Where to Start Wedding Planning: 12 Experts Share Their Advice
Congratulations, you just got engaged! Now what?
There’s so much to get organized before your special day. From deciding on a theme to choosing a venue, it’s hard to know where to start!
We reached out to over 100 wedding planners from across Canada to participate in a one question interview where they offer their best advice on where to start as you begin planning out the wedding of your dreams.
KJ and Co.
“The best place to start when wedding planning is setting a guest count and a categorized budget. Your guest count will have the most effect on your budget – how many mouths to feed, how many chairs to order, and so on. If you don’t have the help of a planner, make use of free templates on the web to divvy up your budget before you begin searching for a venue or for wedding professionals. The biggest mistake I see is that couples fall in love with a wedding venue and overspend significantly in proportion to their budget. This leaves a shortage of funds to cover other important elements like photography and decor, and leads to serious disappointment and frustration.
If it turns out that the options coming up within your budget don’t feel like a good fit, it’s time to reassess whether you’re ready to spend more, decrease your guest count, or have a reality check about the style of wedding. It’s totally possible to keep things simple and beautiful and spend the amount you set out with, if you’re ready to compromise.”
Hôte Événements inc.
“We recommend that couples start with a Wedding Planner if they don’t already have one in order to have a professional guide them from the beginning of the wedding planning process and to be there on the day of the wedding to provide support and assistance. However, whether a couple chooses to have a planner or not, we recommend starting with establishing the budget, determining the date that the couple has in mind, and starting the guest list. By establishing the budget from the beginning, it will not only permit the couple to respect it but it will also give them an idea on what venues the budget permits. As far as the guest list is concerned, some may think that starting it from the start is perhaps early, but we find that it’s a necessity. By doing so, it will help the couple with the venue search/selection as venues have a maximum guest capacity. It’s also important to note that the guest count will also greatly affect the budget as it is the multiplication factor. Last but not least, we also feel that the date is important to determine from the start as this will influence the couple’s venue choice if they’re set on a specific date. Before inquiring with different venues though, we do recommend that the couple think about the style and ambiance that they would like as this will help them select the venue that best reflects their vision for their wedding.”
Erica Irwin Weddings And Events
“If you’re thinking of hiring a Wedding Planner, do it right away. Let a planner show you how to take great ideas and actually make them work in your community! If you already have a Pinterest list, great! But realize it’s not always easy to bring those ideas to life.
Couples start planning on their own and then come to me when they are overwhelmed, frustrated and have already booked a couple of items on their list. Had they come to me right away I could have laid out a plan, shown them options they maybe didn’t know about, and possibly saved them money through some of my discounts.”
Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events
“If you’re newly engaged (congrats!), you’ll want to consider three important topics that will help guide your venue search – guest count, budget and date.
Guest count – You’ll need to jot down a realistic list of who you’d like to invite and who your parents would like to invite. Remember that usually 10-15% of guests you invite will not be able to make it. This list will help give you a rough estimate of how many guests to expect, so you can figure out what size venue would work for you.
Budget – This is not the most romantic topic, but it is the most important one! How much are you going to spend on your wedding? Will parents chip in or will you pay for it yourself? Do you know how much weddings cost in your city? These are all things to consider when starting out and will impact your planning process tremendously. Hiring an experienced wedding planner will also help you in budget management.
Date – What time of the year will you want to get married in? Do you dream of a whimsical winter wedding or a warm summer celebration? Is there a meaningful date that you’d like as your wedding date? What day of the week works best and are you open to other dates for cost savings? Venues will typically ask what date(s) you are considering when you are searching, so this will be helpful to have an idea of.
Wedding planning really cannot commence until you have a venue, and to book a venue, it will be helpful to have discussed these three topics in length. Happy planning!”
French Kiss Events
“I always recommend that before venue hunting, or even starting to build your guest list, that you sit down together and talk about what your top priorities are. What are the things that are going to be most important to you when it comes to the wedding and what overall “vibe” do you want for the day. Whether it’s the menu & good wine, an incredible dance party, or maybe you’re all about the photos, it’s important to get on the same page with your priorities. Then don’t forget them as the planning carries on. They will help you focus on what is important and make it easier to let go of some things that aren’t as important and aren’t in the budget.”
“The first thing newly engaged couples need to determine at the beginning of their wedding planning is what is important to them at their wedding. I typically have my clients choose three things that are non-negotiable.
These important things will help to determine every decision that is made throughout the wedding planning process. This includes determining what the couple want to allocate most of their budget to, who will be invited to the wedding, where the wedding is going to be located, what vibe they want to give off at the wedding, what they want the wedding to look like, etc. For example, one non-negotiable thing for a couple may be that they want to have an outdoor ceremony.
This detail helps to determine the venues to consider for the ceremony, possibly the time of year to host the wedding, what rental costs there are to consider for the space, etc. Every couple prioritizes different things for their wedding day, every couple is unique! Sitting down with your partner to determine the utmost important things you want for your wedding is the best place to start the planning!”
