Wedding Planning: Where to Even Begin

By Luke Ellery

Planning a wedding is a massive job; full of decisions, compromise, and admin. However, there’s no denying that it’s also probably the most fun you will ever have planning an event! To help you prepare, here’s our step-by-step guide on what to expect on the road from engagement to marriage.

1/ ENGAGEMENT 

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Image by Perspective Photo + Cinema 

Spread the Word 

Once they've put a ring on it, you’re going to want to share the exciting news with the world! It’s customary to tell your closest family and friends first; family first, friends second. Having said that, the order in which you tell people is completely up to you – don't be afraid to break tradition. After you’ve shared the news personally with your nearest and dearest, you can then broadcast it more widely, whether via social media or putting an announcement in a local paper. 

THROW AN ENGAGEMENT PARTY

Have you considered throwing a party to celebrate this massive step in your relationship? Engagement parties are not entirely necessary, but it can be a lovely idea – especially if you’re having a longer engagement. 

HAVE AN ENGAGEMENT SHOOT

There are so many great reasons to have an engagement photo shoot! This is something we unquestionably recommend you do. The timing depends on your preference – you could hold it soon after your engagement while you’re still basking in the glow of your news, or you could wait until you’ve chosen your wedding photographer a little further down the line. Either way, be sure to check out our list of awesome photographers, who all offer engagement shoots both independently or as part of a wedding package.

2/ BIG PICTURE PLANNING AND ORGANISATION
 

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Image by Rawpixel

DISCUSS YOUR DREAM WEDDING

Time to get into the nitty gritty stuff! Set aside some time to sit down with your partner and dream up some ideas. Think about the big picture. Indoor or outdoor? Formal or informal? Summer or winter? Big or small?  – phrasing questions like that to each other is a really good way to start to picture each other's dream weddings. Once you know what the other person really wants you can start to make compromises to design a wedding that reflects both of your individual personalities. 

CONSIDER COLOUR AND THEME

You definitely don’t need a theme, or even a colour palette, to plan a wedding, but they can be a great way to create a coherent aesthetic from invitations through to venue and decor. It can also be helpful when it comes to looking for inspiration. If you know you want a rustic wedding, searching on blogs or Pinterest can yield tons of ideas you might not otherwise have come across that perfectly suit your style!

Some themes are seasonal (like Christmas or Autumn), but many work all year round. 

GET ORGANISED

Try and avoid getting overwhelmed with ‘wedmin’. The best way to do that is to make sure you establish an organisational system that works for you. There are plenty of options out there and different ones will work for different couples. You might find a wedding binder works best for you; others turn to notebooks, and electronic documents – maybe you're a mix of everything. 

3/ BUDGET

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Image by Proshot Photography

Once you’ve sketched out some rough ideas for your dream wedding, it’s time to ground those dreams in reality by setting up a realistic budget. It's crucial to budget before you start exploring specifics - it's no fun planning your dream wedding only to realise it's beyond your means.

There’s no ‘right’ way to allot your wedding budget to different elements. Much depends on the priorities you’ll have already discussed, but here’s a guide to typical spending proportions:

Venue: 40%
Photography and videography: 25%
Suits and Dresses: 12%
Wedding bands: 5%
Flowers: 6%
Music: 8%
Invitations and miscellaneous: 2%
Celebrant and legal documents: 2%

4/ GUEST LIST

guest list, wedding celebrate, photography, drone, beach, summer

Image by Up&Up Drone Photography 

Next, it’s time to decide who’ll join you at your wedding. Creating your perfect guest list from can take a lot of time and even a little bit of heartache. It really is vital to have this sorted early so that you can make better-informed choices about other aspects of the wedding – how large will the venue have to be? What will my costs per head be?

5/ BOOK YOUR VENUE(S)

glasshouse, venue, auckland, wedding

Image by Glasshouse

Now on to the setting for your wedding: will you have your ceremony at your reception venue or somewhere else? Will you hold it local to you, local to your family, or somewhere else altogether? A huge array of factors will feed into this decision, including time of year, the size of the wedding and potentially your theme or the level of formality you’d prefer. Search the internet, ask others for recommendations and start scheduling visits. 

