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.

We find most of our clients to spend between $75,000-150,000 for an average sized wedding of 100 guests, but it can definitely go up from there and you can certainly spend less if you are savvy. Typically the venue will take up about half of the budget, and the rest of the budget is alloted for decor, entertainment, photography, and everything else.

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 to get an accurate idea of how much weddings cost.

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 and guest count in hand, you can start looking into venues. This means calling to inquire, looking at the costs and options, visiting them in person and negotiating costs. 

Before 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?
Most couples will book a venue that can host both ceremony and reception together for convenience. If you are looking to host a ceremony at a different venue than dinner (say, a church), you may have to do two separate venue searches. You will also have to coordinate timing for both bookings, and it usually is a longer day.

2. What date/season are you looking at? Are you flexible with the date?
Most couples want a Saturday between May to October in Toronto, when the weather is nice. But beyond this, what time of the year do you want to get married? Are you open to a Friday or Sunday? 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 are your non-negotiables for the venue?
Sometimes this is the location (you only want to get married downtown), or it has to have onsite parking, or maybe you require an outdoor element like the ceremony or cocktail hour outdoors. If you have non-negotiables, it is important to list those out as this will help narrow your venue search. 

Finding a venue that fits your budget, guest count and preferences 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. 

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 planner. Some couples book the wedding planner first to help with planning the budget and finding the venue too. 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.

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 planner 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 event designer and event planner. If you have a brand activation, media launch event, design project, trade show or a special event, connect with her today to see how we can collaborate on your next project.