Bride’s ask this question all the time. “Where do I start?” Getting engaged can be so overwhelming because before you can even get the words out of your mouth people are already asking, “When’s the big day? Where are you getting married? What are your colours? Who are your bridesmaids?” and on and on. They’re doing this out of excitement, not to stress you out, but somehow it still happens.
Here are my rules of thumb for starting out your planning process.
1. Make a Realistic Budget
Your budget will determine your “maybe’s” on your guest list so this should always come first. Sit down with your fiance and discuss how much you’re able and willing to spend on your wedding day. Do your research before ball-parking a number. For example, a caterer usually has a 15-18% automatic gratuity as well as 12% tax on top of your cost per person meaning you need to budget 30% more than just the price per meal. Costs add up quickly and if you don’t do your research before you make a budget, the stress will come when you are way over the amount you originally thought. Your budget might include food, beverage, venue fees (ceremony & reception), photography, flowers, invitations/programs/seating chart/thank-you cards/postage, decor, DJ, JP/pastor, cake, hair, make-up, dress, accessories, transportation, hotels, groom’s tux, bridesmaid/groomsmen gifts, favours, guest book, marriage license, and a contingency budget for extras that come up.
The average cost of a wedding in Canada is $27,000. That is a daunting number for many people. Your wedding does not need to cost that much as there are ways to be more budget conscious, but be aware of ALL your costs when you make your budget to avoid surprises later on.
2. Make Your Guest List
Now that you know how much money you have to spend, sit down and figure out who you would like to be at your wedding. My rule is if you haven’t seen or spoken to someone in 2 years, they go on the “if we have the money” list. Some people prefer 5 years but that’s up to you! If you aren’t going to allow kids, decide what your cut off age is.
3. Pick a Date (or two)
This is the fun part! Deciding a time in the year to get married makes it all become real. If you have a specific venue in mind you’ll want to pick your venue before your date in case someone else already has it booked. It’s best to pick two dates in the event that your venue or photographer or whoever you are prioritizing is booked.
After these first 3 steps are completed, the rest begins to fall into place. Here are some quick guidelines:
Mini List of Bookings
Venue: ASAP or 10 months+
Photographer: 10 months+
Hair & Make-Up: 8 months+ (I know… you’d be surprised how quick they fill up! And you do Not want to have just anyone be in charge of how you look that day!)
Pastor, Caterer & Wedding Dress: 7-9 months+
Florist & Baker: 7 months+ (some baker’s take a limited amount of cakes per weekend)
Bridesmaid Dresses: 5-7 months+
Invitations: 4-6 months+ in advance
This should help get you started! Happy planning 🙂