When you think you’ve found ‘the one’, here are 21 questions to ask when making the final decision. 

6/ CHOOSE THE BRIDAL PARTY

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Image by Alex De Freitas

WHEN TO ASK

You’re free to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen much earlier in the planning process. Having said that, waiting until you have a location and a date set in stone does mean that you can give them more information to determine their availability. 

HOW MANY BRIDESMAIDS/GROOMSMEN?

Choose as many or as few people as you want – a large bridal party can end up being more chaotic, but it also means more people to support you in the lead up to the wedding. Including your partner’s relatives is a sweet and diplomatic move that can only strengthen family relations – providing they are reliable. Otherwise, there are several alternative ways to include loved ones in the wedding without having them in the bridal party!

CHOOSE WISELY

Be sure to be open and upfront with your squad about what the role will entail, e.g. any tasks you might like to delegate, any party planning you’d like their involvement with and any financial commitment for their attire. Check out our unstoppable bridesmaid guide to learn more about what a bridesmaid’s responsibilities involve.

7/ BOOK YOUR VENDORS

bride, vendors, ice cream, gelato, catering, summer

Image by Mister Gelato

If you’re looking for a wedding planner, you might want to start the search at an earlier point in the planning. Otherwise, once you’ve got your venue and your date, there’s every reason to get booking the experts who’ll bring your dream wedding to life. There will be plenty of experts dedicated to making your wedding day perfect from the photographer to the caterer. 

8/ WORK ON THE DETAILS

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Image sourced from Green Wedding Shoes

With vendors in place, you’ll want to turn your attention to the many details big and small that will make up the design of the wedding. Some of these will be quick to organise, others will take weeks or even months of research and discussion with vendors:

Wedding website & registries – to keep your guests updated with information about the wedding, you can’t do much better than a wedding website! Not sure you need one, or not sure how to create one? We’ve got you covered. You’ll also want to make a plan for wedding gifts, which for many couples means setting up a registry. 
 

Stationery 

Those invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks before the big day, so work backwards from the wedding date to be sure you order in time. (If you want to send a save the date, that’ll go out even earlier). Read our complete guide to choosing gorgeous wedding invitations and, while you’re at it, get some inspiration for some unique invitation designs too!


Wedding timeline, ceremony and reception details

We won’t lie, there’s a lot involved in planning the details of the day. From avoiding timeline pitfalls, through to making the ceremony your own, through to the reception timeline, planning your seating chart, table settings, speeches, the music and that unforgettable exit. There are also some less obvious things to consider, like how to create a romantic ambience or make your wedding more photogenic. 

Wedding attire

Dress shopping can be amazing, but also a little stressful, our dress shopping guide can help you find the perfect dress for you. Of course, the dress is only the beginning. You may also be on the hunt for the perfect veil, headpiece, bouquet and/or some eye-catching jewellery. And that’s only the bride! You’ll also need to find outfits for the groom and the rest of the bridal party, whether these are purchased or rented.


Beauty and health 

It’s easy to become so caught up in the planning that you forget something fundamental: you! Start early to create and stick to a self-care plan. Exercise regularly and keep to a healthy diet. Get plenty of sleep. For a bit more guidance on this subject, check out our bridal beauty timeline.


Honeymoon

Even though the honeymoon will come post-wedding, most couples research, plan and book it in advance of the big day. For some inspiration on your honeymoon, consider an off-peak honeymoon experience – you'll be surprised by the benefits. For some advice on some more personal aspects of the honeymoon, check out our packing guide


9/ ADDITIONAL PARTIES

hens night, do, spa, wellbeing, girls, squad

Image by Forme Spa & Wellbeing

On top of the wedding itself and the engagement bash, there’s potential for plenty more partying. A bridal shower can be particularly fun. Next comes the hen and stag dos – get some inspiration for a classy event from our recent articles on hens dos and stag dos

10/ ENJOY! 

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Image by Hollow & Co.

Our best wedding planning advice is to look after yourself, be considerate of others and, above all, enjoy the ride! (And every moment of the wedding day, too!)

This article was adapted from an article on our sister site, Wellington Weddings, by Lorna Urwin.

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