How to Start Wedding Planning

My boyfriend (since high school!) and I got engaged on our 10th anniversary, in New York City, this past November. Some may say ‘finally!’ but I say it was perfect timing.

I work in PR and events, so I know a thing or two about planning. But for anyone outside of the industry, I completely understand how the idea of planning an event for you, your partner and loved ones of various backgrounds can be daunting, especially with all of the pressures to make this “the best day ever” and all of the options available. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be anxiety inducing. You can actually enjoy it!

So welcome to the first installment of my column for all things wedding. After 10 years being together, apparently that wasn’t enough time, so we’ll be getting married on our TWELFTH anniversary, November 2019. More on that later.

In this post I’ll start by discussing what I have planned so far, which if I’m planning correctly, is everything you need 1-1.5 years before tying the knot, and should help with those super important first steps.

Photo by: Scarlet O’Neill 

Do you find yourself recently engaged? Here are the first things you need to decide:

Do you want a traditional, city hall, elopement or destination wedding? There are *major* pros and cons to all, but it really comes down to what you and your fiancé value. If having your family and friends there is important; if you want it to be all about you and your partner; if you picture a scenic background as you say those vows; if you want to get it done as soon as possible or want to take your time, etc.

My fiance and I thought about it and, especially after 10 years, we couldn’t imagine not having our closest family and friends there to celebrate our special day. The best way to do this would be to keep it local so we’re hosting our wedding in Toronto, but providing out of town family with enough notice so that they can plan ahead to hopefully come in for it. And while the idea of a city hall or pop-up chapel wedding was appealing, especially when it comes down to cost, having all of those important loved ones there won out in the end. But every couple is different and all of the options are good ones! In the end, you’re marrying the one you love. It just depends which scenario works best for you.

Photo by: Scarlet O’Neill 

What is your budget? Of course this is a huge factor to consider. Soon after getting engaged, determine if you will be paying for the wedding yourselves, if some friends or family will be able to help, and what that final number will look like. Even after years of working in events, I was shocked by the average cost of a wedding, which is around $40K-$50K in Canada, according to an article published on Slice this spring. Of course this all depends on where you live (bigger cities like Toronto tend to be pricier), how many guests you will have and what you envision. Do you want a formal setting? Dramatic florals? Award-winning chef? A videographer, wedding planner, etc?

But even if you want around 100+ guests, there are ways to cut costs. Hosting your wedding on a weekday versus a Saturday; scheduling it during low season (January to March) in Canada; having a brunch, potluck or food truck wedding instead of your traditional dinner and dancing affair; hosting in an unconventional venue; having a destination wedding, etc. It all really depends on what you and your partner envision for the day and what factors you will prioritize over others. I found A Practical Wedding’s checklist, which includes setting a mission for your wedding, vital in helping us determine what it was we really valued for the day.

I also downloaded their wedding spreadsheets and the first thing we did was sit down and write out our guest list. From there, we spoke to all of our parents, decided where this was taking place, and started researching and contacting venues for estimates and availability. This all helped to determine our budget, which we were then able to estimate more confidently.

And before looking into vendors, decide if you want a wedding planner helping you along the way or if it will be a DIY situation. A wedding planner often has preferred vendors who may offer him or her a discount or preferred rate, so keep this all in mind before signing on any dotted lines or handing over a deposit.

Once you start visiting venues, make sure you ask all of the important questions about the fees and payment schedule, catering options (like bringing in your own alcohol), and any other rules. I printed this list of questions from Brides for our first visit and found it extremely helpful.

Now for timing. We had originally wanted to get married within 1 year of being engaged and keep the same anniversary, but depending on where you live, a 1-year timeline may be harder than you think. People are having longer and longer engagements these days for budgeting reasons, but also to ensure all the venue, guests and vendors you want are available.

Our dream venue was unavailable on our dream date, and it also turned out a close family member may not be in the country either, so we had to reevaluate (hence the 2-year engagement). Some other questions that may help you decide on timing:

  • What season and colour palette do you picture for your wedding?
  • Will inclement weather prevent any older or travelling loved ones from attending?
  • Does a particular date have some kind of significance for you and your partner?
  • Will certain loved ones, venues or vendors be available on a certain date?

Photo by: Scarlet O’Neill 

Which wedding style speaks to you? I, surprisingly, had not actually thought about this all that much, so I found looking through wedding websites like June Bug Weddings, Style Me Pretty and especially A Practical Wedding: Real Weddings (which each have a cost attached and I could scroll through endlessly), to be super helpful in deciding what style I like. Scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram and saving images that inspired me also helped to point me in a certain direction quite quickly. I even found all of the vendors I’ve booked so far on Instagram, so it can be helpful for sourcing local talent that you admire and may want to book.

I found a photographer I loved right away (who coincidentally also wouldn’t have been available had we booked the earlier date). The photographer then recommended a florist she loved working with, who I had also saved on Instagram. Look through different photographers’ work and determine which photos speak to your style and most of all, in my opinion, make you *feel* something. As for florists, I had spent even less time thinking about this prior to being engaged, but I soon discovered my style by looking through different florists’ pages and learning more about the different styles out there.

And that’s all I have booked so far! Remember: venues, wedding planners, photographers, videographers, florists and caterers can only take on a certain number of weddings and clients per date, so those are the most important ones to book first. Though it may be tempting to start looking into the little things and stressing about Pinterest-worthy details right away, start with checking these big things off first and go from there, and you’ll find it becomes easier as you go along. Last but not least, *enjoy* being engaged with your partner!

Next up: I’ll share our adventures as we decide on our caterer, start trying on dresses, have our engagement shoot, start sending out invitations and more.

What else do you want to read about in this new series? Let me know in the comments or on social!




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