Ultimate Guide To Planning A Wedding

ultimate wedding planning guide l
Are you newly engaged and just getting started with wedding planning? Use this guide as a checklist for everything you need to consider, from wedding venues and vendors to planning a wedding on a budget.

Wedding Guide ChecklistDecide On A Budget

Being clear about your budget from the start can make the entire process easier. So, have a conversation with your partner and whomever else may be contributing financially, such as a parent. It’s typically best to settle on a dollar range, if possible, rather than trying to nail your budget down to the exact penny.

Many couples spend more on their wedding than planned, it would be helpful to decide up front which items will be a splurge and which will be on a tight budget. Because people can get emotional about weddings, and emotional about money, having clarity about the budget from the start can get you off to a great start. It provides the foundation for prioritizing what’s most important to you and your soon-to-be spouse.

Wedding Guide ChecklistMake Your Guest List

In general, there are two ways to handle this item on your wedding planning list. You can brainstorm a complete list of everyone you want to invite and figure out the cost. If it fits within your budget, great! Often, though, this approach leads to a guest list that’s pretty big. If you invite one person from the office, you may feel as though you should invite the entire office. One neighbor? Same concept!

Another approach, then, is to take your budget and figure out how many people you can afford to invite. That will help you to prioritize and stay on budget.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Choose Your Theme/Style

For many couples, this is a part of wedding planning they really enjoy—and, the good news is that there are plenty of beautiful options, including gorgeous DIY wedding decorations, even when you’re planning your wedding on a budget. For tabletop decorations, you can fill clear bowls with water and float flowers on top. Paper lanterns are another low cost option that can be quite eye-catching.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Visit And Reserve A Wedding Venue

When you begin your wedding venue search, there are several questions you’ll need to answer to get yourself in the right direction. What time of year will your wedding take place? Are you considering an outdoor or an indoor wedding ceremony or reception? How many people do you plan to invite? And most importantly, what kind of budget will you have for a venue?

When you select wedding venues that appeal to you, ask for a tour. For an apples-to-apples comparison, visit each venue at approximately the same time of day. Take pictures of each space so you can remember what you liked about each one (and anything you don’t). This allows you to share your favorites with friends and family. You can also take notes, either on paper or on your phone. Here are questions to ask during a wedding venue tour.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Select Vendors For Food, Entertainment, And Photographer

You can ask your wedding venue of choice for recommendations on vendors you’d like to hire for the big day. Word of mouth is also a great option, ask local friends and family that have recently been involved in a wedding or special event if they have any vendor suggestions. When you talk to vendors that appeal to you, be sure to talk with them about what is important for you and your partner in making your day special. Be sure to put together a checklist of things to ask about, such as their services, prices, and more.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Plan Menus And Playlists

Your wedding reception will be all about entertainment, choosing the food and music will be big components. You’ll want to plan the song for your first dance as husband and wife, also think about songs you might want to play while you and your new spouse dance with parents, members of the wedding party, and so forth. When planning your menu, many caterers will offer a food tasting session to help with menu option selections. For that special touch, also keep in mind and try to accommodate any guests that have food restrictions or allergies.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Consider Items You’ll Need To Rent

First, find out what your wedding venue has available for rent, whether that’s chairs, special table linens, musical equipment, or something else. When you rent directly from the venue, there would be no transportation coordination and you don’t have to worry about a vendor not delivering what’s promised. If your venue doesn’t provide the rental items you need, ask friends and family for recommendations, search on Google, and so forth. If you’re getting married during a busy season for weddings, be sure to do this early.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Schedule An Engagement Photo Shoot

Depending on your budget, you may go all out with a professional photographer or you may browse Pinterest for some cool backgrounds and ask a photography student at a local college to do the honors. From beaches to parks, Mother Nature offers amazing backdrops at no cost. Consider adding candid shots into the mix including those where you show a bit of affection. If you have a pet, what about including Fido into some pictures?

Wedding Guide Checklist

Shop For Your Dress And Wedding Party Attire

For many brides, saying “yes” to the dress is at the heart of wedding planning. And, this is an area where you can find a frugal bargain in a thrift shop—and also where you can spend thousands of dollars. You can find wedding trends here, which include sleeveless dresses, sleek silhouettes, bareless shoulders, and more.

Will you choose a color, say vibrant green, and then invite your bridesmaids to each choose a style that’s most flattering for her? Will the groom and the groomsmen go with traditional black or a more surprising white? Will the groom, after the wedding, change into a different outfit for the reception? Brides have been doing this for quite some time so, why not?

