I'm a published wedding and portrait photographer located in a small town outside of Charlottesville. In addition to capturing beautiful images, I love spending time with my family, am freakishly good at word games (Hey Wheelmobile!), love an ice cold can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, know every line to Hocus Pocus and can never pass up a Chick-fil-A waffle fry or a trip to HomeGoods.
Congratulations! You’re engaged. So now what? Wedding planning can be super overwhelming because chances are, it’s something you’ve never done before. There are budgets, venues, selecting vendors, picking dresses, invitations and more, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Planning a wedding can actually be super fun. So now that you have something sparkly on that all important finger, here’s five things you can do next to get your planning ball rolling.
I know this isn’t sexy or romantic, but things happen and a solid insurance policy will protect your new jewelry. It’s possible your fiancee already thought about this and insured the ring, but if not, you can easily add a personal valuables policy to your existing car or home insurance. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but it’ll be there in case you do.
This is a great time to think about hiring a planner. Sara Kite, creative director of Faded Poppy, said a planner can help navigate the process of creating your wedding. In their Waynesboro-based business, Sara and her husband, Jason, offer planning and day-of coordination as well as floral arrangements. They’ve participated in approximately 250-275 weddings to-date.
“Although most clients assume a planner will be outside their budget, the fact is they will save them valuable time and money finding and hiring vendors that align with the couple’s vision and budget,” Sara Kite said. “If the couple can absolutely not afford a planner, I would suggest downloading a wedding planning app.”
Kite said there are many free wedding planning apps available, but one of her favorites is The Knot app (available on the App Store and Google Play).
“This will help with scheduling, to-do lists and keeping track of their budget,” Kite said.
Another thing brides can do to get organized is to create the all important wedding binder. Think Bride Wars with the big three-ring binder.
“Get a binder with lots of room for folders, organizing tabs, extra paper, calendar, planning stickers and a pen bag,” Kite said.
While she recommends keeping all original contracts at home in a desk drawer or file cabinet, she suggests making photo copies of each to include in the binder with one folder for each vendor.
“Print Pinterest ideas to keep inside, magazine pages, dried flowers, dress fabric swatches, color swatches, etc.,” Kite said. “Stickers aren’t necessary, but will make the process more fun!”
She said the app and the binder can be used together with the app making finding names, dates, times, budget and more easy on the go when the binder may not be on-hand.
This one is tough. I remember trying to figure out a wedding budget with my now-husband. It’s not super fun, but it’s important to start out with a clear overall budget.
“Budget dictates the planning whether that be with a planner or on your own,” Kite said. “Identifying an overall budget is the first thing. What are you comfortable spending and do you have any additional funds coming from parents or extended family?”
Kite said once a budget is identified, break it down by how much will be allocated to each area—venue, dress, catering, etc. She said, on average, the cost of a wedding in the Greater Charlottesville area ranges from $20,000 to $45,000.
“That can be shocking to hear, but it’s a realistic number that you should prepare for seeing at the end of the process,” she said. “A tip on staying within your identified budget is to listen to the professionals. No one knows your budget better than the person giving you a quote. Ask them how to stay within budget and heed their advice.”
Another tip, Kite said, is to avoid buying all the things you may see on Etsy and Pinterest because those costs can add up quickly.
Picking a date is super personal. For me, when I was wedding planning, I chose a season (fall) and then a month (September) and then looked at the four Saturdays and picked one (18). The first Saturday was too close to Labor Day and the second was 9-11 which is such a hard day and memory for everyone. Then the last was two days before my mother’s birthday so the 18th made the most sense.
Kite said there a few things to keep in mind when choosing a wedding date.
“Venues book years in advance as do photographers and planners,” she said. “Call them with a few dates before settling on one. Festivals, sporting events and holidays can affect availability, costs and access to hotels, venues and amenities so do your research.”
She also said weather will be a major factor and should be considered. It also affects which venue you select.
“If you choose a date in June, you need air conditioning, but you’ll also need to be prepared for a quick rain shower that could kick you into plan B,” she said, noting that thankfully, many Virginia venues have amazing plan Bs.
Here comes the fun part! Theme? No theme? Bright colors? Bold colors? Moody colors? Books, Harry Potter and more. There’s inspiration out there for every wedding vision.
“Pinterest is a favorite of our clients, Instagram and lots and lots of good blogs out there like Chic Vintage Brides and Green Wedding Shoes,” Kite said.
However, she said, inspiration should be just that—inspiration.
“These things should only inspire your day,” she said. “The real wedding should reflect your relationship and personalities. If Pinterest planning is getting too overwhelming or you are just at a loss ask your vendors. They’ll help you identify what you like and then soon your wedding style will start to appear.”
So, now that you have the ring, get started on these five things. Don’t worry; there’s way more to come, but baby steps. Start small ya’ll!