Congratulations on your engagement! Getting engaged is an exciting time filled with an outpouring of facebook comments and wedding planning talk with just about everyone you know. With so much to do and tons of options, it’s almost like every bride and groom is out to fend for themselves. There are so many websites out there with ideas and inspirations (and let’s not even start with Pinterest and Instagram). Frankly, it can be quite overwhelming! Read on for my recommendations and tips on getting started on wedding planning.

Tiffany Engagement Rings
Photo credit: Joee Wong Photography

Set a budget.

Money talk isn’t the most romantic discussion to have with your fiance but it’s the most important one you will have in the planning process. You wouldn’t go looking for a car or a house without first setting a budget for yourself, right? A wedding is the same way, in that you need to know what you are comfortable spending.

Who is paying?
Are your parents chipping in and how much?
How much do you want to spend in total?

Many guys aren’t aware of how much weddings actually cost. Luckily, women are often more informed in this area. This is a good time to get a reality check and count the costs. Some wedding expenses include ceremony venue, reception venue, food, photographer, flowers, centerpieces and decor, invitations, gifts, attire, rings, thank you cards, DJ/band, minister, favours, videographer, hair/makeup, wedding coordinator… and the list goes on. Weddings don’t happen for free, that’s for sure.

If you have no clue how much you’d like to spend, consider this. According to the average wedding in Canada typically costs around $31,000 with 140 guests. If you’re holding a big banquet dinner with everyone you and your family knows, that average goes up. Planning to get hitched downtown Toronto at a unique venue? That number will go up even more. The cost of the reception alone will often cost a couple close to half of the wedding budget.

Lots of websites and blogs will give you estimates for different vendors, but what really matters is what you want at your wedding and what you are comfortable spending. If you don’t know where to start, connecting with a knowledgeable wedding planner will be helpful.

Make a guest list

Before you start dreaming about your wedding ceremony and reception venue, make a list of guests you’d like to invite. Be realistic, include significant other counts (or don’t include them if you don’t plan on inviting them) and make sure everyone, including friends of both sets of parents, are accounted for.

It will also be important to ask your parents about guests they want to invite. Especially if your parents have chipped in some money, they may be inclined to bring an entourage of their own.

Use a spreadsheet and be diligent in creating the list. You might end up using this to organize invitation send-outs and tracking later on.

Even with the guest list created, you can expect 10-20% of them to not be able to come. Now that you have a rough guest list, you will have an idea of how big a venue you will need!

Pick a date and secure venue(s)

This is an important step and it is easier said than done! Now with your new budget in hand and rough guest list, you can start looking into venues. This means calling to inquire, looking at the costs and options, visiting them in person and negotiating costs. You will need a wedding date and venue before you can move forward with your planning.

When on the venue search, you will need to have thought about a few things in advance:

1. Will your ceremony and reception be held at two separate places
(leading to two separate venue searches)? You might also want to consider what time of day you’d like to hold it.

2. What date are you looking at? Are you flexible with the date?
If you call a venue to inquire, this is the FIRST thing a venue will ask you. If they are booked, there is no point continuing the conversation (as with many vendors). However, if you are flexible, they may have other dates to offer you in and around when you had in mind.

3. What is your rough budget per person for the reception overall?
This would include your meal, alcohol, room rental. Then you have to account for taxes and gratuities, often 15-18%. Venues will ask you what your budget is, so be prepared to answer! You should have a rough idea from your budget already.

Finding a venue that fits your budget and your guest list can be a time-consuming and tiring search, especially if you are unfamiliar with venues in the city and if you are looking to book in peak wedding season. In Toronto alone, there must be hundreds of possible wedding venues. If you are looking to seek a knowledgable wedding planner who can assist with the research and recommendations for your venue search, contact me today!

Book your important vendors

Once you have your wedding date and venues booked (congrats!), you’ll want to look into booking the important vendors. What is important to you might not be important to someone else. Often important vendors will include the photographer, videographer or wedding coordinator. But if there are other vendors that you really had your heart on booking, make sure to book them early. Once wedding show season hits in January to March, vendors start to book up quickly.

OK, that should keep you busy for a little bit!

The first few months of a couple’s engagement are pretty exciting but can come with a lot of anxiety and stress as wedding planning discussions start. Planning a wedding is often the first major project that a couple embarks on together. This project usually takes 250 hours to plan in total, can cost a lot of money and many people are emotionally invested in it (especially the bride and groom). A wedding coordinator can help in alleviating the stress that comes with this territory as well as offer discounts and recommendations to vendors. Click here to take a look at some of the packages I offer.

Happy planning!

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto wedding planner and day of wedding coordinator providing sophisticated planning for the style-savvy couple. Whether you need planning assistance or wedding day coordination, Rebecca can help you create your dream wedding day. Contact her today, she'd love to hear from you.