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How to Start Wedding Planning Your First Steps Checklist

How to Start Wedding Planning: Your First Steps Checklist

You’ve just got engaged and can’t wait to start planning your wedding, the most wonderful and exciting journey! It can feel pretty overwhelming to begin with, so I hope I can help you through the entire planning process, from your first wedding planning checklists to how to budget for your wedding and everything in between.

I hope you’ll find this article a great start, but all the advice in the world can’t substitute actually getting started, and the best way to do that is with the little white book wedding planner.

3 things to do before you start wedding planning (which will help you plan)

1. Write down your priorities

Before you begin planning your wedding, I hope you’ll take a little time to celebrate your engagement. Enjoy and reflect on this life-changing time, and what you want for your ‘Big Day’ before you really begin wedding planning. If you dive in too fast without really giving thought to what’s important to you, it’s easy to get swept away, or caught up, with organising all kinds of wedding elements – some of which you mightn’t even want.

I suggest you think about the real purpose of your wedding, the ‘why’ instead of just the ‘how’ and the ‘what’.

The next few months are going to be incredibly fun, as you start to think about and organise the big day of your dreams. Before you start working methodically (or manically) through tasks though, have a few weeks of calm to celebrate your engagement. The magic of your partner proposing, and you agreeing to marry them is a momentous occasion. Your engagement is a symbolic moment, as your relationship changes for eternity – to marry and commit to a lifetime someone is SO very special.


What does that mean to you? What significance does marriage have to you, in terms of family values, or or committing yourselves to each other, and the world, as one? Think about your purpose for marrying, and for having a wedding. Write about your proposal – the moment you agreed to marry him or her, the planning that went into the occasion – whether any family members knew, whether you had any idea, how you felt, and how you celebrated. Who did you tell first, did you immediately call friends and family, or did you keep it to yourself for a while?

These are just a couple of questions I suggest you give a little thought to – set your wedding planning intentions, so that you can plan mindfully. Write your thoughts and purpose down in your wedding planner, and if/when you start to feel a little of the pressure of wedding planning getting to you, remind yourself of those intentions. In years to come you can look back on them.

2. Discuss with your fiancé – are you on the same page?

Talk to your fiancé about what you both envision for your special day, what marriage means to you, and what traditions or customs are meaningful to you. Think about your relationship, what makes you unique, what is it that draws you to each other?

Once you feel really comfortable that you know the purpose, the meaning, and the reason for planning a wedding, keep that in mind as you move through the planning process. If you feel yourself getting carried away, return to your purpose.

Before discussing your wedding plans and priorities with your families and friends, discuss with just your fiance any particular visions you want. Find your purpose and keep coming back to that. I suggest you think about the real purpose of your wedding, the ‘why’ instead of just the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. Talk to your fiancé about what you both envision for your special day, what marriage means to you, and what traditions or customs are meaningful to you. Think about your relationship, what makes you unique, what is it that draws you to each other?

Consider whether you both want your parents’ input, in terms of financial contributions, and what this contribution might mean. Will your parents want to invite their friends too, and how much ‘help’ you want towards decision-making and planning. Will you lose sight of your purpose if you have too much involvement? One of the hardest thing about wedding planning is often negotiating and managing family relationships and expectations, so discuss and agree with your partner before you cross that bridge.

3. Set your wedding priorities to plan with purpose

Related to the first step, but his time, think about what a wedding actually looks like to you – what are your intentions for this day. Is it an intimate and private celebration, a huge party, are you more focussed on a long reception meal with lots of courses and speeches, or do you want more time on the dancefloor and mingling with your friends and family? If you set your wedding priorities before you begin, you can continue to return to them any time you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed. Your priorities are the few elements of your wedding on which you put first and perhaps even those which you splurge on. However, that might mean readjusting your wedding budget and cutting out some of those elements which aren’t so important – and that’s totally okay!


Your first steps – finding your wedding venue (but first…)


The first booking to made is usually your wedding reception venue, but you can’t really make this decision until you have considered your ideal date, your guest list and your wedding budget.


Begin Wedding Planning with a Guest List

Before you even think about booking a reception venue and sending out your wedding invitations, you need to give your guest list some careful consideration. Whether you can afford a large wedding party with all of your friends and family; whether the venue of your dreams has capacity for everyone on your list; and whether you really want to organise a large wedding party.

The more guests you have at your wedding, the less time you’ll actually be able to spend with each of them, not to mention the level of extra work required for a big wedding and the expense. If you already have a wedding venue in mind, double-check their guest capacity.

Otherwise, if you’re flexible for venue and budget, start wedding planning by writing down the names of every person you’d like to see on your wedding day, and work from there. This may also give you an indication as to what style of wedding you envisage, and make sure to keep returning to your purpose. For more help with this go to how to start your guest list).

Don’t Start Wedding Planning without a Budget

Just like your purpose, you will return to your wedding budget often and one of the first steps to wedding planning must be to start it. Without an idea of your wedding budget expectations, you can’t possibly commit to a ceremony or reception venue or any other wedding vendors.

It’s a good idea to sit down early, talk it over with your fiancé, and any parents or family members who may offer to make a contribution to your budget. Start working out your finances well in advance (see more via the wedding budget guide).

Set a Wedding Date

This too will tie in with your budget, as if you don’t have your savings organised, or won’t be able to do so within, say 12 months til your wedding, you might want to consider a longer engagement and therefore a later date.

Are there any particularly special dates to you, such as your first date, or the proposal date? Looking at your guest list, are there certain people who will only be able to make it at a certain time of year (overseas friends coming back for Christmas, for example)? Keep in mind that 75% of brides still wish to get married on a Saturday, and most will get married in summer, so don’t wait too long to book if you have a certain date in mind.

What Style of Wedding do you Want?

You don’t need to have completely determined your wedding style prior to starting wedding planning, because with the right decor you can transform almost any room. However, The more styling or changing a venue will need to suit your style, the more it will cost, so to stick to a budget, it may be best to choose a venue which needs little in the way of decor. If you’re likely to want a classic and elegant wedding, a barnyard reception venue may not be right for your big day. There’s no point in wasting precious planning time (or should I say wedding-cake tasting time) by visiting wedding venues which don’t fit your style. It can be hard to imagine how different a venue can look once it is decorated, so I would suggest firstly working out your ideal style, and then asking the venues whether they have photos of any similar looks they have achieved before.

Finally, once you’ve worked out your guest list, budget, date options and style preferences, now you can finally begin finding your wedding venue. I’ve written specific articles on Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch wedding venues, otherwise you can head to the Top 10 New Zealand wedding destinations or to How to find your wedding venueIf you’re outside of New Zealand, I suggest finding directory wedding websites in your local area.

If you’ve come this far, don’t leave without a copy of the little white wedding planning bundle to keep you on track every step of the way.

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