Wedding Planning Basics

When you first start planning a wedding, the process can seem completely overwhelming and inevitably seem like a challenge with so many things to plan and organize. You want everything to turn out perfectly down to the smallest detail. Wedding planning should not be done on your own. Wedding planning can get overwhelming if you try to take on too much yourself. Don't worry, you will still have the final decision on every decision, you just won't have to do all the leg work. So relax, wedding planning will be a fun year, if you make it fun, and it's the perfect time to reconnect with friends and family.

Wedding Planning

It's probably no surprise that when it comes to planning your wedding, there are a ton of decisions to make. The average couple takes anywhere from eight months to a year to plan their wedding, and the bulk of that time will be spent narrowing down reception venues, finding the perfect wedding photographer, and deciding on which wedding style best suits you and your fiancé. But before you throw yourself into the occasionally-hectic world of planning a wedding, take a minute to look at the big picture so you can avoid making major wedding planning mistakes.

Many couples immediately dismiss the idea of hiring a wedding planner because it sounds expensive.  At the onset, wedding planning sounds simple.  In reality, however, it can be very time-consuming.  Ultimately, you have to decide how much your time is worth and whether or not you have the experience and communication skills necessary to plan this event.  At the very minimum, couples should consider hiring a day-of coordinator, who will allow you to focus on each other, while they take care of all of the details of dealing with vendors, supervising any décor set-up, and handling any unforeseen situations.
And for those couples interested in saving money by not hiring a wedding planner, keep in mind that hiring a wedding planner can often bring a greater value to your event.  Wedding planners are great at networking and often have established vendor lists of people that they primarily work with, who might be willing to negotiate a lower price.

The importance of rapport between you and your wedding planner cannot be underestimated.  Your wedding planner, especially if they will be planning the entire event, is representing you and is tasked with creating your vision.  During the stressful wedding planning process, the last thing you want is to be annoyed.  Often wedding planners will try and steer brides away from ideas that they feel are not realistic for the venue or will not be as successful as the bride may envision.  However, they should want to stay as close as possible to what your dream wedding looks like, not what they’ve seen lately on blogs.  Go with your gut.  If you feel like the more experienced planner wasn’t trying to accommodate you, go with the other one.


First, figure out your budget. Every single decision you make while planning your wedding will be affected by this single detail, so it is important to nail down a number before you do any serious wedding planning. Chances are, no matter what your wedding budget is, you are going to have to make choices.  Having a dream wedding isn’t about having everything you want; it is about valuing what is most important to you, and planning your wedding around those things.  Sit down as a couple and make a list about the top most important things to you about your wedding day.  Once you have your priorities listed out, look at what you may have both included, or left out.  If both of you mention the importance of having everyone attend and great food, but not a thing is said about flowers, that can be one place that you minimize.


Knowing who you are as a couple is critical to planning a wedding that is reflective of who you are. The best weddings are not the ones that come with the heftiest price tags or most lavish receptions. A wedding that guests most enjoy attending is one that immediately feels like the couple getting married. Your guests should walk into your ceremony and reception and immediately recognize you.

This is not to say that you can’t be the most formal version of you, but there should be touches that people will instantly associate with you. The biggest mistake couples can make when planning a wedding is to borrow ideas that they don’t connect with in some way. Your wedding should be more than a combination of pretty things you saw in magazines or at other weddings.

Talk with your fiancé about what is important to you, and what you would like for your wedding to reflect about your new life together; design your wedding from there.


Remember when choosing your colors to not only find ones that complement each other, but also you. Just because you aren’t wearing the coral bridesmaid dresses, doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be adjacent to them in every photo. Pick universally flattering colors and shades for your bridesmaids. When women feel confident in a color, their face will light up, and you want everyone looking as glowing and happy on your wedding day as possible. If you have a wedding party with a wide variety of skin tones and hair colors, try using different colors, or different shades to accommodate them.

Guest List

Next, finalize your guest list. Until you know how many people you're inviting to your wedding, it'll be tough to know which venues can accommodate your party. Your wedding guest list will also determine your catering costs, bar tab, wedding favor costs, and a host of other wedding details, so get the number finalized as early as possible. You might also want to account for guest add-ons closer to the event.

