Got wedding planning questions? We’ve got answers!
With any new and exciting journey, it’s inevitable that you are going to have questions and we are willing to bet you probably have lots of them! If that sounds like you, then this one-stop resource is exactly what you need. We covered everything from the caterer to the photographer and everything in between. Our goal is to make sure you are prepared with all the things you should be asking and even the things you never thought to ask!
To use this guide simply click on the section from the table of contents below to jump right to the good stuff. Once you are done, come back to the top and do it all over again.
When it comes to wedding planning there are so many things to consider, like color options, a caterer, and venue just to name a few. It can also be stressful when trying to figure out how much everything will cost in the long run. The sooner you can get your planning gears in motion, the better! 12-18 months in advance is a good amount of time for most couples to begin their wedding planning journey.
Read More: The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist
A day-of-coordinator is a must for any wedding especially if you have lots of rentals and off-site vendors coming in. They will help keep the schedule on track while handling any last-minute issues that sometimes happen unexpectedly.
While there are many qualities to consider, your wedding planner should have a style that aligns with your vision. Whether you love modern design or prefer a more traditional look, you should be sure that your wedding planner aligns with this aesthetic before hiring them.
A wedding planner is a person who plans and coordinates your day and ensures that the vendors are where they need to be when they need to be there. They master communicators and problem-solvers. Event designers are responsible for creating the overall aesthetic and ambiance of the day while bringing the theme and color palette to life. Event designers are often also wedding planners.
Yes! A wedding planner is there to help you plan and execute your big day and will take over anything that you don’t want to handle. They will also be a liaison between you and your other vendors. Having a wedding planner makes the planning process go smoother and they will never make decisions without your approval unless instructed to.
Hiring a wedding planner will save you time (something that is priceless), and will also take most of the stress off of you. A good wedding planner knows all the right people and can negotiate contracts for you which often results in savings.
Before telling the masses, be sure to tell your closest friends and family members. Once you are ready, make your official announcement on social media with an adorable pic of the two of you of course!
While an engagement party is completely optional, you may want to have a small get-together with a few of your nearest and dearest! If budgeting is going to be a concern, you may want to save the expenses for your wedding and skip the engagement party altogether.
The ideal time for an engagement shoot is during golden hour which is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. That’s when you can capture the warm natural light that photographers absolutely love!
The bridal shower is typically hosted by the bride’s mother or parents and also sometimes the maid of honor with the help of the wedding party.
Styles & Themes
Choosing a wedding style is an important first step in planning your wedding. Take into account where you are getting married. Are you classic, trendy, or glam? What season will your wedding be in? What colors do you want in your palette? Once you know all of this it will be much easier to narrow down your style.
While having a theme helps to keep the overall look of your day consistent there are no rules requiring couples to do so! We love when couples think out of the box and create a design that is all their own. have fun with it and only have a theme if it’s important to you.
The typical place setting includes a napkin, placemat, charger, decorative element, glassware, and silverware. We have seen so many beautiful combinations of these elements that truly create a stunning experience for your guests.
Read More: 22 Creative Ways to Style Your Reception Tables
Wedding Day Timeline
Your first look is a special moment between you and your partner or family member and when done properly, they are very quick, usually between 10 and 20 minutes to set up and complete. It’s best to coordinate it with your planner and photographer so that it fits into your wedding day timeline.
Traditionally, the wedding party including the bride and groom do not attend cocktail hour but non-traditional couples are changing this and cherishing the extra time they get to spend with their guests. As an alternative, cocktail hour is a great time to pull people away for quick family photos if you have a packed schedule.
Your photographer will play a pivotal role in your day and they should be one of the first vendors hired once you start planning your wedding. They will need to be made aware of any schedules and timelines and will need to be ready to capture all the important moments of the day. Your planner will also need to work closely with the photographer.
Family photos can be taken after the first look, immediately after the ceremony, during cocktail hour, or after the main course is served during the reception.
When selecting your photographer, it’s best to get an understanding of how many hours of coverage they will provide, how will they help you put together your shot list? Will there be a second photographer on-site to help them? And of course, when you can expect your final gallery to be delivered? There are of course many more questions you should ask but these are great to start with.
Read More: Important Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer – Directly From Wedding Pros
Hair, Makeup, & Beauty
While it is not necessary for all the members of your wedding party to arrive at the same time, it may help to ease the process due to the large number of people involved who will need their hair and makeup done. You can provide a light brunch while they wait their turn and get excited up for the day!
Where you get dressed on the day of your wedding will depend on where your ceremony will be. If you are getting married at a resort with a hotel room, you can get ready on-site in a suite or if you are having a traditional church ceremony many brides choose to get ready at home.
It is not uncommon for the bridal party to contribute to the expenses associated with their beauty services. The best way to approach this is to ask each bridesmaid what services they would like or ask each member for the same amount if they are all getting the same services.
There is no better time to build out a skincare routine! Just be sure to start at least 6 months in advance to make sure you are able to give your skin time to adjust or switch products if you have any reactions to specific ingredients.
Depending on your venue, you may be responsible for setup and tear down immediately before and after the event. Some venues and rental companies will provide these services as part of their package so it’s important to ask this question upfront.
We recommend that you book your venue as soon as you have an ideal month in mind. Many venues book out two years in advance during the most popular wedding months from May to October.
Most venues offer different pricing tiers and packages for weddings. They typically will include options like passed hors d’oeuvres, a top-shelf bar, and a dessert table for an increased cost per person.
