Updated: Feb 6, 2020
First things first: Planning a wedding can feel pretty overwhelming at times. While couples often hire a professional to help manage their wedding plans, there are plenty of reasons why they might also opt to take on the majority of the responsibilities on their own, too. Maybe you’re working with a tight wedding planning budget or maybe you simply love all of the DIY possibilities—in any case, it's a lot of extra details, but it is possible to plan the wedding of your dreams on your own!
Also no, not all of these images are my photos. A lot of them where chosen to get my point across and convey the messages I needed to convey. However, feel free to play a game and see what images are mine and message me later with a number count! lol
Set Your Wedding Budget—and Stick to It
Your wedding budget will be the driving factor for many of your wedding-related decisions, so this should be one of the first things you tackle. If any family members will be contributing, chat with them about what they’re comfortable spending. If you’re footing the bill yourself, it’s time to take a hard look at your finances. Once you’ve got that magic number, stick to it!
Create a List of Wedding Day Priorities
Sit down with your partner and determine what the three most important aspects of your wedding will be. Is it the food and drinks? The venue or specific wedding date? Locking in a certain wedding photographer or live band? Prioritize those details and be willing to compromise on the rest. This will help you stay within your budget.
Determine Your Bridal Style
With so many sources of inspiration out there, it can be a bit overwhelming. Find a few resources you like best—on Pinterest, Instagram, trusty bridal sites (including Brides.com, of course!)—and start researching. Having a good sense of the type of wedding style you want helps immensely once you start meeting with potential vendors. Creating one or more Pinterest boards—or even a visual collage on a cork board or poster board—will help you to figure out what sort of look and feel you really want.
...Then Limit Your Options
Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the wedding day inspiration that’s out there—which can be distracting, to say the least. Once you've honed in on your particular wedding style, try to stay focused on ideas and inspo that align with your larger vision.
You can use checklists, spreadsheets, Word/Excel/Google Docs—anything, really—as long as you can gather all your thoughts, budgets, numbers, etc., in one place. There are also some great online tools and apps out there that can keep you organized.
Involve Your Significant Other
Don't feel like you're in this wedding planning process alone. Consult with and ask your partner for help along the way; their trusted opinion is bound to be invaluable and—even if they're only involved in some aspects—it makes wedding planning that much more fun when you can make decisions together.
Purchase a Wedding Planning Book
For couples who opt to take on the wedding planning process sans a professional planner or coordinator, a traditional etiquette and guidebook (such as Mindy's The Wedding Book) is a wealth of information and expert advice, including tips and tricks and even examples of timelines and checklists. (And of course, you can always search Brides for answers to your planning and wedding etiquette questions!)
Create a Master Checklist
You can find tons of examples in wedding planning books and I've even created one for you right here! The checklist is broken down by the months, weeks, and even days leading up to the wedding. (Feel free to adapt it to suit your own needs, as necessary).
Don’t Rush Into Decisions
It may be enticing to book the first photographer or florist you meet, but when it comes to booking wedding vendors, it's essential to not rush into any decisions. Consider at least a few different options to make sure these important wedding day partners understand your vision and can also work within your budget.
Think About Dates (and Seasons)
Are you envisioning a spring garden wedding? Or do you want to be surrounded by gorgeous autumn leaves on your big day? Choose a few ideal dates for your wedding and try to be flexible, if possible, so you’re not constrained when trying to book a venue and your wedding vendors.
Select a Theme
Whether it’s specific wedding colors, seasonal or style inspiration, or an actual theme (like the Roaring Twenties or Festival Chic, for example), sometimes it's helpful to choose a concept to design your wedding around. Once you have a concept in mind, it's easier to make design decisions, and generally, everything look more cohesive.
Choose Your Wedding Party Wisely
The friends and family you ask to be a part of your wedding party are there for emotional and tactical support throughout the wedding planning process and on the big day, of course! Consult with your partner to decide what size wedding party works best for the two of you—keeping in mind the expenses that come along with this special responsibility. Think about who you really want standing next to you during this monumental occasion.
Start Working on Your Guest List
Making decisions about the wedding guest list can be a complicated process and one that will depend largely on your venue and budget. Sit down with your partner and key family members to put together a wish list of wedding guests. Chances are, you’ll need to make some cuts. You'll also need to decide whether you’re inviting children and who will be allotted a plus one.
Talk to Other Married Couples
Have you recently attended a wedding that you really enjoyed? By all means, ask that couple for advice and insights! They probably have some expert tips and tricks that they learned along the way that they'd be more than happy to share with you. Sometimes, friends and family are the best resources.
Look out for part two of this post as it will be hitting your email very soon!