Starting to plan a wedding is a lot like embarking on a long-term relationship. There’s the blissful honeymoon phase, where you want to announce your nuptials to everyone who will listen and you stay up late into the night imagining champagne fountains and caviar for everyone. Then reality sets in. You start noticing the nitty-gritty details: inviting your entire sorority will cost you 15,000 additional dollars, and your favorite chapel is under renovations for all of March, April, and May.
However, just like a romantic relationship, it’s during the “reality phase” that things start to get really interesting and rewarding. (You do like long-term relationships, don’t you?) Sure, some of the starry-eyed mystery might be gone. But the more you sculpt your wedding fantasy into reality, the closer you get to the day when you’ll say your vows to your beloved. Now that’s something to have starry eyes about!
Pick a Date
The first important decision you have to make is when you’ll say your vows. Take into consideration seasonal preferences, like whether you want a spring, summer, autumn, or winter wedding. Think about any special upcoming dates, such as the anniversary of your engagement or a calendar date with special numbers. Decide whether you want to avoid special occasions, such as holidays and birthdays–or whether you want to pursue them. Don’t forget to plan around local events, such as annual conventions or college orientation weeks, that will leave all hotels in the area crammed full.
If you don’t have a set date in mind, it may help to put out tentative feelers among your closest family and friends to find out what dates work best for them. Families with schoolchildren, as well as friends who travel often for work, may only have a few free dates in common. If certain people are very important to you, let their schedules narrow down the range of possible dates. That way, regardless of the temperature outside, you know that you’ll be getting married surrounded by your nearest and dearest.
Cement Your Guest List
Before you start flipping through magazines for table-decorating ideas, cement your guest list in stone. The number of guests you’re hosting is the single most important factor in not only setting your wedding budget, but also in determining your wedding venue. Even outdoor weddings on public land (like parks and beaches) often have strict limits on head counts. Quite simply, you can’t start planning your wedding before you have a firm number of guests in mind.
Sure, you can limit the number of invitations you send. But how do you know how many people will come? The key to determining your head count is starting early. Send Save the Date cards as soon as you get engaged–you don’t have to give any details besides the wedding date and location. Some couples even send Save the Dates with tentative dates, asking guests to reserve a weekend or to vote for their preferred date, and tentative locations (like “somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area”).
Ask your would-be guests to RSVP ASAP. Then remind them again. And again. Call and email your guests until you have as many definite responses as you can get. Then, move on to your second-tier guests. Push them for RSVPs. Move on to your third-tier guests, and repeat as needed. It may sound unpleasant to divide your guests into tiers, but for wedding planning, it’s just common sense. If you invite too many people from the beginning, you may end up in a situation where you can’t afford to host them all–and that’s not good for anyone.
Lock Down Your Venue
Once you have your guest list cemented (give or take a few people, of course; if your pregnant friend’s due date is around the same time as your wedding you can’t exactly press her for a commitment), it’s time to lock down your venue. Let the venue management know how many people you plan to host–it will often determine which rooms you can rent.
Since a few guests may bring unexpected dates (it’s rude, but not unheard-of), give your guest list a little bit of padding to ensure that no one will be turned away at the door because of fire codes. You’ll also need to leave room for any outside catering staff, photographers, and other wedding vendors who will be arriving with you. If you’re bringing your guests to a second venue after the ceremony, be sure to lock that location down as well.
With your wedding date, guest list, and venue guaranteed, you can breathe a little easier. Sure, there are other essentials to orchestrate, but they include more pleasant outings–like dress shopping and cake tasting!
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.