The bride and groom should sit down and form a list, organized by priority. The first priority guests, or non-negotiable invitations, are people such as immediate family and very close friends.  Second-priority guests are extended family, and friends. Third-priority would be co-workers, acquaintances, and significant friends from your past.  Be realistic about who should actually be at your wedding. If you have a large, involved family, those people need to be there.

 Being cognizant and sensitive of budgetary considerations, the bride and groom ought to be in agreement about the size of the wedding before they approach their parents for their guest lists

Choose a small wedding if you have a very small budget and can only afford a very basic ceremony and reception. Choose a large wedding if it is important for you to be surrounded by everyone you know on your wedding day. 

Wedding Flowers

It's important to pick wedding centerpieces and bouquets that truly fit your wedding style.  Once you've decided which flower arrangements you want, it's time to find a florist who can make it all happen for you. Once you've made an appointment with one, be sure to bring pictures of wedding flowers that you like (your version of pink may be different than your florist's). Before you talk with your florist about your ideal wedding flowers, make sure not only that you have wedding centerpiece ideas and bouquets in mind, but that you also have a budget to work with. Depending on what you're looking for, your flowers could end up taking a large portion of your budget. So keep that in mind and prioritize so that, no matter what, you end up with flowers you want.

Wedding Cake

Your wedding cake may just be the most significant confection you ever buy. It is best to start searching through wedding cake pictures to help figure out which wedding cake designs suit your style. It's best to have your wedding colors in mind before you begin and then check out pictures of wedding cakes to get a sense for the shade that will match your palette best. You'll also want to consider your wedding cake's style, will the cake be a simple one or an elaborate one with a lot of detail. Next, it's time to find a baker who can make your wedding cake a reality. Be sure to bring pictures of wedding cakes that you like when you meet the baker to make it easier to convey your vision for your cake.


Save-the-dates are an excellent way to give your guests advance notice of your wedding date.  For people who will have to travel, this allows them to have time to plan their flights and accommodations. Save-the-date invitations are sent to your guests six to eight months before your wedding date so that they can mark it on their calendars. It's okay to send your guests a wedding save-the-date by email, but don't forget that this wedding card is really the first introduction your guests will have to your wedding, so a lot of couples are imagining unique ways to incorporate their theme. Creative save-the-date wedding cards are available in a huge variety of styles, they can be in the form of a card, post card, magnet, or stickers. You don't need to include as much information on your save-the-date wedding cards as you do on the actual wedding invitation. Not sure who receives a save-the-date? Read up on save-the-date etiquette articles to make sure no one gets left out. One thing to keep in mind about these wedding cards is that they can be a lot more low-key than your formal invitations.

Save The Date Magnets

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Save The Date Stickers

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Save The Date Post Cards

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Wedding Invitation 

Your wedding invitations are your guests first glimpse into your wedding style, from the overall vibe and aesthetic to specific color combos and the level of formality. So make them count. Start by setting a guest list, wedding budget and the level of formality you want your wedding to have. Once you've got those figured out, browse wedding invitations online that suit your wedding style. When you've got a general idea of what you want, find a stationer in your area who suits your style and then work with them to come up with your invitation wording.  After that, it's just a matter of addressing your envelopes and sending out your invitations on time.

Wedding Invitations

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Wedding Program 

Not sure why you need wedding programs? The ceremony program has a lot of purposes, they're one of those wedding details that’s great for both form and function. First, it’s the place to introduce your wedding party as well as honor special people who may or may not have made it to your wedding. It’s also a great way to explain certain wedding traditions or rituals or give you a way to let guests know what’s coming next, from ceremony songs to readings. And don’t feel like your wedding programs have to be totally by the book, programs can also come in a variety of styles, from paper fans to booklets to printed handkerchiefs. The final step, once you’ve figured out all the info you want to include, start looking for wedding stationers in your area to create your perfectly unique wedding programs.

Wedding Programs

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Wedding Vow

Whether you're writing your own wedding vows or planning to have a more traditional wedding ceremony, exchanging your wedding vows can be one of the most memorable moments of your wedding day. If you're writing your vows and don't know where to start, check out these tips:

1 Make sure your ceremony officiant will actually allow personalized vows. Certain celebrants and houses of worship may require you to recite a specific set of traditional vows. And remember: Even some of the most accommodating officiants will want to review your words in advance.

2 Don't leave writing your vows until the day before the wedding. Give yourselves at least a month, get a first draft together about three weeks before the wedding and have your final version completed at least two days out.

