So…your partner proposed and you said… YES! and then reality hits you. HELP! Overwhelming details spinning through your mind furiously and you are wondering how you will actually pull this off followed by images of the dream wedding you have imagined maybe since you were a kid. If you and your partner decided on a long engagement you might not be panicking too much or if you are not surprised by the proposal and have secretly been planning under the radar, you have most likely thought about most of the details by now and are ready to jump into action.
BUT… if this proposal is a surprise or you and your partner decided that this is it, you want to get hitched and want a full blown wedding with all the trimmings asap, and you want to do it yourself, then you have a LOT to think about and even more to do. Still don’t panic because there is a plethora of information on the internet and many online services free for couples to help you plan. You just have to make the time and… delegate! Most of all have FUN with it! Make sure that whoever is going to help you (yes you will need help) understands that this is YOUR day, and while family and close friends should be considered in some aspects of the wedding, this is your and your partner’s day and you want this to be the best experience and most of all FUN from the planning stage to the big day! Cherish every detail, take pictures and create mementos of each step.
Start by writing down your big picture vision for your wedding and then prioritize; The two main decisions you are going to make will be the budget and guest list. Choose at least the season if you are flexible on the date, whether you prefer indoors or out, rustic and casual or ballroom and elegant, favorite colors, theme and so on. Then pick a date or a few if you want to make sure your favorite Officiant and/or “must-have” guests are available. Make an appointment with the officiant and chat with him/her about all the beautiful traditions and type of ceremony you have been dreaming of. Decide who you would like to be in your wedding party and ask them (in a memorable way). Use Pinterest, Instagram and whichever social media sites you prefer for inspiration. Talk to friends who have done their own weddings and if you are attending weddings make notes of the things you want to avoid if any, or some you want to include in yours. Once you have some details together, sign up with a site such as WeddingWire or The Knot which is free and utilize their features such as the timeline/checklist/seating chart to help you get organized.
Then create a realistic budget. Decide which items are on the “must-have” list, the “would-like-to-have” list and the “if-there-is-money-left-over” list. The budget will determine how many guests you can invite and then create a tentative guest list. Of all the issues that can put a damper on the arrangements and cause stress, the budget is in the top five! If you have a tight budget choosing a venue that will provide the most such as tables, chairs, linens and dinnerware included in the price will be helpful. Many venues will want you to use their vendors or bar service which will cost you a LOT more than if you purchased alcohol for instance from Costco or BevMo. Find the venue and vendor that will give you the most value and do the math to compare options. Always ask what is included. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you find an inexpensive venue in the middle of nowhere with no amenities it will be the best value because once you book that venue and you start to talk to a caterer for instance, you will find that you have to have an entire kitchen set up for the food service, bring in all the rentals and porta-potties and maybe even water, as well as MANY additional staff members to set it all up. Before you book the venue, check with the caterer and all the other priority vendors what they will need to do a great job for you without it costing you a fortune. Some venues will ask you to only use their vendors and you may not be able to use your favorite caterer. DO ask for a tasting. Some caterers will not do a free tasting unless they have a contract with you but if you pay for a tasting you can then request they deduct this amount from the final bill if you decide to use them.
Speaking of catering: Many think that buffet style catering is less expensive but if you have a buffet with for instance fish and chicken, your guests will often ask for both and they will come back for a second helping which means you have to pay for more food than if you served it plated as you don’t want to run out. However, if you serve the meal plated you have to hire more staff to ensure the meal is delivered to your guests before it gets cold and not take all night to get the food to the guests. Lately stations have been popular and that is a lot of fun and a very social way to serve dinner but as with a buffet you have to provide more food than a plated meal. Remember to be creative with the menu and customize it to your personalities! The days of rubber chicken and tasteless fish are over. Choose a caterer with flair and imagination and are also affordable.
Ask vendors whether they are familiar with the traditions you are observing and make sure you know how much time they will need to set up and convey that to the venue. Ensure you are clear about ALL the fees so that you are not surprised when you get the final bill realizing that you have to pay a service fee you didn’t expect, putting you over the top of your budget. Ask the photographer whether he/she will include an engagement session or a bridal portrait session. Read the contract and the small print thoroughly before you sign. If the vendors you want to retain have NOT worked at your chosen venue before DO meet them at the venue before you sign the contract so that they can familiarize themselves with the area and ensure they are able to provide the service you want within your budget. You don’t for instance a situation where DJ realizes that he has to cover more ground than he initially thought or discover the day of that he/she cannot play music in the cocktail area as you had requested or they need an extension cord and you are in the middle of nowhere. Most venues will have a list of preferred vendors that they work with who are familiar with their requirements so start there.
Don’t forget to find hotel(s) for out of town guests. You can negotiate a room block with them and provide the details to your guests who can make those bookings directly with the hotel. I would find two or three making sure you have budget friendly and upscale lodging on your list. Check with the hotel – they usually have long lists of local amenities and recommendations for all occasions.
Take a break! In between all the arrangements make time to have fun with your friends and enjoy the bridal shower and/or the bachelor/ette parties and pat yourself on the back for all the details you have accomplished so far! Make copious notes and/or use the wedding sites or an online site that can help you keep organized but I would write everything down and have a check list. Don’t forget to do a final walk-through of the property with the vendors to make sure you are all on the same page, that they are on the same page with each other and have arranged who sets what up first and give them a timeline of all that will be happening on the day of the wedding and a family member’s contact info in case of an emergency. Make sure they commit to the timeline and your agreed time of arrival and by when they will be done with the set up. All vendors should be done at least an hour or two prior to your guests’ arrival where possible. Have a list of their names and numbers on the timeline as well.
Find someone or a couple of someones who can be in charge of everything on the day of the wedding if possible so that you can focus only on looking wonderful and relaxing. Ask friends or family members to man the registration tables and pack the gifts for you when everyone has arrived and someone who can hand out the final payments and tips for the vendors. Enjoy your rehearsal dinner and make sure you are stress free on your special day!
If you are reading this and you have just been proposed to, let me be the first to wish you MAZAL TOV!
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Thank for spending this time with me and see you next time!