How to Plan a Wedding from Beginning to End

wedding budget worksheet
Download a helpful wedding budget worksheet.

Do you know how to plan a wedding from beginning to end? Unless you're an experienced wedding planner, the answer to that question is probably not. Every year, hundreds of brides and grooms manage to get married without necessarily knowing all the ins and outs of wedding planning.

Planning a Wedding

From the moment you become engaged, you will likely begin imagining your dream wedding. What that magical day looks like, however, can be very different depending on your upbringing, your culture, your financial situation, and your personality.

It's a good idea to create a wedding planning checklist when first starting out. However, many of the important elements and steps of a wedding that need to be addressed are the same, no matter how extravagant or simple you choose to make your wedding.

Budget

How much money can you spend on your wedding? Some individuals prefer to save their money for a honeymoon or even for a future home. Others, choose to spend their entire wedding budget on the event itself. Decide early how much you want to spend and try to stick to it. This will be the basis for planning all other aspects of the wedding.

If you need help downloading the printable budget, check out these helpful tips.

Date

Weddings can be planned quickly, even within weeks, or as far in advance as a year or more. When setting a date, be sure to take into consideration weather and season, especially if guests will be traveling to attend the ceremony or if you'd like an outdoor wedding.

Location

There are many indoor and outdoor sites that work well for wedding ceremonies. The most important factor is that you feel that the location reflects the theme, level of formality, and the personalities of both the bride and the groom. Get started with one of these ideas:

  • The Beach: Beach weddings are generally considered casual with members of the bridal party going barefoot or wearing shorter dresses, so as not to drag in the sand. Wind, dirt, and casual passersby can also be a challenge if you're hoping for a more formal occasion.
  • Places of Worship: For religious ceremonies, churches, cathedrals, temples and other places of worship represent a symbolic pact under the creator's eyes. Many religious brides and grooms consider it imperative to get married in a place of worship, so choosing a location may be as simple as speaking to your pastor or priest.
  • Private Homes or Clubs: If you'd prefer an indoor ceremony where you can control all the elements, choosing a private home or club is the ideal place to marry. A private location ensures you won't have non-attendees passing by or "crashing" the wedding itself.
  • Public Places: Town or state parks, lakes, museums, theatres, and even zoos are all unique public places that often host weddings or receptions.

Ceremony

The ceremony is the basis for any wedding and generally consists of an exchange of vows, witnessed by friends and family, and officiated by an ordained minister or official. Ceremonies range from simple to lavish, depending on a variety of factors.

Officiate

Once you've chosen the date and location, you'll need to find someone to marry you during the ceremony. This can be an ordained minister, an authorized official, or even a family member or friend. In some states, citizens are allowed to become marriage officiates for a short period of time.

Dress

Many women consider choosing her wedding dress to be one of the most important steps of the whole event. Decide early what type of dress you want. If it's unique or requires significant alterations, you will probably need to order it early.

Wedding Party

Not every wedding has bridesmaids and groomsmen, but many do. Decide early if you want to include family or friends in the bridal party and let them know in advance. Travel arrangements, dress and tuxedo purchases, and more are not the kinds of things you want to spring on your friends at the last minute.

Guests

How many guests you choose to invite depends on many factors, especially budget. If you're strapped for cash, consider planning a small, intimate affair with fewer guests. You should begin compiling your guest list about six months or so before your wedding day.

Invitations

Invitations usually go out anywhere from one month to several months in advance of the wedding. Many brides and grooms choose to tie their wedding invitation cards into their overall wedding theme. This is a beautiful way to clue your guests in to what type of wedding they will be attending, casual or formal. It will also allow them to make any travel or work arrangements.

Photography

If there is anything more special than your wedding day, it's remembering that day through photo mementoes. Choose a professional photographer well in advance of your wedding. You will need to confirm the date with him or her, and it's also a good idea to check references. The last thing you want is a late photographer or, worse, one that doesn't show up at all or does a poor job.

Marriage License

Depending on your state of residence, you will need to obtain a marriage license through the state prior to your wedding. These licenses can usually be purchased through the county clerk's office about sixty days prior to the date of the event. Check locally for rules and regulations applicable to your city and state.

Plan The Wedding Reception

While the ceremony is the formal part of a wedding, the reception is the time where the bride and groom can really enjoy this beautiful start to their marriage with family and friends. Because ceremonies tend to focus solely on the bride and groom, it's rare when they are able to actually interact with guests. This is exactly what makes the reception so important. Here are a few important elements to consider when planning the reception.

  • Food and Drink: Depending on the time of day and length of ceremony, it may be necessary to feed guests. Plan ahead.
  • Adequate Seating: If guests are eating, you will need to provide comfortable tables and chairs. Grouping guests to maximize conversation is also a great idea.
  • Music: Many receptions include some kind of musical entertainment. This can be a disc jockey or even a live band.
  • Cake: A traditional element for wedding receptions is the cake. There are many flavors and colors to choose from. Contact a wedding cake baker for more information.
  • Wedding Favors: Some couples choose to give guests a parting gift by which to remember their special day. This can be a photo memento, a flower, a reception program, candy, or more.

While there are many ways to embellish a wedding, when figuring out how to plan a wedding from beginning to end it's important to not make things more complicated than they have to be. Take the planning one step at a time and before you know it, it will be time to enjoy your big day.

How to Plan a Wedding from Beginning to End