3 To get inspired, start by reading traditional, by-the-book vows to see what strikes a chord with you. You can incorporate these into the original words you write, or simply use them as a jumping off point to base your personalized vows on.

4 Before putting pen to paper, decide what overall tone you want to achieve. Humorous but touching? Poetic and romantic? It's your call, the most important thing is that your vows ring true and sound like they're from your heart. While your vows can be lighthearted, they should, in some way, acknowledge the seriousness of the commitment you're about to make.

5 Make sure you and your fiancé are both on the same page. Are you each going to write your own vows, or will you write them together? If you're writing them separately, will you want to run them by each other before the wedding? If you're writing them together, will they be completely different for each of you, or will you recite some of the same words and make the same promises to each other, as you would with traditional vows? If you want them to be a surprise on your wedding day, make sure you both send a copy of what you've written to your officiant or to one friend or family member so they can check that your vows are about the same length and similar in tone.

6 When it's time to come up with the actual content of your vows, go out to dinner or set aside an evening at home to brainstorm. Talk about your relationship and what marriage means to each of you. Discuss what you expect from each other and the relationship. What are you most looking forward to about married life? Why did you decide to get married? What hard times have you gone through together? What have you supported each other through? What challenges do you envision in your future? What do you want to accomplish together? What makes your relationship tick? Answering these questions will help you make and keep your promises, and talking about your bond may expose your inner words worth and help you come up with phrases and stories you can incorporate into your vows.

7 After chatting with your future spouse, take some self-reflection time to think about how you feel about your partner. What did you think when you first saw them? When did you realize you were in love? What do you most respect about your partner? How has your life gotten better since meeting your mate? What about them inspires you? What do you miss most about them when you're apart? What qualities do you most admire in each other? What do you have now that you didn't have before you met? You may be surprised how these answers may lead you to the perfect words.

8 Borrow freely from poetry, books, religious and spiritual texts, even from romantic movies. Jot down words and phrases that capture your feelings. Widely recognized works ring true for a reason.

9 An outline can get you started by helping to establish a structure. Don't make your vows so personal that they're cryptic -- or embarrassing! You've invited your family and friends to witness your vows in order to make your bond public, so be sure everyone feels included in the moment. That means putting a limit on inside jokes, deeply personal anecdotes and obscure nicknames or code words.

10 Don't make them too long, aim for about one minute or so. Get at the heart of what marrying this person means to you with your vows; pick the most important points and make them well. These are words meant to be heard by a live audience, so check that they sound good when spoken. Read your vows out loud to make sure they flow easily. Watch out for tongue twisters and super long sentences, you don't want to get out of breath or stumble. 

Just remember, whether you opt for romantic wedding vows or vows with cultural or religious significance, the words you share should be a reflection of yourselves as a couple

Wedding Music

From the ceremony processional to the first dance, figuring out the right songs for weddings can definitely be a challenge. If you're not sure where to start, here's a rundown of wedding party songs and wedding reception music suggestions to last through to the final dance. First, it's important to find a band or DJ that have the sort of wedding music repertoire you're looking for. If you have a list of "must-play" wedding dance music, be sure to bring it along when you interview bands and DJs to make sure they'll be able to deliver (or not deliver, if it's the "do-not-play" list that concerns you most about your wedding reception music. Just remember, your wedding music will set the tone for your whole day, so work with your band or DJ to plan a music vibe that'll keep the dance floor packed. Once you've hired your wedding music pros, don't feel like you have to micromanage every song on the play list. It's their job to keep the party going, all you have to worry about is whether or not to choreograph a wedding dance.

Wedding Photos
Long after the wedding cake is eaten, your wedding photo albums and wedding video will be the way you revisit some of the best moments of your wedding day. The wedding photo album and wedding video can become keepsakes to be passed down to kids (and grandkids), so here’s how to find the perfect wedding photographer and videographer to capture your big day, as well as wedding photo ideas make sure you end up with a well-rounded wedding photo album. First, consider having engagement photos taken. Not only is this a great way to get comfortable in front of the camera, a lot of couples use their engagement photos in other wedding details (in wedding photo books or the save-the-dates, for example), and engagement photo sessions have recently become super creative shoots.  And don’t forget about the wedding video, the options for wedding videos are practically limitless, from photojournalistic shots of the ceremony and reception to cinematic masterpieces complete with Hollywood style editing and effects.