Wedding Guide Checklist

Purchase Wedding Bands

Increasing numbers of couples have been buying personalized engagement and wedding rings, going to websites where they can design their own rings in ways that are meaningful to them. Some couples like to go ring shopping together while others prefer to think of a wedding ring as a gift that’s a surprise to the person receiving it.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Choose An Officiant

Perhaps you already have a minister, priest or rabbi, and you know that he or she will conduct your wedding service. If not, then you can ask for recommendations from your wedding venue, friends and family, and so forth. Meet with the officiant to ensure you’re comfortable with his or her style. Some may offer a non-denominational—yet still religious—ceremony, while others offer a civil ceremony without a religious component. Only you and your partner can decide what’s best for you.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Order Invitations

Ordering customized invitations used to be more complicated and often more expensive than it is now. There are plenty of websites available where you can design invitations in a way that matches your theme and style. Some commonly used sites include Shutterfly.com, Zazzle.com, and VistaPrint.com. If you know calligraphy or have a friend who does, having wedding invitations addressed in this elegant style has been trending.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Consider Favors For Guests

These don’t need to be expensive to be meaningful. If you’re planning a wedding on a budget, there are plenty of inexpensive favors that will be appreciated. These can range from small jars of bright candies or chocolates to envelopes of wildflower seeds, or mementos that represent you as a couple without breaking the bank.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Create a wedding website

Wedding websites were once considered an add-on, but we believe they’re something every engaged couple should have. You can share gift registry information, and ask people to RSVP on your site, which saves on postage. Guests who can’t attend can send their good wishes to you in an interactive guest book, and you can post driving directions and lodging information for out of towners who can attend.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Set Up Gift Registries

You can, as described above, use your wedding website to share your gift registry information. It’s a good idea to set up gift registries in multiple places, this way your family and friends have options to get you that special gift. It’s also recommended to register as soon as possible, many guests like to also purchase gifts for pre-wedding celebrations such as engagement parties and bridal showers.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Interview And Select Florist

Think about what floral needs you’ll have, including bouquets carried and boutonniere pinned—as well as what flowers and greenery you’ll want for decorations. Consider your budget and then ask for recommendations for florists that might meet those needs. Schedule interviews and decide which one can most effectively (and beautifully!) provide what you need at your price point.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Make Plans For Out-Of-Town Guests—Accommodations And Transportation

Depending upon the size of your wedding, you may be able to negotiate a price break at a local hotel if they offer group prices. Investigate options and pick a place that offers the most value while still providing the quality you’ll want for your guests. Share that information, perhaps on your wedding website. Also consider who might need a ride from the airport to the hotel—perhaps local friends and family would be willing to help out by transporting the out of towners to their rooms.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Plan Your Rehearsal Dinner

It can help to first decide how casual or formal you want this to be, noting that more casual events are more common than they once were. What about an outdoor barbecue? Clambake? Finger foods? Think of an enjoyable theme and run with it! Check with your officiant about his or her availability, secure an appropriate venue, and share the date and time with this guest list. This typically includes the wedding party and their partners; close family members; and, if you’ve got the budget, out of town guests.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Plan And Book Your Honeymoon

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for you and your spouse to be, so plan something meaningful that excites both of you. It’s great to get recommendations and a travel agent can be a big help— but, ultimately, be you. Don’t go somewhere just because it’s trending or “supposed to be” a perfect honeymoon spot. Book cruises, hotel rooms, and so forth early so there aren’t any surprises or disappointments.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Order Your Cake(s)

If you’d like a more elaborate cake (or cakes, if you’re ordering a groom’s cake), then order well in advance. Some sites even recommend ordering six months ahead of time. Cakes with edible flowers are trendings for 2020, as well as those using ferns and other greenery. Quirky flavors are being offered, including lime, pistachio, and champagne—and even tea.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Prepare Your Vows

If you’re going with a traditional ceremony with a priest, minister, or rabbi, you may be using time-tested vows. Or, you may be planning a service that’s uniquely yours, writing personalized vows. If you decide to write your own, give yourself enough time to create them, describing why you love this person, the commitment you’re making, and your promise for now and for the future.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Purchase Gifts For Your Wedding Party

From a champagne flute to a piece of jewelry, and from a personalized clutch bag to a bottle of wine, gifts to bridesmaids can be as unique as you are, and as unique as they are. Groomsmen gifts can range from craft beers to lapel pins, and from toiletry kits to cufflinks. These come in a variety of prices, including ones just right for a wedding on a budget.

Wedding Guide Checklist

Decide On A Seating Chart

You may or may not choose to have a seating chart but, if you do, don’t wait until the last minute. Create a chart where people can sit with family or friends, leaving in enough flexibility for last minute additions or cancellations. You can make it fun; rather than having a chart at the entrance, you can give people who would sit at the violet table a violet; daisy table, a daisy. Be creative. Have fun!

Wedding Guide Checklist

Remember To Set Aside Cash For Tips

From the bartenders to the waitstaff and from the people who fix hair and apply makeup, drive people from the wedding venue to a hotel, check coats and more, it is considerate to give them a tip. So, leave enough room in your budget for this item.

Schedule a Tour of Our Wedding Venue

Ready to get started? We invite you to schedule a tour of our wedding venue at the Thrasher Horne Center. You’ll receive five-star service with a custom setup that accommodates multiple seating options. We have flexible catering options for your wedding reception dinner such as catering recommendations from our select list; or, you can use your own caterer.

We’re conveniently located, with plenty of parking and so much more! To schedule a tour, please call our rental coordinator at 904-276-6815, extension 2. We look forward to meeting you!

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Located at St. Johns River State College
283 College Drive
Orange Park, FL 32065
904.276.6815

Box Office Hours: Monday through Thursday from 11 AM - 3 PM
We are also open one hour prior to showtime on event nights.

Email us at boxoffice@sjrstate.edu