping in; book a full day (could be more) with friends/mother/maid of honor and go have some fun! Try on dresses. The more, the merrier. There is no need to feel pressured to choose a dress right away, but give yourself a deadline, so it gets done.
- Shop for a groom’s suit.
- Other miscellaneous things: choose wedding cake, wedding rings, accessories for your outfit, etc.
It took me 6 months to do all that, which I find to be the optimum time. Longer means really taking things slow until you are ready and shorter means . . . well, going a bit crazy.
And there you have it: the perfect wedding—the first step to a happy marriage! Once it happens, you almost wonder what took you so long to plan your wedding and what the whole bother was about.
Enjoy your honeymoon and your life together and when marriage gives you lemons, come back to Wisdom Times Happy Wedding Series and see the recipe for lemonade! I am sure there are many overwhelmed brides-to-be out there, so if you find the article helpful, share it using the buttons below.