I meet so many couples who are so overwhelmed trying to plan for their wedding. They don’t know what to book first, find it hard to motivate themselves, or get sticker shock when it comes to starting to make purchases or deposits. Are you frozen because you don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips!
Before You Start: Thinking About Money for Your Wedding
When you start looking around at your dream locations, dresses, catering, etc, you may experience sticker shock. A wedding can be expensive! Especially if you live in a major metropolis like Los Angeles or New York, where everything, especially luxury goods like weddings, border on insanity. Look up the cost for an average wedding in your area. The average cost of a wedding in Los Angeles is $33,000, according to WeddingWire.com. But don’t let that stop you! There are a lot of options and factors to think about.
- Prioritize. Think about what is most important to you. Is food important to you two as a couple? Your dress? Tuxes? An epic venue? Photography? A smashing wedding video? Make sure you can afford to splurge on what is most important to you, and if you can only afford one splurge item, that’s okay.
- Family money. Some families are prepared to help financially with a wedding. Some will offer to help with decor, etc. I was able to have a beautiful wedding for under $1,000 because my family had a beautiful yard and helped me source/make almost everything. Although they were unable to help financially, they saved me from buying a ton of stuff.
- Do you need to elope? Sometimes, if you don’t care about the big party and just want to be married, eloping is a good option. Get an amazing set of clothes, hire a photographer, get a friend to get ordained, and go to the top of a mountain at sunrise. Or a beach. California has no shortage of epic natural scenery. Even if you decide to go to a courthouse, I still encourage people to splurge on a set of fine clothes you would never have ordinarily bought, and get a photographer. This is one of the most important days of your life, and these two things can really help it feel amazing and special.
#1: Setting a Date
Weekends are the norm for weddings. But if you’re on a budget or time crunch, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding.
#1: How to Set a Date/Time for Your Wedding
Most of the rest of your planning and hiring has to do with what date it is. So here are a few things to consider:
- Make a list of all the Saturdays in the year you want to marry. Are any of these dates significant? Keep in mind many vendors/venues will give you good deals if you DON’T get married on a Saturday. About 95% of weddings I photograph are on Saturdays, so most Saturdays I have booked at least 6 months in advance. But Fridays and Sundays are usually still available, so you can wait longer to book things and pay less. For example, I normally don’t accept a low-budget Saturday wedding, but I’ll do 2-hour weddings for a lot less if they’re on a Friday or a Sunday.
- Season: if you live in an area with seasons, will it be unpredictable to get married at a certain time of year? Are you okay with that? If you’re having an outdoor wedding, how will it affect your stress levels?
- Keep in mind you have an option to do a morning wedding, too, especially if you have a lot of guests with children or are trying to have a little/no alcohol wedding. I’ve done a few morning/brunch weddings and they’re always so relaxed. Plus, you have the rest of the day with your boo to do whatever you want. This option could also get you discounted rates from vendors/venues.
#2: Book Your Venue/Photographer/Planner
Booking your venue is something that most people do early on. Most venues only plan one or two events in a day, so their available dates book up quickly. Photographers and planners are like this, too, unless they’re part of a company (which is a mixed bag, so make sure to ask). A few things to consider:
- Booking a wedding venue can be really overwhelming, especially if you live in a high-market place like Los Angeles. They can get EXPENSIVE. However, if you book an epic venue that doesn’t need decorating, you’ll save a fortune on things like flowers. If you book a really cheap venue that doesn’t look really nice, you may want to budget a bit more for decorating.
- Photography is the only thing that survives a wedding. My advice is to not skimp on this! A good photographer can make up for a lot, even a cheap dress! Conversely, if you spend $6,000 on your dress and get a student to photograph it for free, you will probably end up with cell phone photos being better. Yes, I know this from experience.
- With both photographers and planners, make sure you’re seeing the work of the PERSON who is going to be working your wedding. If you can, personally hire the person whose name is on the website. So, for example, my photography company is Hasselblad Studios, I’m the only photographer, and my name is Mercy Hasselblad. Nice to meet you. 😉 I’ve seen several weddings devolve into chaos because, although there are 1-2 wedding planners/coordinators (from a company) present, neither of them were the ones who did most of the planning, so they didn’t know what was going on.
- Do you need a planner? If you can answer yes to these questions, you probably DON’T need a planner: Do you have a friend who is dedicated enough or loves weddings enough to give you a good chunk of her time? Have you been closely involved with planning or working at least one or two weddings for friends?
#2: Book Your Venue/Photographer
Photos are pretty much the only thing that survives the wedding day. If done right, they’re also the only thing you see daily after your wedding (other than your spouse, haha).
#3: The Dress [es]
Now comes the fun part! Picking out your dress!
#3: Finding the Perfect Dress
Throughout the entire process, remember: Pinterest is your friend. Millions of wedding ideas float around on Pinterest. It can really help you define what type of wedding stuff you’re attracted to. Your dress and your venue both really set the mood for what your wedding will look like, so pay attention to what has attracted you! Tips for finding the perfect dress:
- Look in your closet. What type of clothing do you gravitate towards? Are you clean and simple? Bohemian? Edgy? Classy? Think of a few keywords to describe what you see in your closet, then use those in your search terms on Pinterest, i.e. “simple bohemian wedding dresses.” Save the ones that attract you, then look at them to see if there are some common elements in them. This pinterest board will come in handy when you go to the bridal shop, as well! The consultants will absolutely love you if you have some ideas of what you like. Make sure your board is secret so your groom doesn’t accidentally find it!
- The shape of your dress is a primary starting point for looking. There are a few major wedding/formal dress shapes:
- Listen to the consultants. They’ve helped hundreds of brides find their dress. They consider things like shape, skin tone, etc, and will advise you accordingly. In the end, you make the final decision, but they’re there to help guide you.
- Consider getting a consigned dress. Most wedding dresses are worn for a few hours or, at most, 8 hours, and then professionally cleaned. Finding something used can be more affordable (but make sure to consider alterations). Buying used is also better for the planet! Some places to find used wedding dresses: Stillwhite.com, Facebook Marketplace, or your local bridal boutique!
- Consider color: there are so many different shades and textures to white, or champagne, or even a different color! Ask the bridal consultant what color works best for your skin.