Asking your venue how many hours of rental time come with your reception hall reservation is a must before booking any venue. Typically, receptions last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours with an option to extend in half-hour increments.
Many venues that offer on-site ceremony services will also offer a bridal suite where the couple and wedding party can get ready in. If your venue does not offer this, you may want to check out local rental properties or nearby hotels.
The maximum guest capacity at your venue will determine how big your guest list can be. Always ask what their absolute maximum capacity is even if you are planning a small wedding, it’s always good to know you have extra room if you need it.
Venues will usually require a 25% down payment upon signing the contract to reserve your date. They will then work out a payment plan with you. The final payment due when the guest count is finalized ahead of the wedding date.
Almost all venue deposits are non-refundable. Some venues will return a specific percentage of your deposit if you cancel within a specific period of time.
While this is not a big issue for weddings in the warmer months, weddings held in the winter and fall months should consider a coat check service for their guests. Many venues offer this as part of their package so you want to be sure to ask up front.
Your venue may already offer valet or they will be able to recommend a preferred valet vendor who you can contract for this service. This can often be a hidden expense that can’t be overlooked especially if parking is far from the venue and you want to avoid forcing guests to walk long distances in their formal attire.
If your venue does not have other weddings going on that day, you may be able to get early access for your vendors to arrive on-site and set up. This of course will depend on the individual venue and often requires the permission of management.
Most venues will have guidelines on what they will and won’t allow when it comes to decorating. At a minimum you should ask if candles are allowed, confetti, and whether or not you can bring in furniture rentals.
White table linens and napkins are typically built into the contract with your venue or caterer, anything outside of that or in a diffident color will usually result in an extra fee. You may want to ask your venue if they have any specific decorations such as place card displays or seating charts, or wedding signs that they can allow you to use before you look to obtain those elsewhere.
Many venues will charge a ceremony setup fee that is in addition to the reception fee. This can range from anywhere to a flat fee or an additional charge per person.
The on-site coordination will be able to provide you with an idea of how a typical wedding reception room is set up including the cake table, sweetheart table, and any extras like the dessert table and bar.
If you are planning to have your cake displayed, it’s a good idea to ask if they have a dedicated cake table or what your options are for displaying your cake. Your cake can also be set up on the dessert table as well.
A rehearsal dinner can be hosted at a restaurant close to your ceremony site or where the rehearsal will take place. The dinner itself can pretty much be held anywhere you would like depending on how far your wedding party has to travel.
Food, Drinks, & Catering
You should plan to close bar service about 30 minutes before the end of your reception. This will give everyone time to finish their last drink and hit the dancefloor for one final song to end the night.
Alcoholic beverage pricing is usually available in 3 tiers.
1. Beer and wine only – liquor and specialty alcohol are paid in cash by guests.
2. Open Bar – the host covers the cost of all the beverages.
3. Cash Bar – all beverages are paid for by the guests.
This is strictly dependent on your budget, if you are looking to curb expenses you should give strong consideration to having a cash bar. An open bar can cost several thousand depending on how many guests you have and how many drinks they consume.
Most caterers will offer a tasting of their most popular menu items so that you can get an idea of what the food will taste like and what the presentation will be. This can either be a private tasting or an annual tasting where all the couples getting married at the venue that year will have the opportunity to attend. This is also a good time to let your caterer know about any additional questions you have about the food choices.
On the day of your wedding, your vendors will be hard at work making sure everything is perfect. As the couple getting married, you want to be sure they have a plate of food ready for them to eat when they have a moment to do so. You can ask your venue about vendor meal options, these are often given at a reduced cost as well. Your vendors will appreciate the thoughtfulness!
While it’s a nice option to provide choices, your budget may not always allow this. At a minimum your want to have one meat and one vegetarian dish choice. An ideal number would be 3 – 5 choices.
Most venues and caterers will require a minimum number of plates that need to be purchased regardless of how many guests attend. For example, if your venue has a 150 person minimum, you will still need to pay for 150 even if 135 attend.
Gratituiy is not always included so it’s always a good idea to ask about it before you sign any contracts. If you are not sure what you should tip, your wedding planner will be able to guide you. The average percentage is 10% to 15% of your bill but we have also seen upwards of 20%.
Your caterer should be able to address almost any dietary restriction or have alternate options for guests who are not able to eat the standard entrees. With more and more individuals on special diets, they most likely have several options.
In comparison to plated dinners, buffets are often more affordable, and when you are looking to save money, it’s often one of the first adjustments that are made to the menu. Since this is a matter of preference, either option is a good choice.
You may have to pay a fee to serve to your caterer to have them cut and serve the cake at your wedding. Oftentimes, If the venue has in-house catering, couples will see a fee for wedding cake brought in from an outside vendor. While this is a small fee per person, it can add up quickly with a large guest list.
Decor & Rentals
Invitations & Stationary
It’s a good idea to send thank you notes within the three months after your wedding. Thank you cards can go a long way in letting your guests know they are appreciated and they are a great way to individually thank them for their thoughtful gift. If you had a huge guest list and would rather not write hundreds of thank you cards, you can order a pre-written note that will be printed inside each card that you can send along with a photo from your day.
Ceremony & Reception
Guest List Basics
If the invitation you receive in the mail does not specify a guest, it typically means that only you are invited. In an effort to save money, some couples will only include significant others if they are married or in a serious relationship instead of leaving it open for a plus one. On the other hand, people are generally more open to attending if they can bring a date so this is something the couple should consider when mailing out the invites