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Planning Your Wedding 101

Jun 13, 2017 3 min read Susan Johnston Taylor

Key Takeaways

  • Figure out your guest list before you do anything else.
  • Set your priorities with your family and your wedding party.
  • Register for gifts as soon as you can.


So you’ve found that special person and gotten engaged. That’s the happy, romantic part, but now comes the harder part — planning the wedding. 

Tackling those wedding-planning tasks can be quite daunting, but fear not, because help is on the way. Here are some tips on how you can start to prepare for your big day without becoming too overwhelmed. 



Craft your guest list 

Before you can book a venue or get catering quotes, you need to figure out how many people you will invite. Sit down with your significant other to get a head count. Will it be an intimate ceremony with only immediate family and close friends, or will it be a large gathering? Will single guests be able to bring a plus one? Do you plan to include children, or make it an adults-only affair? 

Don’t make any verbal invites until you’ve had this discussion. Otherwise, you will risk hurting someone’s feelings if you have to strike them from the list. 

If you and your partner have large families, or your parents want to invite all their golf buddies, you may have some tough choices to make. 

However, you can entertain a larger group with some creative trade-offs. For example, if your budget can’t accommodate a formal dinner for 200 people, consider a brunch reception or an afternoon of champagne and cupcakes. 


Set your priorities

Relatives, bridesmaids, wedding planners and even well-meaning strangers will all have suggestions for your big day. Before your budget spirals out of control with chocolate fountains and live doves, discuss priorities with your soon-to-be spouse in order to guide each decision. 

For example, if you and your partner both care about live music and beautiful photography, you can spend more in those areas and perhaps scale back on catering or flowers. If there are items you and your partner disagree on, make an effort to compromise. 

Try to always keep in mind that you and your soon-to-be spouse are the most important decision-makers when it comes to your wedding day, even if his mother or your aunt Matilda may think otherwise.


Register for gifts

As soon as you announce your engagement, people will want to know when you’re getting married and where you’re registered. Register early and send out an email link to your registry so eager relatives won’t order something you already have or don’t want.

If your home is already outfitted with dishes and linens, new online registries allow you to register for honeyfunds, where guests can pay for a portion of your flight or a sightseeing excursion. You can also create a charity registry, where guests can donate to causes you care about. 


Book a venue

Ordering table runners, trying on dresses and designing centerpieces is fun, but choosing a venue should take precedence. If you fall in love with a rustic farmhouse, you might decide to nix the modern décor you’d originally planned. Plus, venue policies and availability may dictate which time of year you book and whether you’re allowed to light candles or buy your own alcohol (which could save you a bundle). 

The venue is also likely to be among the largest line items on your wedding budget, so once you’ve crossed that off your list, you’ll know how much money you can spend in other areas. You may find that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on decorations, because that garden or courtyard you booked already boasts gorgeous greenery. 


Consider the wedding dress

Soon after an engagement, a bride-to-be’s thoughts might turn to their wedding dress. Should they shop for a brand-new dress, have one made especially for them or go with altering a dress once worn by a family member? Also, should they go with traditional white or find something a bit more modern and colorful?

There are many choices to consider, and some that offer cost-saving options as well. Wedding dresses are usually only worn once, so you can often find beautiful, almost new gowns from a resale boutique or online. Bonus: The dress could be your “something old.” 

Either way, don’t let anyone else talk you into their idea of what a wedding dress should be — even if that means you’ll be wearing a snazzy purple dress as you walk down the aisle. Again, this is your wedding day and no one else’s, and you should do what makes you feel the happiest.


Bottom Line

Planning a wedding can be stressful, so breaking it down into manageable steps and focusing on the key areas that matter to you as a couple can help make your special day an enjoyable — rather than a nerve-wracking — one.  


Susan Johnston Taylor  writes about small business, entrepreneurship and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Entrepreneur, Fast Company and the money section of U.S. News & World Report online.



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