 Fun wedding photo ideas

Pictures are an integral part of any wedding. Newlyweds are usually thrilled to get their pictures back from the photographer so they can relive their special day. But there are many special activities you can build into a wedding that involve photos.

One fun idea that many brides employ is to take photos of everyone as they arrive at the wedding, almost like you do at a high school prom or company Christmas party. You can provide a backdrop and couples can pose either for a paid photographer or for whoever happens to pick up the camera. These pictures can be taken with a Polaroid camera for instant fun or with a disposable camera. If you want slightly higher quality photos, go for a digital camera.
This can be an excellent way to keep guests busy and happy until the “official” reception begins with the arrival of the bride and groom.

As an extension of that idea, you can take instant photos and create scrapbook pages or memory book pages with the photos. There can be supplies on hand so guests can create pages on site, or pages can be pre-made and photos simply placed into the prepared spaces. If guests don’t want to create pages on site, or the bride doesn’t want this particular activity going on, the photos can be saved for later. As a gift for the bride and groom, someone can create memory books with these photos.

If Polaroid cameras are used, another option is to have the people in the photo sign the Polaroid photo and place that in a basket somewhere. The bride and groom will enjoy looking at the photos later.

While it’s not a particularly unique idea, many brides like to provide disposable cameras on each table at the reception so guests can capture candid shots of the reception and the table guests. These photos can be added to the newlyweds’ wedding album or they can be placed into a separate album showing the wedding from the guests’ perspective.

Another fun activity sure to be entertaining is to create a “silent photo guess” area. Here’s before the wedding, someone close to the bride and groom collects pictures of the bride and groom at various stages in life. The photos should depict the bride and groom doing things, not at Christmas or with their first birthday cake. In other words, the photos should include some action, but it shouldn’t be obvious in the picture what has taken place or where the person is.

Much like a silent auction, people will come along and look at the photos, then take a silent guess as to what the photos show. They can write their guess on a piece of paper and put it in a numbered basket that corresponds with the number on the photo. Reading these guesses during the reception is entertaining and sure to be amusing. The bride or groom can provide the real answers. This is a particularly fun activity at a relatively small, family wedding where the participants know the bride and groom very well.

If you want to provide an area for guests to have their photos taken but aren’t thrilled with the “prom night” idea, how about having a photo corner set up somewhere in the reception hall or facility. Here, the wedding photographer will take candid shots of wedding guests. They might be couples, but could also be entire families, friends having a good time, or the groom being carried on the shoulders of the best man.

Whatever the pictures end up being, they provide a fun, “let it all hang out” area for the wedding guests and a surprise for the bride and groom. Since they will likely be busy with all the reception details and having the time of their lives, they might appreciate knowing their guests had a pretty good time too, as evidenced in the photos.

Photo Album Binders

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Wedding Rehearsal 

First, determine your guest list for each event. Traditionally, only the bridal party must be invited to the rehearsal, but it's a nice gesture to send rehearsal dinner invitations to any out-of-town guests who will be traveling for your wedding. But don't worry about all those extra guests blowing your budget, rehearsal dinners can be as formal or as low-key as you want. The rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch, or wedding luncheon is also a prime time for wedding toasts. Not sure whom to invite? You may have only sent rehearsal dinner invitations to your nearest and dearest, but anyone who was invited to the reception should be invited to the after party as well (although some of your older guests might pass on the late-night festivities). Remember that the pre- and post-wedding parties don't have to match the formality of your wedding exactly, even if you're having a formal wedding, feel free to incorporate fun themes, like a luau, or BBQ.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Invitations

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Wedding Reception 

Once you've decided on your wedding colors and how formal you want your wedding to be, start searching for the sorts of wedding reception decorations that will help pull together your wedding theme. 

Wedding Reception Invitations

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Wedding Favors

Wedding favors are a great way to show your guests you appreciate their support on your wedding day. Edible wedding party favors are an extremely popular option. Edible favors are also an inexpensive route, think oatmeal raisin cookies tied and tagged with your names or even chocolate truffles. Another great option is a charitable wedding favor. Choose the charity of your choice, decide on a lump sum, and make a donation in your guests' honor. If you're a crafty bride, you could even make your own wedding favors. Many party and art supply stores sell wedding supplies like favor boxes, gift tags, and decorative stickers.

Wedding Party Favor Ideas


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