Dreamgroup Weddings & Events
“After you’ve said “Yes!” and have started into the world of wedding planning things can start to feel daunting, but they don’t have to. The best advice we can share is that a couple should start by talking to each other about what they really want for this important moment and day. Do you imagine a big dance party? An intimate dinner? Something elegant and modern or rustic and interactive? The wedding style options in the beginning are endless and now is the time to really think about what’s important and what you feel is worth investing in. The next step is to chat with parents if they are to be involved in the planning or supporting of the budget so that an overall budget can be established. Then comes the all important allocation of the money available. It’s important to start with a realistic budget plan, not a wishful thinking one! Weddings are not cheap. Incorporating all the products and services the typical couple wants these days will very often be as much as double or more what they initially thought they might want to spend.
Create a detailed budget allocating ALL the potential wedding costs. Don’t guess – find out what the average is in your city by contacting a few local vendors to inquire. Be upfront about it and you will get the help you need. Once you know the average costs there’s nothing wrong with rethinking the plan in the event the sticker shock is higher than anticipated! Host a Breakfast Wedding, a lunch wedding, a late night candle lit champagne dessert affair! The quickest way to reduce wedding costs is by reducing the number of guests invited. Intimate weddings can be a wonderful thing!
Once you’ve determined what the food and drink costs might be it’s time to allocate the balance of the budget to everything else from invitations and hair/makeup and dress to photography, videography, music, transportation, flowers and décor. The reason it’s important to understand where the money goes from the beginning is because budget stress is the number one reason couples end up being disheartened and unhappy with the planning and that’s unfortunate as it should be a fun and exciting journey! Once a couple has a solid understanding of what their ideal wedding might cost and determines together that it’s doable from a budget standpoint then they can happily and confidently move through the process knowing what they have to spend and find the right people to help them do it!”
Love by Lynzie Events + Design//Pop-Up Chapel
“First of all, couples need to take time to enjoy their engagement! It’s a huge thing to celebrate and often times gets overlooked when they dive right into planning. Bask in the moment that you’ve both just said yes to this huge milestone. My next suggestion is to look at three things: How much you want to spend? Who do you want to attend? And what kind of impact do you want to have? Planning a wedding can be a huge commitment in time and money, so these three key answers will inform your entire planning process. Weddings can cost a couple the down payment of a home, or a trip around the world- you want to ensure you are planning the type of event that aligns with your life goals.
When it comes to budget, knowing what seems doable or outlandish to you will help you streamline what types of venues you can look at. Knowing how many guests you’d like to have will also help determine venue and style of wedding. Perhaps it’s a small casual dinner for 40, or perhaps its a big sit down affair for 300. Finally, the question of impact is one that I think gets overlooked a lot. Weddings impact your family members and friends, your bank account and the environment. I think it’s important to consider the ease to guests, the expense to you and the waste you’ll create. Do you want your guests to be able to attend simply by driving a short distance? Or do you want everyone to fly to one place to spend a week together? Do you want to party until 2am in a stunning venue? Or do you want to elope at The Pop-Up Chapel with just 20 guests? How will you decorate your room and where will this decor go once the event is finished? Is there a way you can plan to reuse items or prevent food waste? Big celebrations feel the absolute best and most authentic when they are a true reflection of your means and values. I believe that couples should always begin by looking at who they are and throw a celebration that aligns with that.”
The Good Party
“We always recommend sitting down together with your families and figuring out how much, if anything, your families are contributing to the wedding budget. The wedding budget is the starting place for all decisions as it affects how you plan your wedding, taking into account what things are most important to you and what is reasonable and realistic within your budget. Sometimes this conversation is hard to have, but it’s a good idea to have it early on so you have a good sense of what is attainable moving forward.”
State & Co. Events
“When it comes to wedding planning, I recommend that newly engaged couples start by each making a list of the 3 most important aspects of their wedding day. The list might include items such as: vibe, live music, food, florals, candlelight, an outdoor ceremony, personal vows, etc. With this starting point, couples will understand what they and their partner value most for their special day and how to align and prioritize as they plan. I often ask my clients to refer back to their lists throughout the planning process to remind themselves what they wish for most on their wedding day.”
“First things first I recommend you decide on a budget. Start with making a list of “items you can’t do without” and “lower priority items”. Maybe you have your heart set on a certain venue. If you plan accordingly and prioritize your budget, there is a good chance you can have your dream venue. Setting a budget in the very beginning will help you come to terms with what is a realistic expectation for your wedding day. Thinking about money first will ensure you and your fiancé are on the same page from the start of the process.”
Le Coeur Bohème
“Here at Le Coeur Bohème we recommend that couples start by determining an honest and realistic budget. The next most important step is choosing their dream venue and confirming their date is available. We strongly suggest our couples to determine what is most important to them during their wedding, the ambiance, the food, music, ect. To spend more of their budget into what defines THEM and after it will be easier to cut back on other areas of the budget. They should focus on elements and aspects that will make their day unique and memorable for their guests. We always suggest adding at least 15-20% to their budget for unforeseen expenses and issues.
Couples should also focus on the vendors that are most important to them for example; a venue that best represents them, a photographer\videographer that captures their emotions and/or a caterer that makes their favorite food. Hire a planner that will help find those special vendors and help the couple get through the process of planning and coordinating their wedding, it will take away all the pressure from their shoulders and they will be able to focus on enjoying their special day with family and friends.”