As the famous Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Have you ever thought about preparing to plan your wedding? (And no, I’m not talking about that wedding Pinterest board you’ve had for the last 5 years 😉). It might sound kind of strange, considering the fact that wedding planning itself has to do with preparing for a wedding day. But one of the very best pieces of advice I could give to couples is - before doing ANY type of planning - to prepare to plan.
The questions below were carefully collected and crafted over years of meeting with engaged couples. Many couples aren’t sure what to expect or how to proceed with planning because they’ve literally never done it before. It’s like, you get engaged, and all of a sudden you’re supposed to know exactly what to do, how to plan, what wedding vendors cost, etc.?! I don’t think so!
As a recent bride myself (August 2015), even with WORKING in the wedding industry while planning, I felt overwhelmed with where to start and what I should be focusing on. So today, I’m excited to share five crucial questions to discuss with your fiancé before you begin wedding planning, so that you can plan your wedding a bit more prepared!
1. What makes us excited about marriage?
First things first: even though you have a wedding to plan (yay!), it’s so important to focus on the marriage you’re working towards, not just the wedding day. Consider this your invitation to close your Pinterest browser and pump the breaks on creating your wedding website.. It might sound silly or obvious, but knowing why you are excited about marriage and why you want to get married is so much more important than any sort of budget or priorities when it comes to your wedding day.
This first question is actually one of my favorites to ask couples when I meet with them at our initial consultation. In my mind, it sets a tone for talking about the wedding day: through the lens of marriage. I hope that, by starting with this question, we’re putting what really matters first and constantly pointing back towards the ultimate reason for the wedding: the marriage.
2. What are our priorities when it comes to our wedding?
Let’s face it: weddings can be expensive, and sometimes a budget can force you to choose what’s most important. Knowing your priorities when it comes to vendors will help you decide where to allocate the majority of your budget.
When Nick and I were planning our wedding, we decided to name our top three priorities (it might be a different number for you): the venue, the photography, and our honeymoon. We decided to allocate the majority of our budget to those three categories, and then do the best we could with other expenses associated with our day. And to be honest? I’m SO glad we set those priorities from the get-go, because it helped drive our decisions for many of the other choices related to our wedding day. For example, we said “no” to floral centerpieces and created them ourselves. We said “no” to a big cake and got a small one for us to share, with sheet cakes for guests in the back. We said “no” to a lot more other things, too, but it allowed us to say “yes” to things like our dream venue, an amazing photographer, and an unforgettable honeymoon in Disney.
As a sort-of side note, something else that was a priority to us was marriage counseling, which was something we budgeted for and pursued in the months leading up to our wedding day (yes – before we were married). We knew that, while we could put tons and tons of effort into our wedding day, if we didn’t focus on building a solid foundation for our marriage from the start, all of our wedding planning would be in vain!
3. What should we expect to spend on quality vendors?
It’s important to know what seasoned vendors in your area charge before deciding on a budget for your wedding day. If photography is one of the priorities for your wedding because you know it’s one of the few things you’ll have once your wedding day is over, know what a quality, seasoned photographer charges in your area, and make that a priority in your budget. In contrast, even if something is not a priority – for example, your cake – know what the going rate is for a seasoned baker anyways, so you can know what to expect to allocate in your budget for someone who might be newer to baking, or even to a friend who might be interested in helping!
4. Are there any connections who can help us with the parts of the day we’re willing to compromise on?
Speaking of a friend baking your cake – if there are parts of the day you’re willing to compromise on that aren’t a part of your “big three” (or whatever number) priorities, consider your connections. We were blessed to have connections with a caterer who was willing to give us a friends and family discount, as well as a florist who pretty much did our wedding flowers at cost (just because she loves arranging flowers!). But here’s a BIG tip within this question: never expect someone to do something for you for free, or even discounted. Many people who want to “break in” to the wedding market (who may have another full time job) are willing to do things a bit cheaper than those whose full time income comes from bookings, which is totally fine! But it can be tough when someone asks you to give a discount for a service or product that literally puts food on their family’s table.
5. What can we actually spend?
Or, as an article from popular wedding blog Junebug Weddings puts it: “How much money do we want to spend? Vs. How much money can we actually spend?”
It’s one thing knowing how much a service or product costs, but it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame knowing how much you can actually spend for that service or product! Knowing your priorities, knowing how much your “priority” services/products cost, and knowing how much you have left to spend on your “compromise” services and products will give you a rough idea of what you can actually spend on your wedding day. The keys here are to be realistic and to know what you feel comfortable spending.
And now that you’re prepared to begin planning - happy planning! If you’re in need of some additional resources to help with your wedding planning and preparation, feel free to scroll through the blog archives for more tips, tricks, and advice related to wedding photography and behind!