wedding 101 | how to begin planning a wedding

Raise your left hand if you just got engaged!  With that new sparkler on your finger, you probably don’t need another excuse, am I right?  Congratulations and welcome to one of the most fun, exciting and, let’s face it, stressful times of your life!  Odds are, you’ve never done this before and once you get past the dreamy first week of staring at your ring and the weirdness of using the word “fiancé”, the panic of “what do I do now?” might begin to set in.  There’s the dress, the date, the location, the invitations, the bridesmaids, the favors….where do you even start when you have so much to think about?

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Before I fell in love with photography and moved to Seattle, I owned a wedding planning business in South Florida called Miranda Hattie Events.  After helping dozens of couples get from the “Yes!” to the “I do”, I learned a thing or two about this process and I want to share with you some of my best tips for planning the wedding of your dreams without losing your mind or becoming the dreaded and cliche “bridezilla.”  This will be a fun series I’m calling Wedding 101, and it will cover everything from where to begin, to budgeting, to figuring out your personal style and making it happen.  But before we get too far down the tulle-lined path, let’s tackle what to do during those first blissful weeks of your engagement.

  1. Hey, you’re engaged!  It’s ok to shout it from the rooftops, show your ring to everyone you meet and truly ENJOY THE MOMENT!  If I could give you just one piece of advice, it would be to truly be present during this time, let the excitement sink in and realize that you are about to begin a journey toward forever.  Is there any better feeling than true love?  Don’t take it lightly, recognize that it’s really what this wedding is all about.
  2. On that note, make sure that the wedding reflects the both of you.  I have worked with many, many brides and often the groom is left on the periphery.  I get it ladies, maybe you’ve been dreaming about this day your entire life and you want it to be perfect with a capital P, but he’s been dreaming about finding someone exactly like you.  Start off this planning process with a real heart-to-heart, lay it all out on the table.  Find out what is important to each of you and make sure that both of your priorities are represented on your wedding day.  
  3. Sounds easy enough, but how do you really make that happen?  During my first meeting with a couple whose wedding I was planning, I would have them do the following exercise.  Put down on paper (make a real, physical list, not just a verbal one) five words that you want to represent your wedding day.  This might be how you want your guests to feel, how you want to feel, how you want it to look or even how you want it to be remembered.  Now, write down all of the things that you don’t want it to be.  This might include traditions that don’t resonate with the two of you, certain colors or theme, even things you may have witnessed at other weddings where you thought “I will NEVER do that at my wedding!”
  4. Once you both know what you want your wedding to be on a conceptual level and what you don’t want, start prioritizing.  Make a list of every component of the wedding (venue, food, drinks, cake, attire, decor, music, photography, cinematography, invitations, the ceremony, rings, transportation, lighting, honeymoon, rehearsal dinner) and talk over how important each one is to you.  This will be crucial during budgeting, as it makes sense to spend more on those things that mean the most to you and to economize, or even skip, those that don’t.
  5. And last but not least, before you get too far down the planning road, choose a few wedding dates.  Don’t begin to look at venues or even your budget, until you know a few dates that will work for you and your families.  Think about what time of year you want to get married, any significant holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or any other days important to you and those closest to you when selecting a date.  You don’t have to make sure that every last distant cousin will be able to attend, but be sure to consider if you want to have your anniversary on a holiday or the same day as your nephew’s graduation.  There are pros and cons to every date, so choose a few that feel right to the two of you.
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I hope this has been helpful so far!  I have so much to share with you over this series, stay tuned for the next installment when we’ll go over everyone’s (least) favorite topic—budget!