Wedding Pre-Planning Checklist: 10 Things to Do First.

You just got engaged. Yay! Now what?  When you first get popped the big question, you are so excited you’re head is spinning. What will be our first dance song? What will my mom say? How will I cope with his mom? Where will we go on honeymoon?

But when the dust settles and the engagement excitement subsides, it can be quite daunting. Where do you even begin?

We talked to the world’s most organized and stress-free brides (ours) and boiled down the basics for you. So get a pen. This is about to get real.

10 Easy Steps to Begin Pre-Planning Your Wedding

1. Start a Wedding Binder

This will be your bible for your entire planning process. Do not lose it. If you’re a digital-native, swap the word ‘binder’ for an app. There is a great wedding planning app here. Many of our brides prefer a physical binder because it serves as a keepsake that they treasure for years to come. Get a super-cute binder from Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. Make sure it’s at least 1.5” or larger. There will be a lot of wedding gold in there, don’t skimp! Here is a cheat sheet of all the contents of your binder. Please personalize and tailor it to your needs and personality. But it’s a great start!



2. Figure Out Who’s Paying and What is the Wedding Budget

You might be paying; your favorite old rich aunt might be paying. It’s important to determine who wishes to contribute to funding this special day of yours and how much they (you) are willing to spend. If you are gathering contributions from several places, pull it all together and determine how much you have. From there, we have a few simple figures that can help allocate those dollars into categories. Industry averages tell us you’ll spend:

42-50% on Venue, Food & Beverage

8-20% on Photography/ Videography

8-10% on Attire

6-16% on Décor

6-10% on Entertainment

5-15% on a Wedding Planner

4-5% on an Emergency Fund (just in case)

3-7% on Stationery / Paper Goods

2-8% on Miscellaneous (Transportation, photo booth, gifts, favors, etc.)

2-3% on Ceremony Specifics

3. Decide Who Can Help You (this is your wedding party)

First, decide if you event want to have bridesmaids. Then, if you do, really take some time to consider who will be able to help you. Who of your close friends or family are a calming influence, and who are the ones you always need to talk off the ledge. (Hint: it’s the former that you want to help clasp your dress in the ladies room on your wedding day.) Which of your cousins or college roommates give you energy, and which ones leave you exhausted? You get the idea. Just remember, once you pop this big question: “Will you be a bridesmaid?” You can’t go back. So take your time to really think it through.

4. Decide on a Wedding Date

Are you picturing a winter wonderland? Or a tropical island nuptial? Is a holiday weekend important to you? You want to take weather into account – what is your favorite season? The most popular months to get married are June, September and October. Here in Maryland, the Fall is absolutely exquisite, but you can also find gorgeous Mid-Atlantic weather in April and November. The advantages of an off-season date include a probable discount by choosing off-peak timing.

The same applies for days of the week. You can probably save money on the wedding of your dreams by choosing a Friday or Sunday wedding date. Milton Ridge’s pricing accounts for discounts in off-season and alternative days of the week dates. The biggest advice our brides can offer is to first check with important friends and family members to avoid double booking your wedding date with another occasion already booked. Clear everyone’s calendar before committing to a date.

5. Get Engagement Photos Done

Many people want to get professional engagement photos taken to document the memories of this special time in both your lives. Most of us simply have selfies and iphone photos to commemorate this life event, and when you get engaged, it feels more appropriate to get it done for reals. This is a time to get a more laid-back photo shoot than your official wedding photos, and it feeds your wedding website and engagement announcement needs.

Also, many wedding photographers offer an engagement photo session when you book a wedding package. Some offer mini-sessions, which are cheaper and shorter. Think of this as your practice wedding photo session – test out hair styles, make up, and even poses. This is a chance to get comfortable with a photographer, and give them a test drive for the big day.

6. Tour Different Wedding Venues – a Wedding Pre-Planning Checklist MUST

Now, here’s the million-dollar question: should a couple choose the wedding venue before having a guest list, or should they get a guest count and then choose the venue? Since so many venues book up in the peak months quickly, this is a serious consideration. It’s not easy to have a guest list early on in the wedding planning process. The answer is, get a rough guestimate. Is it bigger than a breadbox? Having a rough idea your ideal wedding size will be important as you select venues. You do not need to know exact numbers, but having a general idea – 50, 80 125 or 300 guests – will narrow down venue choices.

You’ll also want to visit the venue during the time of day you want your wedding to be. Lighting is extremely important, not just for the day of the wedding, but the photos that you’ll cherish for years after. Finally, make a list of questions before you go visit. When you go to visit venues, you’ll be very excited. You might get swept away in the beauty of it all and forget to ask important questions. Make the list first. Then think of even more questions. Here are some great questions our brides ask us at Milton Ridge: “How many weddings are held here in one a day? Who will be here helping me the actual day of the wedding? Do you have any construction or landscape changes coming up before my wedding? Do you anticipate any changes to the venue before the wedding day?”

7. Research Photographers, Entertainment, and Florists

Do your research. But don’t just search the internet. Ask friends for recommendations. We can offer a whole host of recommendations for wedding photographers, bands, djs and florists – but you have to feel comfortable with whoever you choose. Relationships matter. Make a mental model of yourself on your wedding day – what type of person do you want taking photos of you getting into your dress.

Be aware of how potential vendors deal with your initial contact: How do they react, how quickly do they respond, and how do they conduct themselves? Look for a diverse portfolio when you’re hiring any vendor. You want to see a body of work with a consistent level of quality — not a one-trick pony who can only do one style or genre. In the early days, you’ll just be getting a sense of your own taste, so don’t stress at this stage. Enjoy it.

8. Shop for a Dress

The wedding dress shopping process can be a day at Disneyworld for some, and a day at Disneyworld for others. Meaning it can be the best day of your life, or it can be a rainy, stressful, unproductive hot mess of a day. The key is bring 2-3 people (at most) who give you energy and don’t stress you out. Try on dresses that you might wear in real life – if you don’t wear asymmetrical boob dresses IRL, then don’t wear them on your wedding day. Go to a store with an in-store seamstress. If the dress you buy doesn’t work on your body when it comes in, you’ll want the store to have a vested interest in ensuring it fits when you leave. One final tip: do not ignore pre-owned dresses! Many of our brides have had huge successes with couture pre-owned dresses at a fraction of the cost of a new dress (and they were in perfect condition).

9. Launch a Wedding Website

A wedding website is a great way to get the exciting news out, share photos, logistics information, updates, etc. You’ll want to include the following information on your wedding site:

Your love story – how you met, fell in love, engagement story

Who’s Who in the Bridal Party – how everyone is related to you

The Details of the Big Day – date, time, venue, attire, hotel info

Gift Registry – where they can buy you stuff you actually want

Guest Book – a place that friends and family can comment on how happy they are for you!

There are lots of tools you can use from Wix, WordPress and SquareSpace to wedding sites like Wedding Wire, the Knot or NearlyWeds. You can also create a Facebook page or a hashtag so wedding guests can connect and comment leading up to the day. Think about what social media tools and websites you use the most, and lean in that direction.

10. Dream about Your Honeymoon

Phew! You’ve done a whole lotta pre-planning. It’s time to sit back, and daydream about how luxurious it will be when it’s all over, and you and your boo can relax somewhere idyllic.

Need some advice?

If you need any help thinking through these first few months, contact us to walk you through the pre-planning process. We can also connect you with Milton Ridge brides who would be happy to share their experiences.

Contact us to book a free consultation today!

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36 thoughts on “What to Do First: Wedding Pre-Planning Checklist

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