Hey there my little wedding planners. Hope that you enjoyed the first post in this series, where I got you to start brainstorming with your soon-to-be-spouse on what's important to you.
Once you've got your priorities, your "feeling," and those guide posts in place, there are different paths you can take to get to your destination. Remember, wedding planning is just a huge scavenger hunt. The first step is booking a venue and setting a date, so start by understanding what’s most important for you, and then the decisions thereafter will just follow. Here are some example paths that you can take.
Priority: Must love setting
If the environment is what’s most important, think about the 5 adjectives you set, and what venue will help to set the tone. Scour through wedding blogs and filter based on aesthetic keywords like modern, rustic, ranch, beach, etc. to get ideas:
- Make a list of all the venues that caught your eye. Check out not only their website, but try to find REAL weddings that were done there. Remember, some photographs of weddings may just be styled photoshoots and not an actual wedding. Look for photographers who have worked there before and check out their portfolio.
- Maybe your perfect venue is out of state. Make sure you hire either a planner that's local to you who have done a wedding at that venue before, or specializes in destination weddings. They'll likely have contacts that are out of state so they can help you coordinate all the vendors
- If venue has a required caterer, make sure that the price per head is reasonable, so you can make room in the budget
- Understand their rental policies. Décor does a lot to set the scene, so ask if they lock you into a rental company or if you're able to bring in furniture, props, etc as you want.
- Hire a great photographer to capture your perfect setting. Refer back to photographers who have shot there before, or one that has a lighting style that you're looking for
- Your date is the availability of your venue + photographer!
Priority: Food. Food. Food.
Feeding guests is a big part of the wedding, and if this is your priority it helps to filter a lot of things. This was our case actually, and "good food" even made it to the 5 adjectives that are important for our wedding. So what does that mean? Here are some ways to get started:
- Many venues force a caterer onto you. If this is a deal-breaker, and you have a particular caterer you wanted to work with and bring in, this will filter out the venues super quickly
- If you're open to the caterer at a venue, make sure from the get-go that the venue gives tastings. Believe it or not, not all venues provide this option and some make it super hard for you to taste their stuff
- Ensure that the venue has kitchen facilities to accomodate an outside caterer; if they have to build something out, that could get expensive depending on what you want to serve
- Meet with a lot of caterers! You'll be surprised too how many restaurants would actually do a wedding. If you have a local eatery you both love, try hitting them up
- Consider serving your food family style or buffet food stations. That way, you can offer lots of different options for you guests instead of locking them into a course
- Your date is the availability of your venue + caterer!
Priority: Gotta get the date right
Is there an auspitious date you want to hit? Venue availability is going to be the first thing you want to nail down, and Saturdays go fast. So move on the venue quickly:
- When calling venues to book a tour, be up-front about the date
- Not only do venues book up quickly on Saturdays, some are only open for weddings certain months so make sure the date is available
- Research a lot of vendors in each category, and don’t even meet them unless the date is available
- Let your family and friends know early what date you're looking at, even before booking. You're going to be heartbroken if grandma can't go because she had a trip planned, or your MOH is expecting a baby that weekend.
- Once you find a venue, you got your date!
Priority: Including everyone
Do you have a large family and a huge circle of friends who you want to share the day with? Ok, this means that your head count will be dictating your wedding, and use that as a filter:
- Look for venues that can accomodate the size. If it's an outdoor venue, make sure that they have a weather contingency area that is still big enough for your guest count
- When speaking to your caterer, make sure that the price per head is reasonable; this is going to add up real quick when you have a large party
- For the same reason, really look at costs like favors, cake cutting, open bar, etc. that are calculated per head. What's a must-have, and what can you do without to spend more money elsewhere?
- When you're walking the venue, think about the openness of space and whether there are any gooseneck areas that could potentially be an issue when your guests travel
- Bathroom. Bathroom. Make sure there are plenty of them, and even consider if they have some upscale porta potty rental options for you
- The availability of your venue is your date!
Priority: We're not made of money
Look, I get it. A wedding is just ONE DAY, and if you're really just looking to do this kind of low-key, so you can save for the future, but just want a really fun day out of it, it's totally possible.
- Consider shaving your guest list. This will make the largest impact on your budget, because one of the biggest costs of the wedding is food, and that is dependent on the headcount. Think real hard about who NEEDS to be there
- Think outside the box for the venue, and don't just search "wedding venues" but look at event spaces in general. There are lots of funky warehouses, factories, and the like that are opening up for weddings. With places like this, rental can be a cost that adds up, so make sure that the venue manager has great contacts
- Do your guests have flexible schedules? Look at days during the week for any cost savings. Many venues offer a huge discount when you do an event like say, on a Thursday, and it may be doable if you let your guests know beforehand. They could make a long weekend out of it!
- It's super tempting to cut out a planner from your budget because it's 10%, but definitely keep it on there. It's the best thing you could do for yourself, and they'll help you make sure you're on budget. If it's just not possible for you, then consider just hiring someone for day-of coordination
- When it comes to food, think about serving it buffet style, as it could save costs of having to hire servers. Or consider a food truck. Just one note htere though, make sure to get at least a couple trucks to make sure there's no traffic jams and delay to get food
- DIY or DIE. Ok not really, but yes, doing things that you can do on your own will cut costs dramatically. Or, enlist family members who are crafty. Know an aunt who has fresh flowers at her home all the time? She could be your florist. Are you and your bridesmaids handy and enjoy craft days? Make décor together and make a thing of it.
Hope that helps! Whatever course you take, know that you've GOT THIS.
Are there any priorities that aren't listed above that you're curious about? Know any other tips from your own wedding or those of your family? Let us know in the comments!